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At The Emmys: Basic Cable Has A Big Night

NBC's 30 Rock cleaned up the major comedy prizes, but the big drama awards went to basic-cable breakouts like AMC's Mad Men and FX's Damages. TV critic David Bianculli recaps the evening.

05:52

Other segments from the episode on September 22, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 22, 2008: Interview with Matthew Weiner, Jon Hamm, and John Slattery; Commentary on Emmy awards; Interview with James Crumley.

Transcript

DATE September 22, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Matthew Weiner, the creator of "Mad Men," and stars
Jon Hamm and John Slattery, on making the show
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The program "Mad Men" made TV history
last night at the Emmy Awards when it became the first basic cable show to win
for Outstanding Drama Series. The creator of the show, Matthew Weiner, also
won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. Weiner is my guest,
along with two stars of the show, Jon Hamm and John Slattery, who were Emmy
nominees.

"Mad Men" is set in the early 1960s at the fictional advertising agency
Sterling Cooper, which is run by white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men who drink,
smoke and womanize. The show revolves around the ad campaigns the agency
comes up with and the personal lives of the people who work at the agency.
Jon Hamm plays Don Draper, the most creative person at the agency. John
Slattery plays Roger Sterling, who rose through the agency because his father
co-founded it. Matthew Weiner was an executive producer and writer for "The
Sopranos" before "Mad Men."

Let's start with a scene from this season, the show's second. The agency is
working on an ad campaign for Playtex bras, which has been emphasizing comfort
but is considering playing to women's fantasies, like its rival Maidenform
does. Kinsey, a young associate, suggests that they play to the idea that all
women see themselves as either a Jackie--Jackie Kennedy--or a Marilyn--Marilyn
Monroe. Peggy, who has risen in the agency from secretary to copywriter,
isn't so sure.

(Soundbite of "Mad Men")

Ms. ELISABETH MOSS: (As Peggy) I don't know if all women are a Jackie or a
Marilyn. Maybe men see them that way.

Unidentified Actor #1: (In character) Bras are for men. Women want to see
themselves the way men see them.

Unidentified Actor #2: (In character) You're a Jackie or a Marilyn, a line
and a curve. Nothing goes better together.

Ms. MOSS: (As Peggy) Which do you think I am?

Unidentified Actor #3: (In character) Gertrude Stein.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Actor #2: (In character) I would say you're more classical. Helenic.

Actor #1: (In character) Irene Dunne.

Unidentified Actor #4: (In character) Oh, I love Irene Dunne.

Actor #1: (In character) Peggy, you're going to have company on this.
Congratulations, Kinsey. You forced your way onto an account.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Matthew Weiner, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. MATTHEW WEINER: It's great to be here, Terry.

GROSS: And we'll meet Jon Hamm and John Slattery in a second. Let's start
with the scene that we just heard. You know, it's all these men deciding what
will make women buy a bra, and assuming that they know.

Mr. WEINER: Yeah, exactly.

GROSS: What made you think about using a bra campaign?

Mr. WEINER: That episode is--it's kind of a special episode. It's really
about how we perceive ourselves and how we're perceived by other people. And
there was this idea from the beginning that we were going to talk about
pantyhose, which had just come out and really kind of revolutionized
everything because they were preferred by working women and by women in
general, but they were really reviled by men. And didn't catch on right away
and they were very expensive.

And then we started talking about the, you know--most products, consumer
products, are bought by women, and, of course, most people in advertising are
men, and there is an idea where you start to realize that the way that women
perceive themselves is going to be dictated by men, if that's the marketing
campaign. And of course Peggy is put on all of the campaigns as they would
do, you know, find a woman to deal with food and home-related things and
underwear, but at the same time her opinion is not really as valuable as the
men's. So the bra just became a perfect sort of example, and we've
established that Playtex was one of their clients and, you know, I'm always
interested in where's the boundary at which point where men can stop speaking
for women.

GROSS: But in a way, bras are like the invisible star of the show because a
lot of the actresses seem to be wearing those kind of pointy, padded bullet
bras that were a mainstay of Hollywood in the '50s and early '60s.

Mr. WEINER: Well, yeah, they are. I mean, Janie Bryant, our costume
designer--I mean, I insisted that everything be accurate. But what we started
talking about is that the silhouette of a woman's body, they could change it
every year as the styles change by just altering the underwear. Now it's all
determined by exercise. So there is no need for foundation garments now
because if a woman--if you do yoga, you have a yoga body. The clothes are
made for a yoga body, and for breast implants and for all these other things
that have happened to women's bodies in the last few years but...

GROSS: And if you don't have a yoga body, it's hard to find...

Mr. WEINER: You're...

GROSS: ...anything to fit you.

Mr. WEINER: Exactly.

GROSS: That's the bottom line.

