Saturday, May 23, 2015

Coke. Is. It. And Mad Men Ends.

“I had a dream I was on the shelf in the refrigerator. Someone closes the door and the light goes off, and I know everybody's out there eating. And they open the door and you see everyone smiling and they are happy to see you but maybe they don't look right at you and maybe they don't pick you. And then the door closes again, the light goes off.”

This epiphany-inducing speech by Mr. Average at the Esalen-like retreat is strange, as dreams often are, until you realize that he dreamt he WAS—Kafka-like—a bottle of Coca-Cola. And he was worried that people were going to go for the Chablis on the door instead of him!

Yes, the entire Mad Men series was about Coca-Cola, pure and simple.


I appreciate that the Mad Men finale has been analyzed from every angle known to man, and a few that may be extraterrestrial in scope.

So in my week-later piece,  I'd like to start with a solecism in the all-hallowed Hilltop Coke song that everyone has blithely chosen to overlook:

And that is the bizarreness of "honey bees" and "snow white turtle doves" as direct objects of the transitive verb "grow."

"I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love

Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

Come on people, this syntax makes no sense!
You "raise" honey bees and turtles dove, you don't "grow" them. 

And insult to injury: the the meter of the underlying jingle throws a stress on the word "snow" equal to the word "grow"--on top of the natural word rhyming-- making it seem as though it's a parallel verb construction:  "grow tress" and "snow white turtle doves."

Just wanted to put this out there. It's really has been bothering me since I was a kid.

Reverse Angles

Don's unlikely lotus position immediately brought a  reverse angle image into my head: Michael Keaton's opening scene of Birdman. For me Don chanting Ohm in Big Sur was as surreal as Riggan Thomson levitating in the same position in his dressing room.

That said, the interesting thing about the big reveal of Don as the creative genius behind "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"--called one of the greatest commercials of all time--is that it illuminates for people their own view on advertising itself.

Me: I've never given advertising much of a thought one way or another. I accept the premise--"they" are going to try to sell me something--and I move on. I don't contemplate if they are toying with my emotions, because I don't invest enough in the ads.

People who see the finale as cynical have strong feelings about the evils of advertising. That what was a "real" moment of life as Don chanted at the Esalen-like retreat became perverted to peddle colored sugar water to the world. Hence Don has not changed, when if he had not created the ad, and stayed away from advertising, he would be changed/redeemed.

I like how Tom and Lorenzo put it in their recap:

 *Don took a week of depressed middle class white people and turned it into a minute of hopeful, ethnically diverse teenagers.

*He went from selling cancer to the American public to selling obesity to the American public and he did it using a message of brotherhood and tolerance that he himself would never experience because of his upper middle class trappings.

*This is what we mean when we say the ending is a cynical one. We don’t necessarily mean that as a bad thing. Mad Men has always been a particular combination of capitalist-fueled cynicism and family-based hope.

Matthew Weiner defended the ad at the New York Public Library event:

“I think it’s the best ad ever made,” he said. “That ad is so much of its time, so beautiful — I don’t think it’s as villainous as the snark of today thinks it is.”

So Weiner doesn't worry about the multinational corporation that is Coca-Cola and its impact on Don's soul. That they try to sell "happiness" as carbonated water in a bottle.  That they pervert the whole concept of "it's the real thing."

I don't worry either. I am Coke fan myself. I love the refreshing taste. I know it's not great for me, but I don't drink coffee and everyone picks his own poison. When I first started traveling to Europe 30 years ago it was hard to find "Coca Lite" but every once it a while you would run into it in a little epicerie in the middle of nowhere, and you bet it made me smile. And it usually made the epiciere smile too, at the American who found the Diet Coke. Commerce is not all evil.

As for the finale and the series: From a character angle,  I had trouble with Don's epiphany coming from the refrigerator speech. I don't think that speech earned Don's breakthrough connection.

But then I never felt compelled by Don Draper the character. I enjoyed the artistry and style of a TV show that started with the distinct evocation of the 1950s and lead us throughout the decade.

These last episodes for me were a collection of Matthew Weiner's favorite things: particularly the enormous homage to Hitchcock.

But what Mattew seems to have loved most of all was the Coke commercial he saw when he was 6 years old. It's quite a story, especially why it's in Rome (it's because it was raining in England).  More details on Coke's own site.

