Looking at the Past to Predict the Future: What’s Next for Mad Men?

11/16/2009 10:28 AM |

With season three of Mad Men ending last week, last night’s void leaves us with little to say to each other here at the office this morning. So instead of coming up with a new subject for conversation, here are eight events I’m predicting will be written into next season of Mad Men. The pattern so far has been to end a season in October-December and pick it up again in February-April. Matt Weiner did skip a whole year between seasons one and two, but I’m going to start with February 1, 1964.

“I Want To Hold Your Hand” hits #1 on the charts on the first of February, followed by the infamous landing at JFK a week later. While most of the cast is a bit too old to be completely swept up in it, I would be surprised if they didn’t include it somewhere. Margaret Sterling and Jane Siegel are the two best candidates to become screaming fans given their ages. This could be the thing they finally bond over or at the very least Jane has something new to obsess over and can put the assassination conspiracy theories aside. Harry Cane will no doubt be tuning into the Ed Sullivan Show for the Beatles first live stateside performance. Don will roll his eyes.

Kitty Genovese
This is a familiar story for New Yorkers, but can probably be filed under the same category as the American Airlines plane crash from season two. It’s a much less obvious prediction, but there are always a couple of these throughout a season. In March of 64, Kitty was stabbed to death in Queens. The story the New York Times published about her neighbors’ complete indifference to hearing the murder and her cries for help triggered public outrage. All the characters could briefly get in on this one. This would also give Weiner a reason to bring Peggy’s mother back for a cameo so she can get all worried and even give her a reason to move out of New York.

Republican Presidential Primary
Just when I thought we’d be seeing less and less of Betty and Henry, Weiner is given the perfect way to keep them in the Mad Men universe while keeping them (or is it making them for the first time?) interesting. The first primary in New Hampshire is in February and the national convention is in July. Henry Francis, as you should know, is tied closely to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller so we should expect him deeply involved in Rockefeller’s bid for the Republican nomination. Of course, let’s not forget Sterling Cooper’s involvement with Nixon’s 1960 campaign in season one. Henry could tap his good friend Roger this time around and give us more, tense Draper family time. Bonus prediction: The Betty/Henry pairing collapses along with Rockefeller’s hopes of securing the nomination.

1964 New York World’s Fair
The World’s Fair in Flushing opened in April 1964 and would be too big of an event both locally and nationally for Mad Men to pass up. Not to mention that many advertisements at the time, especially for companies dealing in transportation, were created around the fair (see: TWA and Pan Am). Maybe they make a run at American Airlines again, or they win back Mohawk. Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Pryce could use a car company on their client list too. Whatever it is, they are going to be involved with the fair in some way.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Race Riots
The first week of July should definitely take up a whole episode. The bill is signed into law by Lyndon Johnson on July 2nd and about two weeks later riots break out in Harlem over police brutality. It’s hard to tell how this will directly affect the characters on the show though. This could be the start of Pete Campbell becoming more in favor of LBJ with the rest of the nation as we approach the election. You can recall his utter confusion/disgust with him becoming President in wake of the assassination. Carla can also be mentioned here, but she’s too much of a minor character for me to throw out a prediction.

Vietnam War
You would hardly know it’s been going on since the series premiere, but there’s truth in how Weiner has been writing it in. The war wasn’t on the majority of American’s minds until it was expanded in 65, but it should start creeping in a bit more in season four. How much time do you want to dedicate to something that isn’t resolved for another decade though? A bit comparable to LBJ, Weiner probably isn’t dying to jump feet first into this one. There was some major foreshadowing in season three though with Joan’s husband and part-time rapist Dr. Harris. He joined the army as a surgeon and wasn’t too concerned with the war still going on by the time he’s done with basic training. Oops. Look for him to be shipped off during the season and make it back stateside via body bag towards the finale or at the beginning of season five. We can’t have Roger and Joan spend all that time together for nothing after all. We’re still a while away from the draft, so Pete is thankfully safe for now.

1964 Presidential Election
This series loves its elections, which is one of the reasons I’m betting pretty heavily on them not skipping all or most of ’64. After Goldwater is nominated by the Republican Party does Sterling-Cooper reluctantly get wrapped up in another campaign? I would guess they’ll be mostly observers after Rockefeller fails to get the nomination. LBJ’s “Daisy” ad will inevitably get some airtime. Crane will probably have some nightmares about it and this will probably also mark the height of Pete’s enthusiasm for LBJ. I look forward to his turnaround a few episodes after this one.

Patio Cola Gets Rebranded
Certainly not on the same level as these other events, but probably as sure a bet as any is the debut of Diet Pepsi. After Pepsi rejects the old Sterling-Cooper’s television spot for their Patio brand, the company is bound to approach them again for the rebranding effort. If there was ever a client for the new Sterling-Cooper to fight over with McCann-Erickson, this would be it. Let’s see a campaign duel.

One Comment

  • Very interesting! Think you are right about MW using something from the election campaigns, and the Kitty Genovese tragedy is a good choice as well. I hope that MW does not use Vietnam in ’64 as it was not on the national radar just yet… but Pete would be safe from the draft in any case, as married men were exempted by order of JFK before he was killed.