In all the fawning reviews about "Mad Men," one thing almost everyone misses is that the real star of the show isn't Don Draper or even Joan Hollaway; it's the Sterling Cooper advertising agency.
The boozy, smoky, misogynist offices of the fictional Madison Avenue firm feel more real than almost any other TV workplace. And lest we forget the brilliant Sterling Cooper ad campaigns for Maidenform, Rio de Janeiro and the Relax-i-cisor vibrating weight loss belt.
But a simple glance through the annals of TV history reveals that, almost since the beginning of television, shows have featured characters who worked at ad agencies. Each week, they're pitching a new product or coming up with a wacky ad campaign. It's fun!
As the chain-smoking dudes and dames from Sterling Cooper prepare for season three of "Mad Men," we pick our favorite TV ad agencies.Check out our favorite television ad agencies
, after the jump.
Livingston, Gentry & Mishkin Agency ("Bosom Buddies")
Best known as the Tom Hanks-in-drag show, "Bosom Buddies" starred Hanks as an aspiring artist and Peter Scolari as an aspiring writer, both of whom worked for the Livingston, Gentry & Mishkin Agency. They also moonlighted as Buffy and Hildegarde, two totally implausible women, in order to live in an affordable female-only hotel. The best scenes take place at the agency, where Hanks and Scolari cook up ad campaigns for clients like the New York Transit Authority. As in "Who's the Boss?" they eventually leave to start their own ad firm. Could this be a future plot point on "Mad Men"? Maybe, but we'd rather see an episode where Don Draper and Roger Sterling dress as women to sneak into an all-girls hotel.Wallace & McQuade ("Who's the Boss?")
In this '80s role-reversal show, a macho New Yorker (Tony Danza) becomes the housekeeper for a rich Connecticut ad executive (Judith Light). Answering the question posed by the title, Tony is the boss of the household while Angela is the boss of Wallace & McQuade, the "12th-largest advertising agency in New York City." The show rarely ventures outside of Angela's home, but in one episode, she is forced to drop a client after Tony gets a rash from using their soap products. Hard-hitting stuff. By season three, where she starts her own firm, the Bower Agency, Angela is so busy that she apparently doesn't even notice that her son is really, really gay.DAA ("thirtysomething")
Between all the blathering on about relationships and feelings and boring baby-boomer angst, there were some real crackerjack scenes at DAA, the agency where the lead character Michael (Ken Olin) rises to the top. His boss at DAA is the unscrupulous Miles Drentell, who grooms the idealistic Michael to become a shrewd, soulless businessman. Amid all the heavy moral quandaries are some pretty good fictional ad campaigns, such as the "retro snacking" concept they came up with to market boring old cookies to grownups. And savvy marketing ideas should be par for the course for a show that spelled its title in all lowercase letters.
McMann & Tate Agency ("Bewitched")
The long-running sitcom "Bewitched" featured a hot witch mom, Samantha, and two different actors playing her husband, Darrin. Most of the plot contrivances on this show involved Darrin's job as an ad man for the McMann & Tate Agency, headed by the constantly irate Larry Tate. A typical episode had Darrin inviting Tate and a prospective client over for dinner, where Samantha -- with a twitch of her nose -- would turn the client into something (an animal, a child, an inanimate object) to help land the account. For having the balls to tell the truth about witchcraft in advertising, McMann & Tate makes the list.
J.J. Creative Services ("Full House")
"Full House," the staple of ABC's T.G.I.F. lineup for a shocking eight seasons, was cloying, dumb and nauseatingly earnest, but somehow you couldn't look away. The show was at its cheesy best when Uncle Joey (David Coulier) and Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) teamed up to write jingles for companies like Kitty Krispies cat food, Pounds Away (featuring a cameo from baby Michelle), and Casa de Pancakes. In season four, fed up with their spineless boss (played by the dad from "Teen Wolf"), they start their own ad agency, J.J. Creative Services, and write, direct and star in commercials. It was a fun subplot and a chance for Stamos to show off his musical skills and Coulier to demonstrate his funny voices, until the writers got bored and decided to have the Beach Boys show up regularly for no reason.