Paley Festival: Mad about 'Mad Men'

Jonhamm_madmenJanuary 13, 2008 should have been the night much of America was introduced to one of the best shows on TV. AMC's Mad Men won the Globe for best drama series and leading man Jon Hamm won best actor for his career-defining turn as secret-keeping 1960s Manhattan ad man Don Draper. Instead, there was a strike and a televised press conference and you may have forgotten about the whole thing.

"It was its own Hollywood experience," series creator Matthew Weiner said at Thursday (March 27) night's final session of the William S. Paley Television Festival. "As amazing as it must be to go up and accept a Golden Globe, we were on the roof of the Chateau Marmont."

Weiner was pleased to report that while much alcohol was consumed, nobody fell off the roof at the famed Hollywood hot spot, though as series co-star Rich Sommer admitted, "It was a complete shock to all of us."

Weiner reported that he had only just received his Globe, to which Hamm added, "I have mine mounted on my car."

While plenty of other panels at this Paley Festival may have attracted bigger crowds -- attendance on the second level at the Cinerama Dome was sparse at best -- but the audience was mighty respectful of a show that found its place onto many critics' Top 10 lists for last year.

"Our show isn't a guilty pleasure," Hamm explained. "It's just a regular old pleasure, and it's a pleasure you can take pride in experiencing."

Although AMC has renewed Mad Men for another season, Weiner declined to offer even the most minor of spoilers for the next run of episodes. While there have been rumors that the series will flash forward in time at least somewhat, Weiner said that the second season will still be in the '60s, which leaves a lot of leeway. After a first season in which nearly every major character experienced some sort of major personal, professional or health crisis (all three in many cases), Weiner still had some pessimism left, warning "I don't predict good things for any of these people" to the cast members on the stage.

In fact, the only person Weiner promised would survive is John Slattery's Roger Sterling, whose fate seemed the most precarious after two heart attacks last season. Weiner noted that his grandfather had six heart attacks.

"I might have added 50 pounds to my ingenue and I take big risks, but I don't want to do the show without John," he said.

"Not you, Slattery," [Jon] Hamm kidded.

But back to that part about adding 50 pounds to his ingenue. Weiner was referring to one of the most debated aspects of the show's first season, a plot point that I'm about to spoil if you haven't seen the first season. That would be the unplanned and unexpected pregnancy that added a major complication to the life of Elisabeth Moss' secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy.

"I think people had a hard time with it because they love Peggy and she's so smart," Weiner admitted.

Only Moss was told what was going to happen to her character and the other actors were clueless on why the West Wing veteran was suddenly either packing on the pounds or packing on the latex. Slattery admitted, probably only half in jest, to suspecting Moss had spent extra time at the craft service table. But for Weiner, the situation was not unrealistic and it was important to a character who already faced so many hurdles in the workplace that she couldn't believe or accept the idea of a pregnancy and so she didn't see it.

"And the more desexualized she became, the more she succeeded," he noted.

Weiner added, "I think Peggy is like only one other person in this show and that's Don and people are starting to see that."

Though Weiner wouldn't say when the next season would take place, he said the core issues would remain the same.

"Advertising only has one story and it's told over and over and over again and that's creative versus accounts," said The Sopranos veteran, who compared that struggle to the New York versus New Jersey mob conflicts on his earlier HBO show.

As for the show's lack of clear-cut moral heroes or obviously evil villains, I'll let Weiner have the last word.

"You must accept the fact that other people have a reason for why they're doing what they're doing."