Margaret reporting from Los Angeles. On Wednesday night, television phenomenon Mad Men screened its final premiere, and I had the pleasure of attending to represent The Film Experience. This premiere leads off the second half of Mad Men's seventh and final season. While introducing the episode, AMC President Charlie Collier spoke to the legacy of the show, claiming that:
in the history of television, there will be a permanent line of demarcation: Before Mad Men, and After Mad Men.''
It's a strong claim, but it's true.
Compare the television landscape of today to the television landscape of a decade ago, and the influence of Mad Men's success is evident. Certainly without that show AMC would not have taken off and there would be no Breaking Bad, nor The Walking Dead. The Americans, Downton Abbey, and Netflix's entire original programming arm also owe Mad Men a sizable debt.
In celebration of their achievement, the cast and crew gathered in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles which housed the Oscars for many year. The Pavilion isn't new to Mad Men either, the foyer having played the lobby of a Rome hotel in season three.
Nearly the entire cast was present except for Elisabeth Moss (currently on Broadway) and Jessica Pare. When Robert Morse was called on stage he practically held court, and all but did a soft-shoe. Jon Hamm was, understandably, like the class president, high-fiving everyone and adorably rough-housing with little Bobby Draper when he seemed to get restless. And finally, Kiernan Shipka who we watched grow up on the show, is now unnervingly tall and very poised.
The mutual respect and love among the team was evident, and the program reserved special (and richly deserved) praise for the visual artists who gave Mad Men so much of its richness: cinematographer Chris Manley, production designer Dan Bishop, art director Christopher Brown, set decorator Claudette Didul, props master Ellen Freund, and the genius costume designer Janie Bryant whose work on the show is so long overdue for an Emmy. Christina Hendricks clearly adores them giving enormous hugs to everyone.
Coming up on seven full seasons, Mad Men has pulled down four Emmys for Best Drama Series, traced the decade of shifting cultural history between 1960 and 1970, and has inspired more spiraling fan theories than its cast has smoked cigarettes.
So how does it end? The first of the final episodes, true to the series spirit, plays it close to the vest. It riffs on the show's established intertwining themes (sex, business, identity) but it's a little looser, a little more relaxed. (As if they knew that the TFE readership would be on the look out for a "Mad Men at the Movies" reference, they toss off an aces Mildred Pierce joke midway through.) The pace is unhurried, as ever, and where the slow burn will flame out is still anyone's guess. TV has changed so much since Mad Men arrived. How will it change once it's gone?
Mad Men returns to AMC for its final episodes on Sunday April 5th, 10/9c