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TV chat: Eagerly awaiting return of ‘Mad Men’

Jon Hamm and Jessica Paré star in “Mad Men,” which returns April 7.Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert chatted with readers Thursday on Boston.com. Here are excerpts.

Q. OK ,let’s hear it. How good is “Mad Men” this year?

A. The first two-hour episode? Excellent. It’s still the same show, of course — it’s not going to bring in viewers who haven’t liked it so far. But it’s moving forward with the same literary and historical intensity. It returns Sunday, April 7.

Q. Is “Mad Men” bringing in new characters since they killed off Lane?

A. There’s a note with the disc I got that has Matthew Weiner asking reviewers not to give that away. Most shows don’t want us to spoil, but “Mad Men” has turned that into one of its trademark things, a PR element. There is at least one new character in the workplace, which has changed some.


Q. In what year does the new season of “Mad Men” pick up?

A. Again, if I tell you I will probably be excommunicated by AMC. The show moves forward gracefully into the 1960s, and we can see the shifts in style. It has been fun to watch more color seep into the design of the show.

Q. What do you think about the rumor that HBO GO is going to open up their online service to nonsubscribers?

A. That would be a very smart move for HBO, I think. Might cut back on some of the pirating by younger viewers who don’t subscribe to the TV channel. Most young people I know can’t afford to get HBO on their TVs.

Q. What do you think of “The Americans” long-term prospects?

A. FX has already renewed the excellent show for a second season.

Q. What can we expect from “Bates Motel”? Is it exactly the storyline that anyone who saw “Psycho” can expect?


A. No, it’s pretty different from the movie in terms of plot. It’s about Norman and his mother (and half-bro) settling into the house and the motel, and the local mysteries involving pot fields and human trafficking. It’s a bit like a warped CW drama (warped because of the weird bond between Norman and his mother). The “Psycho” connection is almost unnecessary, and I think it spoils some of the mystery of the series, because we know that sensitive younger Norman is ultimately going to become a monster.

Q. What do you think of “Top of the Lake”? Bit of “Twin Peaks”?

A. Yes, it has “Twin Peaks” in its DNA for sure. I like it a lot. The first episode turned me off — it was trying too hard to be dark and artsy. Everyone we met was either a creep or a victim of a creep. But I got drawn in more with the second two (of six) episodes. Elisabeth Moss really shows she can act outside of “Mad Men.” She’s intense without overacting. And her New Zealand accent is surprisingly unobtrusive.

Q. Do you watch “Portlandia”? I watched a few episodes this week, and I sit silent for 27 minutes and then spit out my water the other 3 minutes.

A. Exactly. It’s not a laugh riot, but then when it’s funny it’s funny. And I just find Fred and Carrie so watchable. They seem to have this secret comedy code between them.

Q. It seems like we’re going to meet the mother on “How I Met Your Mother” at the end of this season. Would you agree?


A. That seemed to be the message at the end of this week’s very weird episode. Ted will meet her in 45 days, right? That will fall somewhere during May sweeps. Or course, we probably won’t actually see her until next season.

Q. Do you think “The Following” has become so over-the-top bad that it is good?

A. Yes, almost. Because it is really awful, and yet highly watchable. It is getting increasingly ridiculous. Whenever someone is being protected, you know that it won’t work, that some traitor is going to intervene.

Q. If you could only watch one TV show that hasn’t been canceled yet, what would it be? I’m guessing something from AMC!

A. “Breaking Bad.” That show blows my mind. And “Mad Men” is right up there.

Q. If you could only watch one channel, what would it be? Again, guessing AMC. Maybe HBO. Maybe Showtime.

A. That is a tough one. I can definitely put NBC out of the running! I spend a lot of time watching AMC, HBO, and Showtime, but I also like FX a lot, and IFC, Sundance, and Starz are starting to kick in. Plus, I’ve been known to dabble in CBS procedurals.

Q. What will it take for shows like “The Bachelor” to end?

A. Apocalypse. And the folding of People magazine.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on
Twitter @MatthewGilbert.