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It has been a long ten months since we left Don Draper at the bar. But this Sunday, millions will return to the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Price for the season six premiere of "Mad Men" on AMC.
Series creator Matthew Weiner invited "The Lead" to come early. We got a behind-the-scenes look at the incredibly detailed office of Don Draper, and the set. The team behind "Mad Men" meticulously researches every vintage detail of Don Draper's environment. It can get a little crazy. Inside a market research report for Samsonite were detailed memos, and a job sheet.
"Growing up and watching people on TV and movies, actors, pick up suitcases to leave and seeing that they were empty, and I always thought, like, the actors can tell they're empty. And they know they're not going anywhere," said Weiner. "Maybe because I'm not an actor, and I don't know how they use their imagination to create three dimensional space, I wanted the set to be detailed, always."
The details matter. Since it premiered in 2007, "Mad Men" has received 15 Emmy awards and four Golden Globes. It also changed the game for AMC, paving the way for the high-brow scripted series that are now taking over cable TV.
HBO originally passed on the show, but it was the HBO series Weiner previously wrote for that he cited as a model for "Mad Men."
"I feel very lucky to be working in television right now. There is none of it without "The Sopranos." It really was both the creative and the business model," said Weiner. "In fact, AMC was very consciously trying to recreate that business model when they bought "Mad Men.""
HBO has expressed regret for passing on the show, and what a story they've missed. Heavy drinking, heavy petting, and heavy drama have kept viewers tuned in to a bygone era for five seasons.
Last season, there were some real changes with the women characters.
"Did women have it harder? Yes. Were there women pioneers? Yes. Were there exceptions to every rule? Yes. How did someone succeed in that world? I think the show resonates because things are not that different," says Weiner. "I don't want people to get a history lesson. I want people to know that these people could be their mothers."
The dark heart of "Mad Men" is mysterious, womanizing adman Don Draper, a character who in many ways appears to be a loner. Indeed the last line from last season's finale is a woman asking a silhouetted Draper, "Are you alone?"
"I think it's a big part of his life, yeah. And the ambiguity of that statement after we've seen this man having found love and seemingly left alone, I think, you know, there's an existential quality to him as a hero ... An existential quality that will soon enough come to an end," says Weiner.
The upcoming season is the second-to-last one.
"The reality of it is that the show has a life span. It is mortal," said Weiner. "You really want to end it before you've exceeded the ability to tell a story."
Weiner's previous show, "The Sopranos," literally kept viewers in the dark as to whether the family got whacked.
"It was so provocative," says Weiner of that show's ending, adding if he had thought of it, he would end "Mad Men" in a similar fashion, "but it's been done. So I will not."
The show creator added he will try "to use the machinery of my show to give a satisfying ending."
"The idea that people wouldn't like it would bother me," says Weiner.
This Sunday, the "Mad Men" premier is two hours long. Weiner calls it a movie to whet fans' appetites.
"There is a sense that someone like Don, and seeing the world through Don's eyes, who is now 40, is going to become out of touch," said Weiner. "And it's really the story for all of the characters. They're all sort of moving towards some kind of hopefully reconciliation with who they are, but there's quite a fire to walk through."