‘Mad Men’ Season 5 premiere: Changing times, stagnant characters?

March 26, 2012

“Mad Men” returned to AMC Sunday night after a lengthy hiatus that left fans yearning for more of their favorite characters in the 1960s era show. But some found the premiere lackluster for some, including the Post crew live-blogging during the show:

It was a melancholic season premiere where nothing seems to have started; nothing seems to have ended; and as the Bradlee-Quinn family notes, “nothing blew up.” We’re left with the agency being forced to confront racism in America; Don faltering in yet another relationship; and the rest of the cast stumbling along.

The general consensus on the show: it was awkward and slow. Sally Quinn thinks its the timing: “Racism is not camp. The Vietnam war is not camp. The sexism can be campy, but it’s not. All of those things that were sort of amusing, as you get into the mid-60s, they aren’t. It got too real.”

Maybe five seasons into the show, there are too many chips in the perfectly polished veneer not to see anything else.

“I wonder how Mad Men is going to move from being carefree to tackling serious issues without alienating its audience?” Sally Quinn says.

In his review of the new season, critic Hank Steuver also admits that he is often bored by the show:

I’m not here to spoil “Mad Men” but I am, like many, beating around for something new to say about it. The show exasperates me, even bores me sometimes, and yet it is always difficult to look away. It’s my least favorite TV series that I never miss an episode of. If that makes sense.

Yet, Steuver said the first episode started off strong. The end of the season left him wondering even more about how the series will eventually end, and the fate of lead character Don, who seems to be continuously falling downhill:

You can now feel “Mad Men” making wide circles in its flight pattern, considering its final landing in the next couple of years. (Weiner has reportedly agreed to two more seasons after this one.) It’s never too soon to think about the end in a show that encourages viewers to so torturously mull the downward spiral and the tug of mortality. It would be wonderful if “Mad Men” eventually goes out the way “Six Feet Under” did, working through a montage of the century ahead.

That would make me happy, but “Mad Men” has never been in the business of making me terribly happy. For all its power to captivate us, “Mad Men” is not really in the business of making anybody happy.

Yet, the premiere drew the most viewers ever for the show, with 3.5 million, reports Emily Yahr of The TV Column:

That’s about 600,000 more viewers than the show’s previous record-holder — the Season 4 premiere in July 2010 had clocked just under 3 million.

And it’s only about 5.5 million fewer than the 9 million people that tuned in for the recent season finale of AMC’s most-watched program, zombie drama “The Walking Dead.” 

More on ‘Mad Men’:

Review: “Mad Men” back in living color

Quiz: Who’s your “Mad Men” style icon?

Photos: Today’s Mad Men

The real ‘Mad Men’: New book explores notable ads of the ’50s and ’60s

The ‘Mad Men’ season premiere: We need to talk about Joan

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