To say that Mad Men has changed television for the better is an epic understatement. What Mad Men has done, since it debuted in 2007, is re-establish a standard of excellence in the world of scripted series TV. Other series like the Sopranos and The Wire were outstanding dramas, but Mad Men is more subtle in its execution. Here are three ways the show has changed TV for the better.
1. Focuses On Storytelling Not Action
Mad Men can be less than climactic at times. In episode two of this season, Don is once again involved in an adulterous affair, something he avoided last season after marrying Megan. In turn, Megan reveals that she had a miscarriage to the very woman Don is sleeping with. It's a moment rooted in bitter irony, but also in measured, steady storytelling.
In the world of Mad Men, there's no procedural action.There's is no concrete ordering that something mind blowing must happen in each episode. Very often, nothing terribly exciting happens. However, this in itself is genius. Focusing on telling a complex story and less on continual action is the most important way Mad Men changed TV for the better.
2. Characters Matter the Most
Mad Men is loaded with complicated characters and the show stays true to them. Don Draper has been a cheating cad since the beginning of the show, running over the women in his life, and trying to hide his past. However, last season he stayed faithful to his current wife Megan. But he's back to his old form this season. This is the core of his character.
Pete Campbell is greasy, slimy bottom-feeder and has been since the beginning of the show. This season, he further proves this is what defines him in his attempts to play a gigolo, pathetically I might add, while living in a bachelor pad in NYC. Peggy, Joan, and Betty all have their own unique paths.
This is why the audience tunes into Mad Men, to see characters living their lives in what feels like real time. It's beautiful and realistic in its simplicity. Life isn't linear and a leopard doesn't change its spots, as evidence by Mad Men's characters. They are the central focus and this has added a richness to the television landscape.
3. Life's Shades of Gray
Life isn't black and white. Mad Men hits on life's gray matter, the shady area where everything is deceptively murky. Don Draper is complex and contradictory. Last season, he had a dream of himself strangling a woman, while in the midst of a seemingly happy period in his life. It was a momentary foreshadowing.
It was startling in its brutality but gave more insight into Don's troubled psyche. Too, the brutal suicide of Lance Pryce last season was also a complete reality check. This season, Don appears to be back to his old ways. But that's why we love Mad Men. It forever reminds us that life is messy and clouded in gray, hazy uncertainty.