I applaud people who are able to bring their passions into their work of any kind, and share it with the world, maybe even with a coke and a smile.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Men: Where Hitchcock Meets Lawrence of Arabia, and We Say Goodbye to Don

In the beginning there was Alfred Hitchcock. He liked mystery, intrigue, issues of identity, Cary Grant, and cold, cool blonds.

Quite the blueprint for Matthew Weiner. 

Mad Men opened with the the intriguing "falling man" while it's Roger Thornhill in Hitchcock's North by Northwest who is the original falling man (with what I think is a much more closely matched "fall" than the oft-cited Vertigo poster) and an advertising man to boot who can't get people to believe who he is once he gets mistaken for a spy.  And so we know whence Don Draper sprang fully formed from the head of Matthew Weiner.

Much of the magnetism of the series came from the evocation of the 1950s (which the series rightfully depicts as continuing on well into the 1960s). North by Northwest opened on July 28, 1959; Mad Men debuted on July 19, 2007. Weiner brought us the great visual quotes of the NxNW cornfield scene in "Lost Horizon," and the "Thornhill at bus stop in the middle of nowhere" quote in "The Milk and Honey Route." Weiner has elegantly achieved the homage to the Master.

The Plot: Through the series we've learned a bunch about how Dick Whitman became Don Draper, taking on the identify of his lieutenant in Korea, after he accidentally killed him.

And why did he want to change his identify? He had a difficult childhood. For me, none of this was why I watched. I've watched because of the visual beauty and artfulness, a distinct place on the TV landscape to spend an hour a week, sporadically through the years.

Everybody Loves a Mystery
So how will it all end? Don has been stripping himself of the Don Draper identifiers: his beautiful wife Megan; their apartment (and furniture, which her mother took); his advertising career; his first family; his car.

And . . . we last saw him at a Thornhill-like bus stop in the middle of nowhere. (h/t Michael Beschloss for the Cary Grant screen grab.)


Hmm.  Happiness, at having little left to lose, made me think of one person . . .


Thomas Edward Lawrence struggled with identity his whole life.  His father, Sir Thomas Chapman, was married with four daughters. They hired a nanny, Sarah, to help, and Tom fell madly in love with her.

He left his wife and daughters, and started a new life with Sarah, under the name Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. He never divorced his first wife, and he had five sons with Sarah, of whom T.E. was the second.

T.E. had an enormous intellect, which is what propelled him to great heights in leading much of the war in Arabia during WWI. He idenfitied with the Arabs, and believed he was fighting for their independence.  That's not what happened: Arabia was portioned off between the English & French. He felt he had been a fraud (this is all in enormous shorthand.)

When Lawrence returned to civilian life we was given a teaching gig at Oxford. Perfect, right? But he enlisted in the R.A.F. under the name John Hume Ross, to lose himself. When it was discovered who he really was, he was thrown out. Then he enlisted in the Royal Tank Corp, as T.E. Shaw. He didn't really like that and he petitioned to be let back in to the R.A.F, which happened in 1925. He served until 1935.  Two months after he left the service, at the age of 46, he was mortally hurt in a motorcycle accident, and died.

Lawrence wrote about his time in the RAF & the Tank Corp. in The Mint, which was published after he died. It is a tortured telling of wanting to be a complete non-entity.  Shedding all identity was the only way he could find peace, dare we say happiness. That's why he popped into my head when I saw Don's smile at having nearly nothing.

I don't think this has anything to do with the actual ending, but I did find Weiner made a reference to none other than David Lean's movie in a Washington Post interview on the idea of Jewish-ness & Other-ness. . . .HA!

"So when you start making a decision to represent people, and you have Ginsberg’s father, who’s a Holocaust survivor, who is from Poland, you’re gonna have him talk like Lawrence of Arabia?"

Clues That Have Been Dropped
John Slattery is on record as saying that the ending is "Of course."  I believe that Weiner has said that he's known how it will end since he started.

I love the D.B.Cooper idea.  Such a creative exercise, to take one of the great mysteries of the 1970s, and trace it back to who D.B. was before he disappeared.

Other than that, I'll just be happy with almost anything as long as it doesn't have any completely illogical occurence: like a man who clearly is dying of frostbite, in a car enclosed in ice with a dead battery, and then miraculously turns up in a kitchen in sunny Arizona . . .

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Songs Our Mothers Sang to Us: Happy Mother's Day 2015

Yoko & Isoko Ono; Ellen & Betty O'Neill

One of the great delights for me is stumbling upon a touchstone, and if it's one that has been long forgotten, all the better.

This one starts with a news article back in January that recordings of "lost" Desert Island Discs had recently been discovered by the BBC.

