Pressure is on to end hit TV show Mad Men with a bang

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner (right) and his leading man, Jon Hamm (far right), at the show's seventh season premiere in Los Angeles.
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner (right) and his leading man, Jon Hamm (far right), at the show's seventh season premiere in Los Angeles. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ever since Mad Men debuted, much has been written about the time period that the show is set in: the 1960s, when sexism was rife, especially in the working world where women were constantly overlooked in favour of men.

On the home front, many of the show's male characters are also depicted showing little regard for their wives or girlfriends, flagrantly cheating on them. But the show's creator Matthew Weiner does not think the characters would have very different motivations had the series been set in the present day.

The 48-year-old, who is also lead writer and showrunner of Mad Men, says: "Even though so much has changed, the basic problems are still there. I don't think they even began in that period.

"Men are constantly torn between being the ideal family person and being the adventurer, and these are the same issues in most men's lives (today) that are in these characters' lives. They're not expressed as dramatically but the desires and conflicts are there."

He adds that the relatability of such issues is one major reason the show has become such a hit with viewers. "Emotionally, things good or bad haven't changed, and that is part of why the show resonates with people. It's not so archaeological. It's emotionally pretty fresh."

Now that the show is in its last season, you would think that he would start getting all sentimental about it. But Weiner says he is trying to treat it the same way he has been treating the show's previous seasons. "I feel like every finale that we've had every season is an end to the series. We're just trying to take it like a normal season except for the fact that this will be the last time we see these characters."

Still, he admits to feeling some "pressure" about ending the show in a way that fans will agree with. "I watch a lot of TV and I love TV, so I know the responsibilities involved with it. It's a lot of pressure," he says without reserve.

"To me, I'm just looking for the end of the story that has some satisfying conclusion and some observations in a way about the characters and the journey that they went on."

Weiner, who was a writer and an executive producer on the acclaimed series The Sopranos (1999-2007), makes it clear that Mad Men is ending within its natural lifespan.

"Usually television shows end because someone comes in and says people stopped watching, like 'We're pulling the plug and if you want to wrap things up next week, you can.' We're not in that situation. All I can say is express gratitude for that. That's a unique benefit of whatever success we've had."

He is more ambiguous about whether he would have managed to accomplish everything he set out to do by the end of the show. "That's a big question. I mean, I want to entertain the audiences and provoke them to think about their own lives in a space that they still find exciting.

"But really, I want to be true to the characters. I would like to finish the show on a note that leaves them in a place where they'll be safe in people's imaginations if they watched the show the whole time, or if they pick it up in whatever form it's in some time from now."

Weiner, who is married to an architect and has four sons, starts to sound nostalgic. "I want to emotionally survive the experience of the end of the series because it is a big part of my life. It's a strange thing to think about it going away, even though I chose it."

Next up for him is the film You Are Here, starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler, which he wrote and directed.

"The urge to write and create in some way has not been satisfied or exhausted by this experience. I'm looking forward to doing more of it, whatever the results. I don't expect to have Mad Men happen again, at least the response to it and its success. But on my end of things, I do expect to write things like that again."

Yip Wai Yee

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