Just in time for the release of the first season of Mad Men on DVD, the ad men are coming back to television later this month. The DVD comes in a box shaped like a cigarette lighter that flips up to reveal the DVDs. The discs themselves come chock full of extras and commentary from the talented cast, like a documentary on how Mad Men began. It also takes a look at real advertising from the period when they were really selling the so-called American Dream. What these ad men were dealing with, the psychology of advertising, giving Americans what happy and normal looks like, is responsible for much of the way we lived then and the way we still live now.
It has taken a while for the series to catch fire via word of mouth. If you’ll recall, I wrote a piece about the show back when it debuted. Some of us fans have been hooked from the beginning, while others have caught on bit by bit. Perhaps what is preventing people from watching it is that they are confused about what it is supposed to be. Is it comedy? Is it drama? What’s with all of the smoking? Isn’t smoking supposed to bad and not allowed on television at all?
The fact that cigarettes are now a shameful habit, more so than ever before, is part of what Mad Men depends on to keep the show rolling and make the jokes funny. It is a constant reminder to the viewer that we are so much better off than we were back in the 1950s. That thought is followed by a pause, then more thought, and perhaps the arrival of a conclusion: maybe we aren’t better off, or maybe we are as deluded now as we ever were and it will take several decades of time to see that.
The AMC network is spending big to promote the second season, which is a good thing for the show; it needs an even bigger audience to ensure a long run. $25 million was the figure being bandied about. AMC was quoted in the Washington Post saying that they’re treating the release like a movie opening.
Among the events planned, other than many TV spots promoting it, will be publicity events intended to get people talking, and some of these include people dressed up in costume wandering around Grand Central Station in New York handing out fake business cards from the ad firm on the show.
It’s advertising outside of the box for a show that is outside of the box, which is itself a show about an ad agency that thinks outside the box. Clever, huh? Whatever works.
Until the second season debuts on July 27, fans will have the first season to watch all over again when the DVD is released. For those of us who have already seen each episode multiple times, this won’t be so much of a treat. But for those who have yet to get a taste, this is the best option – the opportunity to watch every episode without the advertising.