Time to put the ashtray on the table, shake up the ice-dispenser and straighten the magazines.
Mad Men Season 5 is nearly here.
The UK premiere hits our screens tonight on Sky Atlantic, with a level of hype and anticipation unusual for a series that was bumped around the schedule and didn't exactly threaten Downton Abbey for ratings when it first turned up.
So, while higher-minded critics than this debate the morals of the piece, the style of the show and its place in pre-Kennedy-assassination American idealism, we shall content ourselves with a quick look at the enduring totem that is Don Draper, and why, despite his affairs, his crimes and general skullduggery, we can't wait to see him again in all his starch-pressed coolness. There are obviously a million reasons - here are just five...
1. His Office Politics
If Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) continues to scratch and crawl her way up the corporate tree of Sterling Cooper, Don D continues to sit purring happily, a big alpha cat sunning himself on his favoured branch. It helps that while others are striving to be recognised, praised and rewarded, he is utterly secure in his creative talents.
Even when he disgraced himself, stealing credit (and award!) for Peggy's Glocoat campaign, he operated like a cool killer shark, not splashing around like the lesser fish, and you always get the impression through the interminable group meetings that he'd really rather be by himself, peeking through the blinds, sitting back, crossing his well-ironed-trousered legs and having a solitary smoke. A lean, lone machine that a part of us would all like to be.
2. His Women
Well, yes, there's no two ways about it - he's the devil. If he dresses and seduces like Cary Grant, he chases and ensnares with the energy of Tommy Lee. From the very first season when we saw his calm, unruffled affections for wife Betty (January Jones), only to see him exchange these for more illicit, torrid charms - all at the ring of a telephone and an unscheduled 'working lunch' - it was clear that this is a man capable of living a double existence without trouble. But Don's not for blaming - it's obvious he's just a man in desperate need of his true soul-mate and, although fans obviously need it to be Peggy, thus far, she's the only woman who has resisted his armoury of wooing weaponry. (Although hints are this may change...)
Four seasons later and one thing's for sure - it's not Megan, the woman he's just married. Female fans can breathe a sigh of relief - he's still for the taking.
3. His Background
If Don Draper is the man everyone wants to be, it helps to know that he is by no means a naturally successful being, but rather the result of a monumental effort of social and mental engineering, a totally self-conscious Gatsby-esque recreation by Richard 'Dick' Whitman, a man from far humbler beginnings, who swapped his identity with that of his dead Korean war comrade.
We watched with horror as he dealt with the threatening intrusion of such reality by his brother in brutal fashion in the very first episodes, and rooted for him when he looked for the first time susceptible to higher forces, in the form of the FBI.
This means we know he's ruthless, but also a man in the shadows of a big, fat lie and, like all those characters before him (Jean Valjean, Martin Guerre, etc) this makes him more vulnerable and dangerous than anyone around him - a lethally thrilling combination.
4. His Creator
It doesn't do Don Draper any harm at all that the man who plays him, Jon Hamm, continues to be cool away from the set, and in a very different way. He has been with the same woman for 15 years, director/producer Jennifer Westfeldt, whom he credits for being beautiful, funny but, most of all, "a thinker" (swoon). And he's got no time for reality TV. What's not to admire? Oh, and he has a dog. George Clooney, watch your back...
5. His Look
Points, please, for leaving this to the end, but it has to be said. From the moment he enters an episode, he works it - the room, the hair, the blinds, the ashtray, the coffee table, the suit, the cigarette (other ways of killing yourself are available), the well-filled tumbler. In fact, this whole schtick has become so iconic, it's got a tumblr all of its own.
Even when there's an unblinking inner reflection going on (normally facing the ceiling in an apparent long, lonely night of the soul, before camera pulls back to reveal snoring nubile companion) in those scenes claiming to delve into the underbelly of his angst, you just know there's a latent humour and survival instinct, like a deeply-embedded muscle-memory, ticking away underneath. His way of looking at the world may not be beautiful, but our view of the world with him in it is. Thank you, Don Draper, and please don't ever change.
Oh, and here are some tantalising pics of Season 5...
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