Okay, so you watch Mad Men. I watch Mad Men. Everyone (cool) I know watches Mad Men. People are posting about it on your Facebook page or planning themed parties that you maybe think are lame (or maybe you’re really excited about). You can’t open a magazine or walk past a Banana Republic without being bombarded by Mad Men-chic. The incredibly attractive cast has and will continue to promote the show in all the usual venues (Jay, Dave, SNL), while magazines like this one will devote a lot of attention to it.
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Many amazing TV series have come and gone over the past 20 years (I realize television has been around much longer, but let’s start the clock for this post around 1990). One rule, though, that I cannot find a single exception for, is this: no series has had its best season after Season 4.
In fact, for most series, quality depreciates considerably in Season 5, with seasons 2-4 marking the high-water mark. Among the best examples of this trend: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (4), The Sopranos (2 or 3), The Wire (4!), The X-Files (2-4), Lost (…terrified of Lost fans), Dexter (2 or 4), Grey’s Anatomy (2?), and The West Wing (1-2).
The notoriously tight-lipped Matt Weiner has been giving many interviews, as have members of the cast, but everyone continues to play things close to the vest. In some relatively serious web-digging, I managed to find precious little concrete information about what to expect in Mad Men: Season 5, airing Sunday, 25 March.
In the process, I became fascinated at the hilarious ways in which Weiner-and-co. manage to converse about the new season without actually saying anything. From the eight or so short videos posted on AMCTV.com, the main thing I learned was about the various new menu items offered at Pizza Hut, whose ads (bizarrely, right?) ran before the video clips (also, gross!).
It is 1960, and the historical event we move towards is the Kennedy/Nixon election. Much of this season is spent figuring out exactly where Don Draper came from. He cheats on Betty throughout, most notably with Midge (the Beat artist) and Rachel Menken (the Jewish department store owner), which Betty discovers in the season finale. We learn about Don (i.e., Dick Whitman) throughout flashbacks and his brother, who reemerges into Don’s life and later hangs himself.
When Pete discovers Don’s past (he took the identity of Don Draper, a man he served with in Korea), he threatens then attempts to blackmail him; upon learning the information, Bert Cooper famously remarks “who cares?” Oh yeah, and Peggy is unknowingly impregnated by Pete and, in a scene that perhaps inspired the series I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, gives birth.
OK, I admit it… largely on account of I’ve just finished a lengthy essay on Horrible Histories, so there’s no sense denying it: My interest in new SkyOne Britcom Spy—currently also available on Hulu.com in the US—was initially about seeing more of one particular Horrible Histories star, Mathew Baynton, in an environment I didn’t have to keep justifying every time another adult walked past the TV.
On the plus side, this means the readership will be spared the usual rant re: how only in TV-land would we be expected to believe either Baynton or Spy’s star, 6’4” Darren Boyd, as random computer-shop schlubs. No offense to my local Best Buy, but one look at these two and I immediately thought of 87 questions I needed to ask about cabling alone.