By David Bray
It’s been over a year since we last saw the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce advertising agency in action, but tonight “Mad Men” returns to AMC. The show’s fourth season ended in the fall of 2010 and earned the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in the fall of 2011.
“Mad Men” last left off in 1965 as the show’s anti-hero, Don Draper, has recently become engaged to his secretary. Don’s ex-wife Betty has moved out of the old house and recently fired her housekeeper, Carla. Sally Draper has been misbehaving more and more since her parents got divorced. Bert Cooper, a founding partner in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and its predecessor, Sterling-Cooper, quit after Don wrote an editorial proclaiming that he no longer wants to advertise for the tobacco industry. Joan Harris is pregnant, and with her husband away in Vietnam, the child might actually be Roger Sterling’s. Peggy is still ambitious. Pete still thinks too highly of himself. Clearly, there is a lot going on.
The changing world around Madison Avenue has been interesting to follow through the first four seasons, not only for the show’s storyline, but also the history presented through the show’s setting.
Thus far, the only real person to appear on screen on “Mad Men” has been hotel tycoon Conrad Hilton, who developed a friendship and then a falling out with Don Draper in the third season. They follow the news of Marilyn Monroe’s death, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and President Kennedy’s assassination, the same as everyone else at the time.
“Mad Men’s” creator, executive producer, and show-runner Matthew Weiner is notorious for not giving anything away about the show. He does not even tell his actors what will happen to their characters for fear of it getting leaked to the press. The same careful planning covers the promotional videos, which only contain footage from previous seasons.
Before “Mad Men,” Weiner wrote and produced for “The Sopranos,” so he has experience in keeping secrets under wraps and leaving the audience in suspense.
But, unlike “The Sopranos,” the stakes are not quite as high in “Mad Men.” While other dramas may involve murder and drug trafficking, “Mad Men” is about people in business in the 1960s. Even the things they do that are morally wrong can be justified by the time period they are living in.
Characters have left the show, but besides poor old Ida Blankenship, none of them has been killed off, leaving the possibility open for their return. Characters like Bert Cooper or Sal Romano could return this season, but Weiner has been careful not to reveal too much for fear of spoiling the surprise.
It has been a long wait, but soon enough the suspense will be over. “Mad Men” is finally back. Fans have waited a year and a half for new episodes, and now they are hoping that they do not disappoint.