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Art imitates journalism

If you’re a fan of the TV show “Mad Men,” as I am, you’re glad that the 17-month wait for season five is over. Last Sunday, AMC aired two hours of the show, giving Mad Men-iacs a new dose of Don Draper and his advertising colleagues on Madison Avenue in the 1960s.

The opening scene was unusual – it was set in a different ad agency (we learn later, Young & Rubicam) and some young ad men dumped water and tossed water bags at civil rights picketers below.

Several black women storm up to the agency to protest. A boy with them had been drenched by the water. The receptionist sputters that the activity couldn’t be from their office: “This is the executive floor,” she said.

“And they call us savages,” mutters one of the protestors.

Some viewers thought the entire scene was a bit over the top. A New York Times critic called it “unfortunately ham-handed.”

But as the New York Times blog “City Room” reports, it’s all true, all the way down to the dialogue. A researcher for the show came across a clip from the Times from 1966 and shared it with creator Matthew Weiner, who decided to use the scene, and the exchange, which had been transcribed by a reporter who happened to be present.

As someone once said, journalism is the first draft of history. Or in this case, of a TV script.

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