03/18/2013 08:59 am ET

Judd Apatow, 'This Is 40' Director, On 'Girls' & The Return Of 'Mad Men'

This is a big week for Judd Apatow. In addition to co-writing the season finale of the HBO series "Girls" with creator Lena Dunham, Apatow's latest film, "This Is 40," arrives on Blu-ray and DVD. Released in December of last year, "This Is 40," the "sort of sequel" to "Knocked Up," focuses on the struggles of married couple Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann), two of the breakout characters from that 2007 blockbuster. (Original stars Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl do not appear in "This Is 40.") Before the home release of his new film, HuffPost Entertainment spoke to Apatow about the critical response to "This Is 40," his excitement about the upcoming season of "Mad Men" and why Dunham finds herself in such a "special situation."

You have discussed how "This Is 40" sprung from the television conceit of continuing stories with beloved characters -- like "Frasier" spinning off from "Cheers." If you had a season two of "This Is 40," what would you do different?
There's nothing I would do differently, I would just continue the story. It's hard to stop telling a story sometimes -- especially when you fall in love with characters. You want to keep finding out what they're going to do, even for yourself. Every time you sit down, you think about it and get excited and go, "What would they do next? What would be the next period?" Right now, we're all writing the next season of "Girls," so we have the opportunity to say, "Now what happens to Hannah?" It's really fun. It would be sad if someone said, "You have to stop now." That's what was heartbreaking about "Freaks and Geeks," because I wanted to know what happened to them.

Right. Television seems to own that feeling in a way that movies do not.
Like, I could not be more excited about "Mad Men" coming back. I have to make a point to not think about it, because it's like Christmas is coming and I'm the kid getting frustrated that it won't come fast enough.

There's that great scene is "This Is 40" where Paul's character argues with your daughter, Maude, about "Lost" versus "Mad Men." Were you also a fan of "Lost"?
I was a giant fan of both shows. The issue with "Lost" was that Maude was watching so quickly, in life, that she'd be walking around the house crying because she was so moved by an episode. Leslie and I would look at each other and say, "Is it good that she's watching six episodes a day?" Of course, as soon as she was done, she moved on to "Breaking Bad." Then we didn't know what to do at all. Then she goes to "American Horror Story." Then she's watching shows from England, like "Skins," and then "Degrassi." There's no end to the amount of content you can be terrified about your child watching. At the same time, those shows are so amazing, you hope she's learning something from them about creativity and imagination.

Do you think this is the golden age of television?
It's hard to say. There was a time on television when it was "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Bob Newhart Show" and "All In The Family" and "M*A*S*H." There have been other periods when remarkable work was happening on television. I just think the idea that you don't need 40 million people to watch a TV show to stay on the air has been very positive for television. Interesting work that doesn't have to appeal to everyone on Earth can survive and thrive, and that's why you get all these amazing shows on HBO and FX and Showtime. Almost all of these shows are getting the ratings that "Freaks and Geeks" got, and that was considered a failure and canceled. So it's good for TV.

You've been working on "Girls," of course, but would you ever do your own television show again?
You know, I'm not closed to the idea if I had a great notion. I just haven't had one. I do love the idea of how cable television works. The ascent of Lena Dunham on "Girls" has been remarkable. She has so much freedom to explore characters deeply and there is nothing better than that. I'm always reminding her what a special situation she's found herself in and to really cherish it. If I thought of something, I would definitely consider it.

"This Is 40" says a lot of great things about relationships and family life, but some critics still gave the film negative reviews. Do you think that's because there's a stigma on your brand?
The critical reaction to the movie was generally very positive from the quarters where I'm interested. We got great reviews from The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. So the critics I look to were very supportive of the movie. I think peoples' reactions to the movie are based a little bit on their worldview and life situation. Certain people watch it and they relate to it and it makes them very happy to see other people struggling with the same things that they're struggling with. That's a compliment I get from the movie; people often say, "It feels like you hid cameras in my house. You made us feel less crazy." For some people, the movie might be scary. Because it is about people struggling to be happy and having a hard time. Some people go to the movies for an escape and some people go to the movies to feel more difficult emotions. What I'm trying to do is talk about things in a complex and deep a way as possible, while also trying to be hilariously funny. That is something that people don't try that often. Some people really dig it, and some people don't [laughs].

It's like that old cliche: You can't please everyone all the time.
I see "This Is 40" as being very similar to what we did with "Freaks and Geeks." It's an accurate portrayal of a certain aspect of life, with a lot of funny parts and a lot of difficult parts. That's what I'm interested in doing with a lot of my work. Some things I do are silly, but for me, "This Is 40" and "Girls" are about the light and the dark of life.

"This Is 40" is out on Blu-ray and DVD on March 22.

'Girls' Season 2 Photos