Don Zerilli Mooradian

Mad Men Deserves a Real Finale

Mad Men’s Don Draper could still be alive today. The AMC show is set in the 1960s and Draper was a Korean War vet. As of June 2013, there were approximately 2.2 million Korean War veterans still living, according to CNN using U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs figures. Considering Draper’s consumption of cigarettes, alcohol and random sex partners, he probably has not made it this far. But he could be sitting in a nursing home common room, dulled eyeballs aimed at an outdated television set, silently scoffing at erectile dysfunction product ads, muttering something like “In my day we just blamed it on the booze or blamed the woman.”

Or, I could envision him as a mysterious media guru, cloistered somewhere exotic but, through modern technology, available to a select few as uncannily accurate source of sage advice on everything from SEO to next-big-thingy.

Mad Men is one of the very few series I have ever really taken to and the only one in which I did so in a binge watching jag last summer. I very much related to the characters and situations. I am 66 years old and, in 1965, started working in a shoe store that sold men’s, women’s and children’s shoes. The store had only men sales staff required to wear white shirts, ties and suit or sports coat. Yes, women were hired. They worked the cash register. So while I was not an adult on Madison Avenue, I no doubt sold a pair of wingtip shoes (a required part of the businessman’s uniform) to a few aspiring mid-level managers looking to climb the corporate ladder of whatever industry they were in.

The 1960s era depicted so well in Mad Men did not end with a flip of a switch in 1970. Entering the workforce as a college grad in 1971, my superiors were those guys from the Mad Men era struggling against–while simultaneous adjusting to–the new rules of the game in society. I worked in a place for several years until almost 1980 that very much resembled the socially conservative, sexist, racist modus operandi of the early Mad Men era, which is to say, most of the modern industrial era if not all of history.

As Mad Men begins its final stretch of last seven episodes on April 5, I do not have much hope that it will wrap up everything in a nice little package. After all, the 1960s did not end with that way. I believe the zeitgeist of the so-called “Sixties” is better defined as an era that started with Rosa Parks in 1955 and Elvis Presley in 1956 along with a growing irreverence for social norms reflected in publications such as Mad magazine. The “era” ended somewhere after Pres. Nixon’s resignation in 1974, the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the launch of Saturday Night Live that that same year. The country entered a new phase with the swearing in of Pres. Jimmy Carter in January 1977 and by 1980 The Sixties—in style and rancor, in any case—were almost ancient history.

So Draper and his pals could finish the series at practically any one of those fin de siècle touchstones. Or not. (Peggy Olson? She’s going to be alright.) I just don’t want the series to end with a Soprano-esque WTF (Where’s the finish)?

But I would hate for the series to end in 1970 with Draper, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, staring pensively out a window with The Beatles singing Let It Be in the background. Nor should the iconic falling silhouette in the opening credits become the longest running piece of foreshadowing in TV history.

I say make Draper the badass loner repent. Make him do something worthwhile. Make him “get it.” Chuck everything and join the Peace Corps. Or fast forward to a happy, healthy Don tossing a Frisbee with his grandchildren on a beach and Joni Mitchell singing The Circle Game. Trite, sure. But a finish line worth the pain.

True. Maybe Draper doesn’t deserve such a finish. But The Sixties sure as hell do.


One of my favorite Mad Men scenes: Adman Draper pitches two Kodak execs in an effort to land the account for the new, circular slide tray. (Those of us from that time know that, in fact, the tray was called The Carousel.)

Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

For a 10-minute mind-bender through the Twilight Zone/Mad Men Space-Time Continuum


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