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O Mother, Where Art Thou?: 'Mad Men' and its lady problems

“I have reached the point where I have absolutely no affection left for Don Draper.”

So wrote my friend (and Entertainment Weekly colleague) Missy Schwartz on her Facebook page a few weeks ago, just hours after Don demanded that his mistress crawl across the hotel room on her hands and knees to fetch his shoes. “I’m so fed up with him and his atrocious behavior that I found myself wishing someone awful would happen to him,” she continued. “Are we supposed to feel sorry for him that he’s turned into a past-his-prime shadow of his former self at work? Who then tries to compensate for this by ordering his mistress to crawl on the floor on all fours?”

I understood what she meant. (And, apparently, so did the many others who “liked” the update.) It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt any affection for Don Draper. And for me, that’s a very different thing than saying that it’s been a long time since I’ve liked him. You can love a show even if you don’t like the main character, and I still believe Mad Men is one of the best shows on television. But being able to feel sorry for that character is crucial. That’s why Walter White has cancer. It’s why Tony Soprano was wracked by the same panic attacks as his father. It’s why Enlightened began with Amy Jelicoe having a nervous breakdown, not long after going through a messy divorce and (we soon learn) suffering a miscarriage. But I just can’t bring myself to feel sorry for Don Draper anymore, and I’m starting to question why I ever did.

Jon Hamm’s consistently excellent performance can’t erase the laissez-faire nihilism of Don’s worldview: Most of his melodramatic problems have been largely his own fault, and — unlike Tony Soprano — he doesn’t seem remotely interested in changing anything about who he is. He’d rather just marry a different secretary or find a new brunette downstairs. For Don, “evolution” just means a new person to seduce. So the show keeps returning, again and again, to the same heavy-handed origin story that’s supposed to explain why he’s so dysfunctional: he was raised in a whorehouse. These flashbacks are often clumsy (a shot of Don coughing cuts back to a shot of him coughing as a kid) and poorly written (“I defy your accusations!”). Yet this season has relied upon them so much that last week’s episode almost seemed to poke fun at them. “Every time we get a car,” Don said, “this place turns into a whorehouse!” He was joking about Stan’s hookup during the Chevy brainstorming session, but he might as well have been joking about Mad Men itself.


'Mad Men' and feminism: A place for Peggy, Joan, and Megan in the movement?

It’s impossible to talk about the women of Mad Men without talking about feminism. But now that we can finally discuss when season 6 picks up (the wee hours of 1968), we can also address what our working heroines think of their position in the burgeoning movement.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) are both in very different positions now then they were when we first met their characters five seasons ago (or eight years by Mad Men‘s timeline). Both women have made significant professional strides while suffering consistent humiliations at the hands of their male colleagues and superiors. If the beginning of season 6 is any indication, we should expect to see more of both Peggy and Joan as they try to conquer their new positions — Peggy in a more senior role at a new agency, Joan as a Partner with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Though both might seem emblematic of a larger movement, it’s unlikely that it was rooted in any sort of feminist consciousness. When EW spoke to Hendricks and Moss, both were hesitant to categorize their characters as feminists.


'Mad Men': Linda Cardellini on her top-secret, watercooler-worthy debut

SPOILER ALERT! This post contains information about key plot points in the season premiere of Mad Men. If you haven’t watched Sunday’s episode,  continue at your own risk.

'Mad Men': Jon Hamm, Jessica Pare, and Matt Weiner on Megan's 'threatening' independence

Hey, sad Don Draper. You’re at a bar. You’re alone. You’re perhaps disappointed with your young wife’s recent decisions. Enter: Attractive Woman. “Are you alone?” she asks coyly. Cut to black.

The last image of Mad Men’s fifth season is a hard one to forget. Though we don’t know anything concrete about what decision Don made that night, opening the door for another affair was at turns dismaying, ominous, and so familiar. And it’s hard not to trace it back to Megan and some sort of undefined, fundamental disconnect in their relationship. There aren’t enough martinis in the world to make Jon Hamm, Jessica Paré, and series creator Matthew Weiner talk about season 6 specifics. But EW did talk with them about Don and Megan, where the couple left off last season, and what they both wanted out the relationship.

The 'Mad Men' season 6 teaser has arrived: 'What is happiness?' -- VIDEO

It’s been a long, skinny tie-less off-season for Mad Men watchers, full of moving still imagery and bizarre lawsuits. But no longer: This morning we bring you a full, 30-second teaser trailer for the sixth season, which is just two weeks off. What’s changed since last we saw Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce?