Mr. WEINER: And we have it on the show...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. WEINER: ...even with those period pieces. But the underwear is--I mean,
when you get to the point and you think about women burning their bras, it
really becomes a much more elaborate thing. I mean, just--I wrote it into the
show. Just the actresses who have to go to the bathroom and you'd have to
have 25 minutes. And you're like, what is going on? What is going on?
You're like, you do not know what is going on down there. There's so much
stuff to take off and put on, and it's really about taking whatever body you
have and physically molding it into the silhouette that was in style at that
time.

GROSS: "Mad Men" is so absorbed in the period of the 1950s, the fashions, the
advertising, the kind of home life people were expected to have. You were
born in 1965, just a few years after "Mad Men" is set. Why are you so
absorbed in the period of the early '60s?

Mr. WEINER: I think that it's a golden era, the '50s, for the United States,
and not just economically, but they'd just discovered this thing about product
obsolescence and so they realized that besides making products crappier to get
people to buy a new--you could get people to buy a new washing machine every
three years instead of every seven years by just making it look better, or by
giving it a new color. So there's this whole design thing that happens, and
there's also kind of an open-mindedness after the war when people came home,
which we don't see it that way because the advertising in the movies sort of
have this conservative bent to them. And we think of a dad smoking his pipe,
driving in the car and that sort of, you know, that advertising image of
America, but what was really going on is, if you look at the best-sellers and
the movies, there's a real subversive element, too, and a real--whether it's
"Catch-22" or, you know, Norman Mailer, you know, there's a, you know, Arthur
Miller--these aspects to the '50s and the intellectual part of the '50s, had
really permeated the culture and were very popular.

I think part of it is that the economic needs had been met by people and they
started thinking about other things, but everything that happened in the '60s
really started happening in the '50s, and my parents were steeped in that.
And they got married in 1959. And my dad's a scientist and they're both from
New York, and they're bourgeoisie American Jews, but their values are like
very--you know, they were obsessed with Hemingway and the blacklist and
intolerance, and they had great politics. And being an intellectual was not
frowned upon. You know, they'd come out of the McCarthy era, and that was
like the worst thing in the world.

GROSS: Did...

Mr. WEINER: So that's sort of something that I kind of always identified
with that.

GROSS: What was the germ of the idea for "Mad Men"? What came to you first?

Mr. WEINER: I wanted to do something about what I consider to be the people
who run the country, who were raised in the Great Depression and had
childhoods that were kind of dark. And I was interested in identity and men
and where we are, who we look up to, how are we supposed to behave now.
There's no model for us. And I just kept digging back further and further and
finding that there's never been a model. And I was really most interested in
that character of Don. That's the germ of the idea.

GROSS: My guest is Matthew Weiner. He's the creator of the AMC series "Mad
Men," and he's also written and directed episodes of the series, and in a
moment we'll be hearing from two of the stars of the show, Jon Hamm and John
Slattery.

Let's hear a scene that you wrote, Matthew, that features Jon Hamm in the
leading role as Don Draper, and Don Draper's the main character of the series.
Why don't you describe Don instead of me doing it?

Mr. WEINER: Don Draper is a self-made man who is from a humble and somewhat
horrible background, and he has come to New York in a very winding way and
ended up a success. And he still carries that person inside him, and it
informs him every day of his life, and it makes it hard for him to make
lasting relationships and to have a strong marriage, and to trust himself, in
a way. But at the same time he's very curious and very interested in people,
and I think that even though he behaves badly a lot of times, he does behave
in a very moral way with each individual that he deals with.

GROSS: The last episode of season one has one of my favorite moments from the
series, and this is an episode, Matthew, that you wrote and directed, and in
this episode, Don Draper has put together a presentation for one of the
clients that they're trying to land. And it's Kodak, and Kodak has this new
slide and slide projection system where the slides are all on a wheel, and
they're calling it the wheel. And Draper's pitching them an ad campaign and a
concept for the ad campaign. And in this scene midway through his pitch, he
starts showing slides and the slides happen to be slides of his own family
moments, some of his most warm family moments: him nuzzling with his wife
when they were younger, one of his children when they were an infant, really
nostalgic scenes like that. And in the meantime his own family life is
actually in a lot of trouble. So I'd like you to talk about writing this
scene, why you chose the slides as--you know, this like slide carousel as the
object you wanted to write the ad campaign for, and if you had to get
permission from Kodak to do it.

Mr. WEINER: We did not get Kodak's permission, although it's an amazing ad
for a product that no one's interested in anymore. What happened is that I
knew that I wanted to tell this story about nostalgia, and I knew that I
wanted to show that Don, the character, has realized that his brother, who has
come back to him, has killed himself and that he has estranged himself from
his family. And he's there with his family slides, but what I wanted to do
was I wanted to get this idea of nostalgia in there, and I actually--my
advertising consultant, Josh Weltman, I'm like, I asked him, `What came out
that year? What can you find?' And he comes in and he says, `You're not going
to believe this.' And he mentions it to me--because I always wanted Don to be
showing person pictures in this thing, I didn't know it could be a slide
projector, I thought it might be a camera or something--and it was like an
explosion in my brain when he told me about the carousel, and I was like, this
is perfect.

