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Matthew Weiner Explains AMC's Useless 'Mad Men' Previews, Plus One Last Bob Benson Theory

By 06.21.13

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The sixth, and penultimate season of Mad Men barrels to an end on Sunday and, by this point, most of the Mad Men theories have been dismissed (save the one theory which suggests that Don is Rosemary from Rosemary’s Baby), deaths have been taken off the table (although, Pete could still be mauled by a bear), and the deck has been cleared, more or less, so that the finale can focus on Don Draper. Sally Draper knows about his affair with Sylvia, Megan knows something is up, Ted and Peggy at the office hate him — and have every reason to seek their revenge upon him — and Don is plunging toward rock bottom. I won’t even try and wager a guess at what will happen in the finale, but I’m guessing that it won’t be a happy one.

There’s also Bob Benson. We seemingly know Bob’s story now: he’s a fraud, another Don Draper, a man who changed his identity and weaseled his way into a job. But there is one matter with regard to Bob Benson that sill needs some resolution: why is he hiding his true identity? But before we get to that, let’s address those hilarious “Next on” previews at the end of each episode.

In an interview with Weiner over on Vulture, he addressed exactly why the promos are the way they are.

I have tied their hands,” he tells Vulture, referring to the network’s promo department, “and I’m amazed at what they do with the restrictions I have given them. Over the years, it’s evolved into this semaphore of storytelling.” Not surprisingly, Weiner says that if he had his way, there would be no peeks at all. “We pay so much money for that music at the end of the show that I don’t really understand why we even have a promo for next week,” he says. “I don’t want to reveal anything!” (He got his way for the teaser previewing this Sunday’s season finale; the sneak peek contained no new footage at all.)

So what are his instructions to the promo department, exactly? Call it attrition warfare. “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.”

Weiner is also taking a lot of joy in viewers’ response to those promos. “I’m so glad people are enjoying it because when people are making fun of the show, it’s just as much fun to me as when they’re telling me they love it.”

I honestly wish every television show either disposed of next week promos all together (as well as “previously on” segments, especially those that spoil the episode), or took the Weiner route and gave us absolutely nothing.

Now back to Bob Benson: The one question that remains unresolved is why has Bob Benson chosen to hide his real identity? We know that Dick Whitman took Don Draper’s name because he saw it as a way to escape his terrible upbringing, his family, and his past. But why would Bob Benson choose to do so? It’s not an exciting, Shyamalan theory, but it makes sense. Given the time period (the late 60s), what’s going on in the world (the Vietnam war), and how the war has weaved its way through the Mad Men storylines all season long, my guess is that Bob Benson is on the run from the government. He’s a deserter, who refused to enlist when his number was called. Maybe that’s why he spent time in Mexico — to escape authorities, and enlistment?

Could that come into play in the finale? It seems possible, as James Wolk is working on a new show next season for CBS and will likely leave, and that discovery could bring things to a head at Sterling Draper & Partners. Imagine what the conservatives who run Chevy would think if they found out a deserter was working for them? It could cost them their biggest account, and result in the dissolution of the newly merged firm.

Just a thought to consider ahead of the finale.

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TAGSBOB BENSONMAD MEN THEORIESMATTHEW WEINER

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