5. It Revolutionized Television
When Mad Men came out in 2007, there was nothing like it out there, and no one expected AMC to be the one to run it. Prior to Mad Men, AMC was best known for running old movies and TV shows, so the idea to run a TV show set in the 60’s doesn’t seem too left-field for them. The success of Mad Men lead to AMC green lighting terrific shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, (Seasons 1-3) which lead to more A-List actors doing TV. Mad Men was a cultural event. Every week, millions of people would tune in to see these characters go through the 60’s. If you were old enough to remember that time, you’d talk about the old days. If you weren’t, you’d get a chance to visualize it for an hour. This show connected people, it was the first real water-cooler show of the 2000’s.
4. There is Limitless Re-watchability
I’ve watched Mad Men all the way through at least a dozen times, and I still pick up tiny new details each time I watch it. From the facial expressions from characters in the background and foreshadowed plot elements hidden in throwaway remarks, to how Don dresses over the decade, Mad Men rewarded re- watchers. The story itself is complex enough that you might understand certain events better after a re-watch, things you missed before become clearer, and foreshadowing is more obvious when you know what it leads up to.
3. It’s A Dazzling Period Piece
From the leisure suits, to the classic cars, to the way they talked to each other, Mad Men serves as a time capsule of the 60’s-70’s. It’s supposed to be shocking the way they treat women and minorities, it’s supposed to be shocking when the Draper family leaves their picnic trash on the side of the highway. That’s how you know we’ve grown as a society. We need that, now more than ever. Our society has changed so much since 1960, that we need a reminder of why we needed to change, why that behavior isn’t acceptable anymore. On the other hand, how cool it is to see historical events effect characters we’ve grown to care about? That’s the thing about Mad Men, you go along for this ride with these characters, and see their morals and values shaken as time goes on, and by the time the show is over, the characters you’ve spent so much time with are completely changed for the better Except Harry Crane, fuck him.
2. Perfect Usage of Music
One of my favorite moments in the entire show is when Don and Peggy dance to “My Way” after figuring out the strategy for Burger Chef. This is a crucial moment for Don and Peggy, and one of the few wholesome moments on the show. The moment comes after seasons of Don mistreating Peggy, not acknowledging her accomplishments or her personal growth, only to have the roles reversed, with Peggy on top. I love how the Don/Peggy dynamic is capped off by Don finally treating Peggy as an equal after all the hard work and sacrifice it took to get there. Music is used sparingly on Mad Men, and that was makes these moments so special, as shown by the usually strait-laced Pete Campbell smoking a joint and checking out girls in the creative lounge as Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart” plays. Another cool thing about the music of Mad Men is that all of the episodes end in period-accurate songs, not just the popular ones everyone knows either, there are some obscure 50’s hits in there too, which helps paint a nostalgic picture of the 1950’s.
1. The Character Growth
This is it. This is the key factor that made Mad Men must-see TV. As you follow Don Draper over the course of his life, you see subtle, as well as not-so-subtle, aspects of his character grow and decay. The prime example is his alcohol abuse. Don Draper, like many of the employees at SCDP, has the liver of a stereotypical Irish bartender. His drinking starts off slow, but steady, and as the seasons, and the stresses of life go on, you see Don pouring more and more whiskey down his throat, to the point where he breaks down and cries at a Hershey pitch meeting, effectively ruining his career. Don isn’t the only character who blossoms though, the women of Mad Men are more interesting then the men most times. Let’s look at Peggy and Joan, they both have a similar goal: to be taken seriously. Joan struggles with being looked at as a piece of meat, and not as a capable, intelligent woman, and is frustrated when men ignore that. Peggy has the same issues, but is treated differently after she displays talent and drive. Both of these women are treated as second-class citizens in an era that is rapidly changing and growing. There were 7 seasons of Mad Men, so you get to follow these characters through so many important events, and see why they do the things they do, and that was refreshing to see. I really hope they have a reunion someday and give us another look into the lives of the employees of SCDP, as well as all the secondary characters, just to see where they went and what they did with their lives after the finale. That’s how good this show is. Watch it.