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'Mad Men': What major world events could appear in season 6?

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Mad Men Blend
AMC; Getty Images

The new season of Mad Men kicks off this Sunday (read our review of the premiere here). As usual, the plot of the new season remains shrouded in mystery; the only photos that have surfaced so far show Don and Megan Draper lounging on a beach in Hawaii, which could mean that Mad Men is transforming into Mad Men: Hawaii, and the new season will be all about the Drapers’ wacky attempt to run a hotel in Maui. More likely, though, Mad Men‘s sixth season will once again track the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce as they live through the ever-evolving culture of the 1960s.

Producer Matthew Weiner has, as per usual, kept the timeline of the new season a mystery. However, we know that the the fifth season finale ended in mid-1967. We also know that the show typically takes a leap forward in time between seasons — anywhere from six months (between seasons 2 and 3) to a year (between seasons 1/2 and seasons 3/4). Following the transitive property of serialized dramas, it seems likely the new season will deal to some degree with the events of 1968, historically viewed as  a breakneck and traumatizing year for America. Let’s take a look at some of the key events from that time and how might might play into the new season, should our chronological calculations prove correct.

Event: The execution of a Viet Cong soldier by Major General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, captured on-camera by photographer Eddie Adams, widely credited as a moment when American feelings about the war in Vietnam began to shift.

Possible Plot: Peggy gets one of her biggest challenges at her new firm when gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson comes to CGC asking them to sell guns in advertisements that feature no images of guns. She winds up conceiving a Clio-nominated commercial featuring grown men playing with water pistols. Roger has a scathing line about how Bonnie & Clyde Warren Beatty could take some lessons in dying on-camera from the Viet Cong.

Event: The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Possible Plot: Don escapes from the office to go see new release 2001: A Space Odyssey in theaters. When he returns, everyone is in an uproar over the news from Memphis. His secretary Dawn demands to know why the firm hasn’t hired more African Americans. Roger has a scathing line about the time he stayed in a Memphis motel.

Event: Hair opens on Broadway.

Possible Plot: Megan Draper joins the cast of Hair. Joan purchases opening-night tickets for all the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce partners. The nude scene scandalizes Bert Cooper. Don goes on a bender in the village and finds an actual hippie, who complains to him about the musical Hair as Don passes out in her arms. Roger has a scathing line about how the carpet matches the Draper.

Event: The assassination of Bobby Kennedy.

Possible Plot: Harry Crane is present in the Ambassador Hotel the night of the California Presidential Primary, and tells elaborate stories about being trapped in the ballroom with Warren Beatty; it later turns out that he was actually upstairs with a prostitute. Megan gets involved in political activist groups, starts telling Don her conspiracy theories. Roger has a scathing line about how there have been so many assassinations that he might have to learn how to spell “assassinations.”

Event: Police clash with anti-war protestors during the Democratic convention in Chicago.

Possible Plot: Don, abandoned by the politically active Megan, watches the television coverage of the Chicago convention. He comes into the office with a lame pitch for a female hair product, which is immediately one-upped by Ginsberg, who recommends pitching the hair product to women and men. Pete loves the idea. Don fumes. Roger has a scathing line about how he hasn’t used hair product since the 1942 USO show.

Event: The introduction of Hot Wheels

Possible Plot: “Temperature. It’s not just a measure of the weather outside. It’s a measure of the age we live in, the forecast for the state of our country, our family, and ourselves. Gentlemen, they say we’re in a Cold War. But you’ve been watching the television. You’ve seen the rioting on the streets. And you see your children watching all of this, and you’re concerned. These aren’t cold times. The world is hot. We need our children to be prepared for the heat of adulthood. These tiny cars, gentlemen, they aren’t called “Fun Wheels.” They’re Hot Wheels. And they’re driving our children into the future.”–Don Draper, taken from his pitch to Mattel. (Roger has a scathing line about how he once knew a girl whose nickname was “Hot Wheels.”)

Event: Nixon defeats Humphrey, winning the Presidential Election.

Possible Plot: A natural sequel to season one’s “Nixon vs. Kennedy,” this episode features a series of Godfather 2-esque flashbacks to the start of the 1960s, including a reappearance by Sal and the original Bobby Draper. Sally, having become a politically-minded teenager thanks to Megan’s influence, is disgusted by Nixon’s victory and runs away with Glen Bishop. Roger has a scathing line about how Nixon finally got to the White House by killing his competition.

Event: The first-ever interracial kiss airs during an episode of Star Trek.

Possible Plot: Don sleeps with Dawn, an even which leaves Roger with entirely too much material for scathing lines. He suffers a scathing heart attack.

Event: The Apollo 8 enters the moon’s orbit just in time for Christmas Eve.

Possible Plot: Don, twice-divorced and abandoned by the daughter he loves, purchases a sad little Christmas Tree for the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce office. Everyone makes fun of him, but ultimately realizes it’s actually a very pretty tree. “Merry Christmas, Don Draper!” they say, before joining together in a wordless rendition of “Hark! The Heralds Sing.”

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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