Why Won't Matthew Weiner Reveal Any 'Mad Men' Season 5 Footage?


There’s a new Mad Men trailer today, but don’t bother dropping everything to watch it. Like every other preview that’s been released for the past seven months, it’s a cheeky compilation of footage from previous seasons. Less than two weeks before the first new episodes in a year and a half, Matthew Weiner still won’t give us a glimpse of what the characters are doing in Season 5.

In fact, Mad Men‘s showrunner is on high alert for spoilers. Yesterday, Variety published an excerpt of a letter accompanying critics’ advance premiere screeners, in which Weiner writes, “I know you are aware how strongly I feel that the viewers are entitled to have the same experience you just had. My goal every season is first and foremost to entertain the audience, and I know that this is best accomplished when key storylines are not revealed in advance. I am asking you to please join with me to ensure this enjoyment by not revealing any of these answers or other issues.”

Now, I love Mad Men and certainly don’t want the two-hour Season 5 opener spoiled for me. But I am starting to get a bit weary of Weiner’s self-importance. Just about every other show on TV — even the critically adored, highbrow programs — releases teasers featuring new footage. The vast majority of producers allow critics to go about their business without interference. They also, apparently, trust their fans. When I don’t want to know anything about a movie or TV show I plan to watch, I simply save the reviews for after I’ve seen it. I assume most readers do the same. What makes Mad Men — a show whose popularity and mystique is the direct result of constant media evangelism — so desperately important that Weiner is allowed to control the entire conversation around its return?

What’s funny about this doth-protest-too-much schtick is that it reveals as much as any 30-second teaser could about what’s in store for Season 5. We don’t know the specifics yet, but between Weiner’s letter to critics and his refusal to include anything new in trailers, one thing is clear: Big changes are coming in the premiere, and if even a single shot from the episode would be enough to spoil it, I’m thinking there will even be major twists in the first five minutes. Will the historical moment the show opens with hold massive significance? Will the way the characters or their surroundings look give anything away? If Weiner sticks to his silence, and critics follow suit, the only way to find out will be to clear our calendars for March 25th and watch.