End of an Era

Like a film femme fatale from that era, Mad Men lured audiences in with the idealistic beauty of men and women who dressed up every day to go out into a picturesque world that seemed so different from ours — something perfectly embodied by the imp

Since its debut in 2007, Mad Men (Final Season Premiere, 10 p.m. Sunday, AMC) has offered a definitive look at 1960s American culture. Like a film femme fatale from that era, Mad Men lured audiences in with the idealistic beauty of men and women who dressed up every day to go out into a picturesque world that seemed so different from ours — something perfectly embodied by the impossibly handsome and charming Don Draper and the advertising industry in general. The primary setting of 1960s Madison Avenue (how the “Mad” men got their name) is intriguing because it’s a past that’s so distant yet so familiar; advertising is still such a huge part of American culture today (not to mention the growing trend in all things “vintage”). 

But as the years and seasons passed, the colorful wallpaper began to peel back — and I’m not talking about Bobby Draper’s OCD. As quick as we were to swoon, we’re reminded that the ’60s were not some problem-free era: From the day-long drinking and smoking to the unfair expectations of women at home and work to the second-class status for blacks and other minorities. The audience’s relationship with Don is not unlike nostalgia — we look past his flaws like we whitewash the unpleasant realities from a memory. In both cases, the truth is eventually exposed, and it’s sometimes uncomfortable to confront. 

So what about this final chapter? The folks behind Mad Men are notoriously tight-lipped about significant details of each season, going so far as to keep official episode descriptions and previews to a bare minimum, to almost comedic results. (This week’s description is almost juicy in comparison to past examples: “Don attempts to track down a friend; Joan tries to solve a problem with an account.”) 

It’s over — for our characters, the ’60s; for us, this intoxicating show. But we’ll always have the memories.

WEDNESDAY 01

Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC) – It’s Jay’s birthday and Phil is giddy over a gift he thinks they’ll both enjoy. Mitch and Claire make an offer to the birthday boy that they have no intentions of following through on. Manny and Luke get a lesson on drinking from Gloria. Hayley brings her new doctor boyfriend to the party, which makes Andy uncomfortable.

Blackish (9:30 p.m., ABC) – Bow discovers that Dre never got the vasectomy he scheduled years ago. The perfect setup for a solid April Fool’s joke…

Workaholics (10 p.m., Comedy Central) – The guys take peyote and babysit.

THURSDAY 02

Lip Sync Battle (Series Premiere, 10 p.m., Spike) – LL Cool J hosts this new competition show where celebrities present over-the-top lip sync performances complete with costumes, props and backup dancers. Jimmy Fallon (who is executive producing the show after popularizing the concept on The Tonight Show) takes on Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson at 10 p.m., followed by Common vs. John Legend at 10:30 p.m. “Sure, they battle,” RuPaul is probably thinking, “but do they lip sync for their lives?”

The Slap (Series Finale, 10 p.m., NBC) – If you sat through any of this odd miniseries, you deserve a conclusion. As the court case comes to an end, all eyes are on Richie — yes, a character that’s been mainly on the periphery of the story. Despite deleting his pictures from the barbecue, Richie is called to testify.

SATURDAY 04

Saturday Night Live (11:30 p.m., NBC) – Michael Keaton hosts; Carly Rae Jepsen performs.

MONDAY 06

RuPaul’s Drag Race (9 p.m., Logo) – The queens put their acting hats back on to star in dramatic reenactments for “Ru Hollywood Stories.” On the runway, they look to slay the judges (including guests Ariana Grande and Merle Ginsberg) with their “Death Becomes Her” looks. 

Better Call Saul (Season Finale, 10 p.m., AMC) – Jimmy reaches out to an old friend from his Chicago days, Chuck must adapt to a new lifestyle and, judging by the episode title, “Marco,” Breaking Bad fans just may see another familiar face. Or Vince Gilligan is just messing with us.


CONTACT JAC KERN: [email protected] or @jackern

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