I have a diagnosed case of FOMS (fear of missing something) in my personal and professional life and I realized as a lover — and writer — of all things TV, it was completely unacceptable that I had not watched Mad Men. So on March 11, 2015, I embarked on the marathoning of every Mad Men episode ever to catch up before the series finale aired on AMC. The second half of Season 7 started on April 5 and by Sunday, April 26, I was finally caught up to watch the "Time & Life" episode live. (Thanks, Netflix!) I reached my goal a few weeks ahead of schedule to see Don Draper's tale conclude live in the series finale "Person to Person" on May 17 at 10 pm. And here's what I learned.
When the LOST series finale was impending five years ago (five!?!) in 2010, I did the same thing of spending my early spring months hooked to my TV. And with both series, I had no regrets on how I spent my time. Mad Men is a pop culture phenomenon for a reason. With so many friends with good taste and respectable critics raving about the show, I knew I would love the series once I started to watch it. While I hope fans can trust the opinion of someone who met Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, Joan Holloway/Harris, and Betty Draper/Francis over a period of two months rather than eight years, I do feel slightly like a Mad Men fraud. But as Peggy learned, you're not always prepared for the opportunities that present themselves to you, but as long as you put the work in, you can earn people's respect.
Longtime Mad Men fans — please respect my emergence into your world. And here are 15 things I learned while becoming hooked on Mad Men.
"What Would Don Draper Do?" Becomes Your Motto
Although this is not a good life motto if you respect the loved ones in your life, the thought of going on my own Don Draper-styled bender was slightly liberating. I could only imagine if I maintained this attitude for eight years though . . . eeee.
It's Bad For Your Lungs
I used to smoke cigarettes on a regular basis, but after quitting five years ago, I have prided myself on being able to have the occasional cigarette and not become a smoker again. Unfortunately, Mad Men changed that a bit. With the characters constantly smoking — and looking so damn cool (I'm an adult, I can say that) — I started smoking more regularly. Binge-watch three episodes, have a smoke break, right? (WWDDD?) Lucky for me, the show does discuss the health risks of smoking cigarettes, so now that I'm all caught up, my smoking jag is done.
And Your Liver
I also started drinking liquor while I'd watch. I'm a heavy drinker, but usually I stick to wine and beer — two forms of alcohol I know and love... and can control myself on. Liquor is a whole other beast (that's why Don switches to beer when he's trying to detox). But again, to be as suave as Don Draper, I decided to enjoy some boozy cocktails while I watched. And like Don often was, I'd be hungover the next day.
You Can Actually Overdose On The Show
Speaking of cigarettes and alcohol, there is a moment when you actually watch too much Mad Men. If I hadn't had my boyfriend (who was going on this journey with me) request breaks, I would have steamrolled through the show more quickly — and probably lost a lot of the subtle details in the binge. Mad Men is a show that deserves respect. And though not every episode may be perfect, each episode should be given your undivided attention. When too many details are getting mixed up, it's time to take a little break from Sterling Cooper & Partners.
But You're Almost Always Ready For Another Episode
The only time I didn't crave another episode of Mad Men instantly was during Season 1. The pace was a bit slow in the beginning and I already felt like I had understood the premise from all the hype. Of course, I knew nothing (Jon Snow) and by the last half of Season 1, I was completely hooked. "Click to play next episode," you say at a season's end, Netflix? Uh, considered yourself clicked.
Miraculously, Not Many Details Were Spoiled
Since I'm in the entertainment field, I keep up-to-date with shows that I don't even watch. I always knew I'd give Mad Men a try, so though I avoided spoilers, sometimes they just can't be missed. (Or sometimes you didn't even realize you read a spoiler until you actually get involved with show.) I'm very sensitive to not having plot points ruined for me, so I was sincerely amazed at how little I knew about what actually goes down in Mad Men. I knew Don Draper was a philanderer, had a mysterious past, and would get divorced from Betty and marry a young brunette woman, but that was about it. Peggy putting up her child with Pete for adoption, the existence of Lane (and his suicide), Sally's compelling storylines, and Joan having Roger's baby were all total surprises. (And yes, I realize that there are two surprising pregnancies in there, but they were pretty shocking storylines). I was thrilled to have creator Matthew Weiner's story unfurl for me in the way it should have — with no spoilers.
