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12 Works of Literature That Were Featured on Mad Men

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Since its start in 2007, AMC’s Mad Men has mentioned, discussed, or alluded to a considerable amount of classic literature, from authors like Dante to Mark Twain to Edward Gibbon. Each mention or allusion serves a purpose within the show’s plotline, working either to explain a character, set a scene, or provide context for decisions made or actions taken. Here are 12 classic works mentioned throughout the first six and a half seasons of Mad Men.

1. 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand

“The Hobo Code,” Season 1, Episode 8
Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957 and set in a dystopian U.S., is the quintessential novel advocating capitalism and capitalist ideals. Bert Cooper, a big fan of Rand and one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, recommends creative director Don Draper read the book. Later, during a pitch to a client, Don appears to have been influenced by the book’s philosophies, saying, "If you don't appreciate my hard work, then I will take it away and we'll see how you do.” Viewers see in Don an egotism reminiscent of Rand’s philosophies throughout the series.

2. 'The Agony and the Ecstasy' by Irving Stone

“Flight 1,” Season 2, Episode 2
A biographical novel of artist Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy was written in 1961 and was sourced almost entirely from Michelangelo's correspondence—495 letters in all. Sterling Cooper secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson’s mother, a devoutly religious woman simultaneously proud of Peggy’s work and concerned with her lack of church attendance, mentions reading a copy of the book from the public library: “I have to renew The Agony and the Ecstasy. It’s taking forever.” In essence, Peggy’s mother is, perhaps unknowingly, exploring the dichotomy of religion in that it can seem both beneficial and like a chore.

3. 'Babylon Revisited and Other Stories' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Three Sundays,” Season 2, Episode 4
Babylon Revisited and Other Stories is a collection of 10 of Fitzgerald’s most popular short stories published between 1920 and 1937. Don’s wife, Betty, carries on a short flirtation with Arthur Case, a younger, engaged man learning to ride at the stables she frequents, and he recommends she read “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” a story about a family who, materialistically, had it all but whose patriarch was never happy (which is reminiscent of Don). Later, Betty is seen reading the collection, which includes the story Arthur recommended.

4. 'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner

“Jet Set,” Season 2, Episode 11
Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, published in 1929, chronicles a dysfunctional Southern family in Mississippi as their reputation is damaged by financial ruin and the questioning of their religion. While Don is in California on business, he meets a young woman named Joy, and after dinner with her friends and spending the night together, Joy is seen reading The Sound and the Fury in bed. When Don asks, “Is it good?,” Joy replies that their sex was good, but that the book was merely OK. Later, Don jots down an address in the margins of the book—he’s going to visit Anna, the original Don Draper’s wife. The allusion to The Sound and the Fury hearkens to Don’s own troubled and fractured family life.

5. 'The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Edward Gibbon

“My Old Kentucky Home,” Season 3, Episode 3
Published in six volumes between 1776 and 1789, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire traces the trajectory of Western civilization. Gene, Betty’s father, moves in with the Drapers as his dementia worsens, and Sally reads Gibbon to him nightly, despite the subject material and structure being perhaps too advanced for a child. This is directly contrasted to Sally’s childish behavior later, when she steals $5 from Grandpa Gene and lies about it.

6. 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain

“Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency,” Season 3, Episode 6
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876, tells the story of Tom Sawyer, a young boy growing up in the fictional town of Petersburg, Mississippi. Lane Pryce, Sterling Cooper’s chief operating officer fresh in town from a London firm, mentions to Don he has been reading Tom Sawyer. The two are standing in a hospital waiting room after a gory accident with an executive who was poised to replace Lane as COO but now, due to his injury, would not. Lane alludes to Tom’s desire to be present at his own wake when he tells Don, “I feel like I just went to my own funeral. I didn’t like the eulogy.” Essentially, Lane knew the company’s plan was to relocate him, though now he was forced to stay due to the extenuating circumstances—all while knowing his superiors wish he was gone.

7. 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain

“Tomorrowland,” Season 4, Episode 13
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the mid-1880s and is told from the first-person perspective of Huck Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is often considered satire on attitudes like racism, though criticized for its use of racial stereotypes and phraseology. Henry Francis, Betty’s second husband after her divorce from Don, is seen reading it before confronting Betty about her firing Carla, her children’s longtime black nanny.

