Matthew Weiner had a good feeling about “Mad Men” from the start. But, he never imagined that his series about the people working at an advertising agency in the ’60s would go on to be one of the most highly praised programs in TV history.
Among the treasury of accolades for the series was it being named “Outstanding Drama Series” at the prime-time Emmy Awards for four consecutive years. Only “The West Wing,” “L.A. Law” and “Hill Street Blues” won the honor as many times.
It should be noted those three programs won the top honor when there was less competition from cable and online programs. And, “Mad Men” was the first basic cable program to accomplish the feat.
The impressive seven-year run of “Mad Men” is coming to an end with the first of the final seven episodes airing April 5. It will end after 92 episodes with the six original cast members — Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss and Vincent Kartheiser — still in place.
“They’re all here. They all were integral in the story. You got to see them change over all this time,” Weiner says. “It’s just been this incredible experience. ... I can’t wait for people to see this.”
What will unfold in the final episodes is more of the story about the cutthroat world of advertising during the ’60s in New York. That world has served as a backdrop to stories about divorce, adultery, racism, drug use, women’s rights and politics.
Weiner is proud of what was accomplished on “Mad Men.”
“I think that the acting was consistent and surprising. I think the writing was always experimental at times. It was a very high degree of difficulty. Whatever we did to allow us to let them keep us working all the time, that has been mysterious,” Weiner says. “I don’t know if I could ever figure that out again.”
At the center of the boardroom and bedroom activities has been Hamm’s Don Draper, a man who balances good looks with emotional problems.
Hamm had been a working actor years before “Mad Men” came along. But the series made him a star and earned him a long list of awards recognition, including winning a Golden Globe and earning seven Emmy nominations.
When he saw the first script for “Mad Men,” Hamm also knew it was something special. But he never anticipated it would become so honored, admired and loved.
“There’s no version of it that I can imagine in my mind that would equal what actually happened. And not only creatively and what we got to do and what I got to do in playing this person, but tangentially, this amazing group of people that I got to get to know,” Hamm says. “There’s not a lot of jobs you can point to, at least in our world, that have that impact. At the end of the day, this experience has been unequivocally wonderful, and I’ll miss it.”
No one got to see more workplace change in their character than Moss, whose Peggy Olson slowly emerged from quiet obscurity to major force. Her character, more than any other on the show, represented the dramatic changes that went on during the ’60s with women in the work force.
Despite her character’s role in the office changing dramatically, Moss believes Olson never changed as a person.
“I’ve never really seen some things coming, but then, again, I feel like often I’ll read something and be like, ‘Oh, that’s been being set up for the last 12 episodes, and I just didn’t see it.’ I think the thing I’m most surprised (by) is that she actually hasn’t changed in a lot of ways,” Moss says. “I think that Peggy has retained a lot of her qualities that she’s had since the beginning in good ways and in bad ways.”
The way Moss brought the character to life was strong enough to earn her five Emmy nods.
It all comes to an end with the march to the finale. The last cigarettes will be smoked. The last inappropriate comments will be made. The last drinks in the office will be poured.
Because Weiner and his team knew the end was coming, they were able to write seven shows so that each feels like a finale. Every episode was written with the fans in mind who supported the show during its run.
“I’m trying to delight them and confound them and not frustrate and irritate them. I don’t want them to walk away angry. I don’t want to pander to them. Sometimes people have to be protected from what they want to see happen, and the story has to have its own organic thing,” Weiner says. “You can’t just give them everything that they want. And the show has never done that, and part of that is not just striving to be original. It’s striving to tell a story that you don’t know, and you hope it feels inevitable when you get there.”