We spend hours searching for the perfect show that we can binge over the weekend, and sometimes the longer it is, the better. If you happen to be interested in dramas that delve deep into the human psyche and don’t gloss over the ugliness that manifests within us, Mad Men is the right fit for you.
Created by Matthew Weiner, Mad Men first aired in 2007 and lasted for seven seasons where we see the world through the eyes of advertising executives of New York. The show is primarily set in an ad agency but isn’t an office drama. It is, in fact, a character drama. Mad Men gets its name from advertising executives who worked on Madison Avenue and called themselves Mad Men back in the day.
Starring Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss in their breakout roles, this series loves its characters, whoever they might be.
What makes Mad Men special?
For a show that is set in the 1960s but is presented in the 21st century, detailing is key but what’s more important than procuring the right props is making the characters relatable.
Mad Men has a huge ensemble cast that is led by Jon Hamm’s Don Draper but unlike many other shows and movies, the other characters here are not simply there to support the larger story arc but to also serve their independent stories. Don is a flawed man and we get to know that in the pilot itself but as the show progresses, it becomes evident that all characters here are damaged and incomplete. They react emotionally to circumstances and are sometimes irrational, just like people in real life.
Be it a significant character like Peggy Olson who is finding her space in a male-dominated industry or a relatively smaller character like Bob who lives on stolen identity, the show gives its due to all.
Real life events that shaped the journey
As the show was set in the 1960s, creator Matthew Weiner used a lot of iconic moments from American history and their impact on the society and its people. The episode that chronicled the death of Marilyn Monroe reflects the innocence of the masses. When the law of pay parity was first introduced, men had a hard time accepting it and Mad Men reflects it as it is. It does not champion the cause of women just because the audience is watching it in the 21st century, it reflects the life of 60s.
The show deals with issues like alcoholism and also talks about the effects of smoking that were not acknowledged back in the day. It is here that we see pregnant women smoking and drinking with ease as the ill effects of these were not known in the 60s.
The ad pitches that were truly visionary
Since the show is set in an ad agency, it spends a lot of time in coming up with pitches for prospective clients like Kodak, Heinz among many others and some of these episodes are done so remarkably well that they deserve to be re-watched. All the pitches here are not even fictional. Some of them are truly based on history, like the famous Coca-Cola campaign ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’.
The characters that left an impact
Mad Men had a unique way of addressing its characters that remained consistent throughout the show. Like in real life, most characters did not address each other by first names while talking to each other. And though it was quite tricky for the audience to remember their names in the beginning, it gave them time to invest deeply in their storylines.
Don Draper was a deeply complex character who was constantly fighting his demons. Even though he is the protagonist of the show and is shown as immensely talented, he is never the hero. His troubled childhood and his questionable morality lead him to become a self-destructive man. Jon Hamm played Draper with such charisma that his flaws are sometimes covered up by his handsomeness, much like his character.
Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, Roger Sterling, Joan Harris and many other regular characters on the show were written in a fashion that they fit into the 60s perfectly but never looked dated. Their approach might be old school but their ethos is not.
Through its 92-episode run, Mad Men won 16 Emmys and 5 Golden Globes.
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Mad Men is streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime.