STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Last night was the end for Don Draper. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler to the "Mad Men" finale, but the show is over and spoilers are coming. We are going to talk about it for the next few minutes with NPR's Eric Deggans, so if you've not seen the "Mad Men" finale yet and want to, you may want to turn your radio down. Hi, Eric.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi, how's it going?
INSKEEP: Doing fine, thank you very much. So was this finale worthy of the show?
DEGGANS: Well, it's tough to talk about the finale without talking about the last few episodes of the show, and it felt like there was a lot of padding in the last few episodes of the season. There were whole storylines and characters that kind of seemed unnecessary, but it was also the finale that fans probably wanted to see. Every character had their storylines wrapped up in a mostly positive way, except we saw self-centered housewife Betty Draper diagnosed with terminal cancer. But in other cases, we saw Peggy Olson, the repressed copywriter, find the love of her life with art director Stan Rizzo, and the show's central character, adman Don Draper, spent several episodes traveling the country until he landed in a California yoga retreat that allowed him to think up this.
(SOUNDBITE OF BOUNTY AD)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'd like to buy the world a home and furnish it with love.
DEGGANS: That's right. As many fans suspected, Don Draper was the guy who thought up one of the most famous ad campaigns in history.
INSKEEP: Wait a minute. Don Draper, the fictional character, thought up the real-life Coke ad that was huge in the '70s?
DEGGANS: You got it.
INSKEEP: All right. Well, sing along with me, Eric. You ready? One, two, three.
INSKEEP AND DEGGANS: (Singing) I'd like to teach the world to sing in terrible harmony (unintelligible).
INSKEEP: Anyway, going right on (laughter).
DEGGANS: Sounds pretty good.
INSKEEP: Well done, sir. You held up your end. Now, did the characters change very much at the end?
DEGGANS: Well, I - you know, I'd say yes and no to that. I mean, this season, we saw Don Draper essentially kind of stripped down of everything. He got divorced a second time, he lost control of his job, and then he went on the road Jack Kerouac-style. And just when he's in this yoga retreat seemingly coming to terms with all this awful stuff that he did and what a bad dad he was, the smile comes over his face and we discover that he used all of this self-discovery to come up with just another advertising pitch. But there's one character who really has changed a lot and that's Don's daughter, Sally. There's a great moment in the finale where she tells Don about her mother's terminal illness and then tries to get him to let her brothers live with their stepdad because - let's face it - Don is a pretty awful dad.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MAD MEN")
KIERNAN SHIPKA: (As Sally) I'm telling you because she wants Jean and Bobby to live with Uncle William.
JON HAMM: (As Don) Don't worry, you're all going to live with me. I promise.
SHIPKA: (As Sally) Let me finish. I've thought about this more than you have.
DEGGANS: Once again, Sally Draper proves she's both smarter and less dysfunctional than her parents.
INSKEEP: The one thinking a little bit more than her parents, apparently. Now let me ask you, Eric Deggans, this show did not have the highest ratings on television, but it really burrowed into the culture. How is TV different now that it's gone?
DEGGANS: One of the most interesting things to me about "Mad Men" is that it kicked off a spate of quality shows that we've seen, like "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead." It was particularly good for AMC, of course, the channel that aired it. But we also saw this spread to other areas of the cable dial. And I also liked the impact of the show itself. You know, people talked about it a lot. Matt Weiner, the guy who created the show, has said that period pieces are often about the time in which they're made. So what I think "Mad Men" did really well was communicate our own sort of modern discomfort with the future, our continuing struggles with sexism and how difficult it can be to change even when you know you have to change. So even with all the great dramas that are now on television, I really think "Mad Men" is going to be missed.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's TV critic, Eric Deggans. Eric, thanks.
DEGGANS: Thank you.
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