The Hunger Games vs. Mad Men Face-Off: Can You Handle the Anticipation?

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It is an epic weekend for a certain set of people. You already know who you are, of course. But for those who don't: Mad Men, the series drama whose return we have been awaiting for 522 days, is just four days from its Sunday night season kickoff featuring a two-hour premiere. (Nearly movie-like!) And on the bigger screen, we have The Hunger Games, the much-lauded, much-marketed, currently starting to be officially reviewed film in what will be a series of three comprising the three YA novels written by Suzanne Collins that incited the fervor. It premieres Friday, possibly as early as midnight for those who've bought tickets ahead of time. 

It's not often that such monumental entertainment vehicles come along, and to have two of them in a matter of days is something truly spectacular. Maybe that's why some people seem to have lost their minds and are waiting in lines outside all night, just to catch a glimpse of the actors playing the parts. Maybe it's why others of us are actually paying attention to who rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange this morning. Surely, it's why the media can't stop writing about the two upcoming dramas, over and over and over. And it's probably why GQ has been inspired to go meta with a March Madness-esque breakdown of "what the most cutthroat office on TV would do in an actual fight to the death." (Yes, they've "Hunger Games-ed" the Mad Men cast. It's amusing.) 

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But, seriously. Which of these are we more excited about, and why? If we could only see one (which is fortunately not the case), which would it be? We've broken down some key factors in this investigation.

Characters (aka, the actors we don't particularly separate from the characters): On the Hunger Games side, we have Jennifer Lawrence, the excellent actress who seems also quite down-to-earth and nice, as far as these things go. On the Mad Men side, there's Jon Hamm. And we're all supposed to love him, how can we help it, he's so handsome and charming, but some of the stuff Don Draper has done is a little off-putting. And, in fact, it's not like he's volunteering as ad exec to save his younger brother from certain death or something (didn't he kind of/sort of actually cause the death of his half-brother?). In terms of pure selflessness, Katniss Everdeen (played by Lawrence) wins hands-down. Plus, she can use a bow and arrow like no one's business. Of course, Draper can take down a pretty impressive amount of booze, though we trust Betty's aim better...And, look, as much as we love Pete and Joan and Roger Sterling (swoon) and the gang, this really comes down to Katniss vs. Draper. Or Lawrence vs. Hamm. Someone who plans to see both dramas tells The Atlantic Wire, "Jennifer Lawrence is the new January Jones BUT NICER. Also I'm very turned off by Jon Hamm in the off season." He has been looking a bit puffy. Winner: Hunger Games.

Key plot elements: Kids killing kids in the Hunger Games vs. adults getting drunk and falling down, literally and metaphorically, in Mad Men. Winner: Tie. 

Romantic side-plot: So, Katniss of the Hunger Games is sort of in love with but also just very much friends with a hot guy from her District named Gale. But when she volunteers to fight in the games, she gets to know Peeta, a boy from her town with whom she has a backstory, and, you know, when you're trying to survive as other youngsters try to kill you on live TV, sometimes it helps to have an ally who might also be seen as a romantic interest. And maybe the audience likes that. (The audience does like that, if the Team Peeta/Team Gale T-shirts and posters and the years of extensive love-triangle research are any indication.) In contrast, where are the Team Draper tees, the Team Betty signs held aloft by screaming youths, or even the staunch Team Peggy (for she deserves a team) activists? Plus, at the end of Season Four, if you can remember it, Don proposed to Megan, his secretary, thereby possibly ending (but probably not) his string of friendly womanizing. As for the rest of the romantic stuff in Mad Men, God, it's just been so long. Winner: Hunger Games.

Length we have waited for premiere: This is a key one, and it runs a bit counter to what you might think. See, the thing is, it's been years since we last saw Mad Men. Literally, years. And you'd think this would have us pretty damn excited, but instead, we're a little bit...numb. One person said, in response to the question of which drama was more anticipated, "I forgot what happened at the end of Mad Men, so Hunger Games." Matthew Weiner may want to rethink his no-spoiler policy, as fans of Hunger Games books seem simply desperate to see the movie -- and they know exactly what will happen. Maybe tidbits revealing plot development and upcoming controversies would have us a little more excited about Mad Men? Or, maybe two years is just too long to have to wait. We've learned to live without. If so, there's a lot riding on this coming first episode. Winner: Hunger Games.

The known vs. the unknown: Says one source who will see both, "I think right now I'm more excited about Hunger Games just because of the unknown. There's an excitement to see how the characters I read will appear on the screen, whereas I know essentially what Mad Men is." But, another source says exactly the opposite:  "I'm excited for both, but I have to admit that I'm looking forward to Mad Men more; I have absolutely no idea where that story is going, whereas Hunger Games probably isn't going to surprise me anymore." Winner: Tie.

Genres: There's the very adultish, staid, '60s-era Mad Men, with its retro appeal and vibe in which adults still manage to do the craziest things. Then there's the fantasy/YA genre of Hunger Games, inspiring, some say, a more gut-level excitement. This is a matter of taste, but do people camp out on the streets to get a glimpse of Don Draper? Maybe. Winner: For style and the olds, let's give it to Mad Men.

Having to sit next to a bunch of screaming teens while watching vs. the "theater experience": Watching from the comfort of your own couch in the comfort of your own home is mighty appealing. (Bathroom breaks are easy, too.) Even if you do love the big screen experience. And Mad Men, presuming you have cable, is free. Winner: Mad Men.

Overall: Slight edge to Hunger Games. Though you're going to watch both, anyway. Whichever you prefer, know that the true winner of the weekend is Lionsgate, the studio behind both of these epic debuts. While this is clearly a great weekend for you, it's an even better one for them.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.