‘Mad Men’: A Lucky Strike, Indeed - The Buffalo News

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‘Mad Men’: A Lucky Strike, Indeed

“Mad Men” made its debut on AMC in the summer of 2007, the creation of a former writer of “The Sopranos” whose pilot script was rejected by HBO, starring an unknown leading man and residing on a network best known as a second-tier movie channel, one that didn’t cost extra. Seven years on, much has changed for everyone and everything involved with the show – even some of the products woven into it. As the series embarks on the first half of its final season – the second half arrives next year – we look at that altered landscape.

Jon Hamm

Then: Best known for playing a firefighter on the little-remembered “Providence.”

Now: After six seasons as the emotionally stunted Don Draper, he’s emerging as a leading man in the movies, starring in Disney’s coming “Million Dollar Arm,” about a down-on-his-luck baseball agent who decides to turn Asian cricket players into Major League Baseball pitchers. Meanwhile, he’s spoofed his sex symbol image on “Saturday Night Live” and in “Bridesmaids,” and did his “Mad Men” character proud with commercial voice-over work for Mercedes-Benz and American Airlines.

John Slattery

Then: A politico with a urine fetish dating Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City.”

Now: WASPy Roger Sterling has explored LSD and group sex, while the man who plays him has turned to directing. His “God’s Pocket,” based on the Pete Dexter novel and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, is due out next month. No word if there will be a sequel to his character’s memoir, “Sterling’s Gold: Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man,” released in 2010.

Elisabeth Moss

Then: Zoey Bartlet, the president’s youngest daughter on “The West Wing,” whose graduation day was made more memorable when she was kidnapped by Qumari terrorists.

Now: Just as strait-laced Peggy Olson has branched out, so has the actress who plays her, appearing on Broadway in David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow” and sporting a Kiwi accent in Jane Campion’s Sundance TV miniseries “Top of the Lake.” She has also artfully ducked journalists’ questions about her embrace of Scientology.

Matthew Weiner

Then: Wrote “Mad Men” pilot in 1999 while working on the Ted Danson sitcom “Becker.” But it took a stint working on “The Sopranos” to give his career traction.

Now: One of the best-compensated show runners, he has directed a movie, “You Are Here,” a comedy starring Owen Wilson as a stoner weatherman who embarks on a road trip with his mentally unbalanced old friend (Zach Galifianakis). The film had a middling reception last fall at the Toronto film festival but is expected soon to have a distribution deal that will bring it to theaters this year. (If a film career fails to take off, Weiner, whose penchant for secrecy is famous, could get a gig at the National Security Agency.)

Basic Cable

Then: Not a single Emmy Award – or even a nomination – for outstanding drama series.

Now: Five best drama Emmys, including four in a row for “Mad Men” and one last year won by fellow AMC series “Breaking Bad.”


Then: The former American Movie Classics network, best known for its ubiquitous Westerns and the horror films of Monsterfest, was the 19th-most-watched basic cable network among viewers 25-54.

Now: First “Mad Men,” then “Breaking Bad,” now “The Walking Dead”: Buzz-generating series have vaulted AMC to fifth place and made it the linchpin of the publicly traded AMC Networks. AMC itself has seen its cash flow double (to more than $400 million), according to SNL Kagan, a research firm. Added bonus: AMC is no longer mistaken for A&E.

Frank O’Hara

Then: Relatively obscure poet of the New York School.

Now: Much less obscure poet of the New York School, at least when it comes to book sales. After Don read aloud from “Meditations in an Emergency” during the opening episode of the second season, annual sales have jumped more than tenfold. In 2007, 197 copies were sold, according to Nielsen BookScan; the next year, the tally rose to 2,028 and has not dipped below 1,971 since.

Lucky Strike

Then: Once this best-selling brand in the United States (and the cigarette of choice for Don Johnson’s character on “Miami Vice”) was selling 23 billion cigarettes a year.

Now: Its seemingly omnipresent place in Don Draper’s hands may not be the direct cause, but sales have grown by 35 percent since 2007. Even Don’s public cri de coeur against ever representing tobacco companies again, published in a letter to the New York Times after Lucky Strike left Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in Season 4, hasn’t put much of a dent in sales.

Canadian Club Whisky

Then: Don’s favorite drink at work (straight, no ice) was suffering through a 17-year sales slump.

Now: The 156-year-old whisky has enjoyed a resurgence, with annual sales growing more than 4 percent a year, according to the Ivey Business Review. (A retro ad campaign with the tag line “Damn right your dad drank it” may have helped.)

Victorian Fainting Couches

Then: A design-world oddity that rarely if ever showed up in the pages of Architectural Digest or Elle Décor.

Now: Still not a design must-have, though Betty Draper’s purchase of one during her living room renovation of Season 3 did inspire a Twitter feed (@Fainting_Couch) and the posting of many photos on Houzz.

Jennifer Westfeldt

Then: The actress-girlfriend of handsome Midwestern actor Jon Hamm.

Now: The actress-director-girlfriend of handsome superstar actor Jon Hamm, giving hope to those who still believe in long Hollywood relationships and two-career couples everywhere.

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