What is a Desert Island Disc? It is a unique interview show on BBC 4 that has been on the air since its first episode on January 29, 1942. That's 73 years and counting.

Each week a distinguished "Castaway" chooses 8 pieces of music that they would want on their desert island, along with one book, and a luxury item--nothing that can help them escape, but something that will improve their life.  They are also given the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and the Bible.

Mrs. Peel Is Found

In January, one of the missing Castaway recordings for Diana Rigg was found, which is why the series caught my attention. (The others found were Louis Armstrong, first Doctor William Hartnell, and creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, Rev. W. Awdry.)

I first heard about the radio program at a Tallis Scholars Summer Workshop, where Patrick Craig played the interviewer and Jan Coxwell was the castaway. That was loads of fun, and wherein I learned the song Puppet on a String, one of England's Eurovision song winners.

But it was the "lost" news announcement that brought me to the wonderful BBC website and the Castaway Archive, for which I am eternally grateful. The archive lets you search by Castaway name, or specific piece of music or artist (to see how many Bob Dylan songs are among the choices, for instance) or a specific book, etc.

That search function brings you so easily to the intimacy of the human voice. The voice of a loved one is one of the most precious aspects of the human condition. And then there are the distinctive voices of beloved public figures: Michael Caine's cockney-inflected accent; David Tenant's Scottishness; Alec Guiness's uber English clip. It is a delight to hear their stories about their choices in those voices that are so familiar.

Yoko Ono and Her Mother

One of the stories that I found profoundly touching was from Yoko Ono, recorded Friday, June 15, 2007, when she was 73 years old. 

It was for her selection of the song "When I Grow to Too Old Dream." Here is the story she tells of why she chose it.  Her distinctive, slight voice somehow made the story even more poignant and resonant:

Yoko:  "This is a very personal memory for me.

One day I just felt I wanted to call my mother.

The way she said "Oh Yoko" I thought there was something strange.

And then she said "I just fell in the kitchen," or something like that.

And I thought, this is serious and I thought I had to do something, but I was in New York and she was in Japan.

So I said, "Ok Mommy, let's sing that song, remember that song you used to sing."

and I started "When I grow too old to dream."

[And my mother started to sing back very weak and very haltingly.]

Ok. Let's start again, "When I grow too old to dream. . ." 

I kept repeating it and repeating it and she finally sang the whole line.

I was so choked up. And my assistant called to Tokyo, to the hospital and got the ambulance to go to my mother, and she was saved."

And that is how Yoko Ono kept her mother calm and alert while her assistant telephoned Japan and got her mother help.

"When I Grow Too Old to Dream" is a song with music by Sigmund Romberg and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, published in 1934. (Yoko Ono was born in 1933). It is one of those extremely special tunes, like Amazing Grace and Danny Boy, that strikes a chord deep within many, many people.

The terrible scenario of an elderly loved one who has fallen is one that every family has known.  Keeping her mother calm and alert was absolutely the thing to do, very quick thinking on Yoko's part. And of ALL the songs in all the world she could use, what pops into her head in that desperate moment is an English language song that her mother sang to her as a child. And I would say it's also because there is something about that tune that connects soul to soul very deeply.

I hadn't thought of the song in years, but my mother, who was born the same year as Yoko, sang it to me too when I was a child. 

What makes my mom's rendition so special is that she cannot "carry a tune."  My mother can hear distinctive notes in a song, and can recognize songs, but she struggles to re-create differing pitches of any kind. Her notes often come out as a monotone. And yet, her love of songs and desire to share was so strong that I did hear "tunes" come through that monotone. And this song in particular, which I have known practically since birth.

Yoko tells her story beautifully, and sings the fist line through twice. I hope you will click over to the Desert Island Discs website and listen to it, and all of her song selections, which of course include John Lennon.

Stumbling onto Yoko's story brought me an unexpected connection to the whole beautiful, shared notion of mothers & daughters, a choral connection across cultures and decades. Amazing.

When I grow too old to dream
I'll have you to remember
When I grow too old to dream
Your love will live in my heart
So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

The song was used in the 1935 film The Night Is Young, starring Ramon Navarro and sung by English light opera actress Evelyn Layne.

Leonard Maltin is not fan of the film: "Novarro, wretchedly miscast and mugging mercilessly, brings his 10-year MGM career to a pitiful end playing a Viennese archduke who spurns his royal fiancee for a fling with ballerina Laye. Oscar Hammerstein/Sigmund Romberg score, including "When I Grow Too Old to Dream,'' is an insufficient saving grace."

