Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Mad Men, The Ed Sullivan Show & the 1960s

On Sunday night the AMC television drama Mad Men closed out it’s 4th season. Whether or not you approved of the finale, it is hard to argue against the fact that over the past four seasons Mad Men has done a thorough job depicting the social mores, changing moods and political correctness of 1960s America. 

The historical context in which Mad Men is set coincides with the height of The Ed Sullivan Show, harking back to the days when families gathered together in living rooms across the country every Sunday night to watch performers like Bobby Vinton and Jackie Wilson on the CBS variety show.  Over the past four seasons Mad Men, now a Sunday night staple in its own right, has made reference to and played the music of many popular acts that appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show stage including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Sonny and Cher (whose hit song “I Got You Babe” actually played as Season 4 faded to black on Sunday).  In another recent Season 4 episode, the show  referenced Vaughn Meader, The Kennedy impersonator of that time and an Ed Sullivan Show guest.  Here is a short clip of Meader impersonating John F. Kennedy on Ed Sullivan on October 7, 1962:

For an interesting look into the advertising campaigns that Mad Men, like those at the fictional Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency, would have been formulating in the early 1960s, check out The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles , which includes the full-length commercials of products from that time period.