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Is “Mad Men” Back, and Here to Stay?

AMC has been promoting the long awaited return of Mad Men with ads that state, “Style is Back,” “Adultery is Back,” and “Secrets are Back.” But the real question after an 18-month hiatus: is what made Mad Men so phenomenal truly back?

For those of you who are not yet addicted to this four time Emmy-winning show, Mad Men follows the life of Don Draper, a seductive, smooth talking and creative “ad man” in the 60s.  Through the eyes of both Don and key people around him the audience is given a view into the private and professional life of this complex character.

Season five picks up in 1967, with Don’s life changed in many ways. After being divorced, he is now remarried to his 26-year-old former secretary, Meghan. The highlight of the two-hour season premier is a surprise party for Don’s 40th birthday that Meghan arranges. At this party we see an emotion rarely revealed by Don: embarrassment. When Meghan performs a provocative song in front of all his coworkers, he cringes with humiliation.

However, despite this one moment of discomfort, we see a changed Don Draper, who appears to be happy in his personal life, and less involved in his work.

Get back to work, Don! For me, some of the most memorable moments of Mad Men have been Don’s creative and emotional pitches. In my opinion, they define Don’s character. I like to see him tell clients what they want, not just sit back and let the clients rule him. All I can say is that someone as philandering as Don is unlikely to remain in a happy marriage for too long, and the old business minded Don is likely to resurface when the “newness” of his marriage wears off.

The first two episodes of this season also introduce us to the change that came in the late 60s. Issues like racial equality and gender rights find their way into the office.  Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the ad agency Don works for, hires its first black employee, and a copywriter named Peggy Olsen, the sole female in a non-secretarial position, is rising through the hierarchy of the agency, forcing her way into this male dominated field.

One thing that has not changed about Mad Men is the attention to detail and accuracy in creating a depiction of the 60s world. We see Don move into a swanky mid-century modern New York City apartment, complete with hallmarks of the era such as a sunken living room and white shag carpet.

Spoiler alert: one shocking twist that occurred in the second episode was when Don’s formerly model-thin and glamorous ex-wife Betty, returns nearly double in size. This theme of change continues, and that’s a good thing. One fear I had before the season began is that the same plotlines would be pursued, and despite the fantastic cinematography, sets and costumes, the show would grow stale.

As one of Bob Dylan’s iconic songs from the sixties states, “The times they are a-changin’.” So is Mad Men, and its fans should be glad of this.

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