"('Mad Men') shows us that American capitalism rolls on regardless of the era that it is in," Podair says. "It will try to sell that culture and commodify that culture. That's what the Mad Men are doing."
That's not to say the characters won't be affected by the coming calamities. The cast members lightly allude to changes. Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, says the show will get to the heart of the loaded question that ended last season: Don, approached by two women at a bar, being asked, "Are you alone?"
John Slattery, who plays the wisecracking agency head Roger Sterling, says his character -- who ended last season nakedly enjoying an LSD trip -- could reassess his whole life.
"I think at this semi-late date in his career he's trying to shake it up and find something to be interested in," he says. "That's really all you can ask -- surprisingly I think he's the character that appears to be most open to that."
'Where we are right now'
But Podair doubts the group is suddenly going to bolt the establishment.
"In the back of many fans' minds (there's the thought that) this is the year, this is the season we're going to see them become complete hippies. It's not going to happen," he says. "Weiner's too smart for that. He wants to show that this other '60s -- this corporate '60s -- adjusted to the new 1960s and ended up selling the new 1960s."
Given that, can "Mad Men's" characters stay disengaged?
Creator Weiner, forever cagey about revealing too much, suggests they won't -- and that what they go through will echo down to the present day.
"I think you'll find this season more than ever really interacts where we are right now in society," he says. He leaves the point hanging, of course, but it's easy to see what the show might address: the splintering of society, destructive politics, what the baby boomers wrought.
But maybe "Mad Men's" characters will still muddle through, mildly oblivious to the deeper currents of the age. In that, they wouldn't be so different from the old woman -- or the rest of us.
Podair mentions a student he once had, another old woman, who took a course about the decade. He guesses she was born around 1930, and nothing he showed the class -- including movies such as "Easy Rider" and documentaries about '60s movements -- seemed to reach her.
Finally, Podair grew upset at her indifference.
"What were you doing during the 1960s?" he asked tartly.
"Raising my children," she responded.