March 19, 2012 at 9:15 AM ET
Many things have happened in the world in the 17 months since "Mad Men" last graced AMC -- star January Jones now has a 6-month-old baby, and co-star John Slattery says (tongue-in-cheek, of course) that there was even time for "gender reassignment surgery."
But however they want to characterize it, the fact is, it's been too long -- a fact that will be rectified Sunday, when "Men" returns with a two-hour season premiere. Slattery, Jones, fellow stars Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, Jared Harris, Kiernan Shipka and show creator Matt Weiner joined TODAY's Matt Lauer in the studio Monday to talk about that return ... along with a few other juicy details.
"It's an unfortunately long hiatus," said Slattery. "But I think now you can DVR shows, you can actually find the show in ways you couldn't before. So we're actually hoping it whetted peoples' appetites more."
Weiner noted that one of the show's appeals is that it never shows people in black-or-white shades; everyone lives in a world of gray. "It's also not judgmental," he said. "There's something about it that embraces on some level that we are flawed people.... People behave badly; it's why the 10 commandments are there."
Speaking of people behaving badly on TV, Hamm discussed his recent dust up with Kim Kardashian and reality TV in general (he called reality TV stars "idiots"; Kardashian retaliated by saying his remarks were "careless"). Hamm stood by his comments, and even got some support from a co-star.
"It's a part of our culture that I certainly don't identify with and I don't really understand the appeal of it other than that car-crash sensibility," said Hamm. "It's not something that I partake in or enjoy, but it is what it is and here we are."
Kartheiser added, "I agree with everything he said. I mean, I think our society enjoys to turn on the television and seeing someone who is awful; they can say, 'At least I'm not as terrible as that person.'"
"There are a lot of channels on the dial," said Hamm. "And those channels have to be filled up with things. ... Different strokes for different folks."
Undoubtedly reality TV will outlast even "Mad Men," which is expected to run for seven seasons (Sunday's episode kicks off the fifth). But even with that deadline looming, don't ask Weiner just how he plans to end anything: "For me, I think that they want the tension alleviated, that there is a plan or something, but for me I really don't even want to think about it ending yet."
Not even one with a fiery plane crash?
"We can't afford that," said Weiner. "There would be the reflection of a fiery crash in a window."
"Mad Men" returns on AMC on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.
What are you looking forward to most in the new season? Grab a cognac and cigar and discuss over on Facebook.