Remember Mad Men?
If you’re reading a TV blog, I’m sure you do. But it’s been so long, I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t remember much. In my essay in the newest print TIME magazine (subscription required to read), I look at the two-hour season premiere, Sunday, March 25, in the context of the show’s history, and ours:
It has been 17 months since the Season 4 finale of AMC’s Mad Men, “Tomorrowland”–enough time that the show seems not just about another era but from another era. In October 2010, when Don Draper proposed to his secretary after a trip to Disneyland, Democrats controlled the House, Osama bin Laden was still alive, and ABC and NBC had yet to try their own early-’60s dramas, Pan Am (now on indefinite hiatus) and The Playboy Club (which has already bunny-hopped to that big grotto in the sky).
But Mad Men, which survived a rancorous contract negotiation between AMC and creator Matthew Weiner, saunters back onscreen March 25 with casual confidence, as if we’ll feel it never left. Damn its cocky handsome face, it’s right.
I want to tell you about our season 5 coverage plans, but because this is Mad Men, we first need to talk about spoilers.
I don’t think anything in my piece is at all spoilery. But I am not you. If you’re very anxious and easily scandalized about that sort of thing, don’t read it. I don’t believe reviews should spoil genuine shockers or cliffhangers, but historically, Mad Men premieres have involved almost no plot explosions. (The new premiere is no exception. It has some fine scenes, but it is sloooooooow.) And I think most of the so-called “spoilers” creator Matthew Weiner has focused on would not be considered spoilers for any other returning show on TV. No one seems to mind when we find what year it is in a new season of Downton Abbey; we talk about the setup of a new season of Boardwalk Empire, and the show isn’t ruined for anyone.
So! Moving on to my Mad Men coverage plans. Because I’ve seen the two-hour premiere, I’ll probably post more about it after it airs. Beyond that, AMC is not sending out advance episodes, so I’ve decided not to do weekly recaps this season.
This is not a shot at AMC, just practical time management. AMC has every right to hold back screeners, if they’re that concerned about spoilers. (I’ll still watch the show!) But practically speaking, Mad Men airs Sunday nights. From experience, I know that to really unpack an episode for a blog post takes hours. And I’m often on deadline for my magazine column on Mondays. Meaning that I would either have to write my Mad Men posts or my column half-assed—or both—and I don’t want to do either.
This doesn’t mean no Mad Men recaps: my editors hope to have someone else recap the episodes, and I’ll let you know when and if we do. It doesn’t mean I won’t write about Mad Men—I might post later in the week some weeks about things I find really worth discussing. And it doesn’t mean I’m giving up weekly reviewing: Starting April 1, I plan to review Game of Thrones instead—I can only realistically do one Sunday-night show well, and I’ll be getting screeners of it.
As much as I’ve loved writing Mad Men recaps, there are a hell of a lot of them out there. And doing weekly reviews you can get bogged down in the morass of feeling obligated to mention every damn thing that happened in every episode. Hopefully, it’ll be liberating to unpack one scene or theme that seems worth talking about, when I have time, rather than give the Internet one more 2,500-word plot-analysis opus.
And I’ll be able to step back when I can and look at the bigger picture of the show, which offers one of the biggest pictures on TV. I can’t wait for the season to get rolling.