Canberra’s Mad Men moment

A screen grab from US TV show Mad Men showing Canberra as a backdrop for a flight over California. Photo: Screen grab Mad Men

Canberra has made a cameo appearance in the acclaimed American television series Mad Men just two weeks after receiving a gushing review from The New York Times.

A sharp-eyed Canberra Times reader spotted the aerial view of the capital city during the series seven episode entitled Waterloo.

The scene sees character Ted Chaough, who runs an advertising agency in competition with main character Don Draper, take his team up in a light plane above California before giving them a scare by cutting the engine.

The characters touch on their fear of flying and the challenges faced by American astronauts before the lunar landing of 1969 – a focus point of the episode.

Chaough even points to the ground at one stage (potentially near Queanbeyan) describing it as “a good spot for a smouldering wreckage”.

While Canberrans might feel a touch of excitement at a fleeting moment of Mad Men cool, perhaps they might also be mildly offended the producers cast our city in a 1960s period drama, rather than as a modern city of natural beauty with a “decidedly hipster underbelly”.


Did writer, director and producer Matthew Weiner think the Canberra skyline reflected the golden state some 50 years ago? Or was it just a random plunge into a stock footage database?

Determining an exact date of the footage is difficult but several clues can be taken from the Canberra landmarks.

In the foreground of the footage is the Royal Military College of Duntroon in Campbell, which was founded in 1911 and has been developed several times since.

The National Library of Australia, which was opened by prime minister John Gorton in 1968, can be seen on the southern bank of Lake Burley Griffin. This would correlate with the timeline of the episode, which is based in July 1969.

Questacon – which moved next to the lake in 1988 – can be seen to the left of the National Library along with the National Carillon, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in April 1970. The Captain James Cook Memorial water jet can also be seen on Lake Burley Griffin.

Indicating the footage is quite recent is Reconciliation Place, opened by prime minister John Howard in 2002, and – if you look closely enough – the distant shape of the National Museum of Australia (opened 2001) and its distinctive orange loop.

Our questions to Weiner went unanswered, so if you know more about the footage, let us know.

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