Category: Mad Men

'Mad Men' recap: Fright night

Joan Greg Accordion Mad Men

“Mad Men” has never been the kind of show people tune into for some heartwarming escapism. It’s a congenitally bleak — if occasionally very funny — show in which characters rarely remain happy for longer than 30 seconds at a time. Yet even for such a pessimistic series, “Mystery Date” represents something new: A genuinely scary episode of “Mad Men.”

While fans (myself included) have drooled over Don’s new sunken living room, Betty’s haunted mansion is more indicative of the almost Gothic tenor of this season. A show about the discontent beneath the placid façade of suburban conformity, embodied so perfectly by the Drapers’ old Ossining abode, has essentially been turned inside-out; the spooky new Francis residence is an obvious outward manifestation of all that once-sublimated darkness. While Matthew Weiner has frequently cited the influence of John Cheever’s fiction on “Mad Men,” I have to wonder if he spent the show’s 18-month hiatus reading Edgar Allan Poe.

Similarly, while male sexual violence has popped up now and again on “Mad Men,” it’s never been quite as explicit as in “Mystery Date,” an episode that suggests a perilously thin line between desire and cruelty. As the hour begins, the newlywed Drapers share an awkward elevator encounter with Andrea, one of the hordes of women in Midtown Don has slept with at one point or another. He handles the situation as tactfully as possible, under the circumstances, but it’s a pointed reminder of two things: how much the Drapers still don’t know about each other and how little Don has actually changed since he was with Betty. Later on, Don tries to explain away his promiscuity — “It was a long time ago, and I was unhappy” — but Megan is right on the money when she replies, “That kind of careless appetite, you can’t blame that on Betty.”

Which may be why Andrea’s appearance at Don’s apartment, and his eventual submission to her sexual overtures, didn’t immediately seem that far-fetched. While Megan seems less than entirely trustworthy, the idea that Don would just give up on that whole fidelity thing the first time a floozy barges into his apartment is upsetting. We desperately want Don to be a better, happier person, but we’re just as unsure that he’s capable of it, which is why his seeming relapse is so devastating. And although Don’s sordid, violent encounter with Andrea turns out to be merely a fever dream — and a rather literal one at that — there’s almost no sense of relief when Megan wanders into their bedroom the next morning, making it clear that it was all just a nightmarish hallucination. (Seriously, is Don on ayahuasca or something?) 

I hope I won’t be exposing myself to too much ridicule when I confess that, for a second or two there, I believed that Don had added “murder” to his already-lengthy list of vices. To some extent, I blame Weiner for using a second dream sequence — a storytelling device that’s always seemed a tad contrived to me, given how inscrutable real dreams actually tend to be — in as many weeks. As heavy-handed as it is, there’s also something terribly convincing about the link “Mystery Date” posits between Don’s seemingly insatiable sexual appetite and his personal demons. If only these things dissipated as easily as a fever.

While “Mystery Date” finds Don brutally exorcising the ghost of his past exploits, it also finds Joan dealing with her ugly private history. When we first see her, Joan is about as frazzled as she ever gets , frantically preparing for Greg’s long-awaited homecoming. Given her hyper-competence in the workplace, there’s an added poignancy to the utter mess of her personal life: All the preparation in the world can’t possibly rescue her marriage to Greg. But, hey — can’t exactly blame a girl for trying, can we? 

At first, Joan’s Herculean efforts do pay off, and she and Greg slink away to the bedroom to make up for lost time. It’s only after their afternoon of bliss that the cracks begin to emerge. Greg tells Joan that he has to go back to Vietnam for an entire year. Though he frames it as a simple matter of patriotic duty, it emerges that he readily accepted the assignment. Greg, has, finally, found a place where he feels not just useful but important — and where his subordinates are even required to acknowledge said importance with salutes.

I worried that Joan, resolute perfectionist that she is, would actually try to stick it out with Greg, but a night of sleep only hardens her resolve to leave the bozo. She wakes up and, with that trademark vicious calm of hers, tells Greg that their marriage is over. Some of you probably wonder why someone like Joan would have ever married Greg in the first place, but her determination to make it work made perfect sense to me. After all, she is anything but a quitter.

