Between its fourth and fifth seasons, “Mad Men” took an unprecedented 17-month hiatus. The finale of Season 4 ran in October 2010, and the Season 5 debut just finally aired last night at 9 p.m. on AMC.

For most shows, disappearing for that long would be a death knell. But missing this smash hit only made fans more ravenous, and the buildup toward its return sparked intense speculation and anticipation. In fact, creator Matthew Weiner said the move was, in fact, actually a vote of confidence – both in “Mad Men” and the people that love it. He reported that a scheduling crunch demanded at least one of the network’s series being pushed back. And AMC believed this show was popular enough to hold off, whereas other shows would surely flounder. Many people believed that financial obligations contract negotiations factored into the dispute. Other cited reasons including plot and story arc conflicts.

Regardless, the hiatus gave the “Mad Men” cast, crew and creative team the time necessary to completely write, film and wrap the entire fifth season. Weiner also said that it was a first, and he feels content that they’ve got a complete and refined finished product thanks to the yearlong-plus break. At Mad 4 Marketing, we have to wonder what advertising and content partners thought about that tradeoff, considering that “Mad Men” was known for formerly breaking ground with its impressive partnerships with brands that tied into its retro-classic aesthetic and also wove neatly into the show’s storylines.

Last night, in a special two-hour premiere, “Mad Men” returned to our airwaves. The four-time Emmy-winning TV triumph about the marketing executives on Madison Avenue in the 1960s didn’t just pick up where it left off, either. We join enigmatic ad man Don Draper just in time to catch his 40th birthday party in 1966. And yes, he’s now married to his former secretary, Megan.

Looking forward, scheduling should hopefully be a lot less shaky. The team is now locked in for the next two seasons. If the show gets extended beyond that, there are widely affirmed speculations that it would conclude with Season 7. But now isn’t a time to worry about the eventuality of the show’s end – for now, fans can simply sit back and finally enjoy the return of “Mad Men.”

What do you think? Was the season premiere worth the wait?