PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

More than 'Mad Men': Producers tap '60s for new shows

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — The late '50s and early '60s are popular this year with TV producers, who insist they're not just trying to capitalize on the success of "Mad Men."

BBC America's "The Hour" — the first of three new dramas set in the time period — launched this week, offering a look at the birth of serious television news journalism in the late '50s.

NBC's new drama "The Playboy Club" peeks under the bunny ears of the women who worked in the Chicago night club started by Hugh Hefner in the early '60s.

And ABC's "Pan Am" follows the lives of airline stewardesses — before they were called flight attendants — in the '60s.

The new shows share an era with Don Draper and company of "Mad Men," but those behind them say they're not copycats. "Mad Men's" success aside, producer stress the time period is rich for stories because it was such a turning point for social change, pop culture and politics.

"The Hour" started with an idea about doing a TV show set in a '50s newsroom. Writer Abi Morgan's research revealed that while the date might be different, the themes and concepts are very modern.

"I suddenly was very led by how brilliant the sort of historical event was and how many parallels I felt there were with our modern times. What was key to that was the Suez crisis, which was really a moment in British history when the government actually pulled us into a phony war. I just thought there was an immediate comparison with what's been happening in the world today," Morgan says.

Morgan understands the comparison to "Mad Men" because of the time element but stresses "The Hour" will be much different because behind the sharp suits, cigarette smoke and chauvinistic thinking is a story of espionage.

NBC president Robert Greenblatt says he has great respect for "Mad Men" but "The Playboy Club" is completely different because it's more of a soap opera. "The Playboy Club" executive producer, Ian Biederman, adds that his show has a musical element that will bring a different energy to the series.

In the opener to air in September, a young Tina Turner sings and dances on the club stage while Sammy Davis Jr., Ray Charles, Sam Cook and Frank Sinatra will stop by in later episodes.

ABC president Paul Lee says his network's "Pan Am," launching in September, differs from "Mad Men" because it "is a much broader, brighter canvas and so we think it's going to attract a broader and brighter audience."

"Pan Am" producer Thomas Schlamme has heard comparisons to "Mad Men" but suggests that's too simplistic.

"It's not the time period it takes place in. It's not the character. It really is just execution. So all I can really say, it has nothing to do with 'Mad Men.' We hope our show is executed in a wonderful way that will have sort of a wish fulfillment that will attract a large audience," Schlamme says. "It's as simple as that. I think we are all fans of 'Mad Men,' but, literally, one had almost nothing to do with the other.

"So it happens to be they are both set in the '60s. I hope there's lots of shows. It is a great time period. I hope there's starting to be shows set in the '70s, and the 1880s and wherever else we can tell great stories."

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.