REASON TO WATCH
Fourth-season launch of the two-time Emmy best drama winner.
Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC
THE SHOW "Mad Men"
CATCHING UP Don (Jon Hamm) and Betty Draper (January Jones) have split up for good, while Don, Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) and Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) split from the mother agency to form a boutique, named Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
WHAT SUNDAY IS ABOUT To avoid sparking a hot war with AMC, fans and creator Matthew Weiner, it's probably best to employ broad generalities here. This episode takes place around Thanksgiving 1964, and - without going too deeply into mid-'60s history - two vastly different events occurred that year which have some bearing on Sunday. First, three civil rights activists were murdered in June outside Philadelphia, Miss.; and Babette March modeled a bikini on the cover of Sports Illustrated's first swimsuit edition, sparking a fashion revolution.
The "bikini" was named after Bikini atoll, where 23 nukes were detonated between 1946 and '58, and, on some level of your subconscious, "Mad Men" probably wants you to keep that fact handy as well.
The advertising world of New York circa 1964 is still dominated by giants like Young & Rubicam, but a relatively new phenomenon is aborning - the "boutique," run by talented, smart, incredibly willful creative types. Draper, of course, is now a member of this club. Besides those giants still roaming the woods, his new agency has an oddly counterintuitive problem - namely Don's unwillingness to promote himself.
MY SAY Was that general enough? Too general? Fine, then let's bore in a bit. There's a scene Sunday night where Don stares in rapt wonder at a TV screen while his commercial for Glo-coat comes on; it's a dark, surreal, Kafkaesque piece of business that abruptly segues into a '60s style hard-pitch for floor wax. This one ad has made Draper a superstar in the ad world, and maybe because it captures so perfectly the zeitgeist of '64.
The irony - in the context of this episode, anyway - is that it captures so perfectly the zeitgeist of Draper, too. Despite the revelations of season three, he remains the most mysterious and intriguing protagonist on TV.
BOTTOM LINE True-blue fans will swoon. Everything they - you - love about this classic is laid out, banquet-like, Sunday night - the fashions, style, elegance, writing, characters, precision, beauty and most of all, the humor. There are some very funny lines throughout.