Two Months Before Draper Returns, Weiner Talks 'Mad Men'

by , Jan 25, 2012, 4:30 PM
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There will be a massive publicity blitz behind the return of “Mad Men” over the next two months as the season premiere approaches. Unlike the unavoidable promos for “Smash” on NBC and other pre-launch deluges, this one might be hard to tire of.

Put a poster in every bus shelter. Fill every Banana Republic window. Finish every ad break on AMC with Don Draper’s shadow, sponsored by Hellmann’s or Dove. Fill the newsstand with the show's stars on covers.

Season four ended in late 2010 and the two-hour season five premiere comes March 25. “Mad Men” has been off the air for so long and devoted fans are eager enough for its return, this may be one time where clutter is welcomed.

On Wednesday, it was good to hear from Matthew Weiner, the show creator and executive producer, even if he wouldn't reveal any details about what's coming. Then again, would you want them anyway?

Weiner spoke about his comedy background and how as a writer on “Becker” a decade ago, he felt his ability to express himself was limited. His frustration led him to write the “Mad Men” pilot.

Later, of course, he developed chops for layered dramas by working on “The Sopranos,” but the sitcom experience has helped inject humor as a balance to all the personal travails on "Mad Men."

“If you took it out, it would be the bleakest, saddest thing in the world,” Weiner said at the NATPE event.

Guess it’s a good thing an inebriated Freddy Rumsen urinated in his pants at the office?

Apparently, though, that scene met Weiner’s gauge on reality. He stressed that he takes pains to ensure “Mad Men” has a certain believability.

“I don’t want anyone to watch the show and say, ‘What! No one would ever do that?” he said.

Characters Don Draper and the upwardly mobile women Peggy Olson and Joan Harris weren’t created in a vacuum, but are drawn from societal trends in the late 1950s.

Draper, who had a rough rural upbringing and turned himself into a glamorous Madison Avenue heavyweight, is rooted in a group of men who grew up struggling during the Depression, then turned their backs on their pasts and moved to the top of America. The late ‘50s, Weiner said, were also a time when women flocked to New York in search of careers.

Like Draper’s brother unexpectedly showing up or a John Deere tractor motoring through the office, Weiner said there will always be jarring events: “What I promised the network, was there would be a holy sh*t moment in every episode."

It’s always impressive to get a sense of the sheer will Weiner went through to get “Mad Men” on the air. Even with his “Sopranos”-connection, HBO “really had no interest in paying attention to me or reading what I did,” he said.

The network wanted more “proven” show developers such as David Chase and Alan Ball and kept turning him down. Finally AMC and Lionsgate got involved and the show was launched in 2007. It's now an Emmy regular and favorite of the chattering classes.

But maybe still smarting from all the rejection, Weiner says, “The show has an underdog feel to it.”

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