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“Mad Men” Return As Good As Advertised


Finally, it’s time for a different kind of March Madness.

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue

Jon Hamm

After a 17-month wait, AMC’s four-time Emmy-winning “Mad Men” is back at 9 p.m. Sunday and as good as ever. And funnier and sexier than ever.

The excellently cast series set in the Madison Avenue advertising world in the 1960s is an acquired taste, sort of like a Manhattan, whiskey sour or whiskey and water in that era.

If a viewer hasn’t acquired it by now, it won’t be easy to catch up on the Madness involving handsome and tortured creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his sexist male co-workers, his ex-wife and his three young children.

But regular viewers of the first four seasons of Matthew Weiner’s masterpiece know the drill and probably won’t be put off by the leisurely pace of Sunday’s beautiful-looking, introductory first two hours of the season.

Weiner sent a few notes to critics via email in the last few weeks to remind us about his attention to detail (he dropped a song that wasn’t released at the time of the episode) and to request we avoid revealing details about key storylines so viewers can experience what’s going on in the characters’ personal and professional lives in the same way as critics do. As if the details matter as much as how they are presented.

So I’ll try my best to avoid spoiling the party (that’s hint, but not a detail).  I’ll just say Don seems to be maturing and initially seems to be in a new place in his life. But Don being Don and TV needing conflict, his attitude can be as fleeting as a 75 degree in March in Buffalo.

The rest of the inmates at Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce are dealing with the usual assortment of issues surrounding professional jealously, office politics, sexism, economic issues, racial issues and the difficulties of making clients who sell gaseous products happy.

The wonderful John Slattery still steals every scene as Roger Sterling, who is as awfully sexist and as funny as ever as he tries to maintain his value to the firm without too much heavy lifting beyond a cocktail glass at lunch, dinner or breakfast.  The ambitious Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is as annoyed and as annoying as ever as he seeks respect.

Feminist copywriter Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), sexy office worker Joan (Christina Hendricks) and the other women of “MM” continue to deal with women’s issues of the time and there are more of them. East Aurora’s Christine Estabrook also pops up Sunday as a new character.  

By Weiner’s edict, I’m not allowed to tell you what’s going on with Don’s perpetually unhappy and beautiful ex-wife, Betty (January Jones) or if Jones’ real-life pregnancy impacts her work load even if she probably wouldn’t be missed by viewers any more than she would be by Don.

Nor am I allowed to tell you if the sexy secretary that Don proposed to in the 2010 season finale, Megan (Jessica Pare), is around.

I think I can say there is one scene in the two hours set to music that undoubtedly will be talked about Monday morning at office water coolers. It is so memorable that I briefly considered breaking Weiner’s rule. But Weiner is right. Viewers should experience and enjoy it the same way as critics.

The scene is just one reminder that “Mad Men” is back to show us how much fun it is to explore the 1960s again and how much better off we are today in so many ways.

Rating: 4 stars out of 4

NBC has renewed “Smash” for a second season, largely based on its strong demographics. However, the Hollywood Reporter reports the series’ creator is leaving as the showrunner but will remain an an executive producer and may write some scripts.

A Reminder: HBO’s unlucky “Luck” has the misfortune Sunday of having its season finale run opposite the season premiere of “Mad Men.” Since David Milch’s series has been canceled, it also is the series finale unless HBO decides to show any episodes in the second season made before the cancellation. I would expect that is extremely unlikely.

One note to CBS regarding its coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament: Please stop using the distracting camera angles that prevent viewers from seeing what exactly is going on. I wanted to throw a brick through my TV during Syracuse’s 64-63 win over Wisconsin Thursday night every time CBS thought showing those angles was preferable to seeing what was going on.

It has been amusing hearing CBS “expert” Charles Barkley question the Orange’s ability to move on without ineligible center Fab Melo while colleagues Kenny Smith and Greg Anthony are generally Syracuse supporters because of the team’s guard play. Barkley has one more chance to be right. A week ago, he said the loss of Melo would lead to a Syracuse loss if it makes it to the Elite Eight. That means he expects SU to lose Saturday night to Ohio State.

Syracuse’s win to reach the Elite Eight had a 7.4 rating on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate. That’s a tenth of a point lower than the rating for St. Bonaventure’s first round loss a week ago.






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