8. 'Nature' by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Other Woman,” Season 5, Episode 11
Nature is an essay written by Emerson in 1836 and is widely considered to be the foundation of transcendentalism, or the idea that God or the Universe explains reality through nature, therefore implying that reality can be understood by the study of nature. During a conversation between Peggy and Ted Chaough, creative director at rival firm Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, where he is trying to woo her into taking a job, he tells her that Emerson said, “You have to be a transparent eyeball. What he meant was, you have to take in the world and pass it through you. I am tired of people who treat this like math.” This is an accurate representation of Ted’s approach to the advertising profession; as the seasons progress, he gets burnt out on the business side and misses being purely creative, leading to a near-breakdown.

9. 'The Inferno' by Dante Alighieri

“The Doorway,” Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2
The Inferno follows Dante’s journey through hell as he is guided by the poet Virgil. Don is seen reading The Inferno while on a beach in Hawaii with his second wife, Megan; the opening lines are narrated: “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” The book was a gift from his neighbor, with whom he is having an affair. Though he once told her he wanted to cut the affair off, he continued to see her, proving that he is often unable to navigate back to the light after straying down a dark path.

10. 'Frankenstein' by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

“Field Trip,” Season 7, Episode 3
First published anonymously in 1818, Frankenstein tells the story of scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a “monstrous” yet sentient creature during an experiment. When Betty goes as a chaperone on a field trip with her son Bobby, they are discussing his favorite monsters during the bus ride. He says, “There's basically Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. There's also King Kong, too, but he's not really a monster. I like all of them, but I guess Wolf Man's my favorite because he changes into it.” In a way, this discussion of transforming monsters foreshadows Betty’s extreme mood swings regarding her children; for instance, later in the episode, after a fun day exploring farm life as part of the field trip, Betty becomes irrationally angry at Bobby for giving away her packed lunch and lets it ruin their entire day.

11. 'From the Earth to the Moon' by Jules Verne

“The Monolith,” Season 7, Episode 4
From the Earth to the Moon, published in 1865, chronicles several weapons enthusiasts’ attempts to build a cannon that can launch three men into space, with the end goal of a moon landing. When Roger Sterling, one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, attempts to convince his daughter, Margaret, to return home from a hippie commune to her husband and son, they discuss the book as they are laying in a barn with the other commune members looking up at the moon. Margaret says, “I’d like to go to the moon. Don’t you want to go?” Roger replies that yes, of course he wanted to be an astronaut as a boy, and Margaret points out that astronauts didn’t exist during his childhood. He disagrees, citing From the Earth to the Moon, and Margaret reminisces on how he read the novel to her as a child. This conversation illustrates that Margaret feels a freedom in her life to make her dreams a reality, whereas when Roger was growing up, he was not afforded the same opportunities.

12. 'Meditations in an Emergency' by Frank O’Hara

“For Those Who Think Young,” Season 2, Episode 1
Meditations in an Emergency is a collection of poetry published in 1957. Don picks up the book after seeing a man reading it in a bar. After reading it, Don sends a copy to Anna Draper, believing that she’d enjoy it but also in an attempt to share his vulnerabilities with her, because at that time, she was the one other person who knew his secret. At one point in the show, Don narrates a telling excerpt from the poem “Mayakovsky,” helping viewers understand the internal emotional struggles he faces but cannot confront or move past:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

[h/t NYPL's 'Mad Men' Reading List]

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16 Fun Facts About The Carol Burnett Show
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After a short stint in the New York theater world, comedienne Carol Burnett landed a job as a regular on The Garry Moore Show in 1959. She caught the attention of CBS executives, who offered her her own series in 1967. With her husband Joe Hamilton at the helm, Burnett broke new ground as the first female host of a TV variety show. The Carol Burnett Show ran for 11 seasons and earned a handful of Emmy Awards in the process. To celebrate the legendary comedienne's 85th birthday, here are some fun facts about the show and the folks who made it so side-splittingly hilarious.

1. CAROL BURNETT’S MOTHER WANTED HER TO BE A WRITER.

As Carol Burnett painfully recalled later in life, whenever she’d expressed an interest in a career in the theater as a teen, her mother would always dissuade her and recommend that she would have better luck studying to become a writer. “You can always write, no matter what you look like,” she would add.