Creator Matthew Weiner is still playing his cards pretty close to the vest, opting to use clips from season 5 to set the mood. But it doesn’t look like anyone’s going to be happy — Don, particularly (burden of the American ethos on his shoulders, didn’t you hear?). But at least he has a cure for such marital not-so-bliss: “I am who I am. The next thing will be better.”


New 'Mad Men' video hints at new season's big themes, crazy hair

Yesterday, AMC released a new poster for the impending return of Mad Men featuring a pair of Don Drapers. There were two ways to read that poster: This season would return the focus to the idea of Don’s double life, or this season would introduce Don’s heretofore unknown twin brother, Ron Draper, who would join Don in planning a wacky elaborate “Parent Trap” plot to finally get Roger and Joan together. READ FULL STORY

Decoding the new 'Mad Men' ad: Don Draper meets Don Draper


Last year, Mad Men teased its return from a very long hiatus with a pair of very cool advertisements: A minimalist teaser ad which inspired a fill-in-the-blank graffiti meme, and an evocative image featuring a pair of extremely suggestive existential mannequins. But this year the show has taken a decidedly more classical approach. A new poster that hit New York subways is actually a drawing that looks straight out of an advertisement in a mid-60s New Yorker. (As reported by The New York Times, the poster was actually illustrated by an old pro named Brian Sanders, a commercial artist who’s been working since the ’60s.)

Check out the official image below, and read on for some theories about what it means for season 6. (Click on the picture for a bigger image.) READ FULL STORY

Model sues 'Mad Men' for image use in opening credits


Before Mad Men returns for its sixth season on April 7, it has one small legal matter it might want to attend to.

Despite the show being about advertising execs, it appears that Don Draper didn’t supervise the creation of the hit show’s opening sequence. Model Gita Hall May is suing Lions Gate Entertainment, claiming that the show’s title sequence uses her image without her permission.

Filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the suit says that the opening sequence has played a part in the show earning “in excess of $1 billion,” and that Hall May has not been paid. The complaint is about misappropriation of right of publicity for commercial purposes and says the producers “have intentionally misled the public into believing that Plaintiff endorses Defendants and their products.”

The suit reads: “Because Defendants exploited the Photograph and Plaintiff’s likeness and image while knowing that Defendants had no right to do so, and knowing that such conduct was a violation of Plaintiff’s legal rights and the law, Defendants have acted with fraud, malice and oppression.”

Hall May wants statutory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, albany commercial litigation attorney fees and costs, restitution and the cost of the suit.

Lions Gate had no comment.

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AMC's 'Mad Men' gets return date, plus Matthew Weiner talks season 6

The Don of a new season will soon be upon us: Mad Men returns to AMC on April 7 at 9 p.m., the network confirmed today. Season 6 of the Madison-Avenue-in-the-’60s drama kicks off with a two-hour premiere, written by series creator/executive producer Matthew Weiner and directed by executive producer Scott Hornbacher. (Starting April 14, the show will air in its normal time slot of 10 p.m.) EW spoke briefly with Weiner, and while the showrunner was typically tight-lipped on plot details, he did offer up a few choice quotes to chew on:

On the double-sized premiere: “If you like the show, there’s a good chance you’ll like the premiere…. It is different than last year’s in a sense that it was my idea and I was just trying to give bang for a buck to an audience that I didn’t want to lose because we’d been away for so long. This year it’s really constructed like a film. It is its own story and hopefully it foreshadows the rest of the season…. You should know what happened at the end of last season before you see the episode. The whole season is in reference to last season.” READ FULL STORY

DGA Awards TV noms include Lena Dunham, Louis C.K, and Bryan Cranston

Today, the Directors Guild of America announced its nominees for TV and commercials. Some of the shows involved are predictable (Homeland, Mad Men, Louie, Girls), while others aren’t (check out that Reality category!). The list:

Dramatic Series:
Michael Cuesta, Showtime’s Homeland, “The Choice”
Jennifer Getzinger, AMC’s Mad Men, “A Little Kiss”
Lesli Linka Glatter, Showtime’s Homeland, “Q&A”
Rian Johnson, AMC’s Breaking Bad, “Fifty-One”
Greg Mottola, HBO’s The Newsroom, “We Just Decided To”

Comedy Series:
Louis C.K., FX’s Louie, “New Year’s Eve”
Mark Cendrowski, CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, “The Date Night Variable”
Bryan Cranston, ABC’s Modern Family, “Election Day”
Lena Dunham, HBO’s Girls, “Pilot”
Beth McCarthy-Miller, NBC’s 30 Rock, “Live from Studio 8H” READ FULL STORY

