True confessions: I haven’t been watching Mad Men this season.
I love the show, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that… well, FIRST, the last few seasons had a tempo, episode-wise, that went something like this:
The first few episodes will be interesting, but something of a let-down after the high drama of the prior season finale. The characters will develop and story lines will shape, but as each episode draws us closer to the finale, the pace will slow to a crawl. Nothing will seem to be happening. The frustration of the characters with their lives will be the viewer’s frustration as well.
And then… BAM… a season-ender that knocks our freaking socks off.
Followed by a hiatus that borders on sheer torture in its length.
This year, Mad Men came back – at last! – after so long that I’d lost all momentum with the show.
(Seriously, AMC, if you love this show at all you should have spent the 3 months leading up to its return replaying episodes of the prior seasons, to prime the pump.)
Then, when it did finally come back, it returned on Sunday nights. For some reason, I have a mental block about Sunday nights when it comes to TV. Programming on Sunday nights does not set a routine for me. (Seriously, I loved Once Upon a Time on ABC this year, and I missed the majority of episodes. I only stayed up to date by catching the full episode replays on ABC.com.) Worse… Mad Men returned at 10 PM on Sundays… by then I’m already full on to oh-no-don’t-let-tomorrow-be-Monday mode, and what-to-watch doesn’t register.
(Hey, here’s another thing, AMC. Why can’t I watch the episodes online without having to buy them? I don’t mind a few commercial breaks, within reason, either. It just offends me to have to PAY to see your shows when I already pay to subscribe to a cable package that includes your channel, especially when I didn’t get a vote on when to run the show in the first place.)
And then there was the final blow. I caught the season opener… but I caught it with someone who had never seen the show before. Didn’t know the characters. Wasn’t invested. And was quite obviously waiting for something interesting to happen. For two-and-a-half-hours they sat patiently frowning at the TV beside me, wondering what the appeal could be.
And I knew what the appeal was, but even I was left scratching my head. Previously the seasons started fast, slowed down, then lowered the boom. But this time, the first episode was… well, slow.
As long as that person was around on Sundays, there was no way I was going to be watching Mad Men, even if I remembered it was on. Which, as I’ve said, I mostly didn’t.
So I’ve only caught maybe 3 or 4 episodes this season.
But I do know that the rhythm of the season is different this year. Because instead of a lot of nothing-happening as we approach the finale, it seems a lot is happening. As if the whole tempo changed up and the season must have started slow and then picked up steam…
I’m guessing that’s the case, because I caught the last two episodes, and it seems a whole pile of stuff has been happening. Exciting stuff, and disturbing stuff, and emotional stuff if one is at all invested in the characters.
And I’m not going to give any spoilers for anyone who might be planning to watch and hasn’t yet. I’m just going to say that I caught last night’s episode, and then wished I hadn’t, because it wasn’t the kind of thing that would put my already-troubled mind at rest just before bed.
There’s only a few episodes left before the season finale.
I wonder if I’ll be able to catch them.
I wonder if I want to.