Last week UPROXX was given the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Mad Men creator Matt Weiner to talk about the show, which returns for the first half of its seventh season on April 13th. Also on the call were representatives from a handful of other media outlets that regularly cover the show. When it was our turn to speak to Matt, I asked him what he thought about the internet’s obsession with the show, specifically its penchant for theorizing what direction(s) the show is going in and what the fate of certain characters might be (such as Pete Campbell being mauled to death by a bear). Additionally, I asked how this influences writing on the show, if it all, and also quizzed Weiner on his own television-watching habits. Finally, I tried to learn a little more about why Weiner is so hyper-averse to spoilers.
So here’s the portion of the call in which I spoke directly to Weiner, followed on the second page by some highlights from the rest of the call. While being predictably evasive about some things, Weiner sounded happy, confident and excited about the final season of Mad Men. Enjoy.
UPROXX: You mentioned earlier in the call that you’re often entertained by some of the plot theories that the show’s obsessive fanbase enjoy indulging in on the internet. My personal favorite is the one of Pete Campbell being possibly mauled by a bear.
MATT WEINER: [Laughing] I didn’t hear about that one.
UPROXX: You didn’t see that one? Okay. Well that one was floating around…
MATT WEINER: [Laughing] I have to say I’m entertained. Understand that this is not like some superiority complex of, “Oh look how much I fooled them that they’re spinning out of control” or something. What this is is me seeing, you know, the imagination of the audience with the crumbs. We’re not trying to give them crumbs. We’re telling one story and they take what we say very seriously. And you’re entertained because you didn’t think of it.
UPROXX: Are there any particular theories that you’ve seen out there that you’ve been most entertained by and is it something that has now, because it’s become such a thing with Mad Men, is it something that when you guys are in the writer’s room that you’re conscious of now? Oh say something comes up and you realize that this is something that the internet is really going to take the ball and run with?
MATT WEINER: Well here’s the thing: They are all derived from the show that we’re writing but no one, and I can say very assuredly, no one in the writer’s room anticipates any of this. Or could possibly think it would make people — I’m always working as a story teller to say, well they’ll think this is going to happen but this is what’s going to happen. These particular incidents are sometimes so much beyond the tone of our show whether it involves time travel or murder, it’s just not what we do on the show. It doesn’t mean we never do it, but that was the thing that was sort of new to me, I was like this doesn’t seem like something we would do on the show. But you know, like the thing with Sharon Tate t-shirt, I wasn’t offended by it. I just thought it was interesting that that’s the idea that they drew from it. It does not affect us in the writer’s room. We have enough trouble, you know, using our imaginations for the story we’re actually telling than to sort of play chess with the imagination of the audience.
UPROXX: What TV shows are you currently watching right now and are there any shows that you sort of find yourself obsessing over in the same way that people obsess over Mad Men?
MATT WEINER: I love television and I will watch it every chance that I get, which is not that much when you’re in the middle of this job. But I also have four children and really do not have control over what I get to watch. So I, like anyone, you watch two episodes of something and it’s good, you will watch all of them. So I’m into, you know, Chopped and Project Runway and, because I have four boys, I have seen more Dr. Who than most people can imagine. You know I judge them sometimes, there are good ones and bad ones. But I can get into anything. I mean, the last time I really had a chunk of time I binged watched two seasons of Downton Abbey. I haven’t seen True Detective yet, but I will. I watch Boardwalk Empire whenever I can. I saw all of Orange is the New Black that came on in the off season. I love that show. But you know what happens is the writers will start watching things and we kind of can’t talk about them around me ’cause I want to eventually see them.
UPROXX: Are you someone who loves being surprised and loves surprising other people and is that part of the reason that you are so insistent and go to such great lengths to avoid anything with Mad Men being spoiled for the audience in any way?
MATT WEINER: That is definitely a big part of it. And part of it was being on The Sopranos. I mean, how much fun it was before this whole machinery of spoilers was even in operation to say, you’re going to sit down and you have no idea what’s going to happen. You get people’s full attention. You can create tension and, even more importantly for our show because the plots are not told in extremes, they’re happening on a very human scale. So Don forgetting to pick Sally up at school is a big story point. And if you tell these things they’re really, I worry that it will be boring. So I love to be surprised. I love the fact that we have a unique position commercially that’s being something that you just don’t know what’s going to happen when you sit down. And yeah, I mean, you know, I can tell you when I watch trailers for movies, knowing the entire story that’s in the movie is disappointing to me. There’s a big marketing debate about that. That people will only see things that are already familiar to them. And for me when I get to a movie that I’ve seen the trailer of and all the jokes were in the trailer, I feel let down. Like I thought that was just a taste of it. I didn’t know that was all of it…But people are interested in the show and I’m grateful for that. But I feel like I am, you know, every show doesn’t have to do it this way and if I do another show, I may not do it this way. But I felt for this show and the scale we’re telling it on, what a great commercial angle it is to have a show where people are going to be surprised and there’s very little out there like that in entertainment and ever actually. It’s just not just something–you see how hard it is to do.