Dear. Mr. Weiner (or can I call you Matthew?),
I recently read that you and AMC were nearing a deal to continue production on a 5th season of your critically acclaimed series Mad Men. Phew—I think I speak for the millions of Mad Men fans across America when I say we were all getting a little worried there. Unfortunately I understand that due to the delay caused by your protracted negotiations we won't be getting our annual summer Mad Men fix and that we may even have to wait until 2012 to find out what happens next to Don, Peggy, et al. Please tell me this isn't so.
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It's now been almost 6 months since Season 4 came off the air, and I'm still thinking about the finale. Sure it wasn't as dramatic as Season 3, where you dismantled the iconic Sterling Cooper ad agency in the show's best-paced episode to date. But Don Draper's spur-of-the-moment engagement to his secretary Megan was a pretty good kick, spinning the show into interesting new directions.
All season long we'd seen Don sinking to new depths of misery, a lost soul consumed by his secrets and missing the anchoring influence of his family. Don's journey was tough to watch at times as we simply didn't know where he would end up. I love that Mad Men is constantly surprising—a quality more TV shows could benefit from. Heck, you even killed off Don's old, spacey secretary, Miss Blankenship, a fan favorite who could have run for several seasons. And of course now we're all dying to know what happens next—will Don go through with the engagement? Does Megan know who she's marrying? And can Don ever, truly, be happy? As betrayed girlfriend Faye correctly observed, he "only likes the beginnings of things" ...
Of course for me Mad Men is all about Peggy Olson, currently TV's greatest heroine and the one person in Don's life who'll confront him with painful truths. I loved last season's Don-and-Peggy-focused "The Suitcase," the single best hour of TV in 2010. Matthew, your writing team is going to have to go some to surpass these standards this season. So what are you waiting for? Get back to work!
Peggy's pained reaction after Don's shotgun engagement—and her bonding moment with frenemy Joan—spoke both to their complicated work and personal relationship and the challenges facing career women in the '60s. No matter how hard Peggy strives, a pretty girl who sleeps with the boss will always overshadow her efforts.
Then there was Roger Sterling, once the company's figurehead, now reduced to a shadow of his former self. This was the man who hid in a hotel room after the loss of the Lucky Strike account! Roger spent much of the season working on his memoirs, much to the amusement of his staff and partners, while also finding time to fit in an awkward fumble with old flame Joan. That tryst resulted in an unwanted pregnancy, and though Roger paid for Joan to abort the baby, she decided to keep the child and pretend it belonged to her overseas army husband Greg. Of course now Greg is returning from war, and Joan is going to have to do a lot of sidestepping. Let's just hope her husband isn't good at math!
One of the joys of Mad Men is the way each character's layers are gradually unpeeled, revealing hidden layers and depths. Pete Campbell could have become the show's trademark villain but as each season progresses I'm gradually starting to like the guy. With an over-bearing father-in-law and a pushy wife, Pete is starting to show real empathy for the similarly put-upon Peggy. In essence Pete is the next generation of Mad Men, Roger Sterling version 2.0—though not necessarily guaranteed a happier ending. Likewise stuffy English accountant Lane Pryce showed a whole new side of himself last season on a drunken and depressing night out with Don. Similarly estranged from his own family, Lane hooked up with an African American Playboy bunny, partly out of desire, partly out of a desire to shock his brute of a father.
So where do you plan on taking us next season, Mr. Weiner? Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is still struggling for business following the departure of Lucky Strike, although at the end of the final episode Peggy finally won an account. I think we all want to see the agency back on its feet, confident and loud, although it will be interesting to see how that affects the group dynamic. At the moment the team is all working together for survival. Will a boom in business restore some of the old tensions and rivalries? And how far are you planning to let Peggy rise before she smashes her head against the inevitable glass ceiling. I have a feeling Peggy is going to have to make an inevitable choice between family and career—and I suspect she'll choose the latter. Then there's Don himself. As much as you deny it I wouldn't be surprised to see a brief reconciliation between Don and Betty. After all, they both share the same self-defeating tendencies and penchant for unhappiness. Now that would be a great episode.
But I know you have a wider arc in place for the series and am fully confident you know exactly where Mad Men is going. Now we just want to see what happens next. So wrap up that deal and get back to work. TV needs you. And in the meantime I just need to figure out how to make it through the long summer months. I hear USA has some new shows starting...
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