"Mad Men" inspires look back for new TV hits

Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:38am EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Basically, it's 'Mad Men', with boobs," quipped Joel McHale.

The actor and comedian was joking recently about the upcoming drama series "The Playboy Club". But McHale could just as easily have been referring to much of the new fall season on U.S. television, as writers revisit the Swinging Sixties (and even the Seventies) in search of 21st century hits.

Call it nostalgia, a chance to showcase sex, or the spell cast by multiple Emmy-winning drama "Mad Men", but period shows and reboots of classic series are making a comeback on TV.

"Pan-Am" on ABC is set in the early 1960s at a time when jet travel was glamorous rather than groan-inducing; "The Playboy Club" on NBC features 1960s Bunnies in Chicago; "Charlie's Angels" storm back to ABC from the 1970s in a modern remake; and if drab post-war London is your cup of tea, you will find it in 1950s thriller "The Hour" on BBC America.

Writer and producers deny they are in the copycat business, despite widespread admiration in Hollywood for the stylish but slow burning "Mad Men" on AMC.

But the critical success of the 1960s advertising drama -- despite its tiny audience of less than four million viewers -- has inspired others to mine a period ripe with social change.

"There was an enormous amount of American exceptionalism and hope and desire, and dreams that we were going to go to the moon. And yet the kettle was absolutely coming to a boil," said Thomas Schlamme, one of the creators of "Pan-Am".

Christina Ricci, who plays one of the young flight attendants on the show, agreed. "There's that sense of excitement and freedom that goes with this sense of travel and everything being new."   Continued...

<p>Cast member Jon Hamm poses at the premiere for the fourth season of the television series "Mad Men" at the Mann 6 theatre in Hollywood, California July 20, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>