The show "explains my grandparents, their tastes," Obama told biographer David Maraniss, the Associated Press reports.
Mad Men, the Emmy-winning program about advertising executives in the 1960s, features a character named Peggy Olson, who rises from secretary to a prominent job at a Madison Avenue firm.
"That's my grandmother, you know, starting out with the low-level secretary job and working her way up," Obama told Maraniss. "But that whole smokin' and drinkin' ..."
Grandmother Madelyn Dunham, who rose from secretary to bank vice president, began drinking more as her responsibilities grew.
"That's where you started noticing her alcoholism," Obama said, noting that Dunham would come home, "exhausted from work, tightly wound and go into her room. They (she and husband Stan) had become more isolated."
The Associated Press reports on Maraniss' upcoming Obama biography, The Story, which comes out June 19:
A new biography that traces Barack Obama's path from birth -- yes, in Hawaii -- to Harvard Law School, sketches the pragmatism and politics of the future president's early choices, including his first connections to Jeremiah Wright, the inflammatory preacher whom Obama severed ties with during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Obama didn't land in Wright's church by happenstance, David Maraniss writes in Barack Obama: The Story. As a young community organizer in Chicago, Obama needed the help of pastors from local churches but wasn't himself a church member. Obama, "an inveterate doubter," by Maraniss' account, felt mounting pressure to join a church and a growing desire to explore his relationship with God.
A pastor working with Obama in the Developing Communities Project advised him to find a church outside the project's boundaries to avoid alienating any of the other pastors and sent him to meet a preacher outside the district. That pastor, in turn, referred Obama to Wright, whose Trinity United Church of Christ stood just across the street from the boundary.
"I used to tease Barack, 'You joined a church as close to the boundaries as you could get,' " said the Rev. Alvin Love at Lilydale Baptist, who'd helped Obama find a church. Obama didn't become fully engaged in Wright's church until he returned to Chicago after his years at Harvard, "but the process started then, in October 1987," Maraniss writes.
Wright helped Obama embrace Christianity, officiated at his wedding and baptized Obama and his two daughters. Obama quit the church after the preacher's incendiary teachings became a political issue in 2008.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)