Come Back, Don Draper!

Matthew Weiner is a cruel man. The creator of TV’s “Mad Men,” Weiner has single-handedly left scores of us die-hard fans hanging in the balance after this season’s finale, wondering how we’ll possibly make it through the next eight months before finding out what happens to Don Draper and his amusingly dysfunctional band of cohorts. There’s no denying the fact that I’m in full-blown “Mad Men” withdrawal. This past Sunday night was the first in 13 weeks without a new episode, so I was forced to scan the channels in search of another good show to watch. After about 10 minutes of perusing the Sunday night TV options, I gave up and grabbed a book instead.

Maybe that’s exactly why we love “Mad Men” so much – it’s the last show of its kind on present-day TV. In an age where Nielsen ratings are dominated by a tough-talking Jersey girl named Snooki and B-list celebrities attempting to ballroom dance, finding an hour-long drama with thoughtful writing and compelling characters and storylines is priceless.

The New York Times’ Frank Rich has examined the show’s cult-like following, noting “What makes the show powerful is not nostalgia for an America that few want to bring back — where women were most valued as sex objects or subservient housewives, where blacks were, at best, second-class citizens, and where the hedonistic guzzling of gas and gin went unquestioned. Rather, it’s our identification with an America that, for all its serious differences with our own, shares our growing anxiety about the prospect of cataclysmic change.”

Another example of our collective obsession with the show? The University of California at Berkley even offers a “Mad Men” course for credit, where students are asked to analyze each episode. Where were classes like this when I was in college?

I know I’m not alone in my “Mad Men” addiction. Plenty of others are right there with me, longing for more shows that actually make you think and keep you coming back week after week, desperate to know what happens next to these characters in whose paths you’ve become so invested. In a recent article entitled “A Six-Step Program for 'Mad Men' Withdrawal”, writer Michele Willens remarks “I haven't been this addicted to something since I discovered Payday candy bars as a freshman in college. I have a better understanding of how major league baseball fanatics feel after the World Series, though at least their seasons run from April through October.”

Since all of us addicts now have to wait the better part of a year for the return of our beloved Don Draper, the only choice we have is to follow Willens’ suggested six-step program, which includes forming a support group, watching the past seasons on DVD, dressing like your favorite character or starting a writing campaign to AMC to extend the seasons. And if all else fails, Willens says, in true “Mad Men” fashion, “Have a drink.”

- Contributed by Amy Erickson. Follow her @amyerickson.