The breakouts

"MAD MEN" appears like a smoke-shrouded blast from a past never before seen on television. The Madison Avenue advertising men are a band of suited snakes, desperate, ambitious and charming. Anyone who doesn't fit into their world -- minorities, women, gays -- is made to feel the sting. While "Men" shows us the harsher side of life in 1960, it all plays out against an exquisitely rendered setting, from the offices of Sterling Cooper to the suburban home of adman Don Draper (Jon Hamm).

"It really gives people a sense of another place, and that's a very important part of entertainment that we have ignored for a while," said creator Matthew Weiner.

The settings though never distract from the struggles that take place within. Hamm notes that if the AMC show were instead on a network, "it would be, 'Let's time travel to the '60s and wasn't everything funny back then?' We'd learn a lesson at the end of every episode about how far we've come. And our show isn't like that at all."

As the season ended, the desperate underling Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) revealed Don's identity to be an alias, while single secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) gives birth to the married Pete's child. So what happens when Season 2 begins in July? It's a mystery as thick as the cigarette smoke. Weiner says only, "We will not pick up exactly where we left off."

-- L.R.

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