Thursday 18 January 2018

Why we just can't seem to get enough of Don Draper

Jon Hamm as Don Draper
Jon Hamm as Don Draper
Deirdre Reynolds

Deirdre Reynolds

If there's one thing that women love more than a bad boy, it's a Mad Man. Mad Men returned to the small screen for its seventh and final this week. And fans have already begun to speculate about the fate of Don Draper.

When we last saw telly's most irresistible louse, our relationship with him was, much like his tipple of choice, on the rocks, with viewership tumbling from 3.37 million at the start of season six to 2.69 million for the finale last summer.

With just seven more instalments of the show coming this year, and seven more to follow in the second half of the final season next year, however, most of us can't help going back for more.

When it first brought the world of 1960s Madison Avenue into our living rooms back in 2007, Mad Men introduced Don Draper as advertising's brightest new star, married to a woman who knew not to ask too many questions.

Seven years on, on the cusp of the Seventies, little has changed as tonight's opener sees Don and second wife Megan's bi-coastal marriage dangling by a thread, and the ad man himself not too far behind having lost his job at Sterling Cooper & Partners.

Season after season, fans have tuned in to see Don, or rather Dick Whitman, shed his skin, only to emerge as the same chain-smoking, bourbon-swilling adulterous snake.

But is it too late for the debonair ad exec to redeem himself?

"This season is about consequences," teases creator Matthew Weiner. "There are shadows over this season that go back to the first time we met Don. Don's in a bad place. There's only so much lying you can do. This gives him a chance . . . the question is whether he can change.

"I think (Don) has a real relationship to real-life people like William Randolph Hearst (and) Bill Clinton," adds Weiner.

"I love that America gives people that chance . . . but in the end they're still themselves."

Compared to say, Breaking Bad, the final episode of which drew a staggering 10.3 million viewers last September, numerically speaking Mad Men may not be a big success.

DonAndMegan.jpg
Stars of AMC drama series Mad Men Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Megan Draper (Jessica Pare)

Stars of AMC drama series Mad Men Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Megan Draper (Jessica Pare)

However, with half of the show's viewers boasting household incomes over $100,000, according to Forbes magazine, crucially it is considered one of the poshest shows on TV.

With his slick suits, silver tongue and no-strings sex, it's no surprise that male viewers lust after Don's lifestyle.

In 2009, Ask Men website ranked Don Draper as "the Most Influential Man in the World" ahead of President Barack Obama and Steve Jobs.

Earlier this year, the US president even name dropped the AMC series in relation to gender equality in the workplace in his State of the Union address.

Yet the Emmy-winning drama has more female fans than male fans in its key 18-49 demographic.

So why have today's smart young feminist women fallen for TV's ultimate love rat?

Yes, Draper is an emotionally unavailable, chauvinistic alcoholic with more secrets than Fatima, but he's also brilliant, rich, sexy and philosophical.

The fact that he's also played by Jon Hamm can't hurt either.

"Don Draper is a pretty dismal, despicable guy, so why I would want to take him home with me I don't know," says the 43-year-old star.

"It's a strange thing. People tell me they look up to Don, like they look up to Tony Soprano or (Breaking Bad's) Walter White. People have these weird fascinations with people who in reality you would not want to be for a second," he adds.

"There seems to be that vicarious thrill. Maybe it's the fact of doing everything wrong and getting away with it."

As copywriter Peggy Olsen – one of the few women to resist Don's charms – actress Elisabeth Moss says that she totally gets it: "People are constantly asking if they're going to sleep together. I always get annoyed, because their relationship is more than that.

"It's very familial between the two of them," she adds. "It's like brother/sister, father/daughter. You love your father even if you hate him sometimes."

In 2012, website Vulture predicted that, given his hedonistic lifestyle, Don Draper would kick the bucket in 1985, just shy of his sixtieth birthday.

As the final season kicks off tonight, though, cons-piracy theories abound that everyone's favourite anti-hero won't even make it that long.

"I don't know how it ends, actually," says Hamm. "It hasn't been written yet."

TV bad boys we love to hate

Nidge

Ireland's quintessential TV bad boy, right, returns to the small screen for season five of the hit RTE drama Love/Hate later this year. But star Tom Vaughan Lawlor insists he won't be taking Nidge home with him: "You become so wound up because you're playing these very aggressive scenes all day long."

Tony Soprano

At its peak, The Sopranos attracted a staggering 13.5 million viewers. By the time the show ended in 2007, however, star James Gandolfini – who died last year – told how he wasn't sorry to see the back of Tony: "I want to get away from the violence a little bit, because it is starting to bother me personally."

Walter White

Over ten million people tuned in to discover Heisenberg's fate last September. And even Bryan Cranston struggled to let go after turning up to Comic Con dressed as his Breaking Bad alter-ego.

Irish Independent

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