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'Mad Men' recap: We need to talk about Betty

Betty Draper is fat in 'Mad Men' Season 2Last summer, as “Mad Men” resumed production at the height of January Jones' pregnancy, series creator Matthew Weiner faced a difficult choice: Hide the actress's baby bump with loose clothes and strategically placed laundry baskets, or simply write her pregnancy into the show. But, to the surprise and bewilderment of millions of “Mad Men” viewers, he chose a third option. That’s right: Matthew Weiner put January Jones in a fat suit.

Evaluating a television series from week to week, one has to make allowances for certain logistical challenges -- things like last-minute casting changes, budget limitations and, of course, cast pregnancies. So I will give Weiner credit for the bold way he has chosen to deal with Jones’ changing body -- and for his utterly humane decision not to bring any more children into Betty Francis' life. 

He also deserves some praise for the fake-out he pulls off in the first act of “Tea Leaves.” In the opening shot of the episode, Betty struggles to zip up a dress that will no longer fit. (Meanwhile Megan, Don Draper’s willowy new wife, slips effortlessly into her purple-print dress. Contrast duly noted.) Especially given her absence from the premiere, it’s a shock to see Betty, that avatar of post-war feminine beauty, suddenly, dramatically transformed. Making it all the more unfathomable, Betty isn’t even pregnant: She’s just fat. As Betty, dressed in a billowing pink housecoat, munches away on a box of Bugles, Pauline stops by to stage an intervention -- of sorts. She kindly suggests Betty get a prescription for diet pills. At this point, I think I know just where Weiner’s going to go. “Oh, Betty’s going to become a pill head. Of course she is.” 

TV review: 'Mad Men' Season 2

But Weiner throws an unexpected twist into the storyline: Betty’s dramatic weight gain is at least partially the result of a thyroid tumor. It’s a shrewd move, one that makes Betty seem ever-so-slightly less pathetic and also prompts some much-needed moments of vulnerability and self-reflection. Panicked and unable to find Henry, Betty calls Don with the news. She begs him to “say what you always say,” and he obliges, telling her everything is going to be OK. He even calls her “Birdie,” a detail that elicited a spontaneous “awwww” from this otherwise hard-hearted blogger. It’s a terrific scene, one that neatly encapsulates everything that was right -- and also terribly wrong -- about Don and Betty’s relationship.  It’s quite obvious that Betty still cares about Don, and, for once, her feelings don’t just seem infantile or delusional. Later, over tea with an old friend she runs into at the doctor’s office, Betty predicts that her children won’t miss her when she dies. We all know Betty isn't the world's greatest mother, so it's doubly poignant to hear her admit to her own feelings of maternal inadequacy.

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'Zou Bisou Bisou': 'Mad Men' attempts to boost a '60s French pop hit

Megan jessica pare mad men zou bisou

It's the scene from Sunday night's "Mad Men" season premiere that has people talking: Jessica Pare as Megan, the current Mrs. Don Draper, serenades her husband at his birthday party with the sexy, slinky number "Zou Bisou Bisou" while wearing a barely there miniskirt.

Overnight, the French song was being passed around social media, mostly as a black-and-white YouTube video of the original version recorded by Gillian Hills. But Pare's 2012 cover version was available on iTunes, released at midnight. Lionsgate Television Music also released a vinyl single of the song, available for sale through AMC's website.  It will eventually be available on Amazon and in stores.

However, despite heavy presence on Twitter and discussion on every major media website, neither version of the song had managed to crack iTunes' Top 100 singles by midday on Monday. (The Pare version was down at 155.)

The song, whose title translates roughly to "Oh! Kiss Kiss" was also featured in the 1960 film "The Millionairess," in which a slightly altered version of the tune was performed by Sophia Loren.

But to gauge by fan discussion, interest is high: Just because fans aren't shelling out hard-earned pennies to Apple doesn't necessarily mean they aren't digging the sexy French tune.

"Mad Men" fan Casey Sullivan tweeted, "i love that zou bisou bisou turned out to be a huge takeaway from last night's @MadMen_AMC  premiere. Listening to it on @Spotify  all day."

