It happens tomorrow.

It’s been 17 months in the making, but Mad Men’s back in less than 30 hours!

Even though I try to keep my obsessions in check, I just can’t suppress my glee on this one.

I knew it had been awhile since the last new episode aired, but the repeated seasons on Sunday mornings have been tiding me over. So I was shocked when I saw that the last Mad Men season finale aired in October 2010.

October. 2010.

Think about how much has happened since then in real life — a whole calendar year, no less.

As my must-see television shows fade away after finales or cancellations, I tend to throw myself against the couch and wonder dramatically how I will go on without [Friends/Alias/Lost/Mad Men/etc.] on the weekly schedule. See, my workdays tend to be stressful and exhausting, and I appreciate television for the mindless — yet often thought-provoking and educational — escape it provides at the end of the long day. Just like in books, I like being transported to another world, another time, with interesting people and compelling stories. And Mad Men’s just the pinnacle.

I call Mad Men “visual literature,” because I love watching its stylized, layered stories. It’s a (fairly) historically accurate depiction of and modern-day commentary on social norms in the 1960s with flawed, damaged characters that you love and root for, or love to hate. But just as much as I like watching Mad Men, I like reading about other people’s interpretations too. I might enjoy surveying the Mad Men community the day after a fresh episode more than watching the show itself. The television writers over at TV Line, Entertainment Weekly, and even the intellectuals at the New York Times and WalI Street Journal, recount, review and speculate on every development in each episode. My routine is to watch (record, at least) the episode on Sunday night and then read all the blogs the next day. I always find information about a scene that requires a second viewing or some event or innuendo that I totally missed. So I watch the episode again on Monday night or later in the week to fully absorb it all.

Every few years I find a television show that completely captivates me, and it’s a mark of good storytelling that I’m still so engrossed four years in. And it’s been years since a show I’ve watched is as open for dissection and interpretation as Mad Men. The nearest comparison I can give is Lost, whose mythology and plot points were analyzed and discussed in detail. Even though I watched and enjoyed Lost regularly, I didn’t fully join or invest in that community. But I appreciate and understand their dedication.

I have been nervous about how Mad Men is going to go. Will you be watching?

Will Don marry Megan? Will Betty be any easier to root for? Has Joan had the baby?

I’ve tried to stay away from pre-premiere reviews, though I’ve seen mixed takes on the first 2-hour premiere. TV Line was underwhelmed; People Magazine gave it 4 stars. I will just keep my mind open.

So as we gear up for Mad Men Season 5, I have all my reader links at the ready for first thing Monday morning. If you want to follow along, these are the recap-review blogs I read. And there’s always more information and behind-the-scenes interviews and such at AMC’s Mad Men blog.

Mad Men Watch” — Ginia Bellafonte, The New York Times’ Arts Beat

Speakeasy” — The Wall Street Journal

TV Recaps | Ken Tucker’s TV | PopWatch News — Entertainment Weekly

Mad Men” — TV Line

Welcome back, Don Draper and crew. I’ve missed ye.

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