For 'Mad Men,' Questions Better Left Unanswered

On starring in a TV phenomenon: Jon Hamm of
On starring in a TV phenomenon: Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" said, "It's phenomenal." (By Craig Blankenhorn -- Associated Press)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, July 10, 2008

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., July 9

"Mad Men," AMC's drama series about Madison Avenue ad suits in the early '60s, is the new It Show.

TV critics are gaga over it. Their editors love the Hollywood happy-ending angle -- cold-shouldered by HBO and Showtime, picked up by unhippest of networks, show wins Peabody Award and best-drama-series Golden Globe. So what if more people probably read about "Mad Men" in last month's New York Times Sunday magazine cover story than actually watched the first season (circulation 1.46 million; average audience 1.1 million). It's the new "Sopranos."

So you'd think the "Mad Men" Q&A session would be the ne plus ultra of Summer TV Press Tour 2008.

But if creator (and "Sopranos" alum) Matt Weiner says he doesn't "really like to talk about story lines," hasn't got a good answer for how he came up with the idea for the show and tells critics, in re when the show will answer the what-happened-with-Peggy-and-the-baby question, "I will give you the information as you need it in the most entertaining fashion," the session tends to lose some momentum. Or all momentum.

You wind up with critics treating like the discovery of hidden treasure Weiner's comment that (we think) he expects the show to last about five seasons and cover about a decade in the characters' lives.

You wind up with questions like "How does it feel to be on what amounts to a television phenomenon?" and getting answers like "It's phenomenal."

That was from series star Jon Hamm, who, on the show, wears spectacular suits and sports pristinely slicked-back hair. At the press tour, he was dressed to casual perfection, his mane oh-so-carefully tousled. By "phenomenal" Hamm means having their faith in the series "sort of validated and vindicated in the greater sort of world of television criticism and the culture is amazing and it makes you feel . . . other people like good stuff, too."

"You know, I'm not trying to [poop] on 'Dancing With the Stars,' " he said, disingenuously.

And questions for Weiner like "Do you feel an added pressure now that we all love the show so much?"

"I'm one of those artists who can only hear bad things -- and I'm not encouraging anybody, by the way," he responded.

For the actors: "With Matt playing things so close to the vest with us and with the viewers . . . I'm wondering how much in advance you know what's going to happen?" Actors to critics: not much.

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