what up with that?

Matthew Weiner on Why Those Mad Men Previews Are Comically Stingy

Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) - Mad Men _ Season 6, Episode 10 _ 'A Tale of Two Cities' - Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC
Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) - Mad Men _ Season 6, Episode 10 _ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ - Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC Photo: Jordin Althaus/AMC

If you took anything away from the preview that teased last week’s episode of Mad Men, it was that Pete might or might not be going on a hunting trip (inconclusive fact: he’s brandishing a gun!), that Ginsberg may or may not have been taunting a colleague (he says “Bitter?” to someone), and that Harry might or might not have received some bad news from Don (he sports an anguished look on his face!). But as always, none of that crossed your mind in any serious way because Mad Men’s weekly sneak peeks have long been established as a post-meal treat — abstract, nonsensical reprieves from Don’s downward spiral that tell you absolutely nothing about what will happen “on the next episode of AMC’s Mad Men.”

Series boss Matthew Weiner, who may well be TV’s strictest spoiler-phobe, knows he’s lucky that the comically stingy weekly teasers haven’t led to a full-scale fan revolt but have instead become one of the show’s quirky trademarks. “I have tied their hands,” he tells Vulture, referring to the network’s promo department, “and I’m amazed at what they do with the restrictions I have given them. Over the years, it’s evolved into this semaphore of storytelling.” Not surprisingly, Weiner says that if he had his way, there would be no peeks at all. “We pay so much money for that music at the end of the show that I don’t really understand why we even have a promo for next week,” he says. “I don’t want to reveal anything!” (He got his way for the teaser previewing this Sunday’s season finale; the sneak peek contained no new footage at all.)

So what are his instructions to the promo department, exactly? Call it attrition warfare. “First it was like, ‘Please don’t mention anything beyond the first twenty minutes of the show, please don’t spoil this story, please don’t spoil that story.’” he recalls. “Then there was the idea of, ‘Can you at least do what they used to on The Sopranos promos, which is to make it look like it’s some other kind of story?’ That required a ridiculous amount of effort and wasn’t always possible, even in The Sopranos promos. Eventually, they sort of evolved into this kind of non sequitur thing.”

They now have it down to a science, although Weiner says he will still step in to, for example, nix any footage of Betty so her appearance is kept a surprise. “It’s really a tall order, which is, ‘Can you promote next week’s show? You cannot tell any story and you cannot show most of the interesting shots.’ I’m so glad people are enjoying it because when people are making fun of the show, it’s just as much fun to me as when they’re telling me they love it.”

Matthew Weiner on Those Mad Men Promos