The two-hour premiere for season six of “Mad Men, “The Doorway” featured too many themes to discuss in one post. In particular, the episode included a number of pop culture references from the late 1960s that require explication.
Peggy has to change a headphone ad because a comedian makes a joke about the Vietnam War on “The Tonight Show” that links the ad with crimes committed by American soldiers. Though “Mad Men” executive producer Matthew Weiner told TV Guide that the actual joke is fictional, the plotline reveals how important the program, then hosted by Johnny Carson, was to American culture during the period. Indeed, “The Tonight Show” garnered a much larger percentage of the television audience in the late 1960s that it does today, even though Jay Leno still leads David Letterman and others in the ratings race. Younger readers who have grown up with multiple channel options probably don’t realize that Carson dominated late night from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s as competitors ranging from Dick Cavett to Pat Sajak fell by the wayside, one by one. As Weiner himself observed, “I can’t even explain it to young people what a universal experience it was [when] people watched [Tonight].(TV Guide website, April 8, 2013) For more on Carson and his “Tonight Show” reign, see href>http://popculturemeetshistory.blogspot.com/2012/05/johnny-carson-and-late-night-tv-today.html>
Ostensibly, the client wants the ad changed because it is going to be aired in an expensive slot during Super Bowl II in January 1968. I know Weiner says the show is not a history lesson, but “The Doorway” offers a very presentist look at the big game, which had not yet achieved the national holiday stature it attained in the 1970s. Indeed, many believe the Super Bowl ad wars did not truly get underway until Apple introduced the Macintosh during Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 with a groundbreaking spot based on George Orwell’s novel set in that year. See href>http://popculturemeetshistory.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-super-bowls-history.html>
Finally, Roger’s daughter asks him to help her husband start a business in a new field—refrigeration. Immediately, I thought of the scene from “The Graduate,” where Mr. McGwire tells Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) about the great future in “plastics.” I think Weiner was making a deliberate comparison since the classic film debuted in 1967, when “The Doorway” begins.
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