'Breaking Bad,' 'Modern Family' dominate WGA Award nominees

What do Walter White and Phil Dunphy have in common? They’re both at the center of the TV shows most honored by the Writers Guild of America today. The group just announced the nominees for its annual awards, which will be handed out Feb. 17 at simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles and New York. Breaking Bad garnered five nods; Modern Family drew four. Here’s a list of all the primetime and late night series in contention for the event’s biggest prizes:


Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): Matthew Weiner and Jessica Pare on 'Zou Bisou Bisou,' the '60s tune that kept 'Mad Men' humming

When Matthew Weiner cast Montreal native Jessica Paré as a pretty assistant at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, only a few people knew that she would eventually become Mrs. Don Draper. Initially, Paré was not one of those few, so even after a moon-eyed Draper proposed to her during the final episode of season 4, she understood that her next scene could very easily include her resting peacefully in a casket. But Weiner had other ideas, and in the long-awaited season 5 premiere, he unveiled a whole new show dynamic, with Don and Megan’s relationship at the heart of it. “I said it as a joke, but the story of the season for me is that Don and Megan are soul mates,” says Weiner. “They are one person and that person is Don. And right in that first episode, there’s a line from Roger where he says, ‘They’re all great until they want something.’ As soon as Megan starts to separate from him by rejecting advertising and pursuing her acting career, it’s very hard on them. It’s very hard on him.”

In that two-hour premiere, titled “A Little Kiss,” the seeds of the season’s tension were ingeniously planted with one amazingly hypnotic song and dance number. Harry Crane wasn’t the only member of the audience who was mesmerized by Paré’s sexy rendition of Gillian Hills’ playful 1960 single. “Zou Bisou Bisou” was practically trending online before the episode concluded, and the catchy tune would reverberate for weeks. Below, Weiner reflects on the kernel of the idea that sprouted into an unforgettable moment for the Emmy-winning AMC drama, and Paré describes the terrifying challenge of bringing it to the screen.

For more stories behind this year’s top moments, click here for TV and here for movies.

MATTHEW WEINER: It would be a lie to say there wasn’t a showmanship aspect to it. We’d been off the air for 17 months — against my will — and I really wanted to make sure that we gave the audience some bang for their buck. It wasn’t the major thing, but it’s certainly where some of it came from. For me, the origin of the idea was that Don had proposed to this woman, and the audience didn’t even know if he was going to marry her. And the audience didn’t know anything about her. And I kind of wanted to give her a character moment, especially if the whole season was going to be about their relationship and what it meant to Don — to sort of introduce her to the audience and to the other characters through her personality. What I thought was, it’s one of the old saws of all entertainment — the surprise birthday party — and I loved the idea that this woman was very different from the people at the office. That she was younger, that she had a different set of rules, that she was more fun-loving, that she was extroverted, and that Don’s intense, almost-pathological privacy was going to be broken by this woman’s personality. She is throwing the surprise party — which means he has no say in it. No one knew at that time she was going to become an actress, so what better time to show her do this song for him, in front of all his “friends.” I mean, it was story: this is who this woman is. I think people thought that the whole story was going to be about him hiding his past from her, but you find out right there and then that she knows it all. So where is the show going to go? Well, whether you realize it or not in that episode, you just witnessed the major conflict in their relationship. That she has her own personality and Don can’t control it. She is expressing her sexuality out in front of everyone.

I love music from this period. I didn’t know it was a genre, but I was raised on a lot of light French movies. There was a lot of this music in the Pink Panther movies and things like that, American movies with a little bit of European flair to them. So I was looking for the right sort of sexy song for her to sing, and for some reason or another I found this song, realized I’d heard it before, and it just had the perfect mix of childishness and sexiness that made it a socially-appropriate strip tease. The other thing was I wanted it to feel like a real person doing it. I didn’t want it to feel like it was some big, rehearsed choreographed number. I wanted to feel like it was somebody who had just sort of practiced it a few times in their house and had the guts to do it. READ FULL STORY

'Mad Men': John Slattery, Jon Hamm to direct episodes in season 6

We know little about the kinds of drama that will ensnare Don Draper and Roger Sterling when Mad Men returns this spring. (Something tropical, perhaps?) We have just learned, however, that the men who play these characters, Jon Hamm and John Slattery, are stepping behind the camera again.

Slattery will direct a pair of season 6 episodes of AMC’s ’60s-set series, while Jon Hamm also will helm an installment, the network confirms. READ FULL STORY


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