Brooklyn resident Dave Gonzales, however, signaled what could be a speedy "Zou Bisou Bisou" backlash when he wrote, "Why am I whistling the Andy Griffith theme even though it was before my time? Because I CAN'T TAKE ZOU BISOU BISOU AGAIN TODAY!"

Will "Zou Bisou Bisou" become the next "Someone Like You" or "Mambo Number 5?"

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'Mad Men' recap: 'Zou bisou bisou'

Matt Weiner keeps fans in suspense about Season 5

How groovy will "Mad Men" get? '60s experts make predictions

— Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Jessica Pare as Megan in "Mad Men." Credit: AMC.

'Mad Men' Season 5 premiere delivers ratings record

'Mad Men' fifth season premiere delivers ratings record
The viewers of “Mad Men” can operate a parking meter! Or at least their remote controls: the long-awaited fifth-season return of the AMC drama delivered 3.5 million viewers. 

The two-hour premiere, which came after a 17-month hiatus, was the most-watched episode in the series’ history, with 1.6 million viewers among adults 18-49, a 30% increase from the Season 4 premiere. 

Last season, the drama averaged 2.3 million total viewers. 

We’re sure the boys and gals at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are all singing “Zou Bisou Bisou” right now.

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'Mad Men' recap: 'Zou bisou bisou'

How groovy will 'Mad Men' get? '60s experts make predictions

--Yvonne Villarreal

Twitter.com/villarrealy

Photo: Jared Harris, left, Robert Morse, Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery and Jon Hamm. Credit: AMC

'Mad Men' recap: 'Zou bisou bisou'

Roger Joan Mad Men Baby

I bet I can guess which song you have in your head right now.

By now, seasoned “Mad Men” fans know not to expect too much out of a season premiere of their favorite show — even one that’s over two hours long and arrives after a seemingly interminable 17-month hiatus. Series creator Matthew Weiner tends to ease viewers back into the “Mad Men” world, reintroducing us during a time of relative quiet. And so it is with “A Little Kiss,” a deliberately paced episode distinguished by one excruciatingly awkward scene involving the new Mrs. Draper — and an unexpected amount of levity.

The action resumes in late May 1966, meaning only about eight months have passed since last we saw Don and the gang, but massive changes have already taken place. The episode opens with a scene, lifted from real-life events, of executives at the Young & Rubicam agency dousing a crowd of mostly black protesters with water. A few of the picketers come upstairs to confront the pranksters: “And they call us savages!” It’s not subtle, but then again, neither are the times. The issue of race takes a back seat for much of the rest of the episode, only to return dramatically in the closing moments. These bookend scenes would seem to indicate a new era for “Mad Men,” which in the past dealt with race in a more oblique fashion. Fitting, isn’t it, that the first truly progressive move on this show comes as the result of an elaborate joke?  The question now is, how will the staff of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce handle a black secretary — as opposed to a black elevator operator or janitor? This remains to be seen; I just hope whoever she is gets assigned to Pete, not Roger.

Plenty has changed inside the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce too. After their whirlwind engagement, Don and Megan are now man and wife, and, as Peggy and so many of us feared, Megan has been promoted to a low-level creative position at the agency. Why Weiner continually insists on depriving viewers of a wedding involving key “Mad Men” characters — Joan, Roger, Betty and now Don have all gotten married off-camera — I’ll never understand.

Weiner avoids big moments, but he sure knows how to milk the small ones. The first familiar face we see is that of the no-longer-quite-so-young Sally Draper, who’s now about 12 going on 37. As some trippy psychedelic music plays in the background, Sally wakes up in a bed and wanders groggily down an unfamiliar hallway. (There’s something very “Virgin Suicides” about this sequence, isn’t there?) “Whoa, Betty’s new house is cool,” I think to myself, only to be shocked when a bare-chested Don answers his bedroom door. Surprise! We’re actually at Don’s apartment! There are more surprises to come: Naked Megan! Talking baby Gene! Yet another Bobby! And, OMG, a sunken living room with an L-shaped couch!! Who knew a tween girl waking up in her dad’s apartment could induce such excitement? Excuse me while I go exhale into a brown paper bag for a few minutes.