And You Wonder How No One Told You About The Ridiculous Dance Scenes
Trudy and Peter breaking it down at Roger's Derby Day party? (I'm not even going into Sterling's highly problematic performance that episode.) Ken Cosgrove's drug-induced tap dancing? Megan's performance of "Zou Bisou Bisou"? How had these dance-filled and lighthearted gems not been spoiled for me? I'll take it!
The Two Hour Episodes Were Magical Treats
When the Season 5 premiere started, I was confused why it's running time was 91 minutes, but giddy at the prospect. When it happened again for the Season 6 premiere, which was 92 minutes, it was gift from the Mad Men gods (aka Weiner). All other episodes are 47 minutes long, but since the show is so rich, the hour and a half episodes (with no commercials) were like mini-movies. Unfortunately, the show didn't repeat the trend for the Season 7 premiere.
As Were The Times Pete Got In Fist Fights
As Pete's ex-wife Trudy told him in "Time & Life," "Peter, you can't punch everyone." But I was pleased that Pete got punched so often since that's all I imagined doing to him since his character was introduced in Season 1. Oh, Pete, you smarmy (yet kind of lovable) bastard — how you feeling after getting punched out? "Not great, Bob!"
You Spend A Lot Of Time Thinking About How Don Draper Smells
Wait. Wait. Wait. You're telling me Don just went on a two-day bender, smoked approximately 1,000 cigarettes, and just had sex with a woman, and he still has the balls to crawl into bed with his wife? I call bullshit. I know he's super irresistible and that I'd want to have sex with him if I were in a 10-mile radius of him, but dude needs a shower before he rolls into bed with Betty and/or Megan. The show referenced him smelling a few times (thank goodness for backup drawer shirts at work), but not nearly enough for all of his antics.
Your Feelings For Roger Sterling Become Real... Real
I already knew I loved John Slattery, but I could not prepare myself for how much I would love Roger Sterling. Even when I hate him, I love him. Unlike Don, Sterling's dogging around doesn't bother me as much since he just kind of owns his horrible, womanizing ways. Trust me, I got real mad at Roger over the last two months, but I was always mad at Don more. No one makes me laugh out loud like Roger with his charming and sarcastic comments.
You Become Very Cynical About Faithful Relationships
I get a little too intensely invested with fictional characters. When Don proposed to Megan while he was dating the really amazing Faye Miller (no offense, Megan), I felt like Don had hit a new low and I needed some alone time — away from Don — to recover from his betrayal. Don's cheating on his wives Betty and Megan; Joan getting date-raped by her fiancé; the way Pete Campbell, Harry Crane, and even Kenny Cosgrove treated women over the years; and Roger's constant sexual encounters started to make me pretty depressed for the state of healthy relationships — and feminism in general. And watching it all go down in a condensed timeframe was just too much. Luckily, my committed boyfriend was there to remind me that not everyone is a Don Draper.
You Finally Understand The Allure Of The Mad Men World
I remember when Mad Men was the big TV hit when it premiered in 2007 and I tried jumping into a random episode (I know, I know — completely inappropriate) and it just didn't click. Now I get the love that the elusive Don Draper/Dick Whitman evokes from fans. I get why smart people love Peggy. I see Joan for the three-dimensional character she is and not just that actress who is often known for her body. Mad Men, like Downton Abbey, can just sound pretentious from descriptions, until you watch and meet the characters. I mean, there is an element of douchiness to Mad Men's marketing, but like anyone who has ever heard a Don Draper pitch, I'm now completely sold on the Mad Men product.
You Can't Believe It's Ending
Although I've jumped on the Mad Men bandwagon late, I hope fans will understand I've grown to love these characters. (If we are comparing my viewing to Don Draper's wives — yes, please — I'm more like a Megan rather than an Anna or a Betty.) I even may be more upset that the show will be over on May 17 than some longtime viewers since I haven't had years to analyze how Weiner will wrap it all up.
But You Know You'll Be OK
The show may be ending, but these characters will not soon be forgotten. I honestly think I could start the whole show from the beginning right now to relive the 1960s through the eyes of advertising executives on Madison Avenue all over again. It's comforting to know that's an option on Netflix (and your cable provider for the last half of Season 7) when Mad Men and AMC leave fans Draper-less after the series finale on May 17.