Posted by: zhiv | September 20, 2008

Mad Men and Revolutionary Road: the connecting moment

I’ve been hunting around on google for the last hour chasing down the hint from Sung Woo that Matthew Weiner gave all of the actors on the show copies of Revolutionary Road.  My guess was that Weiner had read RevRoad at some point, long ago, and that it was a major influence on him in the creating the show.  It turns out, apparently, that I was wrong.

I love Mad Men, but it’s not the type of thing that I would spend a lot of time reading about on the internet.  But this search has shown me that there is a whole lot of discussion about the film version of Revolutionary Road, and a lot of that includes very intelligent discussion of the novel and Yates.  It’s all there if you start looking.  And the Mad Men-Revolutionary Road search is even more fruitful–there’s just a lot of stuff out there, a lot of discussion of exactly the things that I’ve been wondering and thinking about for the last couple of days.  There’s probably all sorts of information on the lengthy official Mad Men blog on AMC, but I couldn’t figure out how to pinpoint the search. I did read that January Jones read Revolutionary Road as an inspiration for her character.

But then I found what appears to be the connection between Weiner and Revolutionary Road.  Here it is:

http://alum.barnard.edu/site/PageServer?pagename=alu_act_0308wayne

Barnard graduate Christina Wayne, sr. vp of programming at AMC, takes the credit:

“Right now I’d have to say Mad Men. [Series creator] Matt Weiner and I have had a phenomenal relationship in terms of developing material for the show, from talking about casting and directors to which writers are going to be in the writer’s room. After I read Matt’s script at our first lunch, I asked if he had read Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road, which my interest in American literature led me to read. It’s set at the same time; it’s about a married couple who live out in the country, but the man commutes to work every day in Manhattan. Matt said no, so I gave him the book, and he has always said that that was one of the determining factors in his choosing to do the show at AMC, which was an unproven channel at the time, instead of taking it to a more established channel. I’d say Mad Men has sort of reached the pinnacle for me creatively. There’s not a moment of Mad Men that I’d change.”

The story that Weiner wrote the pilot for Mad Men before he went to work on The Sopranos for 7 years is well known.  Wayne’s story that she told Weiner to read the book seems to make sense and fit the timeline.  Weiner didn’t need to have read the book before writing the pilot, but he must have been deeply impressed by it, and it clearly must have affected a number of aspects of the show as it was developed and produced.  And we can continue looking to see some more statements from Weiner about the book, and try to see if Sung Woo’s comment that Weiner gave copies of the book to the entire cast is true.  We know that Jones was reading it.

Yates would be happier about this approach, I would think.  And I have to wonder what Christina Wayne has to say about the RevRoad movie.

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Responses

  1. Hi zhiv,

    Here’s the link I found from the Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/30/arts/television/30roch.html

    – Sung

  2. How interesting….it may be a bit tangential for me but I am fascinated nevertheless. I will have to go and watch that Billy Wilder film. By the time I’ve finished watching Mad Men, the Douglas Sirk films (which i can’t get hold of in the UK) and now this one, I’ll have forgotten how to write….

    I tried to get to a talk Lionel Shriver was giving about Rev Road last w/e down in Charleston, Sussex (UK) and I believe Sam Mendes was there too talking about the film but they were completely sold out weeks ago.

    Yours, as ever, running to catch up
    KCJ

  3. Sung– thanks for the link, and for stopping by.

    KCJ– I meant to make a note to get you psyched up for Mad Men, but didn’t do it. I’ll be really curious to hear your thoughts. Have to admit that I didn’t know anything about Lionel Shriver until you mentioned her–seems like good stuff. Will go and respond to your excellent Disturbing the Peace comment now. Thanks as always.

  4. Ok, so I’m about a year and half behind the rest of you over the water but I have just watched my first episode of Mad Men. It is amazing. The first thing that strikes me, with regard to Yates, is that if abortion is a metaphor for RY’s work, suicide is the meaphor here….not just the falling man of the opening credits but the long shots up the buildings and of course all the emphasis on smoking and health.

    I hadn’t realised that it is quite so obviously a view of the early 60s in retrospect, I mean openly so….that it looks critically at male /female relationships and sexual tensions from a 21st century point of view.

    As an ex-smoker it is a tough scenario to watch….is there anyone who doesn’t smoke?

  5. I came across a review of RR today and I had to think of you. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://mookse.wordpress.com/2008/09/28/richard-yatess-revolutionary-road/

  6. View from the Window commented on my blog and led me to you. Thanks for the interesting words on Yates. I just finished blogging about Revolutionary Road(http://castthatbook.blogspot.com/2008/10/dig-out-your-library-card.html). I’m embarrassed to say I’d never actually heard of it before last month, but it blew me away. And, interestingly, the first time Frank went to work, I immediately pictured Mad Men (even though I’ve never watched an entire episode). I’m not surprised to find out Yates was an influence.


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