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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

Swingin' Sixties!

I know lots of people who are nuts over “The Walking Dead,” AMC’s hit about people on the run from zombies.

The show never appealed to me because gore has never been one of my favorite entertainment options. Watching people in graphic, creative stages of physical decay — who are still fit enough to bite into any hapless human — is change-the-channel material for me. I’d rather see chicken cacciatore on a plate ...rather than inside the chest cavity of some poor, ripped-open dope.

I’m hooked on AMC’s other current monster — “Mad Men,” which began its seventh season on April 13. And hats off to AMC — after bombing with me as a movie channel for showing 10 minutes of movie and then seven minutes of advertisements — the channel has become a great place for series drama. “Breaking Bad” was never my scene, but won millions of viewers and bunches of awards. I’ve become a fan of the railroad western “Hell on Wheels” and the new American Revolution drama “Turn” looks like a winner. Too bad I’ve missed the first couple “Turn” episodes. I hate to jump into a series where I’m so far behind, and it seems like all TV shows are arc-inspired these days.

I’m caught up on “Mad Men.” We’re three episodes in now, and the show has rolled through the 1960s since its launch in 2007. The current season, just seven episodes now, will be followed by the final seven episodes in early 2015.

Right now, we’re in the spring of 1969. Part of the fun watching this prime time soap opera about advertising is watching for events that became watersheds in American history. The advertising gang huddled around an office radio on Nov. 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot. “Mad” people were justifiably scared after news broke about the Richard Speck mass murder spree in Chicago on July 13, 1966.

Pop culture mentions have included TWA Airlines (long defunct in 2014), rock ‘n’ roll’s big popularity with teens, clips from TV shows playing in the background like “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and movies like “Planet of the Apes” causing sensations. On Sunday night, people in a movie theater were watching “The Graduate.” Other series characters were watching “My Favorite Martian” on television.

I’m wondering if events from 1969 are going to provide foundation for stories. The year featured three events that were major news not only for the decade, but for the century — the Apollo moon landing in July and the Manson Family murders and Woodstock music festival, both in August. Have other people beside me noticed that Megan Draper — wife of series protagonist Don Draper and an actress now seeking roles in California — has moved to an apartment someplace in the L.A. hills? A secluded place — is she going to bump into some of the Manson mad men at the local supermarket?

Watching fashions change is also part of “Mad Men” study. When the series first started, all the advertising execs wore white shirts, skinny ties, fedoras and short rain coats. All the female employees wore long dresses, with the occasional tight skirt part of the fashion parade. Now, as ‘69 gets moving, we’re seeing more bold colors on the guys, print shirts, long sideburns and longer hairstyles — although hero and heel Don Draper is sticking to his dress whites and fedora. The ladies are beginning to wear mini-skirts and thigh-high leather boots — and in Sunday night’s show, characters noticed that a farm-scrubbed school teacher was not wearing a bra. Think viewers at home noticed, too. A sign of the times.

Oh, and series boozer, smoker and advertising jester Roger Sterling is “dating” a hippie chick.

The show is kind of bumping into my times and memories as a high school kid at stately Aquinas Institute in Rochester. I started at AQ in the fall of ‘69, and we were all in sports coats, shirts and ties for my freshman year. The coats were eliminated by 1970, and by that time, purple shirts, black shirts, double-knit pants and wide ties were starting to win favor — one of my proudest possessions was a white shirt with rows of small, purple flowers. I never liked the flared pants and bell bottoms that became part of the era, and hope “Mad Men” runs out of time for those fashion abominations.

I guess another part of the fun might be watching for any errors the writers have made as they take us through the 1960s. Think I caught one last night — “My Favorite Martian” aired from 1963 until 1966 — it would have been off the air by 1969.

They’ll weasel out of it .... if sorely pressed, the “Mad” guys will say the “Martian” was in syndication during the late ‘60s.

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