Gracie Fields and Nelson Edy had early hits with it, followed by Nat King Cole and Doris Day. Yoko used the Gracie version for her Desert Island Disc. That is not my favorite, because it's too operatic for such a gentle tune (although it does have the nice intro verse).  Here is Linda Ronstadt in a lovely duet with Kermit & Muppet chorus, also with the intro verse.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mont Saint Michel For Earth Day: Where Nature and Man's Most Ingenious Architecture Meet & Spirits Live

In the television adaptation of this blog, there would be a lovely fade from the illustration in this book page to the real thing, just like the opening of Moonlighting's "Atomic Shakespeare."

The drawing is from an essay by Christopher Morely called  "A Sea Shell in Normandy" in the collection of his essays, The Romany Stain, which I have had since high school because my father picked it up in a used book store for me.

The photo is from my iPhone last month.

Although Morely's essay on Mont Saint Michel from 1926 has quietly been a part of my literary life for decades—looking up at me every time I dipped into the collection because it is the first page of the first essay—I had no particular desire to go see it.  Being there in person was a series of random events: I met singers in Assisi last summer, who have been meeting up in Brittany for years for a privately organized workshop that they invited me to join. I said yes without looking into many details, including where the small villages of La Fontenelle (the birthplace of composer Jean Langlais) and Antrain actually are.  Turns out Antrain is a 1/2 hour drive from Mont Saint Michel, which is technically in Normandy, et voila. It was a lovely small emotional connection back to my father, who died a few years after he gave me the book, made more poignant because it was unexpected.

Happy Earth Day: No Man Is an Island, But Mont Saint Michel Is

I visited the Mount driving from Portorson, which brings you to the large car park and from there walked the two miles on the new causeway to the entrance. The tide was extremely low, so I did not experience the "island"-ness, but the relentless, driving rain for two miles gave me the sense of achieving some kind of pilgrimage, and it kept the crowds way down, which astonished the friends I traveled with who had visited when there were wall-to-wall tourists.

Earth Day is a lovely time to consider other pilgrims, new and old, who approach from the small village of Genet, walking across an enormous expanse of mud flats that disappear under high tide.  To do that walk you need to go with a certified guide.  Pilgrims of yore were killed when the high tide came in quickly and swept them away, or they wondered into a quicksand patch, which Morely notes in his essay. This photo beautifully captures the expanse of those plains, and the small humans trekking across to the abbey, seen in shadow.

There is a lot of discussion going on in France now about how/if the tides should be controlled/damned or not. One faction fears that if the they aren't controlled, the amount of silt build-up will actually connect the island to the mainland by 2040, and the Mount will lose its distinctive character. (Photos from this Smithsonian article.)

An American on the Mount

"With the genuine thrill and and tingle of the pilgrim you climb, cricking your neck at the noble sheer of those walls and struts that lean upward and inward to carry to the needle of the spire. You can almost feel the whole roundness of earth poise and spin, socketed upon this stoney boss of peace.

You think of the Woolworth Building. "  Christopher Morely

The Mount's origins are in AD 708 when the Bishop of nearby Avranches saw the Archangel Michael in a dream who told him to built a sanctuary on an existing Mont Tombe, and it was renamed "Mount Saint Michael at the peril of the sea." The Archangel Michael is the head of the heavenly militia. (John Travolta made an interesting Michael in Nora Ephron's 1996 film, although it was odd for the great warrior to be playing Cupid.)

The Benedictines moved into the Mount in the 10th century and it became a great pilgrimage site as the the village grew outside its walls. The abbey continued with various eras of construction over hundreds of years under several patrons.

And it is the construction of the enormous abbey that astounds. From the Mount's info pamphlet:
"Constrained by the pyramidal shape of the Mount, the medieval  builders wrapped the buildings around the granite rock."

From an excellent Smithsonian article:
"But only about half of the church sits solidly on rock; the other half, called the choir, is perched somewhat perilously on top of the two levels of buildings below."

As the builders built up, they had to continue to build down,  creating huge crypts that would offset the upward weight.

Morely: "You saw, I hope, those great columns in the crypt, where the veins of stone rise to their task as smoothly, as alive with living strength, as the cords of a horse's haunch."

I did indeed.  This picture does not do justice to the enormity of these columns.

The cloister is stunning, the Knight's Hall is an amazing expanse, the view from the town below, looking straight up, gives a good sense of the perch, the rock the abbey is sitting on . . .

