‘People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone…’
Pop culture is exhausting. It becomes like a job. How to keep up with every new artist, album and genre when all I really want to do is listen to old Weezer albums? How to watch every prestige TV show when it’s so easy to just revisit Rick and Morty over and over? Some stuff is bound to slip through the net. When discussing the greatest TV shows, three names are always thrown into the mix. Sopranos. The Wire. Mad Men. The real truth of the matter is that hardly anyone has seen all three of these televisual titans, but those that have seem to agree that the aforementioned are the best of the best. Well. I got to the last season of The Sopranos before giving up and I didn’t even make it past season two of The Wire but with Mad Men I was instantly hooked. Hopelessly, deliriously, wonderfully hooked.
The very best TV shows allow you to feel part of something and those first few episodes of Mad Men make it seem as though you yourself have started interning at the advertising agency Sterling Cooper. By the end of episode four I could taste the whiskey and smell the stale smell of cigarette smoke. I could hear the gentle click clack of typewriter keys and hear Joan making a bitchy aside under her breath to Peggy. Mad Men is a whole world, it’s a world of sharp suits and hard spirits. Of inspiration and perspiration. It’s the world of Don Draper.
As much as Mad Men is very much an ensemble piece that sees equal billing almost shared out between everyone, it’s Don’s story. And, luckily, Don Draper is probably one of the most enigmatic and compelling fictional characters ever committed to the small screen. After 92 episodes over seven seasons, I feel like I know Don less than I did at the end of episode one. This is a testament to both the writers’ ability to have Don be always present but never really there, and also to a game changing performance from Jon Hamm. These things combine to ensure that Mad Men never becomes stale, never outstays its welcome.
It’s a funny thing to say about a show that I never watched at all during its initial run but Mad Men feels like it’s truly mine in a way that perhaps no other TV show ever has. Game of Thrones almost did but then it lost its way in the last few seasons. Mad Men remains the same throughout. Sophisticated, suave and impossible to ignore.
Mad Men isn’t an ‘event’ show. It isn’t a show where loads of stuff happens. Instead, it’s a window into a very specific time and a very specific place. With Mad Men, Matthew Weiner and his cast have achieved the impossible. This show is a time machine. Don’t waste it.