2. A TOTAL STRANGER HELPED TO LAUNCH BURNETT’S CAREER.

As she was nearing graduation from UCLA, Burnett and several fellow drama students were invited to a departing professor’s house to perform at his bon voyage party. She performed a scene from the musical Annie Get Your Gun and later that evening, while she was standing in the buffet line, a man she’d never seen before approached her and complimented her performance. He then inquired what she planned to do with her life. She confessed that she dreamed of going to New York one day for a career on the stage, but seeing that she barely had enough gas money to drive back to Los Angeles that evening, it would be a very long time before she’d make it to Broadway. The man told her he’d be happy to lend her $1000 to get her started, with three conditions: that she repay him without interest in five years, that she was never to reveal his identity, and that once she was successful she must pass a similar kindness along to another person in need. (After pondering the offer over the weekend and consulting her mother and grandmother—who advised her to steer clear of the strange man who was probably involved in human trafficking or something worse—she took a chance and accepted his check.)

3. VICKI LAWRENCE CAUGHT BURNETT’S ATTENTION BY WRITING HER A FAN LETTER.


CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

When Vicki Lawrence cut her hair in a short “pixie” cut as a high school senior, many of her classmates commented on her resemblance to Carol Burnett. Lawrence’s somewhat overbearing stage mother encouraged her to write Burnett a letter, which she did, enclosing a photo and a newspaper article that mentioned her upcoming appearance in the Inglewood, California Miss Fireball Contest. To her surprise, a seven-months-pregnant Burnett showed up at the pageant to cheer her on. When Burnett had her baby, Lawrence took some flowers to the hospital, thinking she’d just drop them off. But when the nurse on duty saw her, she immediately mistook her for Burnett’s real-life half-sister Chrissie and exclaimed, “Wait until you see the baby!” and ushered her into Carol’s room.

4. LAWRENCE ENDED UP PLAYING BURNETT’S SISTER ON THE SHOW.

When they were casting The Carol Burnett Show, the star remembered the teen and hired her despite her lack of experience. At first her only role was in the recurring “Carol and Sis” sketch, in which Lawrence played “Chrissie,” Burnett’s younger sister. Lawrence recalled in her 1995 autobiography that Burnett was very nurturing to all her co-stars, making sure everyone got their share of the best jokes, but it was Harvey Korman who took her under his wing in the beginning and taught her about timing, dialects, and working with props.

5. THE Q&A AT THE BEGINNING WAS BURNETT’S HUSBAND’S IDEA.


By CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Joe Hamilton was not only Carol Burnett’s husband, he was also the show’s executive producer. It was traditional at the time (and still is, in some cases) to have a stand-up comic step onstage before a show to tell some jokes and “warm up” the audience. Hamilton was wary of going that route, however; as Burnett later recalled, “He worried, ‘What if the guy is funnier than the rest of you?’” He thought it would be a good ice-breaker if Burnett herself went out front before the proceedings to welcome the audience and answer a couple of questions. Over the next 11 seasons, the question that she was asked the most was “Can you do your Tarzan yell?”

6. BURNETT ONCE USED HER TARZAN YELL AS A FORM OF IDENTIFICATION.

While shopping for nylon stockings at New York City’s Bergdorf Goodman one day, the saleswoman recognized Burnett and asked for her autograph for her grandchildren. When it came time to check out, Burnett realized that she didn’t have her credit card or driver’s license in her wallet. She inquired if she could write a check. “I’ll have to see some ID,” replied the woman who’d requested an autograph just moments before. The floor manager intervened and told Burnett that she’d accept her check if Burnett would do her Tarzan yell. Burnett complied, prompting a security guard to kick open a nearby door, burst in and point his gun at her.

7. LYLE WAGONNER WAS THE FIRST CENTERFOLD IN PLAYGIRL MAGAZINE.

Joe Hamilton was looking for a handsome, “Rock Hudson-type” when casting the announcer for his wife’s show. Former encyclopedia salesman Lyle Waggoner landed the job not only due to his devastating good looks, but also because he had a good sense of humor about how pretty he was. He was even good-natured about the teasing he got from his castmates after posing for the centerfold of Playgirl magazine’s premiere issue in 1973.

