I had great fun with the "Mad Men Experiment," as we ended up calling the our fan-driven tweets of Mad Men characters. While I ended up getting Roger Sterling's character by luck of the draw, I really enjoyed coming up with the little witticisms that make Roger, well, Roger.
Unfortunately, unlike Roger, I actually have work to do during the day running my company, and despite the short form of 140 characters, keeping Roger's comments relevant, interesting, and in character is a LOT of work.
So, I wasn't surprised when I read Rebecca Denton's blog today, Mindblowing Lack of Insight from AMC where she ranted about the lack of original content in Roger's, ahem, "memoirs." While we were hoping for a book that would flesh out some of the snippets we heard on the show as Roger talked into his Dictaphone, what we got was a book of direct quotes from the show.
But let me come to Mad Men's defense for a moment...
There are some really difficult challenges to creating extensions to your storytelling. First is creative control. Matt Weiner has created an amazing world with Mad Men -- strong characters with interesting storylines in a visually stunning environment. He's extremely hands on, which brings me to the second challenge -- he's got those hands full and doesn't have time to manage his characters outside the show.
Producing a book of quotes from the show may not have been as interesting a choice as we would have liked, but it was easy. No vetting, no new information on the character, just Roger as we know him from the day to day life on Mad Men. I'm not saying it was a good choice, but I'm sure it made business sense, both from making money and for not creating a distraction for the people creating the show.
We have to remember, artists have a medium that they know. Matt Weiner is an amazing creator of television -- he's not a publisher of books, a master of twitter or an improvisational social mediaite. So while I might be disappointed that I'm not getting more from him, I'd rather have the incredible quality he can create in the medium he knows.
Someday we'll have artists so steeped in "transmedia" that someone will create something as moving and creative as Mad Men that crosses the boundaries of television, literature, social media, and the world of "webisodes."
And that day is getting closer as the audience starts to seek out that kind of artist.
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Renee: Re: It's Okay that Roger Sterling's Book Sucks
It sounds like the "Mad Men experiment" is over, at least as far as you're concerned. I undersand that it's very time consuming to come up with Roger Sterling's pithy and sometimes stinging witticisms. It's a shame to let this unusual and entertaining artform go by the wayside, though. Are you aware that there are still a number of fans carrying on the tradition? It seems that the Drapers have lived on into the 21st century, for example, and are tweeting in the present day. There's also the mouse that was spotted in one episode, who's now a prolific tweeter. It's all great fun.
Michael Bissell: Re: It's Okay that Roger Sterling's Book Sucks
I wouldn't say the experiment is over, @Adbroad is very active with the Drapers and I do still drop tidbits into the twitterverse for @Roger_Sterling from time to time...
But I would say the "experiment" peaked when we received the Sammy Award for Best Twitter Branding Campaign (See http://michael.bissell.conquent.com/blog/index.cqs?blogid=6984cf70a47511de8ce8e6a1d12d4be8#6984cf70a47511de8ce8e6a1d12d4be8 ) and when @AdBroad and I went to Las Vegas to live tweet the Clio Awards in character. Those were heady days...
ianmmcclelland: Re: It's Okay that Roger Sterling's Book Sucks
It's not ok. It's rubbish. It was a perfect opportunity squandered. It was less than mediocrity where there could have been brilliance. If Matt Weiner is such a perfectionist -
then don't do a spin-off book that isn't perfect. Just don't do it. It doesn't make business sense, it just smacks of cheap marketing/merchandising and results in a load of disappointed fans and critical reviewers where, for a bit of effort, there could have been widespread delight and praise, increased buzz around the show and a whole new creative avenue for commercial exploitation.
It was a mistake, creatively, commercially and philosophically.
We'll live. But they shouldn't do it again.