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How groovy will 'Mad Men' get? '60s experts make predictions

'Made Men' Season 5: Elisabeth Moss, Christina HendricksFor four seasons now, “Mad Men” has pulled off a remarkably adroit feat: telling a story about the 1960s while resisting most, if not quite all, the pop-culture clichés associated with this much-mythologized decade. Unlike “Forrest Gump” or “The '60s,” “Mad Men” dramatizes an era of change from the point of view of characters who, for the most part, exist on the sidelines of the revolution.

In its long-awaited fifth season, which begins Sunday night after a 17-month-long hiatus, “Mad Men” resumes in 1966 and is likely to plunge forward into ’67, a time of almost inescapable social and political upheaval in the U.S: the escalation of the Vietnam War, the early stirrings of the feminist movement, the rise of black power and the explosion of drug culture.

Part of the distinct pleasure of “Mad Men” is wondering how characters like Peggy Olson and Don Draper might get caught up in the maelstrom of the late ’60s — or, indeed, if they will at all. Whether by accident or by design, notoriously secretive series creator Matthew Weiner has only fueled fevered speculation of the show’s impassioned fans by refusing to drop hints.

The latest temporal shift represents a creative conundrum for “Mad Men”: How can the series engage with history without losing what makes it distinctive?

Jon Hamm One obvious way “Mad Men” might ease us into the “real” ’60s is through the campaigns generated by Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and its rivals. In the 1950s, advertising was a notoriously staid industry — the domain of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” But by 1966, mohair-clad creative executives, obsessed with emerging youth culture, were promoting the idea of rebellion and nonconformity through consumerism.

“In the ’60s, advertising embraced a critique of capitalism,” explains cultural historian Thomas Frank, whose book “The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism,” examines the relationship between youth culture and big business. He cites the “Dodge Rebellion” campaign of 1965-66, which urged Americans to “rise up” and "break away from the everyday" by buying Dodges, as the most infamous example of this trend. Don would likely roll his eyes at such transparent pandering, but then again, maybe not: Don, who published a self-serving anti-tobacco manifesto in the New York Times last season, is himself no stranger to shallow acts of defiance.

Look for changes inside the agency as well, says Lynn Peril, author of “Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office.” Technological advancements like the Xerox machine — a memorable supporting player in the second season of “Mad Men” — and later, the word processor, significantly reduced drudge work for secretaries.

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'Mad Men' creator talks Don Draper -- not much about the fifth season

Jon Hamm of "Mad Men"There exists a “Mad Men” fan who has not missed Don Draper in all his flawed (and nicely tailored) glory. His name is Matt Weiner.

“That’s only because I had to see him in May, when we started shooting — our time apart wasn’t long,” the show’s creator told the L.A. Times before a panel for the show Tuesday night at PaleyFest. “But I’m glad to see that the world misses him.”

An overstatement for sure, but “Mad Men” fever is certainly in the air. The show makes its fifth season return March 25 after a 17-month break. Do you know how many lines Roger Sterling could have dictated into his tape recorder in that time? A lot. And Weiner and his cast of actors have been stingy with hints about the season so that our hearts remain all the more fonder from the absence — attendees didn’t even get a glimpse at the premiere, instead they sat through the fourth season finale.

Video: 'Mad Men' Season 5 trailer

When asked before the panel which character’s journey he enjoyed following this season, Weiner, like the loving show parent that he is, couldn’t pick.

“You know what, I don’t even think of it that way,” he said.  “It’s been a great experience to work on this season. We have great writers on this show and we all sort of wrote about what we found interesting. I think thematically the idea this season of 'when is everything going to get normal' has been something that we were, literally, every day, saying ‘oh my god, this is exactly like the show we know.’”

He also chose his words carefully when discussing Jon Hamm’s directorial debut on the show (he takes the helm of the third episode this season, titled "Tea Party"). Hamm follows in the steps of co-star John Slattery, who directed an episode last season, as well as for the upcoming season.

Video: 'Mad Men' Season 5 trailer

“Jon was pretty good,” Weiner said. “He wanted to do it and we were glad to oblige them. If he wants to do it again, we’d let him."

