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On the Next Episode

With Mad Men‘s final season about to start (and somehow take about 18 months for 13 episodes… Thanks for making us wait, AMC!) this Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to point out one of the best parts of the show.  Other than the characters.  Or the narrative.  Or the writing.  Or the cinematography.  No, I’m talking about that part of each Mad Men episode that takes less than a minute and often overlooked.  Yes, I’m talking about the teaser!

Just look at this brilliant work here:



Youtube user raffertyesque actually compiled all of the teasers from Season 5.  It’s nearly four minutes of pure greatness and truly spoils the entire season for anyone who watches it.  For anyone who may have forgotten, here’s an excellent refresher of what happened in that season:



It’s no secret that Matthew Weiner, Mad Men‘s showrunner, does not care much for the teaser.  Weiner is notoriously tight-lipped about providing details or spoilers from upcoming episodes in interviews.  He openly admits to nixing it if he had complete control over that aspect of his show (which is surprising, considering he has control over pretty much everything else).  However, because the show is required to provide one after each episode, Weiner has developed a means to get both what AMC wants (a way to excite watchers for next week) while getting what he wants (absolutely nothing of importance being shown).  From a Vulture article from last July, Matthew Weiner elaborates on the evolution of the show’s teasers:

“First it was like, ‘Please don’t mention anything beyond the first twenty minutes of the show, please don’t spoil this story, please don’t spoil that story.’” he recalls. “Then there was the idea of, ‘Can you at least do what they used to on The Sopranos promos, which is to make it look like it’s some other kind of story?’ That required a ridiculous amount of effort and wasn’t always possible, even in The Sopranos promos. Eventually, they sort of evolved into this kind of non sequitur thing.”

These purposely opaque and misleading previews have turned into yet another bit of entertainment for the show’s fan base.  Not to say they don’t still infuriate on occasion for their inability to satiate their appetite for details, but fans have grown to accept and even to admire Mad Men‘s dismissive use of the teaser. Matthew Weiner denigrates it, but he’s required by AMC to provide one after each episode so he builds them to be as pointless as possible.  It’s as if AMC–and by extension, those of us viewing it–are wasting his time and deserve to know it.

That got me thinking: where else have I seen something like this before?  Then it hit me; there’s a man who’s obligated to be on television for about a minute but absolutely loathes it.  So he’s done it with outright disdain.  At first, fans didn’t understand the spectacle, but as time has gone on and we’ve seen it time and time again, they’ve grown to enjoy it.  That’s right; I’m talking about the Gregg Popovich interview.



When the NBA began these coaching interviews between quarters, the intent was to provide insight to viewers of these nationally televised games of the inner workings of coaches mid-game.  Popovich, the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, clearly did not care for these interviews, as they took away from his real job: coaching his players and trying to win games.  So he showed his disdain for the interview in the best way he could: he made a mockery of the interview by providing as few details as possible and acting like a crotchety old man.  Popovich would comply with the requirement from the NBA in talking to the sideline reporter, but he wasn’t going to give the interviewer, fans, or the league office anything helpful.  Just take a look at Popovich’s response to one of David Aldridge’s questions from this interview:



As time progressed, something strange began to happen.  Fans began to enjoy the Popovich interview.  The television crews during the game would talk about the interview, both before and after, with some combination of fear and joy.  Somehow in being as obstinate and difficult as possible, Gregg Popovich had somehow turned his interviews into a must-see moment during the game.  And just like with Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men teasers, the less revealing, the better.

The first half of Mad Men‘s final season starts on Sunday, April 13 at 10:00 PM EDT.  We’ll most likely be seeing many Gregg Popovich interviews during the NBA playoffs, which start Saturday, April 19.


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