Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men. (Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC)

I can't believe how cold the opening episode of the last season of "Mad Men" left me.

How did I once love this series so much and how could I now be so indifferent to its final stretch of seven episodes that begins April 5 on AMC?


Creator Matthew Weiner, who wrote the April 5 episode, sent along a letter with all the story lines he doesn't want reviewers talking about. By the time you get to "Don's romantic life," there is not much left on the table for discussion.

If I even mention the title of the opening song, I'm giving away the year in which the episode is set, and that's another thing Weiner says is a no-no.

That's OK. I don't want to be accused of spoiling any fan's pleasure.

I fell out of love with this series when it stopped aspiring to be The Great American Novel and settled for being The Great American Glossy Magazine Cover – or maybe just a sexy and pretty catalog cover for men's and women's clothing.

In other words, "Mad Men" lost me when it became more artifice, staging and appearance than storytelling and insight into post-World War II American consciousness and life.

I know there was a bigger audience and more Madison Avenue money and social media buzz for a show that made viewers think Brooks Brothers or even Banana Republic as they watched and discussed it online, but for me the bitter irony of this super-promising series losing its soul to the modern-deconstruct was really too much to swallow.

In truth, the split was already set in motion by the opening episode of Season 3, which was set in Baltimore and featured London Fog as a client of Don Draper's firm.

After screening the episode, I did a Sun story interviewing one of the people dramatized in the episode, Jonathan Myers, son of London Fog founder Israel Myers about the accuracy of their depiction.

Here's some of what I subsequently wrote:

Like many critics, I had praised the series for its rich period detail through the first two seasons. But what I saw in the Baltimore episode wasn't so pretty, particularly in the depiction of Jonathan Myers, the former president and CEO of London Fog, and his father, Israel Myers, who founded the firm known for its raincoats.

They were so misrepresented, according to Jonathan Myers, that I felt as if Weiner had in a way misappropriated their very identity — a little like the series back story of Draper stealing the identity of a dead soldier in the war. Other episodes and other details have fallen under similar scrutiny in publications like The New York Times and Playboy.

Some fans, as well as some of my more "Mad Men" adoring colleagues, are still mad at me for the cognitive dissonance the facts of such real research -- as opposed to the stuff Weiner's staff sometimes does -- has caused them.

As a critic I stayed with the series, of course. But it was work – no longer love.

But even by those standards, the April 5 episode was a non-starter for me.


I think it might be the tension between what the series has become and what Weiner is falsely trying to sell it as being.

It's there in one of the first scenes featuring a Don in a tuxedo. No reason for him to actually be a in a tuxedo, except the Brooks Brothers sell: "Mad Men" as a glossy magazine.

But wait, there's a waitress in the scene and she's reading John Dos Passos. Oh, and Roger comments on it -- just in case anyone misses the reference -- proving what literary television this is.

The genius of "Mad Men" might be in how it allows some viewers to engage at the level of leafing through the New York Times Sunday magazine looking only at the ads, and feeling like they are engaged in some kind of deep cultural conversation.

I will hazard a guess that Weiner is going to try in these last seven episodes to save the soul of "Mad Men."

But looking at the season opener, I think it's too late. Once you sell your artistic soul to the devil of advanced consumerism, you don't get the chance to buy it back at legacy time.