GROSS: So here's the scene from "Mad Men," featuring Jon Hamm as Don Draper;
and remember, midway through this presentation he's going to start showing
slides from his own family moments.

(Soundbite of "Mad Men")

Mr. JON HAMM: (As Don Draper) My first job. I was in house at a fur company
with this old pro copywriter, Greek, named Teddy, and Teddy told me the most
important idea in advertising is new. Creates an itch. You simply put your
product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. But he also talked about a
deeper bond with the product. Nostalgia. It's delicate, but potent.

Sweetheart?

(Soundbite of chairs moving, click, whirring)

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) Teddy told me that in Greek, "nostalgia" literally
means the pain from an old wound.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than
memory alone.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) This device isn't a spaceship. It's a time
machine.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) It goes backwards and forwards, takes us to a
place where we ache to go again.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) It's not called the wheel; it's called the
carousel.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) It lets us travel the way a child travels.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) Around and around, back home again.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) To a place where we know we are loved.

(Soundbite of carousel slide movement)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Jon Hamm as Don Draper in a scene from the AMC series "Mad
Men."

And Jon Hamm, welcome to the conversation.

Mr. HAMM: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: That's a great scene. You're so terrific in it. It's a really
heartbreaking scene because your character knows he's having such trouble in
his personal life as he's showing these wonderful slides and talking about
nostalgia. Jon Hamm, tell us how you found out about this role and first went
on the audition for it.

Mr. HAMM: It was--you know, there's this mythical season in Los Angeles
called pilot season, so I had gone out on several pilot auditions and gotten
fairly far on them and then something happened and I didn't get it. But this
one script came, and I read it and I thought, well, this is for AMC. They
don't make television. They show old movies. But I read it and I said, `I
have to be in this project at some point. I have to do something on this.
This is so good.' And I basically had to start at the very bottom. I didn't
know the casting directors and they didn't know me, so they wanted to do
what's curiously called a "pre-read" with me, which is you mean the casting
directors and they read you and decide if they want to sort of take you to the
next level. So I started, literally, at the very bottom of the process and
worked my way up from there.

GROSS: My guests are two of the stars of "Mad Men," Jon Hamm and John
Slattery, and the creator of the series, Matthew Weiner. We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: My guests are the creator of "Mad Men," Matthew Weiner, and two of the
show's stars. Jon Hamm plays Don Draper. John Slattery plays Roger Sterling.
When we left off, Jon Hamm was telling us how he got the part of Draper.

Matthew Weiner, why did you hire Jon Hamm in your leading role as Don Draper?

Mr. WEINER: Well, first of all, there's something that Jon is leaving out,
which people may not know, which is that auditioning--when you get to a
certain point in your career, you really don't expect to audition even
anymore, and certainly for a leading role like that, you do expect it, but
there's really a hierarchy of who has to audition and what it is, and this
thing was so important to me, that I was like, I will not hire anybody who
won't audition. So everyone had to audition. And the casting directors knew
that, and they knew that Jon was the guy and they wanted him to be perfect
when I saw him.

And what happened was he came in, and literally his first audition he left and
I said, `That's the guy.' He has this incredible intelligence, and you could
see it right away. He understood everything that was going on there without
any direction, and he had this presence that was both--it was an old-fashioned
leading man quality. You don't even see these people anymore, you know.
There's many more guys like Seth Rogen getting the girl, you know, nowadays
than like Jon Hamm. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, I'm
much more of a Seth Rogen type, but in my fantasy, you know, of you this man
was--and I told them I wanted James Garner, you know, and they're like, well,
you know, he can't play it.

And Jon came in, and there's also a depth to Jon, there's something about his
eyes and his intelligence that I just felt, well, this is not a glib ad man.
This is a man who has lived, who's an adult, who has some secrets, who has a
heart, who understands women. I felt all of that from just watching him
audition the very first time, and I--it was a matter of just trying to sell
this person who was not famous as the star of the show. And I can say quite
honestly--and Jon knows this, too--that I basically told them that I would not
do the show if Jon was not the lead.

GROSS: I want to bring John Slattery into the conversation, and John Slattery
plays Roger Sterling, who is the son of the late co-founder of the advertising
agency Sterling Cooper, so now he's, you know, like one of the partners of it.
And he's of a generation, like one generation older than Don Draper in the
series, and in this scene--I'm going to play a scene with Roger Sterling and
Don Draper--so in this scene, Sterling has just walked into Draper's office
with a bottle of liquor and is sitting down, and they're kind of comparing
generational differences, and the scene starts with John Slattery as Roger
Sterling.

