'Mad Men' Returns in April, the Hype Fatigue Starts Now

The Atlantic

So it's been announced that Mad Men, perhaps the most-beloved show of the current Quality TV age, will be returning for its sixth (and likely penultimate) season on April 7th. That's less than a year since the last season ended, a refreshingly short waiting period for a show that was off for a year and a half between seasons four and five. Most people are reacting to the news with excitement — the buzzy, sexy watercooler show will soon be back! And it will be spring! — but we're feeling a little more subdued. Not because we don't like the show. But because we know where too much hype can get us.

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Meaning, were we the only ones who kinda sorta started to hate Mad Men during the lead-up to the last season? It was hard not to, with all that incessant chitter-chatter. You know, the gushing and the theorizing and the armchair analyzing that wandered so far away from the actual show that it was hard to tell what anyone was talking about anymore. For a show like Lost, this kind of buzzing is fine; we're talking about a maddeningly complex web of mysteries and clues that were meant to be picked over and played with ad nauseam. Because that was the whole point, and ultimately it was just a fun, teasing game. But with Mad Men, we're talking serious themes and motifs — existential despair, emotional ruin and sexual anguish, historical anxieties quivering in the air. When the people of the Internet and beyond get to too much talking about that? Boy that can be tiresome.

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Not because people are wrong or shouldn't have strong opinions about something they like, but because inevitably (and this might be an indictment of the particular people who are fans of the show, ourselves included) the whole thing turns into a game of intellectual one-upmanship. Who can produce the most searing or elegant discourse on one line that Don said to Peggy, who's the most correct about what a particular historical allusion really meant. It turns into an aggressive game of haughty, even pretentious, pseudo-intellectualizing that begins to sour our opinion of the actual, y'know, show. Look at what we're doing right now! Here's yet another annoying meta-musing on Mad Men! This show just provokes it in people, and while much of it is interesting, the overall glut of it is too much.

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Yes, we should all be looking forward to Mad Men season six. Last year's strong, melancholy season ended intriguingly — Don perhaps retreating to his wayward philandering ways, Peggy unsure in her new elevated position outside the company, Roger continuing on whatever weird vision quest he's been on in his post-acid days. That was all meaty, juicy stuff that we should be excited about tearing into again. But this news about the April return, all the way here in bitter cold January, gives us some pause. If only AMC could announce the premiere of the show only the Friday before. Sure it'd suffer in ratings, but it might spare us some of the over-hyping that turns us sour on the show. Last season it took a few episodes to get out of our funk of over-saturation and remember that, hey, this is actually a hell of television series. Forget all the noise, here's the real deal, and it's good, very good. It'd be nice to not have to do that all reacclimation this time around. To just jump right in with eager mind and open heart.

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Again, a post like this certainly isn't helping the problem of Mad Men overkill, but maybe it will at least serve as an encouragement to some of us to avoid the Mad Men media scrum as much as possible. To wait until the season has at least started before we once again start tearing through it and analyzing with abandon. So, we're going to try to do a little "Yay, April!" cheer and then forget about the show until then. Maybe we'll watch the season finale ahead of time to prepare, but that's it. Hopefully that will cure the Mad Men hype blues, which seem to increasingly afflict us in the ever louder preamble to each season. Maybe some of you can try too! Sit back, have a drink, and close your eyes. And stay like that until your secretary buzzes and says, "It's on."

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