Another season of Mad Men is set to kick off, and we thought it would be a good time to drop some little-known facts on you about the show. If you’re a fan, then you’re already probably familiar about what’s been happening on the show itself, and so we won’t waste your time with yet another recap. Instead, we thought we’d take you behind the scenes a bit and give you a look at these nine Mad Men facts that you probably didn’t know.
9. It’s Got an Amazing Family Tree
Prior to creating Mad Men, the show’s main man, Matthew Weiner, made his name as one of the head writers on The Sopranos during its last few seasons. He only got that job because he sent David Chase, the man behind The Sopranos, an unproduced screenplay that Chase liked so much he offered Weiner a spot on his staff. That screenplay would go on to become the pilot for a new show several years later called – you guessed it – Mad Men. But Weiner isn’t the only one with roots in perhaps the greatest show ever. Phil Abraham, who’s directed more episodes of Mad Men than anyone, was the Director of Photography on The Sopranos, and one of the directors most responsible for the distinctive visual style of Mad Men in its first couple of seasons is Alan Taylor, another key member of The Sopranos creative team.
8. Glen Bishop is Matthew Weiner’s Son in Real Life
That’s right, the uber-creepy Glen Bishop, aka the neighbor boy who macked on Betty Draper before turning his efforts to her daughter, is actually Matthew Weiner’s son, Marten Holden Weiner. Look, it’s one thing to cast your kid, but it’s another to cast him as a burgeoning sex fiend/sociopath. I’m just saying, there are probably some, uh, ethical issues involved in directing your little kid to try to feel up January Jones. Then again, maybe that makes him father of the year. Who’s to say?
7. January Jones Originally Auditioned For Peggy
I’m guessing the show would look a lot different if January Jones had gotten the role of Peggy, Don’s secretary turned feminist trailblazer. I’m not saying she couldn’t have pulled it off, but it really doesn’t play to her strengths – icily sucking on a cigarette before crushing the will to live of any man within 50 yards – does it? In the end, I guess Weiner saw the same thing everybody else did and turned around and offered her the role of Betty Draper, the role she was born to play.
6. John Slattery Originally Auditioned For Don
Speaking of different, how different would the show be if John Slattery, aka Roger Sterling, had gotten the role of Don Draper? This one is almost too difficult to imagine. First, it’s hard to see anyone else but Jon Hamm as Don, especially Slattery, who doesn’t bring the brooding self-torture so integral to Don’s character. And second, it would have robbed us all of Slattery’s performance as Roger Sterling, who routinely steals the show and our hearts. Frankly, that’s not a world I even want to imagine living in.
5. Just What Do They Use For Cigarettes and Alcohol?
Given that each character smokes roughly the equivalent of an entire North Carolina tobacco farm each season and drinks enough to make even Hunter S. Thompson’s liver ache with sympathy pains, there’s no way they could actually partake of the real thing. That means that they smoke herbal cigarettes, which Jon Hamm has described as tasting “terrible… like a mixture of pot and soup.” And as far as alcohol goes, Hamm drinks brown apple juice to simulate Don’s Old Fashioneds, while John Slattery downs onion water to mimic Roger Sterling’s Vodka Martinis, which just sounds horrible. Frankly, I haven’t been this disillusioned since I found out wrestling wasn’t real. (Spoiler alert!)
4. The Show was Turned Down by Both HBO and Showtime
The whole basic cable quality TV show boom was actually just an accident. That’s because Weiner originally tried in vain for years to sell Mad Men to both HBO and Showtime. It must have been especially galling to be turned down by HBO since he had such a prominent role on the show that changed everything for both HBO and TV as a whole, The Sopranos. Eventually, Weiner bit the bullet and made a deal with AMC, which at the time had no reputation at all beyond showing old movies. The rest, as they say, is history, for Mad Men, AMC and TV in general. Still, it’s intriguing to imagine Mad Men on HBO, especially given the amount of sex and general debauchery already featured on the show.
3. There is a LOT of Money Involved
The show’s production studio, Lions Gate Entertainment gets an estimated $2.71 million per episode from AMC for the show. Unfortunately, it costs $2.84 million per episode to produce. Still, it makes up for its price tag in both prestige and other areas, most impressively $100 million from Netflix for streaming rights, a deal struck in 2011, and an estimated further $100 million from DVD/Blu-ray and iTunes sales. That’s, uh, that’s a lot of money. And that just goes to show why Weiner was worth the reported 3-year/$30 million contract he signed in 2011.
2. The Majority of the Show’s Writers are Women
This one will probably shock a lot of people, especially given the subject matter and the show’s almost casual sexism (which has to be there if the show is to be at all realistic in its depiction of the hyper-masculine world of Madison Avenue in the 1960’s), but it’s true. In fact, during the show’s third season, seven of the nine writers were women, ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s. Sure, Weiner has always retained ultimate creative authority and shapes everything, but it’s impossible to argue that the show’s creative team doesn’t also represent a strong female perspective, which should make sense to anyone who’s actually paying attention and not just making lazy surface level judgments based on the subject matter.
1. Don Draper is Based on a Real Person
Don Draper is at least partially based on Draper Daniels, a legendary Chicago ad man best known for creating the Marlboro Man. That’s just a cool anecdote that seems to fit perfectly, doesn’t it? I mean, of course the real Don Draper created the Marlboro Man. Daniels was known as one of the most innovative ad men of his day, and was also a dude who did things his way and was never content with just maintaining the status quo. Sound familiar? Of course, I’m guessing he didn’t have an assumed name and probably wasn’t born in a whorehouse like our boy, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good story. And that story is that Don Draper, at least in some form, actually existed. That’s both awesome and a little terrifying.