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Jeff Wilkin's Type A To Z
by Jeff Wilkin

Type A To Z

A Daily Gazette life blog
Features reporter Jeff Wilkin on pop culture

Mad On

I’ve joined the legion of fans who never miss “Mad Men,” the smash hit for television network AMC.

People who know the program know it’s all about advertising, about smoking, drinking and relationships. And the 1960s. The sixth season started Sunday night with a two-hour premiere that spilled past 11 o’clock.

I’ve had to cram in order to catch up with past episodes. The show premiered in July 2007, and I remember hearing and reading about how great the acting and writing was. But I was already a bunch of episodes behind, and I hate to start a book, movie or television series without really knowing the beginning. So I never got on the bandwagon.

That changed in January, when I noticed the DVD package from the first season at my local library. I got hooked, and was soon on the lookout for the other four seasons. I finished up the fifth season’s 13 episodes last month.

Some fans have had to wait out long breaks between seasons — and there was a 17-month break between season four’s finale in October 2010 and the fifth season kick-off in March 2012. For me, there was no break — I nabbed seasons four and five at the same library on the same day. So while some people watched the 65 episodes of the first five seasons over a six-year period, I saw them all in about 12 weeks. It might have been 2007 when great advertising exec Don Draper wowed executives from Eastman Kodak with his brilliant idea to market a slide projector — “It’s a carousel” — but for me, it only happened a few weeks ago.

It’s been fun watching how times have changed in the series. I was born in 1955 and the new stories begin during the holiday season of 1967. So I was 12 years old, just a year younger than Sally Draper — the sort-of-rebellious daughter of series primaries Draper and Betty Francis — is now.

Last night, it was neat seeing all the old-fashioned Christmas trees on display. They were all tall models — nobody wanted a table-top tree in New York in ’67. And the trees were all filled with the old-fashioned, large “C” bulbs, dozens of ornaments and strands of tinsel. Seems like everyone over-decorated their trees during the ’60s — that’s the way it was at my house. We always had the “C” bulbs on the trees and the larger “D” bulbs on the bushes outside.

I’m already thinking about finding some old-fashioned light strings for this December’s decorating and leaving the miniature lights in storage. And I kept waiting for one of the silver-branched metal trees with rotating color wheel on the bottom to show up during “Mad Men,” but one never did.

Sideburns, however, did show up. And some of the guys at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce were wearing their hair longer. I know Vitalis and Brylcream were on the way out during the latter part of the decade — we would never been caught dead with greasy kid stuff in our hair at noble Aquinas Institute during the early 1970s — but the suave, confident Draper still seems to be using something to look slick and sharp.

Old Draper — he’s pushing 42 — also seems stuck in the past with his skinny ties and white shirts. While I think sideburns didn’t really become a fashion “must” for guys until ’68 or ’69, it’s only a matter of time before the white shirts get bounced and guys start wearing the new, hip colors and prints. By the late ‘60s, purple, black and cobalt blue shorts were in — I wore those colors then and still wear them today — as well as some psychedelic flower prints.

But Don Draper in a deep blue or pink shirt? That will happen when the “Sons of Anarchy” — the motorcycle maniacs on the FX network — start wearing Hawaiian shirts.

And it may not be this season, but I’ll bet a Nehru jacket eventually makes an appearance. These were hip-length, tailored coats with high collars, exotic gear patterned after the wardrobe of former India prime minster Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. They were big in the late ‘60s and poor Danny Cicione wore one — with love beads — for our class photo day at Sacred Heart elementary school in 1969. Sorry Danny, I’ve still got the class picture. And the look has worn poorly with time. Nehru jackets just looked kind of dopey — the same review I’ll give to “leisure suits” of the mid-1970s.

“Mad Men’s” 1968 probably means bellbottoms are on the way, too. I never liked those wide, roomy, flared-at-the-bottom pants, but everybody seemed to be wearing them as we were leaving both elementary school and the 1960s. Wide, garish ties and white belts must be waiting in the future. Maybe even tie-dyed shirts!

I can’t say much about women’s fashion in “Mad Men,” but the actresses always look great in the period dress. Jessica Pare, who plays Draper’s second wife Megan, was running around in capri pants last season. This year, it looks like exotic hairstyles and lots of eye make-up could be signs of the times.

Now that I’m caught up with “Mad Men,” I’ve got to tune in every Sunday to see how the latest problems and spats — on both family and business levels — play out. I haven’t tried to follow a TV show week-to-week since Ray Liotta’s “Smith” showed up during the fall of 2006. Ray was leading a group of professional thieves, or at least he was for three episodes — that’s all CBS gave the show before cancelling it that October.

I may have to figure out a way to DVR “Mad Men,” as I’m not sure I can be sitting in my Strat-o-Lounger “Colossus” easy chair every Sunday at 10 p.m. A more pressing concern is finding another TV series I can watch the same way I’d read a book, treating episodes like chapters. Nothing like a having a rainy weekend and 13 episodes of a new TV show at the ready.

There seems to be a great selection out there. I’ve never really got all that hooked on “Breaking Bad,” the AMC drama about a chemistry teacher who turns drug kingpin. And I just didn’t like “Shameless,” the Showtime drama-comedy about boozing ne’er-do-well Frank Gallagher, played by William H. Macy. “The Walking Dead,” another well-received show from AMC, won’t get into my CD player. The vampires on “True Blood” are much neater, with much better manners. I can’t say the same for zombies in accelerated states of decay. Missing jaw bones and deep blood-red welts on sagging faces will ruin my appetite for late night cheeseburgers or lasagna.

I’m in line at the library for FX’s “American Horror Story” and the AMC western “Hell on Wheels.” I’m still looking for the second season of the sword-and-fantasy “Game of Thrones” and will look forward to finding the fifth season of aforementioned motorcycle anarchists.

The only problem I’m going to have is finding time to mow the lawn, and maybe watch baseball games, during the summer months.

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