8. HARVEY KORMAN WAS THE FIRST CAST MEMBER HIRED.

The producers wanted a “Harvey Korman-type” for Burnett’s second banana, but didn’t bother to actually ask Korman if he was interested in the job because he was already a regular on The Danny Kaye Show, and most likely he wouldn’t leave a steady job for an unproven new show. Burnett herself spotted Korman in the CBS parking lot one day and “practically threw him over the hood of a car” begging him to join her show. Unbeknownst to her, Kaye’s show was about to get the axe after a four-year run, so Korman cheerfully accepted her offer shortly after that first meeting.

9. TIM CONWAY RARELY FOLLOWED HIS SCRIPT.

Conway had been a frequent guest star on the show, and when Lyle Waggoner decided to leave the show in 1974 (he felt that he was being “underused”), Conway was hired to replace him the following year. Conway was legendary for veering off-script and ad-libbing for lengthy stretches, to the amusement of some of his co-stars (Korman) and annoyance of others (Lawrence, who sometimes resented Conway’s disruptions and spotlight-hogging). Lawrence finally slipped her own ad-lib in on one memorable occasion, as Conway rambled on and on about an elephant during a “Family” sketch. Her NSFW remark brought the rest of the cast to their knees and was said to be Dick Clark’s favorite all-time outtake on his Bloopers and Practical Jokes TV show.

10. MRS. WIGGINS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AS AN ELDERLY WOMAN.

Conway created the Mr. Tudball/Mrs. Wiggins characters and wrote (or ad-libbed) many of their sketches. His original concept had Mrs. Wiggins being ancient, slow, and forgetful. But costume designer Bob Mackie decided that Burnett had played too many “old lady” characters on the show and designed a very voluptuous look for her instead. He explained at the time that he had certain “ditzy” CBS secretaries in mind when he stitched the curvy costume together.

11. THE SHOW THAT BECAME MAMA’S FAMILY STARTED OUT AS A MUCH DARKER ONE-OFF SKETCH.

A sketch called “The Reunion,” which originally aired in March of 1974, featured the characters that eventually became known as “The Family.” In this initial installment, Roddy McDowall played Phillip Harper, the successful younger brother of Eunice, returning home for a visit after winning a Pulitzer Prize. The family members were far crankier and more argumentative (and perhaps more representative of actual family life as they talked over one another and changed topics as soon as a thought occurred to them) than the cartoonish characters they eventually came to be on the syndicated series Mama’s Family. The piece proved to be so popular that 30 more “Family” sketches appeared over the next four seasons, with such guest stars as Alan Alda and Betty White turning up as members of the extended Harper family.

12. IT WAS BURNETT’S IDEA TO MAKE EUNICE AND HER FAMILY SOUTHERN.

The creators of "The Family" sketch were The Carol Burnett Show staff writers Jenna McMahon and Dick Clair. McMahon hailed from Kansas City, Missouri, and envisioned the Harpers to be of typical Midwestern stock, but as Burnett read the initial script she heard her own Texan and Arkansan family members speaking. She started speaking the lines with a pronounced Southern drawl, and Vicki Lawrence soon followed suit.

13. DICK VAN DYKE WAS A REGULAR FOR A SHORT TIME.

Harvey Korman left The Carol Burnett Show at the end of season 10 to star in his own sitcom on ABC.  (The Harvey Korman Show was cancelled after five episodes.) Dick Van Dyke was brought in as a replacement, but he was never a very good fit. As Burnett commented after the fact, “When Harvey put on a wig and a dress, he became a woman; when Dick Van Dyke did it, he was Dick Van Dyke in a wig and a dress.” Van Dyke wasn’t overjoyed with the job, either; he lived in Arizona at the time and the monthly 4000-mile commute was exhausting. He was released from his contract in November 1977.

14. BURNETT’S “WENT WITH THE WIND” CURTAIN ROD DRESS WAS BOB MACKIE’S BRAINSTORM.

Burnett’s Gone with the Wind parody has made many “funniest shows of all time” lists over the years, and one of the defining moments of the sketch was when Carol (as "Starlett O’Hara”) descends the stairs at Tara wearing the green velvet drapes with the curtain rod still in them and admits, “I saw it in a window and I couldn’t resist.” The original script called for Burnett to have the curtains tossed haphazardly over her shoulders, but Mackie decided that it would be funnier to create an actual dress and leave the hanger intact across her shoulders. He is slightly bitter all these years later that of all his magnificent creations, that “joke” dress has become his signature piece; of all the memorable glamorous gowns he’s created for celebrities over the decades, that curtain rod dress is the one that hangs in the Smithsonian.