(Soundbite of "Mad Men")

(Soundbite of liquid being poured)

Mr. JOHN SLATTERY: (As Roger Sterling) I bet daily friendship with that
bottle attracts more people to advertising than any salary you could dream up.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) That's why I got in.

Mr. SLATTERY: (As Roger Sterling) So enjoy it.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) Doing my best here.

Mr. SLATTERY: (As Roger Sterling) Oh, you're not. You don't know how to
drink. Your whole generation. You drink for the wrong reasons. My
generation? We drink because it's good. Because it feels better than
unbuttoning your collar. Because we deserve it. We drink because it's what
men do.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) What about shaky hands? I see a lot of that too
with you boys.

Mr. SLATTERY: (As Roger Sterling) No joke. Your kind, with your gloomy
thoughts and your worries, you're all busy licking some imaginary wound.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) Not all imaginary.

Mr. SLATTERY: (As Roger Sterling) Yeah. Boo hoo.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) Maybe I'm not as comfortable being powerless as
you are.

Mr. SLATTERY: (As Roger Sterling) Pardon?

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Jon Hamm and John Slattery in a scene from "Mad Men."

John Slattery, welcome to the conversation.

Mr. SLATTERY: Thanks, Terry.

GROSS: So how did you find out about "Mad Men" and how did you end up
auditioning for it?

Mr. SLATTERY: I was in New York doing a play and I was sent the script, and
I I've said this before and Matt hasn't corrected me, so I'm going to stick
with this version, which is that I read it thinking that they needed the
character of Don Draper, which I was, of course, very happy about. I thought,
you know, usually it's some 65-year-old guy that they send me a script for.
So I prepared the part of Don Draper and went in and read.

GROSS: This is because your hair is gray, right?

Mr. SLATTERY: That's right. That's--among other things. And so I worked on
it and went in and read with Matt and Alan Taylor, who directed the pilot.
And I think I'd gone through it maybe twice--I think they actually had me go
through it again before telling me, `Here's the thing. We have that guy. We
want you to play this other guy,' of which there was not as much.

Mr. WEINER: Well, I hate to tell John this on the air. Beth Bowling and Kim
Miscia, our casting directors, I wanted him to play Roger from the beginning,
and they told me there was no way he would come in and read for that part.
And I said, `Well, get him in here,' and he came in and started reading Don,
and it was a surprise to me, too. And all I did was keep working with him as
I figured out, like how do I tell him I want him to play this other part,
which is really for a man much older than John. But...

Mr. SLATTERY: See, there you go.

Mr. WEINER: ...I brought it down to a different age, and, you know, the
tough part was not just getting John to do the pilot, but afterwards just
telling him, promising him--which I guess people do a lot in show business...

Mr. SLATTERY: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WEINER: ...but promising him that I would take care of this character
and that he was very important to me.

GROSS: We'll talk more about "Mad Men" in the second half of the show with
the creator of the series, Matthew Weiner, and two of the show's stars, Jon
Hamm and John Slattery. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're talking about the AMC
series "Mad Men," which made TV history last night when it became the first
basic cable series to win an Emmy for outstanding dramatic series. "Mad Men"
is set in the early 1960s at a Madison Avenue advertising agency. My guests
are two stars of the series. Jon Hamm plays Don Draper. John Slattery plays
Roger Sterling. Also with us is the show's creator, Matthew Weiner, who won
an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the show's pilot.
Here's the opening scene from the pilot. Ad man Don Draper is in a bar
talking to his waiter, asking why he smokes Old Gold cigarettes.

(Soundbite of "Mad Men")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) But what is it? I mean, low tar, those new
filters? Why--I mean, why Old Gold?

Unidentified Actor #5: (In character) They gave them to us in the service. A
carton a week for free.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) So you're used to them. Is that it?

Actor #5: (In character) Yeah. They're habit.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) I could never get you to try another brand, say,
my Luckys.

Actor #5: (In character) I love my Old Golds.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) All right. Well, let's just say tomorrow a
tobacco weevil comes and eats every last Old Gold on the planet.

Actor #5: (In character) That's a sad story.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) It's a tragedy. Would you just stop smoking?

Actor #5: (In character) I think I could find something. I love smoking.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) "I love smoking." That's very good.

Actor #5: (In character) My wife hates it. Reader's Digest says it will kill
you.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) Yeah. I heard about that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Actor #5: (In character) Ladies love their magazines.

Mr. HAMM: (As Don Draper) Yes they do.

(Soundbite of music)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Now, let me ask both Johns how you got in character for the period.
What did you look at? What did you--what movies, if any, or TV shows did you
watch, or ads, to, you know, just to get immersed in the early '60s?

