It’s remarkable how with the astounding amount of TV available, anything at all achieves any semblance of recognition. For those in the relative know, Mad Men is one of winningest shows out now weighing in with 4 Best Drama Emmys and a colossal 17 nominations (most ever).
And yet, it’s also one of the most strangely repellent shows out there–to the extent that the question of “Have you seen Mad Men?” is most often met with a ubiquitous “Boring.”
That being said, ignore the pleas for the melodramatic. Most dismissers discontent rises out of a failure to understand that Mad Men is not your everyday dramatic thriller. It’s something much greater.
- Tensity: For the doubters out there, Mad Men is not a thriller, so dispel that notion at the door. It’s a slow burn. Like the bars and clientele the show portrays in its pristine settings and side-cuts, Mad Men moves with the casual saunter of a man approaching a bar for a whiskey. It’s not a tour-de-force. Not a rocket blast. Not 24. And yet, it’s hard to disagree that there’s something there. Some distinctly poignant glimpse into a life that is both honest and accurate, and yet delightfully exaggerated.
- Characters: There’s no denying that the show’s protagonist Don Draper exhaustively shifts on the love/hate spectrum. And he’s just a small representation of a cast that’s as lifelike and realistic as a trip to the store for a carton of milk. They scream reality, which any writer will tell you is a serious feat for dramatic television.
- Writing: The dialogue shimmers with innuendo, cut-cheek jabs, and off-the-cuff dialogue that surprises and delights. Predictability being the bane of a program’s success, Mad Men never steers the course for the traditional and instead relies on the duplicitous personas driven by its characters for its plot.
- Verisimilitude: This being the lifelike quality of the show itself. Mad Men has this uncanny ability to render the slow undulations of life, the steady rhythmic lulls and flourishes of conversation, the turn of the cheek at the approach of an unwanted kiss. It’s is one of those shows that somehow reminds and educates us about a time in history in which the world was exceptionally different and similar at the same time.
- Consistency: This is something that most programs fail to recognize as vital to a show’s success. Just like Seinfeld’s ability to smash-cut between multiple plot lines and jokes, and Lost‘s ability to baffle and astound with consistently melodramatic shock-and-awe, Mad Men moves through it’s pre-established paces of bar-top banter and cut-throat business dealings, every week at the same pace without fail–which in and of itself is part of the magic.
So the next time you’re perusing the B-League Netflix stacks of Watch Instantly and casually gloss over the glory that is the world of Mad Men, remind yourself that its not about boredom or excitement. Great programming is more than just the gun-battle and explosion variety. Good drama and good stories are often those that play it close to the chest. Those that make us think and make us inquire into a world of the past that’s otherness from the world of today is so staggering it might as well be set on Mars.
And for that–watch Mad Men. You won’t be disappointed.