So what happened during the actual panel? Not a lot of discussion about the forthcoming season -- as expected. But here's a few things we found interesting:

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'Mad Men' and 'Walking Dead' come together again [Video]

For use on external sites w/exclusive video premieres.

One wouldn't automatically think that "Mad Men" and "The Walking Dead" would share a huge fan base. One's a show about lethal moves in the business world; the other is simply about the undead.

But "The Walking Dead" will feature a shout-out to Don Draper and the Sterling Cooper crowd when it airs its season finale this Sunday. As Rick & Co try to fend off the walkers, the network will showcase a new teaser spot for "Mad Men" that riffs on the "Dead." (You can watch it above.) The spot follows a promo during last week's "Walking Dead" episode in which a "Dead"-like voiceover jokily alludes to a small group struggling to survive (the ad agency staffers) and one man (Draper) keeping them safe.

Though relatively quick, the new "Men"-centric spot offers a visual ode to the "Dead"--think rising and walking--as well as borrowing its musical theme. "Zombies are back," the ad pronounces, riffing on "Mad Men's" larger campaign about everything else --Draper, envy, adultery--being back when the drama's fifth season kicks off March 25.

There's a reason why AMC is using "Walking Dead" as a "Mad Men" marketing platform." The Jon Hamm series is looking to maintain its strong fourth-season ratings as it ramps back up again after a 17-month layoff. "Walking Dead" offers a good weapon--it's a large audience, and it's a young audience.

Do executives worry that those who follow the genre series aren't necessarily concerned with the exploits of the '60s smoking set? "'Walking Dead' has a passionate audience base and 'Mad Men' has a passionate audience base," AMC senior vice-president of marketing Linda Schupack told Show Tracker. "And both of them care about great character drama."

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

'Mad Men': John Slattery toasts new business, season [video]

For use on external sites w/exclusive video premieres.

To prime the pump for the return of "Mad Men" on March 25, AMC is running a number of spots both on and off its network. In the latest teaser, which will be airing in off-network venues, marketers remind us that Don, Peggy, Betty and the rest of the gang will be back — as are, needless to say, envy, secrets, adultery and other series elements we know well. You can get a first look at the video by clicking on the player above.

Titled "Good to Be Back," the spot shows a host of characters up to various shenanigans while song lyrics like "I feel like a new man" can be heard in the background.

"To new business," John Slattery's Roger Sterling toasts. Indeed.

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TV star feud: Is Jon Hamm smarter than Kim Kardashian?

Jon Hamm comments on celebrity 'stupidity'Here's one thing we know: If Jon Hamm and Kim Kardashian got married, they would have awesome-looking kids. And the best part is, they've already got a head start on the divorce. 

The "Mad Men" star recently ripped into Kim Kardashian for being, well, an idiot. "We're at a place where the idea of being 'elite' is somehow considered negative," Hamm said in an interview with Elle magazine.  "Whether it's Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated. Being a [naughty word] idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you're rewarded significantly."

Kardashian — who, it must be pointed out, once made a big deal of having her hindquarters X-rayed to prove she didn't have butt implants — was not amused. "I just heard about the comment Jon Hamm made about me in an interview," she wrote on Twitter. "I respect Jon and I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and that not everyone takes the same path in life. We’re all working hard and we all have to respect one another. Calling someone who runs their own businesses, is a part of a successful TV show, produces, writes, designs, and creates, 'stupid,' is in my opinion careless."  

It's true that some of Kardashian's actions — including that notorious 72-day marriage — have brought waves of contempt upon her fetching head. So in that sense Hamm is just piling on. But most TV fans would have to admit that "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" ranks no lower on the programming IQ meter than much equally popular fare that passes without comment. And it's probably a good 10 or 20 IQ points higher than "Jersey Shore." How Hamm managed to blame Kardashian and not Snooki seems inexplicable.

Need we also mention that Season 5 of "Mad Men" is coming this month?

What do you think? Is Kim Kardashian a threat to civilization? Or is Jon Hamm just being a pretentious jerk?

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Photo: Jon Hamm said that Kim Kardashian is celebrated for "stupidity." Credit: Danny Moloshok/Associated Press.

'Mad Men:' New trailer asks if fans missed Don Draper [Video]

For use on external sites w/exclusive video premieres.

