The greatest TV show of all time*

*well, at least in my subjective opinion. Yours may differ.

Warning: this post contains a mild Mad Men spoiler about the career path of one of the main characters. 


I’ve always been more of a movie person than someone who’ll sit down and watch a TV series in one go. I love the big screen and a movie requires less time investment than watching hours upon hours of one series. But I’m not here to discuss the merits of movies over TV, or vice versa.

I just finished marathon-watching the whole of Mad Men for the first time: all 92 episodes from June to August. Now it’s over, I’m missing my nightly fix of a few episodes watched back to back. After spending all that time with the same cast of characters, watching them grow and change, I think any other series will be somewhat underwhelming. After all, Mad Men is regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. It’s pretty hard for anything else to live up to that, right?

I’m still gathering together my scattered thoughts after the ambiguous last scene in the final episode. But I’m unashamedly fangirling like a teenager over this series: the quality of the storytelling, the acting, the accuracy of the setting, and the way it relies on character development to drive the story, without throwing in sensationalist plot twists to “thrill” the audience.

Here are a few of the reasons why I think the show is so great (and why, if you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out!):

It has style and substance

The attention to detail is impressive. From the sets to the hair, makeup and costumes, everything looks authentic and believable – just as though you were watching the real lives of a group of 1960s ad men (and women, of course).

But it isn’t all style: above all, the show focuses on the complex psychology of human behaviour. And it has a pretty great cast of actors portraying that, too.

zach-miles-130827 (1)

New York, where Mad Men is set. Public domain photo by Zach Miles

The characters have range

There was a point early in season one when I wasn’t sure whether I’d see Mad Men all the way through to the end. I thought maybe it was just another over-hyped TV show. But it quickly grew on me, thanks to the compelling characters. One of the most impressive aspects of Mad Men — and a testament to the show’s incredible scripts — is that the characters have depth. They are complex and flawed, as humans are.

There will be times when you dislike certain characters intensely and find their behaviour irritating or their choices infuriating (hello, Don Draper), but on some level you still care about them. And that’s a mark of great storytelling. You won’t find any one-dimensional soap opera characters here.

Peggy Olson is the boss!

Seriously, I have a new feminist role model. Over the course of seven seasons, Peggy goes from being Don’s mousy, timid secretary — practically apologizing for her every move — to a determined, confident copywriter blazing a feminist trail in the male-dominated world of advertising in the 1960s. Talk about character development!

Are you a Mad Men fan? Do you agree with my high opinion of the show?

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10 thoughts on “The greatest TV show of all time*

  1. I have heard so many things about this and just never got around to seeing it. (When you have too many options, this becomes a serious problem…) But the way you described all the great things about it has me convinced, especially the part about compelling characters and their journeys. I’m all about those character arcs! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I miss Mad Man sooo much. And spot on re: Peggy. Sometimes, as a woman trying to be a boss, I think of that time when Peggy shuts down her secretary for talking about Don while he’s not there – so direct and SO bossy (in a good way). Tempting me to rewatch the whole thing… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Books I Read in August | Cultural Life

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