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October 31, 2014

The Mad Men-Twilight Zone connection - VIDEOS

by Allison Waldman, posted Aug 25th 2008 3:04PM
Twilight ZoneRecently, when I interviewed Matt Weiner, the creator of AMC's Mad Men, we talked about the movies, books and television shows that influenced the inception of the show. The 1960 Oscar-winning best picture The Apartment was one, so were the sitcoms Dobie Gillis and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Of all the television shows he mentioned, though, there was one that was the most influential. "You can't have the '60s without The Twilight Zone. It is a mind opening experience for a generation," said Matt. "It was not just science fiction, it dealt with social issues. It's filled with the texture of real life. Just the idea of having a show every week where you don't know who is going to be in it and what it's going to be about, to have this acceptance of the fact that we don't know everything about the world. That in itself was something."

Going through The Twilight Zone episode guide, there are quite a few shows in which you can see where Mad Men could find inspiration. Here's four that reminded me of Don and Betty and Pete and Sterling Cooper:

1) A Stop at Willoughby
James Daly played an advertising man in a pressure-packed office who yearns for a simpler life. On the commuter train home, he stumbles back in time to a carefree place called Willoughby. Daly's character, Gart Williams, is an unsuccessful version of Don Draper. The clip shows the first part of the episode, and how Williams was dressed down for mentoring a younger man who leaves the agency and takes a major client with him. In season two of Mad Men, Duck has forced Sterling Cooper to bring in some young turks, much to Don's displeasure. In this Twilight Zone, written by Rod Serling himself, Williams eventually cracks under the pressure, but he makes it to Willoughby. Unfortunately, it's the Willoughby Funeral Home where his body is delivered after he throws himself off the train.

2) The After Hours
Anne Francis starred in this 1960 episode which was also written by Rod Serling. Her character is Marsha, a pretty blonde, just like Mad Men's Betty Draper. However, here Marsha's a mannequin, one who forgot that she wasn't a plastic creation. She thought she was a human being. She gets locked in a department store and winds up on the mythical ninth floor -- the elevator only has eight floors -- where the other mannequins confront her. In the end, Marsha must return to her real life, that of an inanimate object. In Mad Men, Betty has an artificial life and her incredible sadness is because somewhere inside she knows it. Betty is a mannequin, a Barbie Doll, that's what Jimmy Barrett called her. January Jones even looks a bit like Anne Francis.

3) The Silence
Another Rod Serling classic, this episode from 1961, reminded me of Don's antipathy for Pete Campbell. Set in an exclusive men's club, an older member named Archie hated the loquacious young social climber named Jamie. To shut him up, Archie offered a wager; he'd give Jamie half a million dollars if he could not speak for a year. Jamie was housed in a glass room in the club, maintaining his silence. In Mad Men, Don would've dumped Pete and his smarmy eagerness last season, but instead he has to endure him. And Pete's like Jamie, a pretender. He doesn't really have anything of his own. In TZ, Archie loses the bet, but he doesn't have the money to pay up. The classic Twilight Zone ironic twist came with the revelation that Jamie had the nerves to his vocal chords severed before entering the glass room, knowing he could never remain quiet for a year. His is a pyrrhic victory. It's not unllike Pete's unhappy limbo at Sterling Cooper.

4) A World of Difference
What's real and what's illusion? That's the premise of this episode, in which a film actor named Jerry -- played by Howard Duff -- believed that the character he was playing, Arthur Curtis, was real. When the director yelled, "Cut," and the illusion was shattered, Jerry flips out. Isn't Don Draper just like Arthur Curtis in some ways, a character in a play? He's really Dick Whitman but nobody knows that. When his brother tried to shatter his illusion last season, Don sent him away -- leading to his suicide. The Twilight Zone story is more literal that the illusion on Mad Men, but Weiner could surprise us someday by turning the camera back on the viewer and showing that what we've been watching is a TV show about the making of a TV show. Wouldn't that be a Serling-like twist!

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Wayne

Interesting observations on TWO classy (and CLASSIC) programs, "Twilight Zone" and "Mad Men."

August 25 2008 at 6:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
divineparasite

There were many TZ episodes where the focus was on the everyday man. The down and out musician or the business man who despises his job. Another comparsion that could be made was the many episodes of TZ being about men who long for the past. Although I guess its quite the oppisite on "Mad Man" where Donold wants nothing more then to escape his past. And yes there is also that idea of who we are in public, is often far different then who we are when we are alone.

August 25 2008 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toby O\'B

JERRY: You know, this is like that Twilight Zone where the guy wakes up, and he's the same - but everyone else is different!
KRAMER: Which one?
JERRY: They were all like that!
- 'Seinfeld'

August 25 2008 at 3:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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