April 7, 2013

Get set for 'Mad Men' Season 6

It's been 10 long months since we last witnessed existential crises masked by Canadian Club and brothel visits, or pondered the difference between capris and cigarette pants, or marveled at how grown up that Sally Draper was getting.

It's been 10 long months since we last witnessed existential crises masked by Canadian Club and brothel visits, or pondered the difference between capris and cigarette pants, or marveled at how grown up that Sally Draper was getting.

"Mad Men," the extraordinary series set in Madison Avenue high-rises and in the depths of the soul, returns for its sixth season at 9 tonight (with repeats at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.) in a special two-hour premiere on AMC.

The series no doubt will continue to explore the changing gender roles and mores of the 1960s through its deeply complex characters and its advertising-world setting, which provides a window into the tastes of the time.

Speaking of tastes, the series' likely move into the freewheeling later 1960s probably will not lessen its characters' alcohol consumption. Man and woman, advertising sellout and beatnik, these people are champs at tippling.

Any "Mad Men" preview comes with "likelys" and "probablys," because series creator Matthew Weiner gives details about forthcoming episodes about as freely as Don Draper offers details about his past.

Instead of guessing about Season 6, let's get up to speed for watching it by revisiting where Season 5 left off.

It was spring 1967, and two lovely young women were flirting with Don Draper in a bar. For the first time in a long time, Don looked tempted. Perhaps that's because his secretary-turned-wife Megan had turned needy, urging Don to use his clout with an ad-agency client to snag her an acting gig.

Don's work soulmate, Peggy, fed up with being taken for granted, had just left the nest for a more lucrative gig with a rival agency. The always wormlike Pete went nuts over his shock-treated mistress, and all the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency was still in shock because of partner Lane Pryce's suicide.

And Joan oh, Joan.

As further reminders of the greatness of the first five seasons, here are sketches of the show's main characters and a look at the best episodes so far.


Drink of choice: Whiskey, Old-Fashioned

Defining trait: Highly creative and highly decisive, even if his decisions are bad ones. Has trouble with monogamy. Can be very kind to women with whom he is not sleeping (Peggy, Joan, the real Mrs. Don Draper).

Biggest secret: He's not really Don Draper. His name is Dick Whitman. He switched identities with his dead Korean War lieutenant.

JOAN HOLLOWAY HARRIS (Christina Hendricks)

Drink of choice: Depends on the company. Might be a 7 and 7, might be a Greyhound. It's a mystery, like Joan's system of undergarments.

Defining traits: Tragic pragmatism. Unflagging likability. Brick-house figure.

Biggest secrets: Prostituted herself for a promotion. Passes off Roger's baby as her (estranged) husband's.

PEGGY OLSON (Elisabeth Moss)

Signature drink: Whiskey

Defining traits: Creative, smart, assertive, adventurous. Gets prettier every season. Like Don, can shut off her emotions regarding her biggest secrets (see below). Also like Don, she's open to one-night stands.

Biggest secret: The baby with Pete.

ROGER STERLING (John Slattery)

Signature drink: Anything with gin or vodka

Defining traits: Witty. Sarcastic. Sharp dresser. Realist.

Biggest secrets: He should have kept his LSD trip a secret, but he couldn't stop blabbing. Slept with the Methuselah-like Mrs. Blankenship when she was (slightly) younger.

PETE CAMPBELL (Vincent Kartheiser)

Drink of choice: Whatever his clients are drinking. Cracks a beer when he goes home to the suburbs.

Defining traits: Underhandedness and entitlement. This can make him very effective at work.

Biggest secret: Where to start? Cheats on his wife. Fixates on the women with whom he cheats. Fathered a baby given up for adoption by Peggy (granted, he did not know this until much later).


Drink of choice: Vodka gimlet

Defining trait: Bitterness. Mona Lisa smile. Determination to give her children complexes.

Biggest secrets: Harbored desires for her riding instructor, gave creepy neighbor child Glen a lock of her hair to cherish.

MEGAN DRAPER (Jessica Paré)

Drink of choice: Wine

Defining traits: Zou Bisou Bisou-er. Will not let Don bully her. Nice to stepdaughter Sally. Bit of a whiner.

Biggest secret: Undercut the actress pal who asked for Don's help in landing a TV commercial. She took the gig instead.

SALLY DRAPER (Kiernan Shipka)

Drink of choice: Shirley Temple, but she's mixed stronger drinks for adults at her parents' cocktail parties.

Defining traits:Curiosity, intelligence, stubbornness. Love for her father. Speaks just like her mother, whom she resents. Holds inexplicable affection for creepy Glen.

Biggest secret: Hasn't happened yet.

Carla Meyer picks top episodes from five 'Mad Men' seasons
Call The Bee's Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118.. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.

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