The first time I watched “Mad Men” was during my junior year of high school. I remember being “sick” but odds are that I probably just had a test that day and when I woke up with a cough and runny nose, I made an executive decision to not subject myself to the perils of pre-calculus.
Anyway, I sat down on the couch and proceeded to peruse through Netflix trying to find something to watch (we’ve all been there). Eventually, I decided on “Mad Men” because I had read some positive reviews and the icon of Jon Hamm holding a cigarette looked pretty cool. Thus, I watched the first episode. Then, the second. Then, the third. Then, I finished the first season. From that moment I was hooked and as the marvelous show comes to an end, it seems only fitting to wax poetic about the greatest show that you have probably never seen.
“Mad Men” has garnered from 1.65 to 3.5 million viewers per episode, which might seem like a lot until you realize that “2 Broke Girls” lowest viewership was 6.5 million. Don Draper, the “protagonist” of “Mad Men” and friends, are not appointment television for many, yet for a select few, it’s at the upper echelon of television.
Thankfully, some of the people who understand its brilliance are the Emmy Voters. Mad Men has won seven Emmys and won Outstanding Drama Series four years in a row. This is quite the honor, yet it doesn’t really get into why this show is so magnificent.
Even though it dominates the drama category, “Mad Men” is arguably one of the funniest shows on television. The humor is often dark and sharp, yet it fits into the overall tone of the show. Perhaps one of the better examples of this is Roger Sterling’s witty one-liner about a man who recently lost his foot, remarking “right when he got it in the door”.
The world of advertising in the 60’s is a foreign place to many, yet through endearing characters and unbelievable set design, it seems all too real. A blast from the past, the costumes and set pieces truly set the time period and allow the audience to connect with these people as if the events unfolding in front of them were true.
Since I’m aiming for an English minor, it seems apt to try to insert a piece of literary criticism into “Mad Men”. As one of my professors said, “All stories contain a circle”. By this he means that the narrative will eventually reach a conclusion that is fitting with the beginning. “Mad Men” surely has this narrative arc, from Peggy Olsen’s rise from secretary to copy-chief or Don’s link to his family and how it ebbs and flows over time. Yet, the circle is not what makes “Mad Men” great. It’s the little, obscure moments, the attention to detail that make it stand out from the rest of the crop.
As the “Mad Men” finale comes and goes, it will surely not go out with a bang. “Mad Men” has prided itself on its realism and linear narrative in a way that most television shows don’t have the audacity to do. “Mad Men” will depart the same way it entered, telling stories of people. It will conclude with a song from the time period, as all episodes do, and then it’ll be gone.
“Mad Men” is not only about a bygone era but is itself a part of a bygone era. It’s scope and magnitude may be copied but never justly replicated. As Don and Peggy and Roger and Joan and Pete and Sally and Meredith and Megan disappear, so will the chance of seeing a show like this ever again.
The show has run its course and is going out at the top of its game but it seems odd that after next week Don Draper will never be seen grasping for a cigarette, driving into oblivion or making a speech to rally the agency.
All shows eventually end. Thankfully, “Mad Men” lasted seven seasons and made the best of every episode.