How Mad Men Gets the Writing Right

Assuming, of course, that it does. (Okay, okay, we’ve offended you by doubting the high quality of MAD MEN scripts, right? But, c’mon, did you watch the first half of this season? Something’s different, you know?)

Hmm, maybe this article will give us some insight:

mad men.tvwriter.comby Katy Steinmetz

There is no show on television that is more combed through, picked over and squawked about than Mad Men. Whether Joan mentions lustrous restaurant Le Cirque before it actually opened or Peggy says she “feels good about” something before that phrase became popular, it will be noted by (lovingly) persnickety viewers. Among the team of people checking and double-checking that these characters from the 1960s — and perhaps soon the 1970s — sound authentic are Allison Mann, the show’s head of research, and Erin Levy, writer and supervising producer. TIME spoke with them about how they keepMad Men, which kicks off its final season on Sunday, firmly planted in the point of history where creator Matthew Weiner has steered it

Note: Brackets [ ] indicate additional information added by the writer.

TIME: What steps do you go through to ensure that the language, particularly the dialogue, is accurate?

Erin Levy: Every season, we try to engulf ourselves in the period, watch movies from the year that we’re going to be writing about. We read TIME, LIFE, Playboy, the New York Times and the New Yorker. Then there are a lot of books, too, people writing in the time rather than about the time, which is important. We read John Cheever, who is a great source, and The Girls In the Office by Jack Olsen [about girls “who come to get a superjob in the big city” as the dust jacket says, in the late 1960s and early 1970s]. And then, coming on this show as a writer, my job is to write like Matt. Part of that is getting an ear for how he writes, and because you can have an ear for how someone else writes, you can have an ear for learning how a period is, too. Once you engulf yourself, you start to really get the hang of it.

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