Now, where were we?
You can be forgiven for forgetting. It’s been 18-1/4 months since we last saw “Mad Men.” You do the math: Season Four ended on Oct. 17, 2010, and Season Five starts this Sunday night (March 25) at 9/8c on AMC.
The new season — which took so long to get here due, in part, to protracted contract squabbling between AMC and the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner — gets under way with a two-hour episode. Weiner said in an interview the other day that he wanted a two-hour premiere in order to better get the show’s fans acclimated to the new season, since it’s been so long since the previous season.
Whether or not the two-hour strategy works in getting everyone up to speed and back in the “Mad Men” game after all this time remains to be seen. We’ll talk about that after it airs. For now, even though we’ve seen the premiere (it’s a perk of the TV beat — AMC gave us a DVD to preview), we’ll refrain from revealing any of the show’s plot points because (a) we don’t like spoiling a viewing experience for anyone and (b) Weiner requested in a form letter AMC included with the preview DVD that we TV scribes refrain from revealing anything. Well, alrighty then.
So we thought we’d try and get you acclimated in our own way, by recalling where “Mad Men” left off the last time we saw it, so many months ago.
Here’s what the characters were up to, way back when:
1) Don Draper, aka “Dick Whitman” (Jon Hamm): The handsome, womanizing, central character of the show seemed to take care of all his female business. His divorce from Betty (January Jones) was complete, he broke off his fling with a comely market-researcher (Cara Buono) and impulsively asked his new flame, Megan (Jessica Pare), to marry him. So, what’s their status in the new season? We’re not telling.
2) Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss): Plucky Peggy was continuing to make her presence felt at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce by landing an account in the season finale — Topaz pantyhose. She was still seeing her journalist boyfriend too — Abe Drexler (Charlie Hofheimer). Is he still around in Season Five? You’ll have to watch to find that out.
3) Betty Draper (January Jones): Now remarried, the show’s ice queen was last seen firing her African-American housekeeper, Carla (Deborah Lacey), because the maid allowed the creepy neighbor kid, Glen (played by Matt Weiner’s son, Martin Holden Weiner), to enter her house to speak with daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka). Betty also heard the news that Don was planning to remarry too — and she seemed deeply affected by that. Here’s a tidbit: In Sunday’s premiere, Don has a juicy nickname for his ex- and her husband. Now, that’s not spoiling anything, is it?
4) Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks): The buxom office manager was married to an Army doctor who was likely headed to Vietnam. And she was pregnant.
5) Roger Sterling (John Slattery): The hard-drinking, hardly working senior partner was already dissatisfied with his new marriage and even came on to Joan in a bid to reignite their former passion. She rejected him. He also withheld the news that the agency’s biggest client, Lucky Strike, had dumped them.
6) Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser): Restless, ambitious Pete had a baby with wife Trudie (Alison Brie), and even entertained an offer from a rival ad agency, but stayed in the SCDP fold, even when the agency seemed on the verge of collapsing (after Lucky Strike left the fold). In the midst of that crisis, it was Don Draper who rescued Pete with some very timely financial help.
7) Lane Pryce (Jared Harris): The English partner’s marriage — with his wife still in England — was on the rocks as he cheated on her stateside. But a visit from his strict, elderly father set him straight. Remember that scene? It was one of the most shocking scenes of the fourth season: Dad came to the U.S. and gave Lane, a grown man, a beatdown with his cane. Is Lane still chastised? Watch the season premiere and you’ll find that out.
Can “Mad Men” get its mojo back after such a long absence? It’s difficult to judge from past precedent because such long gaps between seasons are so rare. The record is likely held by “The Sopranos,” a series Matthew Weiner worked on, which went 20-3/4 months between seasons Five and Six (the final season). And that seemed to work out alright.
“Mad Men” airs Sunday night at 9/8c on AMC.