Making the Most of a Mad World

Making the Most of a Mad World

In the spirit of “Mad Men” returning for Season 7, Michigan Alumnus has interviewed Tom Smuts, ’92, a writer for the show.

Smuts and his wife, Meredith Stiehm, who is the creator of television programs such as

Tom Smuts had a plan to be a lawyer and a novelist, but he really hit his stride when he encountered a posse of his peers and a group of mad men. Smuts is a writer and producer for the AMC series “Mad Men,” which has shared the story of the Sterling Cooper & Partners ad agency for six seasons. It’s a setting that Smuts joined when series creator Matthew Weiner brought him on board in 2012. “It is really collaborative,” Smuts said. “You are in a room with eight to 10 writers, and you turn ideas into a draft outline. That is why I am a TV writer and not a novelist. I need that collaboration. Me in a room by myself writing is not a pretty sight.”

The series requires Smuts to keep the big picture of the program in mind while simultaneously focusing on the smallest of details to ensure accuracy. That might include Smuts educating himself about the slang, fashion trends, or even weather forecasts from five decades ago. “There is an obsession with historical accuracy that pervades the writers’ room and the wardrobe department,” Smuts said. “They might ask if it was raining on a certain day in New York in (the year) 19-whatever.”

That sort of order and routine was not a part of Smuts’ days when he enrolled at U-M in the mid-1980s… Read the full story from Michigan Alumnus here


Who knew there were so many Michigan connections?

Take this quiz to test your Michigan-“Mad Men” knowledge.

  1. U-M alumnus James Wolk, ’07, played one of the more talked-about characters in Season 6. Name the character.
  2. Which one of Don Draper’s lovers has a son who attends the University of Michigan?
  3. In Season 2, which takes place in 1962, U-M alumnus Smitty shares with Don a manifesto he received from his friend at the University. What is this famous document?
  4. What organization penned the document?
  5. In Season 6, the agency pitches a very important company, based in Michigan. Which company is it?
  6. Name the character who said: “”It’s your life. You don’t know where it’s going, but you know it ends badly.”

Leave your answers in a comment below then check your answers here

“Mad Men” Season 7 premieres on Sunday, April 13th. Look forward to an episode review to follow.

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Michigan Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit