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'Mad Men' focuses on the Apollo 11 moon landing

Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface
Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface
NASA (public domain)

Mad Men,” a show that is very much about the 1960s as it is about advertising, has covered a considerable number of events and issues from that era, ranging from the 1960 election to Vietnam and the assassinations. It was only fitting that the episode that ran on Sunday, which is the last of 2014, covered the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was the iconic event of that decade, if not the 20th Century.

The episode depicted that moon landing as a shared experience, which was followed by upwards to a billion people on a planet of 3.5 billion on TV and on the radio. There is a wondrous sequence in which various groups of characters are watching the event on their analog TVs, enraptured by the live event taking place on another world. Everyone who was alive on July 20, 1969, likely remembers being in a living room, hotel room, or whatever watching those fuzzy pictures from the lunar surface.

There is even a nod to some of the discontent about the money spent on the Apollo program. When a college boy sneers at the $25 billion “wasted” on landing men on the moon, Sally Draper, clearly wanting to impress him, parrots the sentiment. But then, seeing the error of her ways, she encounters a nerdy boy out in the yard looking at the stars with a telescope and plants him a kiss, perhaps belatedly recognizing the enormity of the event.

It is left to Peggy to sum up what happened, ironically at a presentation to a fast food burger place. Recognizing that nothing she had to say could match what had happened the night before, she describes Apollo 11 as a shared experience that the world, wracked as it was by chaos, was hungry for. Then, very neatly, she segued into a presentation about another kind of hunger, not only for fast food, but how it represents a respite from chaos. Men have landed on the moon, but life, and the need to make money, goes on.