Why Matthew Weiner Ended Mad Men With ‘The Best Ad Ever Made’

22 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How to cope with the end of Mad Men.

Last night, Matthew Weiner spoke with novelist A.M. While perhaps not as ambiguous as the cut-to-black ending of The Sopranos, the last scene of Mad Men certainly left things open to interpretation, and likely resulted in some frantic clarity-seeking texting with your friends.In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, show creator Matthew Weiner said that the ad the episode cuts to during the show’s final minutes, a Coca-Cola “Hilltop” commercial,” suggests Draper’s return to McCann-Erickson. “I have never been clear, and I have always been able to live with ambiguities,” Weiner said. “In the abstract, I did think, why not end this show with the greatest commercial ever made?” Coca-Cola, meanwhile, has a huge budget to push its products around the world these days. The ending featured—spoiler alert here, for the three of you who haven’t watched the finale yet—Don, smiling in a way we had never seen him smile before, while taking part in an outdoor meditation session.

As Adweek reported at the end of last year, the company enjoyed an ad budget of over $3 billion for 2013, with plans to increase that by another billion in the coming years. While he touched on the controversial ending, the conversation was more abstract and meandering than some would have liked, focusing more on Weiner’s cultural influences (John Cheever, “The Fugitive”) than on the tangible matter of the finale itself.

Homes to explain to a packed house at the New York Public Library who wanted to know, “Is that all there is?” It was the creator’s first—and currently only scheduled—public event to discuss the finale and 91 other episodes of Don Draper and the 1960s advertising scene. But the AMC series was much more than that, and the 90-minute conversation was both revealing about Weiner’s characters, his creative process, and himself. “I wanted it to feel like that there was a vision and a point to the entire thing, and I’m so happy that people stayed with it this long, and hopefully felt rewarded by that experience. It’s a little bit disturbing to me, that cynicism,” he said. “I’m not saying advertising’s not corny, but I’m saying that the people who find that ad corny, they’re probably experiencing a lot of life that way, and they’re missing out on something.” You can’t underestimate the Mad Men effect – between 1998 and 2014, sales in suits doubled in the US, and the bespoke pieces, created by costume designer Janie Bryant, had a domino effect on the industry.

Did Megan quit acting in a huff, fly back to New York, take a job at the McCann to spite Don, and come up with the ad herself in a fit of inspiration?!? Because five years [before that commercial ran], black people and white people couldn’t even be in an ad together, and the idea that some enlightened state and not just co-option might have created something that is very pure—and yeah, there’s soda in there with good feeling—but that ad, to me, it’s the best ad ever made. … I felt that that ad in particular was so much of its time.

But it was nice to have your cake and eat it too, in terms of what is advertising, who is Don and what is that thing?” While some perceived the ending as dark — in its intimation that Don’s breakdown leads to nothing more than finding a better way to shill sugary drinks — Weiner doesn’t approve of that reading. It was also at that point, he decided on one of the sadder twists of the series, Betty Francis’s (January Jones) fate. “I felt this woman wasn’t going to live long,” he said. “We loved the idea of her realizing her purpose in life right when she ran out of time. Now that the story is complete, you can spend a week going over your favourite episodes, remembering the best moments and most intricate plot developments. Everything would’ve been like five seconds long.” Weiner credited the writers room with talking him down from making the wrong decision, and not for the first time. “So many horrible mistakes have been avoided [by their collective wisdom over the years].” “We try to be the audience. … You want to be responsive to the audience but you really want to be true to the characters. … The most sophisticated part of it is that you want to fool the audience in the sense that you want to surprise and delight them.

For the part of Leonard, ultimately played by Evan Arnold, Weiner said “he needed someone who’s not famous and can cry, and really do it… We believe it right away that he’s invisible.” In Weiner’s view, the character summed up a general feeling of alienation among the men of the time: “Even if they’re not veterans, the alienation that was created by success, political racial tension, the technology — which is I think what’s happening right now — the isolation, these guys, they’re gonna crack … I don’t think there’s enough empathy right now in the world,” he said. Weiner also described the hug between Don and Leonard as a surrogate for Don embracing the viewer. “I hope the audience would feel either that he was embracing a part of himself, or maybe them, and that they were heard,” he continued. “I don’t want to put it into words more than that… I liked the idea where he’d come to this place, and it’d be about other people and a moment of recognition. The rule that we sort of used is like, ‘What would really happen?’” Paul Holdengräber, the accented director of the NYPL’s interview series, made the unfortunate, but hardly unprecedented, error of introducing Weiner as Weener.

Nixon, I see myself.” But Weiner couldn’t resist going further, delving into both Dicks’ poverty-stricken childhoods, and their determined drive to reinvent themselves and succeed after wartime service. “The idea that that guy, with no breeding, no Ivy League… and no friends [gets out of the Navy, and six years later he’s the vice president of the United States]. He also originally though the character was going to have an abortion, but writer Maria Jacquemetton convinced him that Joan should keep Roger’s baby. That was the idea and that was what we tried to do.” Unlike his mentor, David Chase, who directed one post-Sopranos film and then went silent, Weiner expressed a willingness to do another show eventually.

I love the marination. … I loved having the period in between the shows.” Weiner prides himself on his memory, and he demonstrated some lingering bitterness towards AMC and Lionsgate over negotiations that almost ended the show prematurely. “I was in so many fights, that I started to think, ‘Is this my problem, or are these people really, really screwing with me all the time?’ Like, I come in on budget the first season, and Lionsgate cuts your budget the next year.

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