Mr. HAMM: Well, I had always sort of been a fan of that period and the art
and literature and the cinema that came out of it, you know, anything of the
sort of Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau crowd, and, of course, Billy Wilder movies.
And just, on a more personal level, my father was sort of a big deal
businessman in St. Louis in this time, in the '50s and '60s, and he worked
for a company that his grandfather and his father had owned. So I
literally--just looking through old photo albums and I could see, I mean, here
was this guy, this man who was the sort of master of his domain, and the sort
of ease with which he moved through this world. St. Louis is obviously a
much smaller pond than Madison Avenue and New York City, but that kind of
largesse and ease was a big part of what informed my interpretation of Don.

GROSS: I got to ask you a question about that. Your character of Don has a
way of kind of crossing his legs. It's a kind of power position for him. The
way he crosses his legs is like, `I own extra space around me. I own all the
space around my body.' Did your father kind of sit that way?

Mr. HAMM: Yeah, he was a big guy. He was about 6'3" and he owned the space
he was in. He was a very friendly, very gregarious, very fun, very funny guy,
but he also had, you know, a lot of sadness in his life. My father met my
mother, who was a secretary, and they got married, but my mother was my
father's second wife. His first wife died at a very young age. And my
mother, his second wife, also died at a very young age. So this is a man who
had a tremendous amount of sadness for being in such a sort of powerful and
elevated position in his life. He did have a lot of sadness. So I didn't
have to look too far to find any kind of inspiration for this guy, and, you
know, my father passed away when I was 20, so it's a drag that he doesn't get
a chance to see this because I think he would really enjoy the result.

GROSS: Yeah, that kind of thing is always heartbreaking.

John Slattery, what about you? What did you look for for inspiration to get
into your character, who lives in the early '60s?

Mr. SLATTERY: I was actually born in 1962, so I don't firsthand remember the
period, but my father was actually in the shoe business, and I remember that
he would stay out and come home later, and the kids would all have eaten, sort
of like the Draper situation. You know, he'd come home from the office after
the children had had their dinner and were on their way to bed. And I mean, I
just remember that time very vividly.

You know, and it's also, on a practical, sort of going to work day-to-day
basis, the clothes that we're in, Janie Bryant's design. You know, you're
cinched into these, in my case, three-piece suits and smoking cigarettes and
drinking cocktails, and it has a way of propping you up. You know, it's an
exoskeleton, these clothes, and after awhile that sort of carriage that
provides you takes on a life of its own, so that in another scene, when you're
not as formally dressed, you're still standing as straight as you would
normally.

GROSS: Matthew, in the opening credits sequence for "Mad Men" there's an
animation of a man, like Don Draper, falling from the top of an office
building, slowly falling past this building, down to--and you think he's going
to hit the ground, but instead he lands in this chair.

Mr. WEINER: Right.

GROSS: And it's kind of like a metaphor for Draper's life, but when you see
it--at least when I see it--I can't help but think of September 11th, with the
images of people jumping out of this....

Mr. WEINER: Yeah. It...

GROSS: ...you know, out of this like burning skyscraper, and I wonder if you
ever think about that when you see the opening credits.

Mr. WEINER: You know what? Obviously I did the opening credits almost two
and a half years ago, and I had this image of this man falling out the window,
because, you know, if we had done this in 19--if the show was on the air in
1960, they'd be talking about the stock market crash. When businessmen jump
out of the window, it means something is wrong. And I did not want it to be
part of September 11th, other than the way that is part of our consciousness
that something's wrong and that this man is metaphorically in freefall, and
that is--that canyon of buildings, which are covered with images from his life
in advertising, that's the world that he's falling through. And then you just
see him, that this is going on in his mind in the end, and that he's sitting
there in the pose of perfect confidence. And that's what I was interested in,
was a psychological state.

And it's funny that no matter how much you abstract that image, it's so
powerful, you know, and he's a modern man. He's got a suit on and it's
computer animation and, you know, there's a lot about it that should
technically distance you from it, but it doesn't. And to me--and the music is
falling also. You know, that's that piece of music is...

GROSS: It's a descending...

Mr. WEINER: ...really has--yeah, absolutely.

GROSS: A descending line. Mm-hmm.

Mr. WEINER: So for me, I wanted to introduce people to this character and I
only was allowed 30 seconds. "The Sopranos"' opening titles are a minute and
a half, and you can tell a whole story. So to me I had to go to the graphic
punch of that. And, you know, AMC is in New York. I lived in New York. I
understand what this image means to people. This is part of the message of
the show. It's unpleasant, and it reminds you of something. Why would you
get rid of it from your arsenal? Is it in bad taste? It's an emotional
response.

GROSS: Yeah, one of the things I really like about "Mad Men," about the way
the lives of the characters are portrayed, is that most of the men in the
series seem so unhappy with their home lives. They, you know, the main
characters, like especially Don Draper, has a very attractive wife, but it
seems that underneath, that he's living a conventional home life, cheating on
the side, but he's not a conventional guy, but he wouldn't know how to lead an
unconventional family life, because it kind of wasn't done, or he thinks it
wasn't done.

