The drama continues in season six of Mad Men

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Michael Yarish/AMC

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his wife Megan (Jessica Pare) break in the New Year in their lavish apartment. Their relationship is perfect on the surface but the tension between them is reflective of the intense drama that makes Mad Men intriguing.

Dan Bidikov, A&E Editor

Like a Discovery Channel miniseries that struggles to make science exciting, Mad Men has attempted, albeit more successfully, to interest youngsters in the advertising industry since 2007.

The AMC original series has swept the Emmy Awards, earning the most nominations for any show in history.  Now in its sixth season, Mad Men proves its longevity with a captivating set of premiere episodes.

This season opened with a doorman suffering a heart attack, and quickly cut to a scene of protagonist Don Draper (Jon Hamm) reading Dante’s Inferno on a beautiful Hawaiian beach.

A perfect emblem of Draper’s own descent to hell, the book is mentioned again only when his mistress asks him if he read it when they are finished copulating.  The novel is not a gimmick, but just one example of carefully placed symbols that make Mad Men more involved than most other television dramas.

The nearly-literary dialogues and skillfully directed scenes are punctuated with plenty of sex, drugs, and alcohol.  There is plenty of traditional excitement, and even narcoleptic viewers will follow the more long winded parts of each episode — dialogue full of mid-century business jargon and endless chains of romantic betrayal — with relative ease.

The drama in Mad Men would be less successful without its quality performances.  Jon Hamm is a brilliant actor who makes a surreal character almost relatable.  His character coats his insecurity in swagger and hair gel yet reveals at times that he is not in control of his life.  His insecurity peeks out in the form of a few timid, speechless seconds as a response to uninentionally personal lines of dialogue that catch him off guard.As the office photographer tells him to “be yourself,” we find in Hamm’s half-distraught face proof that his character is not as in control as he lets on.

While they have yet to share the stage this season, Elisabeth Moss is a titan on screen as Peggy Olson, a copywriter and former colleague of Draper’s who struggles as a creative leader at her new agency.  Moss communicates her character’s frustrations with subtlety, delicately scrunching her face at bad smells or sharpening her tone in a way that is almost unnoticeable.

The historical relevance of Mad Men is impossible to ignore — the Vietnam War is a major plot vehicle in the newest season.  As the clock reaches midnight on New Years Eve in the two-hour premiere episode, long-time viewers can reflect on how America and the memorable characters changed over the course of the show.

Ultimately, Mad Men combines televised excitement and deliberated character development, which separates it from other drama series.