AMC should just forget about airing the final season of Mad Men on TV next year and release all the episodes in big theaters nationwide. Time and again during Emmy season, whenever Mad Men is shown on the big screen — such as Awardsline’s screening of the midseason finale “Waterloo” last night at the Landmark Theatre — it’s like watching a big summer film with a large audience. Last year at a TV Academy screening, there was a large gasp from the crowd when young Sally Draper walked in on her Dad bedding the neighbor, and last night was no exception with a hilarious uproar spurred from Pete Campbell’s excitement and Jim Cutler’s bristling over news of the ad firm’s latest merger.
Following the screening last night to a jam-packed theater, Deadline’s Dominic Patten led a panel with close to the entire Mad Men top players in attendance sans Jon Hamm and John Slattery: Christina Hendricks (Joan), Elisabeth Moss (Peggy), January Jones (Betty), Jessica Pare (Megan), Vincent Kartheiser (Pete), Kiernan Shipka (Sally), Robert Morse (Bert Cooper) and, of course, creator Matthew Weiner.
While the final season of Weiner’s award-winning show has been split in two seasons, a lot of ground has been covered in the last seven episodes, specifically the redemption of Don Draper at Sterling Cooper after being dismissed by the firm for getting too personal during his Hershey ad pitch last year.
Said Weiner on the whole concept of splitting the last season, “This was an edict that was given to me that proved to be successful for AMC. I have fought many battles with them in the past, and I understood where they were coming from (with this idea) and I didn’t have any say in it. I took it as a challenge: Can my writing staff and I do a focused story in seven episodes with a cliffhanger?” An upside for Weiner and his team, “It meant two premieres and two finales.”
And speaking of endings — what about that whole musical number, where Don Draper sees his recently deceased boss Cooper pulling a Broadway showstopper and singing “The Moon Belongs to Everyone”? Call it a perfect-pitch send-off for Morse, whose character’s presence on the show, given the ’60s era corporate culture, was always a nod to his alter ego J. Pierpont Finch in the Broadway musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. “In Don’s mind, that was the inner Bert Cooper,” explained Weiner about the finale. Not to mention with Bert’s passing during the moon landing — the old radio song just seemed right. Weiner worked closely with Morse, bringing in a pianist per the actor’s request and recording the song in a studio. Rather than have a stand-in, Hamm stood for six hours off camera as his character watched the number.
“I was scared at first, I didn’t know if the number would work,” said Morse, who has been nominated for an Emmy four times in the guest actor drama category for playing Cooper. But Morse didn’t let his hesitation get the best of him. Said the actor, “When people pass away on a TV show, they’re shot, or hacked to death or they drown — like on The Sopranos. But in Mad Men – well someone was hung, but Matt Weiner decided to give me a beautiful passing. A love letter.”