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AMC's "Mad Men" Returns with Its Charismatic Cast of Retrosexuals
August 14, 2009  | By David Bianculli
mad-men-season-3.jpgSeason three of AMC's Mad Menbegins Sunday at 10 p.m. ET -- and once again, it throws you into a 1960s world that's fascinating for both its retro contrasts to today, and for its unsettling similarities. It's one of the very best shows on television, and returns this weekend without missing a step...

When we left off at the end of last season, Jon Hamm's Don Draper had walked away from Sterling Cooper after the new British owners had designated a rival as president, and Don's wife, Betty (January Jones), told him she was pregnant. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was averted at the last minute, but what about Don's future?

Sunday night, as the third season begins, we don't learn about Don's future until we get a glimpse into his most distant past. We see him heating a small pan of milk on the stove, but the kitchen suddenly gives way to a different place, and to a strange room, with a woman in bed, attended to by a doctor.

What we see next aren't Don's memories -- they can't possibly be -- but are his impressions, based on what he's been told, of the circumstances of his birth, and even the genesis of his name. Only after that prologue do we get our bearings and learn where Mad Men is picking up its narrative in season three.


The good news -- and it's not a spoiler, because it's been out there, and occurs in the opening minutes -- is that Betty is still pregnant (which means series creator Matthew Weiner, who wrote the opener, hasn't leapfrogged over the John F. Kennedy assassination), and that Don is back at work at Sterling Cooper. That's where, with the plots focusing on firings and unsettling changes, the events of Mad Men echo, with uncomfortable resonance, what's happening to most of us today.

I love, but won't describe, what happens Sunday to some of the regular characters, especially Christina Hendricks (above) as Joan, but it's delicious to watch. My full review of Mad Men for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, with a couple of clips from the show, can be heard (after about 5 p.m. ET Friday) by clicking HERE.

For here, for now, put it this way: Mad Men is exactly the kind of show TV WORTH WATCHING was created to champion. And celebrate.




Eric said:

Is AMC airing last year's finale to refresh our memories from last season? [No, but the starting recap is generous. -- David B.]

Comment posted on August 14, 2009 10:49 AM

Mac said:

Surprised that AMC isn't running season two as a marathon on Sunday (or even the last episode before the new one). Just another great movie,"GoodFellas" edited out of enjoyment. They just seemed to get this "letterbox" thing in the last year or so, and have only recently used closed captioning (a necessity in our household) on thier screenings. They do so many things wrong (after years a pretty good rival to Turner Classics),it's a wonder that "Mad Men" got the green light ("Breaking Bad", too, but that just isn't my cup of tea). I suspect the "Mad Men" season will be filled with promos for the upcoming "Prisoner" series (which I will watch at least the first few minutes and hope I don't have to take Patrick McGoohan's name in vain too many times when that one debuts).
BTW,Amazon had a pretty good price on season one($16)and half off the Blu-Ray version of season two. Barnes & Noble brick and mortar stores have the regular edition of season two at half price,too. These are keepers (season two has commentaries,sometimes two,on every episode) and will bring repeated viewings. I'm told to avoid the deluxe cigarette lighter deluxe packaging in season one,as the discs are impossible to retrieve. Season two comes in a logical dress shirt and tie box that conveys the nuance of the show while not screwing up the goods inside. Mmmmadmen. I can't wait.

Comment posted on August 14, 2009 11:16 AM

Noelle said:

I love this show and I can't wait to watch the new season. The characters are so interesting and the acting is wonderful. This is the kind of show I can get lost in for an hour, but I still think about long after the episode is over.

Comment posted on August 14, 2009 12:20 PM

Eileen said:

Not a moment too soon. Is it me, or has this summer, with all it's actual rain, been an absolute drought on tv?

AMC, thankfully, is saving the day -- yet again. I hope they rake in the Emmy awards this year, as they deserve them for taking the bold steps to produce excellent programs like Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

Funny how the "Little Engine that Could Network"
not only won Best Drama last year, but Best Actor in a Drama.

Take that ABC, CBS & NBC! (I'm cutting Fox some slack as they at least try with The Simpsons & House).

The commercial network executives really need to hold Town Hall Meetings similar to the current health care reform sessions. Boy, would they get an idea how miserable the viewing public is. They just don't seem to get it -- thankfully we all do.

Comment posted on August 14, 2009 1:46 PM
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