This week’s episode of Mad Men highlighted certain qualities of the show, now in its fifth season, that exemplify why this is a hit. Four Emmys are no accident. But while watching, I could not help thinking that there is a bit of a mystery to Mad Men‘s overwhelming critical success. All of the cool clothes and unabashed drinking aside, what is it about Mad Men that really impresses?
I have a hard time figuring out why I care about the doings of a group of people who are otherwise unappealing in an objective sense. Nothing is ever at stake in the show. Who cares if the agency loses an account? Do we really expect Don’s latest marriage to Megan to last? Of course not.
But perhaps that is what sets Mad Men a cut (or two or three) above the rest. I have ended up caring about Don and his new wife, and I want to know how Betty will handle her benign lump on her thyroid. I remember the dark days of the eighties, when television truly was a wasteland of idiocy. That is not true now. The writing is that good.
And kudos to Matthew Weiner for putting Don and Harry Crane together at a Rolling Stones concert trying in vain to get the band to sing some ridiculous jingle for Heinz. “Heinz is on My Side” will stick with me for a long time. Their talk afterwards in the car, with Harry (my least favorite character) gobbling up White Castle burgers is a classic.