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Scott D. Pierce: No, 'Mad Men' is not the greatest show ever

Published April 12, 2014 5:15 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

At the risk of committing TV heresy, "Mad Men" is not the greatest thing ever to hit the small screen.

Don't get me wrong. I like it. And it's been more or less fascinating to see the characters develop — or not develop — over the 78 episodes of the first six seasons.

But, while folks like me who write about TV have gone more-or-less gaga over "Mad Men" at times, while the Emmys have dumped more than their share of awards on Don Draper & Co., the series is not without flaws.

Not the least of which is that it takes itself so seriously that it often feels as if it has become more about the people who make "Mad Men" than it is about the people for whom "Mad Men" is made — the viewers.

Creator/writer/executive producer Matthew Weiner has made it a trademark to set up situations and then deny viewers the payoffs they've been waiting to see. Or, at least, he's delivered more muted payoffs.

Yes, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is a fascinating character. But — more TV heresy here — it's easier to create a troubled antihero if you're not worried about empathizing with him. And, over the past 78 episodes, Don has become increasingly difficult to empathize with.

We know the roots of his bad behavior come from a horrific childhood, but that's not an excuse for the hell he puts everyone close to him through. And how many times have we seen Don take the happiness presented to him on a platter and throw it away with both hands?

It's less noticeable and less annoying if you watch 78 episodes spread out over six years; if you binge watch "Mad Men," you'll see that theme play out as if it's on a loop.

Sunday's seventh-season premiere (8 and 9 p.m., AMC) is yet another in a long list of episodes that can only be described as morose. The big question is whether Don has finally hit bottom — a question that has been asked and gone unanswered time and time again.

Season 7 picks up in early in the Nixon administration, not long after Don was ousted from the ad agency. He flies to California to be with his wife, Megan (Jessica Pare), and not much of anything is resolved. As usual.

"Mad Men" clearly was never designed to appeal to the masses. And it doesn't. Its most recent episode, which aired in June 2013, drew the series' most viewers to date — 2.7 million.

AMC's season finale of "The Walking Dead" on March 30 drew almost six times as many viewers — 15.7 million.

But I refuse to argue that "Mad Men" is too good for the masses.

Maybe I'm reacting negatively because the Season 7 premiere left me feeling glum. And maybe that's exactly what Weiner wants us to feel.

But he's played that note so many times it's far less interesting than it once was.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.






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