With “Mad Men” airing its fourth-season finale Sunday night, its creator, Matthew Weiner, is willing to admit to feeling great.
Mind you, satisfaction is not a routine state of mind for Weiner, despite the acclaim and cultural heat his show enjoys year after year (and despite its landing a couple more Emmys for 2010, including Best Drama for the third straight time).
When the current season began in July, Weiner said he was “terrified” by the creative risks that “Mad Men” had in store for its viewers.
Picking up in November 1964, the show presented its charismatic, tormented hero, Don Draper (played by series star Jon Hamm), as divorced and uprooted from his American Dream suburban home to a somber Greenwich Village flat.
Meanwhile, the startup advertising agency Don had helped found was struggling to keep the lights on. This seemed quite a comedown from Don’s high-flying days at the respected Madison Avenue shop where he had prospered before.
And it was quite a risky move for Weiner: to explode both Don’s family life and career.
During an interview Saturday, Weiner laughed at being reminded of his anxiousness a few months ago.
“It’s how women describe having a baby: I had completely forgotten that,” he said on hearing his word “terrified” repeated back to him. But, indeed, this year he gave birth to what, in many ways, was a newly realizedseries.
“I saw it as a challenge to myself as well as the audience,” he explained. “And it really worked. When you take away that many things from your character, and you’re actually able to find story in it — that was very satisfying to me.”
This very satisfying season comes to a close Sunday at 10 p.m. EDT on AMC.
Among other things, the finale, which was unavailable for review, must surely address the financial crisis plaguing Don’s scrappy agency, which last week saw numerous staff firings.
And what will be the repercussions from Don publicly declaring a radical new policy for the agency? It will no longer advertise tobacco products, he announced on last week’s episode — his maverick response to the agency having lost its most important client, Lucky Strike.
“For whatever reason, I think this season really connected with the audience,” said Weiner, who clearly doesn’t buy the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
And while he was tightlipped when asked what might happen on “Mad Men” when it returns months from now for season five, he offered a hint as to what might await “Mad Men” fans Sunday night:
“There’s a chance that, after the finale, people will be shocked,” he said, “and there’ll be some discussion about, ‘Oh, my god! What’s gonna happen NEXT year?’”