“Change isn’t good or bad. It just is.”
Don Draper — Season 3, Episode 2 “Love Among The Ruins”
AMC’s “Mad Men” returns Sunday, April 5 with the first of its final seven episodes ever. One of the most-acclaimed dramas of the past decade, it put the fledgling basic cable network on the map as a legit home to credible, original programming. There is no road for “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead” to drive on without it being paved by “Mad Men.”
I didn’t watch the show until right before the kickoff of season three. A show about an ad agency? In the sixties? Before racial, gender and social progress? No thanks. It wasn’t until Jon Hamm’s first “Saturday Night Live” hosting appearance and all the press leading to its third year did I decide to give the show a try. I shut the door, took a seat and binged through the first two seasons over a long weekend using Comcast On Demand (not a plug) before that Sunday season premiere.
It didn’t take long before the Sterling Cooper crew had their smoke in my eye. The shock of waiting a full week for each new episode after watching them back-to-back was a bit jarring, but I was hooked on this show like Freddy Rumsen on booze back in season two. Thankfully, a six-month leave of absence wasn’t necessary, but the period drama quickly became one of my favorites. I’ll be sad to see it go later this spring, so here are 10 things I’ll miss:
The opening title sequence
What better metaphor for this show than a colorless, faceless man falling around all the happy, wholesome imagery he sells? Created by film director Steve Fuller and his partner Mark Gardner of Imaginary Forces, the iconic opening has sparked lots of debates and theories as to what it all means, including 9/11 symbolism and a possible foreshadowing to the series finale where Don Draper jumps out of a window.
If Don Draper’s the man everyone wants to be — at least originally — then Pete is the man we probably are: ambitious, petty, creepy, resentful but ultimately unsatisfied and disappointed. Vincent Kartheiser doesn’t view the firm partner as a villain, but as someone who’s trying to get the best of everything instead of being content with what he has. Surprisingly, Pete’s been the most progressive in regard to racial equality. Too bad he’s not much of a fighter.
The causal sexism/racism/homophobia
The ’60s, folks! The world was a much less sensitive place when it came to anything that wasn’t straight, male and white. This show pulled no punches in that regard, particularly during the first half of the decade. Men chased women around the office to pull up their skirts to see the color of their panties, the thought of women in power was laughed at, gays stayed in the closet (where have you gone, Sal!) and Roger did this in season three. I’m barely touching the surface. It’d be comical if it wasn’t sadly accurate. America!
THIS, all you runway modelling, anorexic twigs, is a woman. “Red” and Christina Hendricks IS the reason real bodies are back and loved again. Not that I’ve ever stopped loving them. It’s amazing what was normal in the ’60s is “full-figured today.” Ugh. Joan uses her sex appeal to turn men into idiots to get what she wants. It hasn’t always worked out cleanly (Jaguar?), but the former Head of Secretaries and single mom is now a partner with lots of cash in her bank account. And nobody can match her buxom curves and brains.
The drinking, smoking and adultery
I predict the show ends with everyone’s liver, lungs and genitals simultaneously melting to the sounds of “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies. The liquor was a-flowin’ and smoked filled the room at all hours of the day. Look at all the fun we had before all the icky medical research! Thanks science, you egghead bastard. Everyone’s office should have a liquor cart. Marriage was portrayed so bleakly and meant nothing on this show. Well, for the men mostly. You wanted them to cheat. The side pieces had side pieces.
Life will suck without Roger’s quick wit. His love life is a mess, he’s had a few heart attacks, his daughter hates him, and he may get pushed out the firm by Jim Cutler. But no one was funnier.
The preview teasers
So tense. So yell-y. So laughably vague. Even “The Simpsons” have lampooned the teasers.
“Damn it, Burt. You stole my goodbye.”
Tony Hoffman is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.