And Then There Are the Spirits

The Mount has been a very holy place, and then a very unholy place. It was an impregnable stronghold during the Hundred Years War, its ramparts and fortifications able to resist all of England's assaults, which they say lead to the abbey being a symbol of national identity.

During the French Revolution—with the dissolution of the religious communities—and through to 1863, the abbey was used as a prison.

Between the lives of the monks, the killing of English, and the torture of the prisoners, a lot of souls have passed through those towering walls.

Now, the north-south stairs run below the west terrace, which is the main circulation axis of the Romanesque monastery. The stairs are very steep, and for some reason as I was walking up them I stopped to take a picture, and was amazed at what I saw through the iphone:

An optical illusion, surely. If I took one step more, it went away. If I went back a step, it disappeared. It only materialized from one, specific, space.

It was a wonderful interplay of Nature with the genius of human engineering. Or was it . . .

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"He had every gift but length of years" The Irish Know of What They Speak

"He had every gift but length of years" is from Ted Kennedy's eulogy for his nephew, John Kennedy.  I've always thought the same about my dad, who died thirty years ago today, April 16, 1985.

Not as young and tragically as John Kennedy, or his father JFK, but much too young, just as his  children were young adults, long before there were grandchildren to know, or the chance to retire with my mom, or any of those things.

This April has quite a few milestone anniversaries, two of which are an epic overlap: Lincoln shot on April 14, dies on April 15;  and the Titanic is hit by an iceberg April 14 and sinks April 15 103 years ago. Then dad on April 16.  Which happened to be the Tuesday right after Easter, 1985, and the idea of a little miracle of him getting better was floating around my head.

This photo was taken in Eisenhower Park on Long Island, where we had an annual picnic with family and friends.  My mother sang the song "Bicycle Built for Two" to me from my birth; so it was exciting to actually ride on one; and that meant I could be smug about the whole 2001: A Space Odyssey reference of "Daisy, Daisy" when I got to it in college --because I knew the song and had ridden one for years as a kid; and now the next generation is getting their own "Daisy Bell" with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Cal/Skye, which made me think of this photo in the first place. Another instance of why I love pop culture.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14, 1865: Another Shot Heard 'Round the World

 April 14, 2015: 150 years since that Good Friday when Lincoln is shot in the head by an assassin. He will die in the early hours of April 15.  Some thoughts about Spielberg's film from 2012.

My Thanksgiving is always tied to three other events, two personal, one national: the birthdays of my brother and a dear friend; and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Because it's a fixed day not date, all 3 of these other events are sometimes on Thanksgiving itself, and always within the holidayness: JFK was murdered on November 22. The birthdays are the 24 & 25.

In 1963, Thanksgiving was on the last Thursday in the month, November 28, so it was not tangled into the national mourning, although John John's own third birthday, November 25, was the date of the State Funeral. But when the holiday was moved to the third Thursday, the assassination became a constant faint echo of great loss amid great Thanksgiving for those who listen.

I went to see Steven Spielberg's Lincoln the day after Thanksgiving, and so it was caught up in the echo of the Kennedy assassination. It might be at any time, but the fate of the calendar underscored the experience. It reminded me of "the list" that first appeared in 1964 of noted coincidences between the two men, such as "Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy who told him not to go to the theatre; Kennedy had a secretary named Evelyn Lincoln who warned him not to go to Dallas."

Some of the facts on the list have been debunked, but the there is still a psychic bond between these two gaping head wounds in our country's history.  It's much more of a connection than with the other two presidents who were assassinated—James Garfield, 1881, and William McKinley, 1901—whose murders go unheralded, certainly unfilmed.

Forced Modernism & Missing People
I was glad to see Lincoln, but I was not emotionally connected to it. Its strivings for the elegiac left me cold, and I'm generally a weeper where Lincoln is concerned. (Which was the case when I visited the Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield a few years ago.)

Tony Kushner is being lauded for the script, based on Doris Kearns Goodwins's book Team of Rivals. But I found it filled with forced exposition with an unnatural self-consciousness that pulled me out of the moments it was trying to build.

For instance:

Mary Lincoln says something like, "they'll only remember me for being crazy." Was Mary Lincoln that self-aware? At the end she says something like, "what would they say, a man taking his lady out for a carriage ride on Good Friday." Yes, it's good to remind people that Lincoln was shot on Good Friday (can the man be any more mystical?) but it sounds clunky to me.

