It's hard to write about Mad Men before a season premiere because there's—well, there's not much to say about the show without inciting the ire of creator Matthew Weiner, who operates in ultimate secrecy and has really strict rules about this sort of stuff. But still! We are excited! And many outlets have tried—ourselves included!—to give you something with which to bide the time. Some have even succeeded at offering (excited!) fans some (somewhat important!) insight into what's ahead in season six. So here is some essential reading before Sunday night's two-hour premiere on AMC.
The Must-Read Actor Interview That Sort-of Reveals Something
Though there isn't that much about Mad Men—Moss is also promoting Top of the Lake—we do get her feelings on that old (and annoying) Don-and-Peggy will-they-or-won't-they thing:
Do you think the Don-Peggy relationship will ever be consummated, given the obvious sexual tension between them?
I hope not. Anyone who sleeps with Don does not have a long road ahead of them. It’s like the kiss of death to sleep with Don. I really think it would be jumping the shark to do that.
Takeaway: We hope this means Weiner respects her wishes. (Also, Moss is a Scientologist.)
The Must-Read Actor Interview That Reveals Absolutely Nothing
Martin gets an immensely entertaining, but also totally ridiculous interview out of a crazy-sounding Pete Campbell, who ends up shooting paper footballs at her. He also reveals his thoughts on "Tweeter":
I think it’s stupid. I wouldn’t even know how to … It just gets into your life. Even if you’re not in it, it gets in your life. A couple of days ago someone was like, “Hashtag round butt!” And I was like, “What’s a hashtag? Is it some sort of hash? Like, ‘Tag, you’re it! Haaaaaash!’” And they were like, [yells] “No! You know! Like, hashtag, man! Hashtag!” And I was like, “No. I’m a fucking adult.” But apparently hashtag has something to do with Twitser. Twizzler. Twizzler? Is it Twizzler? I love their licorice.
Takeaway: Kartheiser might be as much of a pill as his character, without the creepiness. Also: check out those sideburns, man.
The Major Character Character-Study
Trachta had the benefit of an interview with Weiner to help create this portrait of the "melancholy dame" Betty—and give us some insight into where the character might be going this season:
Yet the fat suit into which the show strapped her seems to have won her little sympathy. In fact, the loss of her only prize – her beauty – has played a major part in isolating Betty from the rest of the female characters, all of whom, at least professionally, are enjoying the dawn of a society that values them outside the home. "She's lost her job," as Weiner describes it, "which is being beautiful." So what is left for her?
Therein lies the richness of the story Weiner is poised to tell through Betty. "What's fascinating is that giving her this blow to her vanity," he explains, "this compulsion, this self-destructive impulse, this physical representation of her unhappiness, really kind of opened up the character."
Takeaway: We should feel more sympathetic toward Betty. Sorry, Betty.
The Minor Character Character-Study
Friedman analyzes the upstart copywriter, and reveals how Ginsberg's connection to Don lies in his Jewish identity:
Don’s professional brilliance always seemed tied—even obliquely—to his back-story. He was a man without a firm identity, a hobo—drifting and alone. In a startling scene with Peggy and Michael late at night in the office, we learn that Michael is the most unusual of Holocaust survivors: a child born in a concentration camp. “Are there others like you?” Peggy asks. “I don’t know,” Michael replies heavily, his back to the camera and reflection lit up in the window. “I haven’t been able to find any.” Here, too, we are supposed to connect Michael and Don. As with Don, there is a clear, if inexplicable, connection between Michael’s creative brilliance and personal history. Mad Men intends for us to link Don and Michael as singular individuals and talents.
Takeaway: We're going to keep an eye on this guy.
The Nitpickers Bread and Butter
Because Mad Men seems so concerned with details, it's really fun to call out Weiner and Co. when they mess up. Watkins catalogues ones the Man Behind the Veil just couldn't get away with. Those darn typography blogs...
Font designer Mark Simonson is a big Mad Men fan, and apparently pays more attention to typeface than the props department does. In an astonishingly eagle-eyed 2008 takedown on his blog, Simonson pointed out that the sign on the Sterling Cooper building is Gil Sans, which was not in popular use in the U.S. until the seventies. Other future fonts he spotted on the show, mainly in shots of print ads: Fenice (1980), Balmoral (1978), Amazone (1958), ITC Kabel (1975), Bookman Old Style (1989), Zapfino (1998), and Gotham (2002).
Takeaway: Sometimes sweating the details can be fun, but it can also be irrelevant.
The Big-Deal Profile
Only an excerpt is available online, so it's best to go out and buy the magazine. (There are swimming pool photos.) But Eells does make the case that Hamm is a bit of a Don Draper character himself.
Part of what people respond to about Hamm is that he's a throwback, a grown-up. When Mad Men first aired, most of the stars in Hollywood were either the Apatovian man-child types, or villains of the dickish Bradley Cooper variety. "For our hero to be in such a classic mold was fascinating and mysterious," says Weiner. "Like, ‘Where has that guy been? Did they build him in a lab?' We put Jon in the suit and cut his hair, and he went from being this very contemporary boyfriend type to, you know, Gregory Peck. There was this vibe coming off him – the physical embodiment of confidence. People saw authority. People saw glamour. Weirdly, a lot of people saw their fathers."
Takeaway: Jon Hamm is not Don Draper. For the most part.
The Meta Take on Spoiler-Free Coverage
Greenwald takes on the curious case of Weiner's spoiler aversion, and makes a convincing case for why spoilers both do and don't matter:
I get why people seek out spoilers. Really, I do. We're all terrified of the unknown and each of us burns with a furious desire to peek ahead: to be the first to see what's coming around the corner, to have the chance to mark the future before it puts its mark on us. More than anything, that fear is what Mad Men has come to embody. It's why Don only swaggers in the office, where he's able to bend messy emotions into taglines, craft painful memories into campaigns. It's why Peggy moved on, why Roger dropped out, and why we continue to tune in.
Takeaway: We may be spoiler-averse, but there's something inevitable about Mad Men. Always has been.