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MAD MEN (Season Four)

7/26/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

At the end of season three, Matt Weiner’s world of Madison Avenue Mad Men was unwinding.

The principal players of Sterling Cooper had
branched out on their own, beating the shop’s British
parent company’s sale to McCann-Erickson to the
punch. The exodus left the crew operating out of a
hotel room at the Pierre.

Meanwhile, creative director Don Draper’s (Jon
Hamm) secrets and serial infidelities were discovered
by wife Betty (January Jones) and she was depicted flying
to Reno to get a divorce.

Flash forward to the premiere of season four and
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is set up in a one-floor
office. A walk of the corridors reveals that Joan Harris
(Christine Hendricks) and Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss)
are back, the latter with a new copywriting partner.

Other familiar faces
from the first three
seasons are absent,
though. The lack of
a conference room
is a regretful running
joke.

Business isn’t
booming as the
firm tries to retain
its dwindling client
base and is involved en masse in pitches for long-shot
new business. Peggy and loathsome account exec Pete
Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) stage a stunt aimed at
turning a small account into something much larger.

For his part, Draper — misguided and duplicitous in
so many ways in his personal life — finally takes one
on the chin professionally. The slick one doesn’t come
off well in a trade article, of all things, and is properly
chided by partners Roger Sterling (John Slattery) and
Bert Cooper (Robert Morse).

Away from the office, Draper’s making do in a Greenwich
Village apartment, where his maid demands that
he eat something and he’s left shining his shoes after
his day of toil. Although Don informs Roger he hasn’t
been a monk — a point underlined by a lovely who
sates the creative genius’ penchant for playing rough
— Draper agrees to go out with a 25-year-old actress
friend of his partner’s young wife. The encounter, at
least in the first episode, doesn’t have a happy ending.

Still, most of the action occurs in the office, the place
where the show has always been its most interesting.
Let’s hope most of the plots continue to unspool in the
agency’s space in the Time-Life Building.

Indeed, Draper’s ex-wife Betty doesn’t appear with
new hubby and Nelson Rockefeller aide Henry Francis
(Christopher Stanley) until almost halfway through the
episode. The newlywed’s life appears complicated,
with improper behavior from daughter Sally (Kiernan
Shipka) and a less-than-receptive mother-in-law. Then,
there’s the bit about Betty not wanting to move out of
the Drapers’ Ossining abode.

Add it all up and creator Matt Weiner has new layers
and worlds to explore with his cast of characters positioned
in new circumstances and situations, against the
backdrop of the exploding Sixties. But as Peggy — now
more independent and a player in her own write, so
to speak — notes to Draper, “We’re all trying to please
you.”

That’s why many fans have been interested all along.

September