News & Opinion


As they wait for series 5, the Manhattan fans of Mad Men prepare to party (like it’s 1966)

The Times

March 24, 2012


Matt Roush is preparing to get “spiffed up”. He has the grey flannel suit, white shirt and skinny tie. “Although I’m no Don Draper, sadly, I’d like to think I’m making a bit of extra effort with a pair of wing-tipped shoes”.

Roush, the television critic of TV Guide, is co-hosting one of New York’s most fashionable parties to mark the fifth season premiere episode of Mad Men tomorrow night at the Paley Centre media library and museum.

“For lots of fans it will be a night to dress up, a Hallowe’en out of season,” Roush says, “because the show really does transport you back to its era. It’s been away for so long people want to celebrate its return”.

The broodingly paced drama, set in the boozy, sexist, smoke-wreathed world of 1960s New York advertising, beloved of critics and its relatively small but vocal army of devoted fans, has been off air for 17 months after a dispute between its creator, Matthew Weiner, and the parent television net- work, AMC.

The hoopla — viewing parties, books, fashion spreads, even a special themed edition of Newsweek — attendant on its return is feverish, not least because a veil of secrecy surrounds what has happened to the show’s characters since the tantalising denouement of season four. Did Don marry his secretary? Will his icy ex-wife Betty still “look like Grace Kelly but behave more like Joan Crawford to her children”, as Roush puts it? How long will the red-headed siren Joan conceal from her husband that she is carrying another man’s baby? Will the proto-feminist Peggy receive the recognition and respect she deserves at work? Will Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce institute a smoking, drinking and inappropriate groping ban in their offices? Pah. We hope not.

Roush reveals — and look away now if you want to know nothing about the first episode, which will be screened on Sky Atlantic in Britain on Tuesday — that the “centrepiece event is a party, loaded with liquor and bad behaviour, which leads to something happening that you cannot believe you’re seeing”.The Paley Centre bash is far from the only one in Manhattan. At the Roosevelt Hotel on the Upper East Side a viewing party will include special cocktails and prizes for best dressed man and woman. The hotel  is where Don moved to when Betty kicked him out in season two.

The Roosevelt also features a popular Mad Men package: for $425 (£265) a night you get not only a room, but also Mad Men season four on DVD, two tickets to the Paley Centre, and Sixties-themed cocktails. At the New York public library, the librarian, Billy Parrott, has created a Mad Men reading list of books featured on the show, while at the Astor Centre there are Mad Men-themed classes on how to make drinks such as Tom Collins and Old Fashioned. But as Roush notes, the one thing you can’t do at most of the parties is indulge in Mad Men’s greatest transgression: smoking. So one of the most popular events will be in the cigar lounge at the Carnegie Club, one of the few places in Manhattan where one, can smoke indoors.

The shiny, commercial hype around Mad Men has its own irony: the show’s characters, Roush says, “are dark, fractured souls, most of all Don himself. While the show looks great and we watch the characters behave in ways, or say things, that seem outrageous today, these are damaged people at a time of great social change”.