Mr. WEINER: That's true, and it really wasn't done. But, you know, what's
conventional? I mean, and who looks at themselves in the mirror when they're
married and they have kids and says, `Oh, I'm leading a conventional life'? I
mean, my inspiration for writing this piece, the first moment of interaction
with really where Don was, was I was 35 years old, I had a job on a network
sitcom, it was rated number nine, which means I was basically major league
baseball for my job. There's 300 people in the country that have this job,
and I had one. I had three children and I was like, what--this incredible
life, you know. I was like, what is wrong with me? Why am I unhappy? Why is
there so much going on in my head that I can't express to other people because
it's all awful? And what is enough? And I'm going to die one day and I'm
looking at it and saying, `This is it?' It could be an excuse to behave very
badly. It could be something. So, I mean, I look at these men--and the
women, too--we all have moments of alienation and private unhappiness and no
one is as happy as you think they are on the outside. And then there's
moments of great joy in the show also.

GROSS: Well, Matthew, I have to ask you, do you feel, now that you're working
on a show that you created, do you feel happier and more fulfilled than you
need when you were on the number nine TV show and felt that, underneath it
all, there was a lot of dissatisfaction?

Mr. WEINER: Well, the dissatisfaction drove me, and actually, with all the
amazing things that have happened this year and happened to the show, I'm
terrified that if I sit back and absorb it and enjoy it, I'm not going to be
able to work anymore. I was driven by rage and resentment and `listen to me'
and `how come you're not listening to me?' and now I kind of feel like people
are listening. Actually, to tell you the truth, I feel amazing about things.
I feel what I always wanted to feel for my work, which is that I'm
communicating with other people, and in an intimate way.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you all for talking with us. And
congratulations on the show. Thanks very much, John Slattery, Jon Hamm, and
Matthew Weiner.

Mr. HAMM: Thanks so much.

Mr. SLATTERY: Thanks for having us, Terry.

Mr. WEINER: It was very exciting, thanks.

GROSS: Matthew Weiner is the creator of the AMC series "Mad Men," which won
the Emmy last night for Best Dramatic Series. Jon Hamm and John Slattery star
in the series. Our interview was recorded last Thursday.

Coming up, our TV critic David Bianculli recaps the Emmy telecast. This is
FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: David Bianculli on the Emmy awards
TERRY GROSS, host:

The Emmy awards were broadcast last night on ABC honoring the best in
television for the 2007-2008 TV series. It was a season hampered by a
writers' strike, and, as the statuettes were handed out, dominated by cable.
Tonight, broadcast TV tries to get back on track and attract attention and
viewers by launching the new fall season. Our TV critic David Bianculli looks
back at last night's Emmys and ahead to the new season.

Mr. DAVID BIANCULLI: A lot of really good shows were given Emmys last night,
but what struck me the most as the night went on was the dominance of cable TV
and how few people actually are watching the shows that won the major awards.
One big winner was HBO's "John Adams," with five major Emmys. That's no
surprise. It was an excellent miniseries, and cable, particularly HBO, has
dominated the TV movies and miniseries category for a long time now.

But drama series? If broadcast TV is supposed to have a wheelhouse, weekly
series drama is it. But look what happened last night. In the top drama
categories, the AMC cable network got Best Drama for "Mad Men" and Best Actor
for Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad." Glenn Close won as Best Actress for the
FX drama "Damages." Add up the viewers for all three of those shows, and you
wouldn't have enough to crack the top 50.

Over on the comedy side, NBC managed a clean sweep of the biggest awards,
thanks to "30 Rock," which won five, including Best Comedy series and Best
Actor and Actress for Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey. The Emmy voters deserve
credit for their support of "30 Rock," which was last season's Best Comedy.
But TV viewers don't get credit for their support, or lack of it. Even though
it was on broadcast TV, "30 Rock" wasn't a top 10 show last season--or a top
20 show, or even a top 40 show. It didn't even crack the top 100. And it
really, really pains me to point this out, but "30 Rock," on average, was seen
by fewer viewers last season than ABC's "Cavemen."

So what you had last night was a celebration of shows that most people aren't
watching, and most of which don't come from broadcast TV. The only Emmys won
last night by CBS, once known as "the Tiffany Network," were for its reality
shows, "The Amazing Race" and "Survivor." That is not a good sign. Neither is
it a good sign that the Emmys show last night, televised by ABC, was so timid.
Anytime anyone started to say anything even remotely political, the orchestra
started to drown them out or cut them off entirely. Listen to what happened
to Kirk Ellis, who won for writing the HBO miniseries adaptation of "John
Adams." He was cut off in midsentence by an announcer, just as he was getting
started.

