kkurman 15 March 2012
It has been a long hiatus, 17 months, but MAD MEN hasn’t skipped a beat. In the two-hour season opener we are drawn right back in to the inter-office politics and Don Draper’s complicated charade of a personal life, both of which being stand-in’s for the metaphorical, mid-century American modern, time in which it is set.
The premier of the MAD MEN Season 5 opener was screened last night at the historic Cinarama Dome Theatre on Sunset Blvd. It was a glittering, Red Carpet occasion but really, you are better off seeing it on TV. In this case, bigger was not better. Not only physically, the Panavision screen made straight lines curved, but one of the devises used to create that special, other worldly feel that characterizes the show, its timing, was amplified to an annoying degree. The slow and deliberate pace that allows the story to unfold magically on the small screen became a little tedious in the grand scale of a movie theater.
Aside from that, I was happy to be back at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Over the two hours, the un-finished sentences from last season finally get their punctuation and this season’s dynamics are well established and, boy, something’s got to give. We were begged not to be spoilers so I will bite my tongue, but let me just say, the atmosphere on Madison Avenue is taut with anticipation. With the firm, SCDP, crawling its way back to the top after having lost the Lucky Strike account, Don is wound way too tight and the ‘natives’ are restless. Peggy is looking particularly trim and ambitious and Joan is feeling a little hemmed in. Megan, Don’s new wife, reveals some charms that even Don couldn’t have been aware of, and… ‘nough said. The production design and writing are impeccable, as one would expect from the first series to win four consecutive ‘Best Drama Series’ Emmy’s ever.
The reception was held across the street at Boulevard 3, one of my favorite Hollywood venues. The building used to be the old Hollywood Racquet Club so it has that classic ‘Golden Age’ architecture with an easy indoor/outdoor flow. At the door, we were served a perfect Manhattan and the DJ was spinning classic, early 60’s style lounge-Jazz, it really set the mood. The entry court has a long low reflecting pool down the center with an open fire at the far end. Along the outer walls are curtained cabanas in which, last night, the cast members were trapped like specimens at the zoo, poor things. I felt sorry for them, but they managed it in good spirits and it offered an opportunity to chat easily with each of our favorite ‘characters’.
Jon Hamm is just, such a gentleman. He was there with his lovely companion of more than 15 years, Jennifer Westfeldt, an accomplished writer/producer in her own right. Jon confirmed, in a noncommittal way, my suspicion that Don looked like he was about to snap, “We’ll just have to see…” he added. John Slattery in person is a lot like the charming wiseacre he is as Roger Sterling. I asked him why he gets all the good lines, he said its because he’s the best one to deliver them, of course! He was happy to demonstrate his smooth dance moves.
I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Matt Weiner to just full-on quit when AMC was trying to cut his run time and manage his characters just to save production costs. “…I did not feel that it was worth going back to work to make a show that was not the show I’d been making.” he said at the time. In the end he got his way and un-quit, he was beaming last night, like the proud father/producer he is.
MAD MEN is back.