The upcoming return of "Mad Men" has fans licking their lips for all things Don Draper. Among the many plot turns to look forward to when the show restarts with a two-hour premiere on March 25?  Draper's marriage proposal to Megan, and the small matter of Joan's baby (and Greg's inevitable disillusionment when he realizes it's not his).

But promoting a show that's been gone for more than 17 months isn't easy. AMC has taken several tacks to tease the upcoming fifth season, the most playful of which has been to, well, acknowledge that the series has been gone a while.

In the exclusive new digital trailer (you can see it above; check back at Show Tracker later today and Wednesday for first looks at other spots), the network set footage from past episodes of the series against Wanda Jackson's 1957 hit "Did You Miss Me?" (Lyrics: "Did you miss me while I was gone/Did you want to kiss me when you were alone?")

In the spot, you can see shots of the show's iconic characters smiling, scheming and, of course, smoking (not to mention engaging in various forms of steamy behavior). The trailer will go out later this week on a number of digital platforms.

Network executives said that rather than pretend everything is picking up where it left off, they decided to nod to the long lag -- and do a double-entendre that could also apply to several character dynamics within the series.

"We wanted to acknowledge that the show's been away a while," Linda Schupack, senior vice president of marketing for AMC, told Show Tracker. "The song works on multiple levels."

Of course, fans might expect some Sterling Cooper-level talent in the "Mad Men" spots -- it's a show whose characters spend their days dreaming up clever advertising campaigns.

For fans scrutinizing the teaser for clues about the new season, there's no new footage from the show -- as a rule, the Matthew Weiner-created series doesn't offer that in its teasers that run before the season starts. But AMC hopes the new montage will allow fans to fill in the blanks themselves.

"The campaign is very simple. But the appeal of 'Mad Men' is that it's powerful enough that people can bring their own thoughts ... to the canvas," Schupack said.

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AMC confirms return dates for "Mad Men," "The Killing," "The Walking Dead"

-- Steven Zeitchik
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'Mad Men' gets well-timed PR from leaked Christina Hendricks photos

Hendricks
The case of the sexy photos filched from Christina Hendricks' cellphone is causing concerned citizens to ask: What is the deal with celebrities and racy snapshots?

In any case, the PR surrounding the alleged hacking is providing an excellent PR boost for the Season 5 premiere of "Mad Men," coming later this month to a TV near you.

The story, as we know it so far: Shortly after a series of suggestive photos cropped up on the Internet, Hendricks' rep said the images had been hacked from a phone belonging to the red-haired actress, who plays the saucy and amply endowed Joan on the AMC hit about the 1960s ad business. One shot is supposedly of Hendricks' breasts, while the others show her posing in lingerie and other skimpy attire.

"Christina's phone was in fact hacked and photos were stolen. The proper authorities have been contacted in hopes of rectifying this unfortunate situation," the rep emailed Show Tracker. She added that the topless photo - which has no face visible - "is fake and not an image of Christina." The other photos, presumably, are real.

Assuming one accepts that explanation - and indeed, it does seem odd that the only topless shot in the bunch would be conveniently missing identifying details - there are still plenty of questions to be asked. For whom were these photos intended? Hendricks, 36, is married to actor Geoffrey Arend. Was it coincidental that they surfaced around the same time as supposedly purloined photos of "Iron Man 2" costar Olivia Munn?

And above all, why do celebrities take naughty pictures of themselves with cellphones? Hendricks is just the latest star to partake, after widely reported scandals involving Scarlett Johansson and Vanessa Hudgens. Does it never occur to famous people that after-hours images of themselves could wind up being published everywhere - or is that the whole point?

In any case, we have it on good authority that this little bout of indiscretion had nothing - nothing! - to do with the March 25 rollout of Season 5 of "Mad Men."

Set your DVRs!

What do you think of the photo controversy? Why do celebs take these pictures? And do you  believe Hendricks' rep that the nude photo is a fake?

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-Scott Collins (twitter.com/scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: Christina Hendricks (with "Mad Men" creator Matt Weiner) is at the center of a photo controversy. Credit: Danny Moloshok/Associated Press.

 

 

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