(Soundbite of 60th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards)

Mr. KIRK ELLIS: Ah, I've got to dedicate this award to two people, my own
Abigail Adams, my partner, my wife, Sheila; and David McCullough, not only a
great historian, but a great dramatist. And I'm proud to call him a friend as
well as a mentor. Thank you, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Michael Lombardo,
Colin Calender, for giving me this amazing opportunity, this amazing
opportunity, to talk about a period in our history when articulate men
articulated complex thoughts in complete sentences.

(Soundbite of applause, music)

Mr. ELLIS: They used words...

(Soundbite of music)

Announcer: "The Amazing Race," "American Idol," "Dancing with the Stars,"
"Project Runway," "Top Chef." Who will take home the Emmy for reality
competition program? It's next, here on the Emmys.

(Soundbite of music)

(End of soundbite)

Mr. BIANCULLI: Yeah, they used words, but Kirk Ellis wasn't given the chance
to.

Look, it's a good thing that so much wealth is spread around the TV spectrum,
but if broadcast TV can't compete with the cable big boys, can't draw viewers
to its own best shows and doesn't even have the nerve to make its live award
shows lively, then you have to ask yourself, what can it do well?

This week it tries to show us, by launching what looks like a traditional fall
TV season--except it isn't, because the writers' strike of last year cut back
development and production of new series. The best fall series of the ones
I've seen, the Fox show "Fringe," premiered two weeks ago. This week, the
official launch week of the 2008-'09 TV season, there are only five more new
ones. Two are worth sampling, tonight's CBS sitcom "Worst Week" and
tomorrow's CBS' drama "The Mentalist." But neither really excites me or
deserves more notice than that.

What does deserve notice? That the old, good shows are returning, finally,
with new episodes. Tonight we get the season premieres of "Heroes" on NBC,
"How I Met Your Mother" on CBS and "Boston Legal" on ABC. Later this week, we
get a bunch: "Ugly Betty" and "The Office," "The Simpsons" and "60 Minutes,"
"Desperate Housewives" and "My Name Is Earl." But even on broadcast TV's big
week, cable isn't calling it quits. HBO launches two new series, including
"Little Britain USA," and Showtime presents the season premieres of two
excellent shows, "Dexter" and "Californication."

Meanwhile, where is "30 Rock"? NBC could have had the show ready for premiere
week and posed to capitalize on its handful of new Emmys, but no. "30 Rock"
isn't starting its season until the 30th--October 30th. If you want to see
Tina Fey before then, you'll have to watch the late night or special prime
time editions of "Saturday Night Live" and hope she makes another appearance
as Sarah Palin. And then, at least, mentioning politics won't get you cut off
in midsentence.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for tvworthwatching.com and teaches TV
and film studies at Rowan University.

Coming up, we listen back to an interview with the crime novelist James
Crumley. He died last week. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: An interview with crime novelist James Crumley, who
died last week at age 68
TERRY GROSS, host:

The crime novelist James Crumley died last week at the age of 68 after a
period of declining health. We're going to listen back to an interview with
Crumley. In his New York Times obit Saturday, Crumley was described as,
quote, "a critically acclaimed crime novelist whose drug-infused,
alcohol-soaked, profanity-laced, breathtakingly violent books swept the
hard-boiled detective from the Raymond Chandler era into an amoral, utterly
dissolute, apocalyptic post-Vietnam universe," unquote. I spoke with Crumley
in 1987 after three of his novels were reprinted by the Vintage Contemporary
Fiction series. Two of them focused on his private eye, Milton Chester
Milodragovitch III, Milo to his friends. He's an ex-deputy sheriff turned
private eye who's almost always drunk and broke as he waits to inherit the
family fortune. The character lived in Montana, where Crumley lived. I asked
James Crumley why he started writing detective novels.

Mr. JAMES CRUMLEY: I like the notion of being able to deal in some kind of
murky world where the morality's not too clearly delineated and where there's
some kind of sense of justice that you can reach at the end. It's usually an
uncomfortable and certainly unsatisfying sense of justice, but it satisfies
me.

GROSS: There are certain conventions of the detective genre. What are some
of the advantages and disadvantages for you as a writer to be writing within a
genre?

Mr. CRUMLEY: I find more disadvantages than advantages. You know, with the
detective having to always be upright and forthright and honest and stern and
steadfast and all of those things, and I think I've tried in all of the books
to use a detective that's flawed in many of those same ways that the villains
are flawed, and I think he even says occasionally that if he hadn't have been
a cop, that he would have probably, you know, been a criminal. And I guess
the only real advantage to writing in a genre is that you can play off the
genre. It's like everybody knows the rules and so that you can do pretty much
whatever you want to. As long as you admit the rules, you can break them.

GROSS: I'm going to ask you to read a passage from the beginning of "The
Wrong Case."

Mr. CRUMLEY: OK. It's sort of a tradition for the detective to sit around
his office and describe it so that the readers can get a sense of him. And
this is Milton Chester Milodragovitch III, this is his office.

