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Michele Willens Headshot

A 6-Step Program for 'Mad Men' Withdrawal

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So what are we Mad Men-aholics to do now that the season is over? 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. We have to wait until mid-July to get our next fix. I could have Jon Hamm's baby in that time.

It is time for a Six Step Program to deal with the temporary absence of a show that, admittedly, generates an inordinate amount of attention for one that reaches so few. If a network program reached less than two million viewers, it would be canceled before the hour was up. One might compare Mad Men to The Hurt Locker, which also won the top award in its field, even though a tiny portion of the population saw it.

But face it, no one was going around wearing bomb protection masks as a fashion statement.

When I was growing up, we used to say Sunday night represented the "Ed Sullivan pit," meaning as we watched, we were well aware the following day was school and we were likely not prepared. Now we may be experiencing another Sunday night pit, but this time it represents a gaping hole. And whatever will we talk about on Monday?.

So onward to some help. Yes, I know most of these programs offer twelve steps but hey, the season is short, and these are fast times we live in: emails beget texts which beget tweets.

Here it goes:

Step One: Form a support group. When in doubt, share the pain. Every month, your own Mad Men and Madder Women group could congregate at different homes -- or bars -- to discuss how you are coping with such a towering absence. I recommend meeting on Sunday nights, both as a personal statement and to prevent you from having to watch Brothers and Sisters.

Step Two: Watch the past seasons on DVD. This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how much you may have forgotten and how much detail and complexity one can unwrap with new viewings. Knowing what we know now, it's always interesting to look for character clues we may have skipped over before. (Did Cooper never wear shoes?) And of course there is the natural high of being able to watch consecutive episodes without the excruciating seven day interval.

Step Three: Read complementary materials. By now, you are surely intrigued by the advertising world of the sixties and wondering how much of Mad Men is based on actual fact. Let me here recommend a book written by my aunt Doris, who had a high level position at DDB at the time the series takes place. Her book, "Nobody's Perfect: Bill Bernbach and the Golden Age of Advertising," (available on Amazon) deals with the creative titan to whom many compare Don Draper. You will come to believe that Matthew Weiner read the same book and that alone is exciting.

Step Four: Create some fun fan games. You have plenty of time, so why not use it to invent polls and guessing among devotees? Everyone loves predictions and the recent finale left room for many. Will Betty still be married when the season begins? Will Don still be engaged or was it all a dream, hallucination, or manic episode? Did he take Carla, as originally planned, and is he engaged to her? Will Joan have had the baby? Will her husband survive Vietnam? Will Cooper return? Will Faye divulge Don's past out of romantic revenge? The possibilities are endless.

Step Five: Dress as your favorite character. I know it sounds juvenile, but to keep them alive, inhabit one you particularly miss. Or turn someone you work with, love, or hate into Peter or Sally or Mrs. Blankenship. Perhaps you will be nicer to those who answer your phones, care for your kids, or are your kids. Perhaps you will develop empathy, or will be more creative on the job. Perhaps you will take up cigarettes, cheat on your spouse and make politically incorrect jokes, but at least it was for a good cause.

Step Six: Organize a writing campaign to AMC to extend the seasons. Ask them directly: would you take Ecstasy for three months, stop abruptly, and be expected to go on with life as it was? This is pie in the sky, I realize. All that detail and beauty costs more than a little cable network can handle. And there may be an argument that less is more (though none of the characters of Mad Men have gotten the memo) and this withholding and craving is good for everyone. Still, it may feel good just to write the letter.

And if all else fails? Have a drink.