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Edgerton's New Book Explores World of TV's 'Mad Men'

Gary Edgerton, chair and professor of communication and theatre arts at Old Dominion University, is the editor of the new book "Mad Men: Dream Come True TV" (I.B. Taurus, 2011), which features a collection of 15 essays exploring the cultural significance of the highly acclaimed television show.

Every few years, a new TV program comes along that captures and expresses the spirit of a particular time, or zeitgeist. "'Mad Men' is now that show," Edgerton says.

A period drama, "Mad Men" is set in the sleek and sophisticated world of Madison Avenue in the early 1960s. It centers on the professional and personal lives of advertising executives and their families. Since premiering on AMC in July 2007, the show has attracted wide critical acclaim, including three Golden Globes, six Emmys and a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.

According to Edgerton, the show's imprint is evident throughout contemporary culture, having inspired TV commercials and print advertisements, magazine covers and feature articles, designer fashions and department store displays, as well as all sorts of ancillary merchandise. These items range from cigarette lighters to hip flasks to assorted media-related tie-ins such as soundtrack CDs, episode downloads and season-long DVD sets.

The men and women of "Mad Men" are depicted as mostly on the wrong side of history, particularly at a time when the country is experiencing a profound cultural shift, Edgerton observes. "The critical nostalgia of 'Mad Men' comes with a much different attitude towards the past, often exposing the workaday sexism, racism, adultery, homophobia and anti-Semitism of the era - not to mention all the excessive smoking and drinking," he writes in the book's introduction. These conflicts and their cultural significance are explored in the volume.

TV critic David Bianculli, of "Television Worth Watching" and NPR's "Fresh Air," notes that Edgerton's collection of essays mines the depths of the hidden meanings behind the show's sleek surfaces and evasive silences. "Some of the sharpest TV-analysis minds around tackle 'Mad Men' from angles both required and refreshing . . . all of it is covered, and uncovered in one thoughtful essay after another," said Bianculli.

"Mad Men: A Dream Come True" was mentioned recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education's Weekly Book List (April 25, 2011).

Edgerton has published eight books and more than 75 essays on a wide assortment of media and culture topics in a variety of books, scholarly journals and encyclopedias. One of his recent books, "The Columbia History of American Television" (Columbia University Press, 2007), was named the 2008 John G. Cawelti Award winner for Outstanding Scholarly Inquiry into American Cultural Studies by the American Culture Association. He received an Honorable Mention (second place) in the 2001 John G. Cawelti Book Award competition for "Ken Burns's America" (Palgrave for St. Martin's Press), and won the 2001 Ray B. Browne National Book Award of the Popular Culture Association (first place in the textbook category) for "Television Histories: Shaping Collective Memory in the Media Age" (University Press of Kentucky, 2001).

Learn more about Edgerton's research and publications at http://garyedgerton.com/.

This article was posted on: May 6, 2011

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