The Return of Mad Men
Last night brought the return of the (accurately) most critically acclaimed show on TV, Mad Men, to the tune of 3.5 million viewers, a huge leap from past seasons. The series has been off the air for 17 months due to protracted contract negotiations with creator/executive producer Matthew Weiner, production company Lionsgate, and network AMC (the companies wanted to take more airtime for commercials while Weiner fought for the show's creative integrity). As is usual for the series, the show picks up almost a year after the last season's finale and makes zero effort to catch the audience up.
The episode started and ended with scenes of small civil rights movements—African-Americans trying to get work on Madison Avenue. Mad Men's first season was set in 1960, and we have now entered the late 1960s with civil rights in full swing, integrating those big, white collar firms like Sterling Cooper Draper Price slowly gins. The delightful ending scene where Lane (Jared Harris) collects resumes from innumerable African-American women camped out in their Madison Avenue lobby is so quietly tense, tongue-in-cheek and foreboding that I was literally giddy with excitement about the rest of the season.
All of our favorite characters are back—except Betty (January Jones), but I'm sure it won't be long—doing exactly what we expect them to do. Roger (John Slattery) is still a suave asshole; Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) is still a smarmy asshole; Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is still a feminist asshole; and Joan (Christina Hendricks) is still perfect, even with new-mom-babyweight. It's satisfying to say the least.
But the scenes everyone is sure to be talking about are the scenes revolving around Don's (Jon Hamm) birthday party and its aftermath. For his 40th birthday, the young and ultra-glamorous Second Mrs. Draper (Jessica Pare) serenades him with a French diddy (and struts around sexually), completely embarrassing both Don and herself in front of her party guests. It was so uncomfortable in the best way. Afterwards, Don goes to bed without making any advances on Megan and she gets upset, prompting another wonderful and uncomfortable scene where she cleans the floor in her underwear to provoke him and he takes her by force.
Yes, Mad Men is back, as all the ads so simply informed us. And it's taking all of America by force.