Dear Mad Men: Stay great. We need it.

With LOST now gone, anticipation for the July 25th, season 4 premiere of Mad Men has become my little saving grace. One by one, quality soaps have disappeared on primetime within the last couple of years (Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, The Wire, etc.) and we’ve been left with a small handful of gems. AMC is on the map big time. HBO has got three very odd contenders (Vampires, Trombones, and Psychologists, oh my!). But Showtime could use another hour long drama, no? Dexter aside, The Tudors is ending… Weeds and Nurse Jackie doesn’t qualify, so we’re left with United States of Tara. And where is Network television? Desperate HousewivesSmallville? The Vampire Diaries? Supernatural? I’ve tried watching those shows and, while I won’t say they are ALL horrible, they are your basic drama-for-the-sake-of-drama serials. I get far more character development from an episode of Bones than that! (No, seriously. I love Bones.) Most network serials are just good looking people with “powers” getting themselves into trouble but never resolving anything or growing because the show must go on… I miss the network drama days of Lost, Buffy, Angel, Gilmore Girls, Felicity, and Alias. It’s like, “V and Gossip Girls. Really?!” Le sigh.

So, back to Mad Men. If you’ve never seen this show PLEASE, with confectioner sugar on top, do so now! The DVD box sets are beautiful additions to your collection and not a purchase you’d soon regret. Yes, it’s a bit “cryptic” at times, riddled with innuendo and implication instead of the constant BOOMS and BAMS (i.e. you have to think a little), but then its sprinkled with moments of shock so sudden that they’ll grab you tight and quickly, leaving you gasping for air. (Remember the lawnmower incident? Hahaha. Or the last scene in the pilot? Whoa, family!) The whole series is kind of nerve-wracking in how secretive and creepy the characters can be, while wrapped up in their beautiful, tailored lies… and suits. It’s the advertising industry AND the 60’s — these people are professional liars! But mainly it’s just the 60’s…

So what can we expect this coming season? Bigger things for Betty, I hope. I’m a sucker for dramatic and illicit love affairs on film. It’s a horrible, immoral addiction to have and I try to curb it but I can’t help myself. I love the politician with Betty!  She has slowly begun to shed that fear and insecurity she carried around with her all throughout her marriage to Don, and I hope she finishes coming into her own before we lose the bit of sympathy we had for her throughout the first three seasons. I’m not complaining, though: so far so good. Leaving him was huge and had she stayed that’s when it would have been difficult to tolerate her.

Speaking of female empowerment, one of the things I’m most excited about is the return of the vivacious and voluptuous Joanie Holloway (played by the amazing Christina Hendricks from my favorite Firefly episode: Our Dear Mrs. Reynolds)! When she left Sterling Cooper for married life last season I was confused as to how they were going to handle her character, moving forward. Would we just follow her around playing Happily-Ever-After Housewife? And, if not, she’d certainly be too dignified to go back to work at the office with a failing marriage excuse — Joanie doesn’t look back! I was scared because neither option seemed right, but after the events that unfolded in the S3 finale, I re-learned to trust Matthew Weiner & Co. forever and ever, Amen. They had to call her back? Perfect!

I’m intrigued and excited to see how Don will handle the new Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as a newly single man. Will he become more of whore or less so because there is no restraint to make him feel he must? Do we all agree that we can forget him getting Betty back? I truly believe her love for him is gone, and that he meant it when he told her he wouldn’t “fight [her]” but… his kids! My heart breaks for him and for them. I couldn’t hold back a few tears when his young son wraps his little arms and legs around him after the announcement that he and Betty were separating. And sassy young Sally storming out… poor thing is going to have some issues. Perhaps she’ll blame Betty for the failing marriage which would be easy from a child’s perspective to do.

So what did we learn last season? Those final flashbacks with Don’s father’s death at the barn added such a deeper level of understanding and sympathy to Don’s character. We were finally able to link his self-alienation from both family and co-workers to an experience, and a very traumatic one at that. As a crop farmer, his father relied on a “co-op”, on the weather, and on the government in order to provide for his family and in the end it destroyed him. He was literally kicked while he was down by that horse. Takes the saying “bought the farm” to a whole new level, eh? So now Don is a self-made man who thinks that needing or counting on any person but himself will ruin him. I think that’s why his most meaningful extra-marital relationships have been with highly independent women: Midge, Ms. Menken, and even Peggy. Sadly, Don simply never respected Betty because he saw her loyalty as a weakness instead of a privilege. But is Don learning? Is he growing? That’s the difference between serialized drama and procedurals or sitcoms: growth and change towards a grand resolution. We need Don to either become a better man, or try and fail.

And Sal. I try not to spoil myself as far as whose been re-casted or what the writers are leaking (which isn’t hard with Mad Men since Matthew Weiner is so tight-lipped) but I don’t think Sal will be making a swift return. While new accounts mean that those Sal “offended” in the past may not be present (did they re-sign Lucky Strike?) and they don’t have an art department, I don’t think its the time to accept homosexuality yet. It would be quite anachronistic of the series if all the characters did. Unless, it stays a secret (?)

What are YOU hoping for?

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