I thought the soldiers quoting the Gettysburg address at the beginning was cheesy, extra cheesy that the black solider finishes the line.

The scene with the couple from Ohio? [I can't remember the state] asking about the toll road was overdone in hammering the point that Lincoln really wants to know the woman's opinion on the 13th Amendment "what do YOU think?" But as I said, I'm in the minority about the script.

On the other hand, there is lots of discussion about what historic figures were left out. For me, Frederick Douglas and no mention of Sherman are the top of the list (although I think the one huge conflagration we see for a few frames is the burning of Atlanta). But then, the "story" is so very complex, it couldn't be told if the focus wasn't narrowed, and that means missing people.

Meeting Lincoln. What Would Abe Do?
The thrill of the film is Daniel Day-Lewis. He is the Brady photos come to life, with the better angels of Lincoln's writings for flesh and blood.

Where I find the script is very strong is in telling the complex story of history so clearly. I'm sure there are differing opinions on every specific point, but that notwithstanding, it depicts what a master politician/manipulator the supreme legal eagle was. As others have noted, what seem to bother him most about the South seceding was that it was illegal, plain and simple. A nice recap of this point is from Adam Gopnik.

The part about "history" that fascinates me is that you don't get to tell any of the tidy versions of "history" until you are removed from elements by time.

I went to see the movie in Seaford, Long Island. It was a town badly hit by Sandy, and I wanted to contribute to its economy. On the ticket taker window was a postcard of the Twin Towers, with Never Forget. Five graduates of Seaford High School died in the towers, 3 in the NYFD, 2 in Cantor Fitzgerald. It took me back. I hadn't thought about 9/11 in a while, but it is our always present, living history.

How different would our recent history would have been if we had had a Republican leader the caliber of Lincoln in 2001. The mind reels.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Sunday 2015: And Mad Men's Era Begins Its Descent into TV History

This is not today's table, but a picture of the lovely dining room of the bed & breakfast I stayed in in Antrain, France, for my polyphony workshop. It captures a chic Easter-ness for me, in that effortlessly French kind of way. Happy Easter to all who celebrate (and to the Jews, "nice try"--funny line on Saturday Night Live Weekend Update last night!)

The Madness Starts to End

Today is a unique Easter Sunday in the annals of this Christian celebration because it is also the premiere of the second half of the last season of Mad Men.  Don & company certainly look dressed for Easter, circa late '60s/early '70s. 

As a fan of Burn Notice, I found an interesting comparison between the series when I was researching Michael and Fiona, not Don and Betty/Megan/Suzanne/Midge/Faye, etc.
Burn Notice  made its debut during the first summer of Mad Men (AMC), with .006 percent of its buzz but an audience many times its size. 
Gina Bellafante, Jan. 2009, The New York Times

And that audience size has remained relatively small: 

        'Mad Men' brings prestige, if not powerful ratings, to AMC

        Frank Pallotta for ABC, April, 2015.

What the audience lacks in size it makes up for in passion.  Personally I found the first two seasons excruciatingly slow.  All style, with a very compelling & tantalizing lead in Don Draper and the early, interesting 'who is he?' but overall the storytelling lacked momentum. I enjoyed the later seasons more, but have never loved the series. 

What I love is the community around the series, starting with the live blogging that my good friend Tom Watson and I did at the beginning, way back in 2007 before Twitter took over. I have written 25 posts on Mad Men, covering a lot of pop culture from many angles. And I still eagerly wait for recaps from Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall, and for the comments on both sites.

As for Don? Of all the Sundays that Matt Weiner could have brought back MM, it turns out to be Easter Sunday, the very definition of redemption. The series has not explored much of Don's spiritual side, maybe this coinciding signals redeeming of some sort will be a theme for the end of the story.

And of course, we're all very interested in what that final episode will be, how Weiner will end his story, though I am a firm believer in the Wimsatt's Intentional Fallacy: the author is not the oracle. What he intends, is not necessarily what happens, or what a reasonable audience reads. For me,  there is no question that Tony Soprano is dead.  I also believe that Walter White died in that car in New Hampshire, and the eerie, oddly lit last scenes where he visited key people in his life and tried to make amends is in his head as he is freezing to death.

All to say that I don't care as much about the character of Don Draper as I do the ending of one of the most distinct series on the TV landscape.

And because it still is Easter Sunday, I share a picture of my dad, back in his own #MadMen time before the crazy plaids descended. (I seem to be under siege by a very big bow.)