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TCA 2015: A 'Mad Men' cruise? Don't count on it, Matthew Weiner says

ABC's 'Mad Men' set to air its final installment on April 5

A whiskey-guzzling, philandering, brilliant ad man once said: "Change is neither good nor bad. It simply is."

And a change of sorts is now in sight for viewers of "Mad Men," a series whose existence has undoubtedly contributed to the transformation of the television landscape. The drama that put the AMC network on the map returns April 5 to finish off the final leg of its seven-season run.

For Jon Hamm, who headlines the show as the aforementioned ad man (Don Draper), that's a sad reality.

"There’s no version of this [show] ending that is not super painful for me," Hamm said.

The actor joined fellow original cast members Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery and Vincent Kartheiser and creator Matthew Weiner for the final stretch of their farewell tour Saturday at the Television Critics Assn. press confab in Pasadena.

Weiner, the show's notoriously secretive architect, said he was eager for fans to see what he has crafted for the final seven episodes, but acknowledged that comes with a drawback.

"It’s going to be weird to actually get to the point where there is no more new ones," he told reporters. He later added: "The last seven episodes ... each one of them feels like the finale of the show."

The drama debuted in July 2007 as AMC, then a home for classic movie reruns, took the leap into original scripted programming. It attracted an audience, albeit a relatively modest one. But critics praised it, and the show would grow to become a cultural touchstone.

"It’s become, for better and worse -- but mostly better -- a significant part of my life," Hamm said. "There’s not a lot of jobs that do that you can point to in our world, that have that impact .... at the end of the day, this experience has been unequivocally wonderful. And I'll miss it."

AMC President Charlie Collier predicted "Mad Men" would endure after its run ends.

"'Mad Men,' really, is an example of a show where appropriate [viewership] metric is 'live-plus-forever,' " Collier said, alluding to the standard ratings metric used by Nielsen.

It's an immortality that Weiner expects to let persist on its own.

"We've tried to limit its exploitation to things related to show and not tarnish it with too much commercialization," Weiner said. "As someone who has spent last 10 or 14 years studying history I have no control over the future perception. Honestly, jon hamm is forever going to be the face of "Mad Men.' That is firmly on his shoulders to represent it in the future."

Basically, don't expect any gratuitous extracurricular activities to keep the world going: "I don't see the show particpating in a 'Mad Men' cruise," Weiner added.

Here are some other noteworthy moments from the panel:

--Jon Hamm has a job lined up for his post-"Mad Men" gig. "I've started car detailing. By the way, it's at the valet. I will seriously wash your car: tires, interior ... ," he said. Kartheiser weighed in and said he was also now in that line of business. We smell partnership! Hamm said their business will be called "Stickler for Detail." Let's hope they get a smart ad team on that.

--Jones revealed the final script was delivered to them incomplete. "The last 10 pages weren't there, which was really [messed] up!" Jones said her first reading of the script happened at home. "It was very hard. it was very emotional. The whole last few weeks I was just a mess, everything made me cry. It was hard. It's a beautiful story. Its perfect in a way. I read it over and over. i didn't want it to be the last time. Sometimes I still read it, like Thursday afternoon."

--Despite the lockdown he places on the show, Weiner is actually a big blabbermouth. Weiner said he usually spoils everything for the actors, telling them plot ideas that come from the writers' room to test them out. "Sometimes we do it, sometimes we don't." But with the final epsode, his lips were sealed. "I did not tell them anything, except for Jon," Weiner said. 

--Is Pete Campbell ready for his close-up? Spinoff, spinoff, spinoff. It's one of the most asked questions in relation to "Mad Men," particularly as it nears its end. Hamm has a suggestion: "Better call Pete!"

--Don't bet on those conspiracy theories: Weiner has heard them all -- D.B. Cooper, Sharon Tate. "I love that people have conspiracy theories," he said, though notes they are "flimsy and thin."

Twitter: @villarrealy

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