15. CONWAY’S FAMOUS “DENTIST” SKIT WAS BASED ON AN ACTUAL INCIDENT.

When Conway was in the Army having some work done on his teeth, the dentist accidentally injected his own thumb with Novocain. Conway exaggerated the experience to hilarious effect in a classic skit that left Harvey Korman struggling to contain his laughter. During a 2013 interview, Conway told Conan O’Brien that Korman actually wet himself from laughing so hard.

16. THERE WAS ONLY ONE CELEBRITY GUEST THAT BURNETT WAS NEVER ABLE TO BOOK.

Over the 11 seasons the show ran, a veritable “Who’s Who” of the entertainment industry did a guest turn, from Steve Martin to Julie Andrews to then-governor Ronald Reagan to Robin Williams to Ethel Merman. The only guest who Burnett dearly wanted to have but never did get was Bette Davis. Davis was willing to appear but demanded more money that the show had budgeted. Joe Hamilton advised his wife that if they gave in to Davis’s demand, it would set an unpleasant precedent.

Additional Sources:
Vicki!: The True-Life Adventures of Miss Fireball, by Vicki Lawrence
This Time Together, by Carol Burnett
Let’s Bump Up the Lights (The Carol Burnett Show DVD extra)

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The 1988 BBC Report That Spelled the End for Doctor Who
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Given the amount of excitement, and press, surrounding the July 2017 announcement that Jodie Whittaker would be taking the keys to the TARDIS from Peter Capaldi to become Doctor Who's Thirteenth Doctor (and its first female Doctor), it’s hard to imagine that audiences could ever tire of the iconic sci-fi series. But, as Den of Geek reports, television-watchers in 1988 had a rather different opinion of the regularly-regenerating Time Lord.

A "not for publication" Television Audience Reaction Report discovered in the BBC Archive, compiled shortly after Sylvester McCoy made his debut as the Seventh Doctor, revealed that Whovians weren't buying what McCoy was selling. While viewership was up a tick (.1 million over the previous year's average), the show's Appreciation Index—which measured a series' popularity on a scale of one to 100—was a 60 which, according to the report, was "much lower than the average of 69 for the 1986 series. It is also considerably lower than the average of 75 for UK Originated Drama: Other Series and Serials between BARB Weeks 37 and 50."

Though the series' core fan base was mostly sticking around, "their number seems to be decreasing with each successive series," with a mere 46 percent of the sample audience saying that they'd want to see another season of Doctor Who (which, at that time, was in the 24th season of its initial run):

"Under half the sample audience (47%) agreed with the statement that Doctor Who was an entertaining program. Just over a quarter (28%) agreed that the stories this series had been good, while 49% disagreed with this statement. The stories' attention holding qualities received a similarly poor rating."

Ouch!

As for McCoy, the report stated that he "was not proving to be a popular Doctor. He received a personal summary index figure of 46 at the end of the series … Sylvester McCoy's predecessor in the role—Colin Baker—although only moderately popular himself, received much better ratings than these, as his personal index figure of 66 shows. A popular character, such as Jim Bergerac played by John Nettles, can receive a personal index rating of around 90."

But The Doctor wasn't even the biggest problem: His companion, Mel, was even less popular with viewers:

"Bonnie Langford, who played the Doctor's assistant Mel can only be described as unpopular with respondents. Indeed 56% of respondents who answered a questionnaire on the 'Paradise Towers' story wished she had been eaten—as seemed likely at one point during the course of this adventure. Her summary index rating of 34 compares unfavourably with the 47 she received at the end of the 1986 series. Both figures, it should be noted, are extremely low."

It should hardly be surprising that the memo (which you can read in full here) spelled the beginning of the end of Doctor Who's original incarnation. The series came to a conclusion in December 1989, with McCoy still in place as The Doctor. Fortunately, the BBC didn't hold a grudge.

In 1996, they attempted to revive interest in the series with a TV movie/backdoor pilot that featured Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. It didn't work. Nearly 10 years later, after lots of rallying, longtime series fan Russell T. Davies was given the greenlight to bring Doctor Who back with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor in 2005. Though Eccleston's tenure was short-lived—David Tennant took over the very next season—audiences have not looked back since.

[h/t Den of Geek]

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