Next week on ‘Mad Men’: Somebody does something!
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner is famously wary of spoilers. On a recent episode of The Nerdist podcast, he described a transformative experience in which he entered a theater not knowing anything about the movie he was about to see: Poltergeist. Based on the first 30 minutes, he thought he had walked into a charming family comedy. So when the restless souls of the dead started tormenting that family it was a truly shocking and satisfying watch for him.
Weiner definitely has a point about watching a TV show with completely virgin eyes but he takes it to the extreme with absolutely incomprehensible promos for upcoming episodes. The promos at the end of each week’s episode are notoriously, hilariously vague. The announcer says “next week on Mad Men” and then a series of mundane snippets of next week’s episode play out over a ridiculously dramatic piano dirge. We’ll miss the 30-second flashes of unintentional comedy.
Pete Campbell: American Idiot
Every single character on Mad Men deserves his or her own entry to be recognized. But if we were narrow it down to one (and we are), Peter Campbell deserves a special shoutout. Don and Peggy are the heart of the show but Pete is its pinky toe: ultimately useless and likely to be abused. Pete is a fascinating character because he at first seemed to be set up to be the series’ villain. He came from a privileged background and threatened Don’s very existence by tattling about his real identity to Cooper.
Once that gambit failed, however, Pete seemed to accept Don as a inevitability and later a friend. That’s how real life works. People may seem to have villainous qualities at first but real life has very few true villains and very many normal, if complicated human beings. Pete is just a guy at work. He’s good at his job and he annoys you but you ultimately must accept that he’s not going away. All you can do is watch his hairline recede and his gut expand throughout the years. It also doesn’t hurt that Vincent Kartheiser has not one but two of the best line reads in the history of television.
And, more recently:
The end of an era
AMC’s marketing campaign for the final season of Mad Men is fond of the phrase “end of an era.” It’s a clever take on both the show and its depiction of the ’60s era ending but it’s also an accurate statement to make about a particular era of television. It seems hard to conceive of now but it wasn’t too long ago that television was considered film’s ugly and disposable cousin. This all changed with a golden age of TV cable dramas shepherded by networks like HBO, FX and AMC and shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and The Wire.
Even with Mad Men ending, television will be in excellent shape. There are still plenty of great shows on a plethora of channels to behold. But Mad Men, which was created by a former Sopranos-writer, marks the natural end to this first era of TV’s golden age where complicated, at-times difficult showrunners wrote ambitious and unprecedented shows about mysterious anti-heroes. Quality television is here to stay and we have “first wave” great shows like Mad Men to thank.