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Stanley Gives ‘Mad Men’ Fans Reason to Get Mad

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The fourth season premiere screener of “Mad Men” included the following note from AMC: ***PLEASE DON’T BE A SPOIL SPORT! As always, we kindly request that you refrain from revealing any storyline details in advance of the season premiere. We know dedicated “Mad Men” viewers greatly appreciate it — as do we.***

Apparently, New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley didn’t get the memo.

Although I’ll include the link to Stanley’s Arts section analysis of the episode and the series, I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’d like to be surprised by any of the major plot developments.

Admittedly, writing about a show that asks you not to give anything away is a challenge, and I felt a bit like I was writing my review with one hand tied behind my back. But I’d rather do that than seriously piss off the show’s viewers by revealing too much — something print outlets can ill afford to do, frankly, if they want to continue attracting discriminating readers.

Stanley has long been one of the most puzzling critics out there — clearly erudite in her use of obscure references, but often tone-deaf in her analysis and opinions. Even in this piece, I’d argue Bettydraper that she completely sells short the importance of Betty Draper’s character (played by January Jones) to the series in its earlier seasons — an outwardly perfect, model-pretty spouse who is, on the inside, profoundly unhappy.

She is also known to be sloppy, highlighted by her memorable seven-correction appreciation of Walter Cronkite, which prompted the New York Times’ then-public editor to ask, “How Did This Happen?,” divulging in the process that Stanley would receive “special editing attention.”

While there was only one minor error in the “Mad Men” piece (per a correction posted online), it would be difficult for an editor who hadn’t watched the episode to recognize how many juicy bits the Times’ critic had disgorged. I can’t believe anyone at AMC’s PR team or the show’s notoriously detail-oriented creator, Matthew Weiner, are happy with Stanley essentially ignoring their plea to avoid spoilers — without so much as a word of warning.

Producers are often overly sensitive about reviews. But in this case, Stanley has given those “Mad” men (and women) have every reason to be, er, mad.

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