This Sunday (April 7) is one of those overcrowded TV days. "Mad Men" starts its season, "Shameless" ends its season, "Game of Thrones" has the second show of its season. Also, the Academy of Country Music hands out awards. Here's the "Mad Men" story I sent to papers; an ACM story is coming:
By MIKE HUGHES
When “Mad Men” started, it could
have been an exercise in obscurity.
It was on “a channel that half the
world had never heard of,” recalled creator Matthew Weiner. It was
set in a year (1960) most viewers had never experienced, about people
(ad men) most didn't like.
And then it soared. In five seasons, it
has received 85 Emmy nominations and won 15 of times – including
four as the best drama series. “It's so overwhelming that it's hard
not to take it for granted,” said John Slattery, who plays Roger
Now the show is departing …
gradually. On Sunday, it starts its second-to-last season.
At the core is Don Draper. “He's a
cynical guy in a cynical business,” Slattery said.
Draper (Jon Hamm) creates ads that tap
emotion, yet rarely taps his own. He lost his marriage, found
romance, helped start an agency, saw former junior copywriter Peggy
Olson soar and leave.
This year's season-opener includes two
deaths, one near-death and some talk about the afterlife. It also has
humor, Weiner, 47, pointed out. “I don't find it any gloomier than
Besides, he said, this is a series
“that starts with someone jumping out a window.” In the six years
since “Mad Men” used that opening graphic, it has juggled joy and
The Sterling character absorbs much of
the latter in the season-opener. Even before that, he had lost his
best ad account, his marriage and romances. “At least he's still
looking,” Slattery said.
Silver-haired and 50, Slattery is happy
to be playing romances in a business where “it's hard not to feel
marginalized (if you're not) 22 years old.”
In real life, he's been married to
Talia Balsam (George Clooney's ex-wife) for 13 years. And while
playing an ad man, he spent a couple years doing Lincoln commercials.
:”It was very little work and a lot of fun and I got a free car.”
In the fictional world, things rarely
turn out that well. “Mad Men” offers mixed emotions and
conflicted characters, something cable thrives on. “There's a lot
of great television now,” Slattery said.
The surge started in 1999 with HBO's
“The Sopranos.”. Weiner, a former comedy writer – “I was
out-of-work for years” – joined it in 2003 as a producer and
writer. When “Sopranos” ended in 2007, he was ready for his own
That's “Mad Men,” on AMC, the
network that soon added “Breaking Bad,” “Walking Dead,” “Hell
on Wheels” and prestige. It's no longer the channel no one has
– “Mad Men,” generally 10-11 p.m.
– The season-opener, however, runs
two hours and eight minutes; it debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday, rerunning at
11:08 p.m. and 1:16 a.m., plus 10:30 p.m. on April12 and 8 a.m. on