A look at the most compelling musical anachronisms on a show that's usually obsessed with historical accuracy
Woe betide Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner if this Sunday's season five finale includes anything teetering on historical inaccuracy. Audience obsession with history on Mad Men has ratcheted to new heights this season, beginning even before March's premiere when audience pressure compelled Weiner to switch out a Burt Bacharach song early viewers deemed historically mislaid. Only weeks later, a number of political historians entered perhaps the hippest discussion of their careers in debating whether New York City's then-Republican mayor would have actually called George Romney—Mitt Romney's father, then the governor of Michigan—"a clown," as happened on the show.
Counting others' mistakes, though, is but a cheap thrill. Real excitement comes from watching the producers of a television program so tightly beholden to stylistic parameters depart from those parameters on purpose. Although such instances on Mad Men are rare, it is though the show's occasionally anachronistic musical placement that the audience witnesses historical inaccuracies working in the show's favor.
With so many armchair historians in the audience, juxtaposing untimely music against a carefully painted 1960s backdrop is risky business. But it's also an incredibly effective way for Mad Men's writers to say that what's happening on screen is so important that they've got to risk everything expected of them to make a point. Here's a look at the most compelling musical anachronisms in the series so far and how the show used them to emphasize important moments: