Mad Men—Season 1

mad men season 1 poster episode guide
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great series, great cast

Not for casual viewers


Take a trip to Madison Avenue

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is an enigma.  He is the agent that every company dreams of having for their product and the star of rather small Sterling Cooper.  It is 1960 and things are beginning to change.  Women are entering the work force and these women have dreams like Draper’s new secretary Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss).  As Peggy navigates her new job in the workforce, Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) also dreams of gaining fame, money, and respect…and he isn’t afraid to cut corners to do it.  In a world of false fronts, Sterling Cooper is out to sell the dream, but the biggest illusion Don Draper has created might just be Don Draper himself.


Normally not into Betty Draper drama but loved this weird relationship (with the show creator’s own son)

Mad Men—Season 1 aired on AMC from July 19, 2007 to October 18, 2007.  The thirteen episode season was critically acclaimed and gained a rapid fan base.  The series won Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series (“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”), Outstanding Cinematography for a One-Hour Series (“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”), Outstanding Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series (“Shoot”), Outstanding Main Title Design, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”), and Outstanding Drama Series with nominations for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series (“Shoot)”), Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series, Outstanding Costumes for a Series (“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”), Outstanding Makeup for a Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) (“Hobo Code”), Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or Special (“Nixon vs. Kennedy”), Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Hamm), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Slattery), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Robert Morse), and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (“The Wheel”).


Don’s a man with a vision!

Mad Men became a phenomenon quickly.  People were styling new Mad Men retro styles and Mad Men view parties.  I watched the first season about the time the second season was released on DVD and pounded out both seasons while eagerly waiting for the third season.  Mad Men not only is good, but it is addictive.

Unlike a lot of series, Mad Men is a very slow burn.  There aren’t a ton of dramatic cliffhangers or shocking moments…it actually rather feels a bit more “real” than most series.  What does work about it is the attention to detail and the long range planning of the series.  You can tell character arcs have been decided for the whole series and not just the season.  Frequent viewers are rewarded but casual viewers might as well not show-up.  Mad Men is for Mad Men addicts.


What goes on behind closed doors…

With that, Mad Men isn’t a series you can jump in on, but it is a relatively easy series to follow.  The characters are all very distinctive but they also can be associated with.  If you’ve worked in an office, you have meant a lot of the figures in Mad Men.  The cast is fantastic and works great together.

The show is also shocking on how things change.  Much of the hubbub of Mad Men was the smoking and drinking which is just part of the culture.  The idea of an “alcoholic” really isn’t even considered despite the fact many of the characters drink like fish.  Parenting, mental health, racism, sexism, and more are all ideas in the show and instead of judging them, they just paint them as a fact of life and let the viewer judge.


Mad Men: Watch It ’til You Puke!

I will say that the set-up is completely derivative of The Sopranos and the “mystery” of Don Draper is a bit more soap opera than I’d like.  The “work life” and the “home life” aspect of The Sopranos has shaped so many shows now and Mad Men feels like another direct descendant.  Mad Men also felt it needed a bit more of a hook so the first few seasons are very heavy into the “Who is Don Draper and how did he get here?” storyline which gets a bit overplayed in future seasons.

Mad Men remains a great show after repeat viewing and a passing of years.  Since it was dated when it was made, the show will maintain freshness and style for years to come.  If you’ve never seen Mad Men, get a comfy seat and get ready because once you start, you won’t want to stop.

Mad Men—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:


“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

1.1       Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Airdate:  07/19/07

It is 1960, and Sterling Cooper is the hottest advertising agency on Madison Avenue.  The “Mad Men” of Sterling Cooper are led by the creative direction of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) who is struggling with the Lucky Strike campaign with the new restrictions on cigarette advertising.  Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) finds herself in her new secretarial job at Sterling Cooper and at odds with junior account executive Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser).  Campbell goes behind Don’s back to get ahead with disastrous results and a bachelor party leads to an unexpected rendezvous.  Don tries to balance life with his girlfriend Midge Daniels (Rosemarie DeWitt), a tough new Jewish client named Rachel Meken (Maggie Stiff), his wife Betty (January Jones), and a big secret about his past.


“Ladies Room”

1.2       Ladies Room Airdate:  07/26/07

Betty and Don’s dinner with Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and his wife has Betty wondering about Don’s secretive past.  Peggy deals with her secret rendezvous with Pete as he celebrates his honeymoon but finds she also has other eyes in the office watching her.  Betty suffers an accident due to problems with hands and learns that psychiatric help might be her only choice.  A new aerosol deodorant ad causes problems for Don and leads him to question “what do women want?”


