Six Seasons of Mad Men Episode Descriptions By the Numbers (in Charts and Graphs!)
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner is a notorious spoiler-phobe. It's now an annual tradition, when sending episode screeners to journalists at the start of a new season, for Weiner to include a list of everything we can't mention in any pre-season coverage. Naturally, the list in and of itself is a spoiler, alerting journalists to developments they can't write about before they even know they might want to write about them.
And by now you're probably familiar with the show's notoriously vague "Next on Mad Men" episode promos, which tell viewers next to nothing about what's ahead. They're so devoid of any context that they've become a running joke among fans, and been lampooned by both Community and The Simpsons to boot:
In one scene someone might pick up a phone before a quick cut to someone yelling "NO!" and then someone else slamming a door. If anything, they're a fun exercise in Editing 101. And of course the official episode synopses aren't much better. Prior to air, the description of last year's Season 6 finale, "In Care Of," was simply: "Don has a problem." Real helpful, right? In contrast, the tease for this Sunday's Season 7 premiere is practically a George R.R. Martin novel:
Don makes a friend; Joan has drinks with a client; Roger receives a perplexing phone call; Peggy hears new work.
And while it still doesn't tell us much, it HAS inspired us to look back at all of Mad Men's episode descriptions to date, which has yielded some surprising finds. You can take a quick look at the full list here, but here are a couple things I noticed:
1. Weiner's spoiler-phobia can be traced back to the start of Season 2.
Compared to what we're used to now, the episode descriptions for Season 1 were very wordy, almost to the point that when I looked back at them, I didn't even want to read them anymore.
Average number of words in a Season 1 episode description: 101.92
Average number words in a Season 6 episode description: Only 19.08!
2. You'd be surprised how many characters and words do or do not appear
"Don" is the name that appears most frequently, obviously, but "Peggy" is a close second. Duck's name appears more often that you'd think, while poor Lane Pryce barely factors in at all, despite being a named partner for a while. Advertising-specific words appear quite often, too—"campaign," "client," "account," and "business" all show up far more often than terms having to do with friends or family, which feels like a pretty accurate description of Don's life.
Want to draw your own conclusions? Peruse the full list of episode descriptions for Seasons 1-6 and share your observations in the comments. And then try your hand at our super-difficult "Spot the Fake Mad Men Synopsis" quiz!
Mad Men Season 7 premieres Sunday, April 13 at 10pm on AMC.
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