(Reading) "The large, old-fashioned safe in the corner left from my
grandfather's days as a banker was empty, except for $2,000 of untaxed mad
money. Age and sorrow, those were my only assets, my largest liabilities.
But like most men who drink too much, I'd spent most of my life considering my
dismal future, and it had stopped amusing me. So I had another drink and
walked over to the north windows to look down upon the happy, employed folk of
Merriweather.

"Once, we Milodragovitches had been big stuff in this town, but now the only
way I could look down on anybody was to climb up to my office, stare down from
the windows. Lunch hour was done. People were hurrying about their business,
driving back to office and store in air-conditioned cars, even though the air
seemed more like spring that summer. I'd never owned an air-conditioned car
so I could feel vaguely smug--until August, anyway."

GROSS: Now, usually in detective novels the characters' names are pretty
short and simple--Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer. Why did you do a Milodragovitch
for your detective.

Mr. CRUMLEY: It was a name that I'd run across. It's an old Montana name,
and it just stuck in my head; I couldn't get rid of it. And I just liked the
sound the name, Milton Chester Milodragovitch III.

GROSS: Your detective says that he realized if he wasn't a cop he'd probably
be a crook.

Mr. CRUMLEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Now, you're a writer who spends a lot of time at a desk probably
behind a typewriter or at least with a pad on your lap. Do you feel at all
drawn to that world of crooks and cops?

Mr. CRUMLEY: Well, yes. You know, in some kinds of ways, too, I'm a child
of the '60s, when everybody was a criminal, partially because of the marijuana
laws and partially because of the politics and the protests. I know a lot of
minor league criminals, I guess you could call them, and I'm friends with
several cops and ex-cops, and even know a few private detectives. So I find
that world much more interesting, for instance, say, than the academic world,
where I labored for 11 years at various universities all across the country.
I've always--I think all writers feel in some kind of way outside of the
mainstream of the worlds they live in, and I think most writers find
themselves drawn to other people who are on the outside looking in. So I'm
not sure whether it's a fascination with crime or whether it's a fascination
with alienation.

GROSS: How did you discover detective fiction?

Mr. CRUMLEY: Underneath one of my aunt's mattresses when I was about nine
years old, and the...

GROSS: Was it supposed to be dirty?

Mr. CRUMLEY: Well, it was Mickey Spillane, and among...

GROSS: Oh, yeah.

Mr. CRUMLEY: It was pretty race stuff for high school girls back then. I
was still in grade school and my aunts must have hid them for some reason.
And so I read Mickey Spillane at an early age, and it wasn't until I was in
the middle of my first novel that I went back to detective novels. A poet
here in Montana, Richard Hugo, turned me onto Raymond Chandler, and I spent a
summer working on my first novel in Mexico and reading all of Raymond
Chandler's work, which is when I decided that I wanted to do at least one
detective novel.

GROSS: You grew up in Texas...

Mr. CRUMLEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...and you now live in Montana, so you've spent most of your life in
the West. Did you grow up with a lot of cowboy stories, Westerns, things like
that?

Mr. CRUMLEY: My great-grandfather was still alive when I was a little boy
right after World War II, and he was one of the last of the Texas trail
drivers and wagon train drivers to die, and so I picked up a lot of stories
from him. My father worked in the oil fields, however, and I grew up in
company houses, and I read probably as much Western fiction when I was young
as I did anything else except for science fiction. So, you know, and I also
went to the Western movies every Saturday while my mother was at the grocery
store, go to a double feature at the it theater in Memphis, Texas. And so I
got all that cowboy stuff pretty good.

GROSS: Your novels are just re-published now in the Vintage Contemporary
series, and I wonder if you think you're being re-discovered by new readers or
publishers.

Mr. CRUMLEY: I don't remember being discovered the first time. So it's
difficult to be re-discovered. It's nice to get to a broader kind of audience
than I have been, than people who go looking for my books, and I think they've
given me a little more clout in the literary world, if one needs clout in the
literary world, to be in this series with writers who are considered serious
writers--Tom McGuane, Ray Carver, etc. But sometimes I wish I was in, you
know, in the smaller paperback editions and more widely distributed in truck
stops and supermarkets and 7-Elevens.

GROSS: With nice lurid covers?

Mr. CRUMLEY: Absolutely. I think that's where my audience is. One of the
things that has always encouraged me and made me feel good about the books
that I write is that working-class people read them and are moved by them.
And, you know, my background is firmly rooted in the lower middle classes,
working classes. And I still remember what work was like, although I'm
certainly glad I don't have to do it anymore. I do have a great deal of
respect for those people, and when they like my books I'm particularly
tickled.

GROSS: James Crumley, recorded in 1987. He died last Wednesday at the age of
68. His crime novels include "The Wrong Case" and "The Last Good Kiss."

You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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