“Marriage of Figaro”

1.3       Marriage of Figaro Airdate:  08/02/07

A man on the train recognizes Don from his war days.  Pete returns from his honeymoon and sets Peggy straight on their relationship.  Don tours Rachel Meken’s store and finds an attraction to her.  Sally (Kiernan Shipka) has a birthday party and all of Don and Betty’s friends are invited…including the new divorcee Helen Bishop (Darby Stanchfield) and her child Glen (Martin Weiner).


“New Amsterdam”

1.4       New Amsterdam Airdate:  08/09/07

Pete and Trudy (Alison Brie) are looking for a new home and has Pete questioning how much he’s being paid.  Betty befriends Helen Bishop but finds her son Glen might be a little more than she expected.  Pete’s attempts to climb at Sterling-Cooper puts him at odds with Don when he undermines him by going to a client.



1.5       5G Airdate:  08/16/07

Don wins a major award resulting in a newspaper picture…which brings back old memories when a man named Adam Whitman (Jay Paulson) shows up claiming to be Don’s brother.  Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) gets a story published in The New Yorker much to the chagrin of Pete and Paul (Michael Gladis).  When Don misses a planned appointment with his wife and children, Peggy is forced to go to Joan (Christina Hendricks) for help with the situation.



1.6       Babylon Airdate:  08/23/07

A new potential Jewish client has Don reconnecting with Rachel but an evening out with Midge shows his age.  A lipstick client tests their products with the secretaries and gives Peggy and unexpected opportunity.  Roger and Joan’s relationship begins to heat up as Roger considers leaving his wife for Joan.


“Red in the Face”

1.7       Red in the Face Airdate:  08/30/07

Roger invites himself to an uncomfortable dinner party with Don and Betty and makes things even more awkward when he makes a pass at Betty.  Betty deals with her depression and has a run in with Helen at the grocery.  Pete has to return a chip and dip wedding present but allows his machismo to get the best of him.  When Don and Roger are forced to climb the steps after a lunch of drinking, things get ugly at the Nixon client meeting.


“The Hobo Code”

1.8       The Hobo Code Airdate:  09/06/07

Peggy and Pete rekindle their relationship as Peggy’s lipstick ad gets a warm reception.  Don gets a bonus but a visit to Midge makes him relive a part of his past involving the visit of a homeless man (Paul Schulze).  A receptionist has eyes on Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) but Sal’s thoughts go elsewhere.



1.9       Shoot Airdate:  09/13/07

Betty gets an offer to model again from a rival advertising company that is courting Don.  Pete and Paul discover an idea to promote Nixon.  People around the office begin to notice that Peggy is plumping up, and Pete finds himself coming to her defense.


“Long Weekend”

1.10     Long Weekend Airdate:  09/27/07

It is the holiday weekend, and Betty is trying to deal with her father (Ryan Cutrona) having a new girlfriend.  Peggy questions her relationship with Pete as Joan tends to a friend who’s lost her job.  Don finds himself as chaperone to Roger as he recruits twins for an ad campaign…leading to a massive threat to the company.


“Indian Summer”

1.11     Indian Summer Airdate:  10/04/07

A heatwave is hitting the Northeast and things are heating up at Sterling Cooper.  The clients are nervous with Roger’s heart attack and the company is on damage control.  Peggy finds she has another chance to write copy for a weight-loss device that provides a certain “advantage” to women.  When Roger suffers another setback, it could mean good things for Don…but a package from his brother Adam could change everything.


“Nixon vs. Kennedy”

1.12     Nixon vs. Kennedy Airdate:  10/11/07

The election for Nixon-Kennedy election is on, and everyone at the office feels on edge as Nixon appears to be in trouble…but a late night party could solve everything.  With Don getting a promotion, there is an opening and Pete is willing to force his hand with Don to get it.  The truth of how Dick Whitman became Don Draper is revealed!


“The Wheel”

1.13     The Wheel Airdate:  10/18/07

Pete is reeling from his failed attempt to get the promotion and thinks he has a solution by turning to his father-in-law for an account.  As Thanksgiving approaches, Don finds himself feeling sentimental as he learns what happened to Adam and works on a new slide projector project called “The Wheel”.  Betty worries about Don’s faithfulness and finds a way to use her psychiatrist.  Peggy gets a boost that could change her life but has a shocking revelation at the doctor’s office.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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