Season six of Mad Men proved to be a hard sell for UK audiences this week, premiering to just 58,000 viewers on Sky Atlantic. Yep, that's just 58,000, in case you thought we meant 580,000, or 5.8 million. Just 58,000. The show, one of the most stylish and absorbing dramas in recent years, pulled in 98,000 fewer viewers than for its fifth season launch on the channel last year - but what does it all mean for Mad Men?

In fairness, the creators of the show shouldn't worry too much. Mad Men hasn't never fared particularly well in the UK, despite appealing to critics and a relatively small but dedicated fan-base. Bought by Sky last year, the show - starring Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss - has slumped in the ratings since it was last available on free-to-air TV. The launch of the fourth series on BBC4 in 2010 pulled in a sizeable audience of 355,000. Despite the small audience for Wednesday's return, it was still nearly triple Sky Atlantic's slot average over the last three months, up a massive 178%. Sky executives often play down the important of overnight ratings, arguing that the purpose of paying the big-bucks for shows like Mad Men is to pull in subscriber numbers. 


The sixth season of the show was unlikely to win over new fans anyway, though critics found the opener compelling viewing. The Guardian's John Crace said it was "still superior viewing" Over in the US, David Hinckley of the New York Daily News said, "Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who wrote this episode, misses few chances to remind Don that the ground has shifted under his feet in the eight or so years since the show launched." Don, of course, is Don Draper, the brilliant advertising creative director who battles his moral demons and struggles to accept his past. In the season six opener, Don enjoys an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii on behalf of a famous hotel looking for a reinvigorating ad campaign. When the hotel bosses dismiss his idea (Hawaii: The Jumping Off Point), bringing up its connotations with suicide, Don's mettle is put to the test. Oh, and he's having another affair.

Mad MenJay R Ferguson
Jon Hamm [L] and Jay R Ferguson [R] Provide The Beards On Season Six of Mad Men