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Mad Men: a guide to bluffing your way into the best show on TV

Sunday’s highly-anticipated season five premier of AMC’s Mad Men is sparking nothing but excitement from fans and boredom from their friends who have to hear about all those damn complex storylines.

Look, it’s not an easy show for the uninitiated to get into. There’s 52 hours of dense, sometimes dull and always self-referential plotting to get through, as well as the problem of getting through the show’s often boring first season.

So, the Mad Men experts of Voice are here to give you the greatest gift possible. We’re not here to catch you up on the series. No, this is an easy way to fake being a fan of the greatest, most visually complex show on TV. Now, make like Don Draper and start lying.



The characters that inhabit the world of Mad Men are really what you need to know before you’re stuck in a conversation. Here’s the basics:

Don Draper: Creative expert, smokes/drinks constantly, has sex with lots of women who aren’t his wife or his ex-wife, talks really serious, wears suits, is dead inside.

Peggy Olson: Spunky Don Draper protégé, owns many ugly dresses. Mention how you can’t believe she’s the girl from those Excedrin commercials.

Pete Campbell: Accounts man, WASP, social climber. Do not mention how you loved him on Angel.

Joan Holloway: Voluptuous office administrator. You love her clothes, particularly that red dress with the bow on her hip. Mention that you’re still upset about the rape scene in Season 2 and you’re golden.

Roger Sterling: One of the heads of the firm. Drinks, smokes and sexes somehow more than Don. Racist. Mention that you’d love to read his autobiography.

Betty Draper: Blonde, plastic and the worst on-screen matron since “Mommy Dearest.” You hate her. Don’t try to clarify why. Even actual fans just leave it at that.



Mad Men fans love to make each other pick their favorite episodes. This is a trap. Say something such as, “I couldn’t possibly pick one” and then repeatedly choose from our list of great moments.

  • Betty standing in the garden in a pink negligée, cigarette in teeth, shooting a rifle at pigeons.
  • Roger vomiting in the lobby.
  • Glen asking for a lock of Betty’s hair.
  • The carousel speech.
  • Don’s “you won’t believe how much this never happened.”
  • Pete at the fertility clinic.
  • Don passing out into the pool in California.
  • Peggy and Kinsey smoking pot.
  • Lane receiving the box with the stuffed snake in it.
  • The new agency stealing office supplies at the end of season three.
  • Lane and Don drinking, watching “Gamera” and talking about what the kids are doing.
  • Don and Duck fighting for Peggy’s honor.
  • Sally cutting her own hair.
  • The “Tally-Ho” cartoon.
  • The Disneyland marriage proposal.


Helpful Tips

Let’s face it, even with these tips, you still could get suckered into a conversation that’s over your head. Stay cool and fall back on these extra tips:

Talk as little as possible. Throw random bits of trivia out there and watch as fans rip it apart like rabid, nerdy hyenas. Almost any topic even remotely relevant to the ‘60s will work.

Drink heavily. It seems to work for the characters.

Go somewhere else. Drink heavily.

Follow the advice of Don Draper: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

Follow the example of Don Draper. Get into your car, drive around, pick up a stray dog, return to the conversation hours later and distract everyone with the dog you just found.


Favorite Character

Knowing who the lead characters are is important. Being able to pick a favorite out of the vast supporting cast of Mad Men is even more important. The general rule when picking a favorite character is to choose someone who is no longer on the show but there are some good other choices. Here’s some solid options:

Sal Romano: Former artist for Sterling/Cooper. A married but closeted gay man, Sal was fired for not returning one client’s advances. Mention how sad the firing was and him having sex in the hotel room and everyone will be nodding in agreement.

Jane Sterling: If you’re a guy, mention her breasts. If you’re a girl, mention her matching blue dresses. That should be enough.

Sally Draper: Don and Betty’s daughter. You love the scene when she’s smoking in the closet and will be super pissed if she doesn’t end up joining the Mansons.

Paul Kinsey: Former copy writer. Kinsey wanted to be a beatnick but didn’t have the gumption. Remember his pot smoking buddies, the really lame party he throws and his frequent habit of, um, “pleasuring himself” in the office?


Disliking a Mad Man

For you of legal drinking age, Mad Men has a plethora of fancy and not-so-fancy drinks to keep you lubricated through the gauntlet of talking, talking and more talking. We’re providing a basic recipe guide.

The Draper Special: It’s an old fashioned, with bourbon, bitters a pinch of sugar and a cherry. Drink it fast, preferably warm and chase it with your most suave pick-up line.

Roger’s Red In The Face: A very dirty martini, heavy on the gin and olive juice and light on the vermouth. Not to be used with oysters. Chase with…

I’m Drinking My Milk: Another Roger Sterling favorite. It’s basically a white Russian with no Kahlua. So, yes, it is just half milk or cream and half vodka. The Sterling way is to have at least one of these before 9 a.m. but I don’t think I can advocate that.

The Joan: Pick the most attractive person at the gathering. Drink half of what they’re having. Stand extremely close to them. Rinse and repeat.

The Brooklyn: In honor of the always hip Peggy Olson, this is a Manhattan, switching out the bourbon for scotch. You’ll be doing the twist and talking about women’s rights in no time.

Rocket Fuel: Pioneered by the always lazy freelancer Joey, this is one part vodka for three parts Mountain Dew. Constantly say that a cocktail needs three ingredients and that this is just “an emergency.”

Betty’s Sip: A shot of vodka in a glass with half a shot of lime juice. Serve as cold as possible. If you’re calm, drink slowly, but in the presence of your ex and their new more attractive partner, pound it and run to the bathroom.

Sour Entitlement: A shot of whiskey with a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of sugar poured into a glass and garnished with a lemon slice and a cherry. Drink it like Pete Campbell, slowly while constantly talking about how the world is unfair. You deserve so much better! Repeat as necessary.

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