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I Have No Idea What Is a Mad Men Spoiler Anymore

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Regular readers of this blog are probably  tired of hearing about Mad Men and its spoiler anxiety, but a quick recap: AMC sent out review copies of the season’s first episode to critics, with a request from Matthew Weiner that reviews mention no plot details whatsoever from the episode. Weiner was upset that some reviews mentioned plot points anyway: for instance, the fact that Don and Betty Draper were divorced, a fact Weiner confirmed in an interview last fall.

So he decided not to send any further screeners to critics. That’s cool. I’m not constitutionally entitled to them, until the Ninth Circuit Court rules otherwise. If he and AMC want to be absolutist about secrecy, that’s their prerogative.

So imagine my surprise when I got an email from Fancast, announcing that AMC has let them run an exclusive two-minute clip from Sunday’s episode—a scene that includes detail and character information that I would not reveal here even if AMC said it was all right to.

Sigh. I give up.

In any event, Fancast sent out an embed code for the clip, and I’m assuming I would have AMC’s blessing to embed it here. I’m not going to—not to be spiteful, but because I honestly don’t want anyone to accuse me of force-spoiling them by seeing the character involved in the clip and the context of the scene. But here’s the link if you want to watch it at Fancast, at your own risk.

The clip is not devastatingly spoilery, in that I don’t feel it in any way ruined the episode for me. (As I’ve said, I’m personally not very spoiler-sensitive.) But it’s a shining example of how absolutely insane AMC/Weiner’s handling of the spoiler issue is. (It is impossible to disentangle just how much of this is AMC and how much Weiner, though I suspect it is the network, and not him, that wants to put out advance clips.) I simply cannot fathom in what universe the relatively mild, if not downright obvious, information critics mentioned in pre-season Mad Men reviews are “spoilers,” yet the episode 3 clip AMC willingly released is not. But maybe Brian Lowry can rationalize it for me.

And it’s particularly maddening since in sending out the first episode, AMC essentially declared that any factual information from it qualified as a spoiler. This is a more restrictive request, by the way, than I’ve received from any show I’ve covered, including The Sopranos and the few times Lost sent screeners. It’s actually pretty common for shows to send out DVDs with cover letters asking that critics not mention specific scenes and plot developments; I pretty much always honor those, as do most critics I know. A reasonable list of no-fly zones in the cover letter probably would have eliminated most of the problems. But when AMC basically rules, “Everything’s a spoiler,” and then violates its own policy, it’s hard to know how seriously to take them.

What would Mad Men have to say about this? It’s a shame that we’re too early in the 1960s for it to make contextual sense, because the situation really calls for a Richard Nixon paraphrase. Apparently, when AMC does it, that means that it is not a spoiler.

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