Mad Men Enters Middle Age with Season 6 Premiere

04/07/2013 at 08:40 AM EDT

Mad Men Season 6 Premiere: The PEOPLE Review
Jon Hamm and Jessica Paré on the Hawaiian set of Mad Men

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm

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At some point ad executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is going to grow sideburns or a Fu Manchu mustache. He'll buy his first pair of bell-bottoms, possibly a paisley pair.

Either that, or I'm going to throw a can of Fresca at the TV.

As Mad Men starts its sixth and next-to-last season (AMC, Sunday, April 7, 9 p.m. ET/PT), writer-creator Matthew Weiner has advanced the show far enough into the '60s that its fundamental philosophical question begins to generates its own oppressive suspense: How can Don, a man who built a career surfing the pop zeitgeist, be so disconnected from – even indifferent to – his own times? How can he sell so much happiness and never purchase any for himself?

The two-hour premiere finds middle-aged Don in paradise, lying on the beach at a Hawaiian resort beside his younger wife, Megan (Jessica Paré), who has the Day-Glo zest of a Peter Max print. He's reading Dante's Inferno.

We mostly follow Don, who's so handsome his Nixonian five o'clock shadow only heightens his air of romantic disaffection as he treads his familiar circle of hell, the office, where the younger staff now get inspiration off tokes of pot. (Christina Hendricks is the ad agency's newly powerful Joan.)

Maybe Weiner thinks Don is right – that the 1960s were a cultural event not worth attending. In that case, Mad Men is TV as seriously revisionist, even conservative social history.

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