But here goes, and not necessarily in order of importance, more in order of chronology of how and why this show hooked me from the very beginning:
10 The brilliant theme song, “A Beautiful Mine” by RJD2. The fatalistic plunge of the corporate anti-hero in the opening titles warned us all from the start this was going to end badly.
9 The office/water cooler banter. Watching Mad Men every Sunday night was the closest I’ve ever come to working in an office. I now have a much better understanding of how significant all of that forced proximity is and how crucial the need for team chemistry.
8 The style. The clothing, the hair, the sets, the props, the cars, the music, the world. Creator Matthew Weiner and his team nailed it week in and week out. Can’t even tell you how many times I froze the frame just to stare in awe at the composition and art department work.
6 Roger. Always drinking, always looking, always cracking wise. Nothing ever rocked him too hard he couldn’t bounce back from with just the right zinger. So good when he turned to his second wife, just before they took LSD and said: “You always say I never take you anywhere.” Then, while they were tripping she said “You don’t like me.” To which he responded “I did.” Roger loved Joan. He loved Joan most of all. Roger couldn’t cry when his mother died, but he sobbed like a baby when the shoe shine guy croaked. In many ways, John Slattery was the “emotional” anchor of this brilliant time capsule series.
5 Sally. The episodes that focused on her always so memorable and spot on in terms of adolescent frustration with divorce and the brutal realization that your parents are far from perfect. Not sure what will become of Kiernan Shipka (now 15) after Mad Men, but she laid it all out for this series and I will never forget her performance.
4 Joan. In my best Roger Sterling “Ok, she’s listed twice, sue me.” Always demanding respect in a world so quick to offer her so little. Always graceful and dignified. Smarter than most, wiser than most, tougher than most. One of the all-time great female characters on tv.
Christina Hendricks is a force of nature.
She set the template for the whole series early in Season One when she explained to a young, disillusioned Peggy Olson: “That’s how these men are, and why we love them.”
3 Peggy. In a business dominated by men, it was consistently inspiring watching her navigate the waters and take her lumps. A lot can be learned from her tenacity and integrity. How she always did not just her best, but her “sincere best.” Peggy, so good at the ad game. So “good in a crisis,” as Ted once told her on new year’s eve, that she could swoop in on Heinz, and with Don eavesdropping on her pitch outside the door, steal one of his best close lines: “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.” “The Suitcase” my favorite episode of all because of the intense and desperate connection made between Don and Peggy. “That’s what the money’s for!” I wonder how often people yell that at Elisabeth Moss.
2 Don Draper. What a schmuck. Horrible husband. Absentee father. Dismissive. Dishonest. Arrogant. Vulnerable. Wounded. Stunted. Secretive. Ambitious, brilliant, shrewd, charming, smooth as silk – awesome. Well done, Jon Hamm. You owned every inch of that S.O.B.
How about the stewardess he brought back to his hotel room in Baltimore. She pauses: “I’m engaged, this might be my last chance.” To which good old Don Draper assures her: “I’ve been married a long time, you’ll have plenty of chances.”
What a schmuck.
Still, when Betty looked Don straight in the eyes in Season 3’s “The Grown-Ups” and told him “I don’t love you anymore,” we all felt so badly for him. I know I did. How he went and sat in his bedroom like a lost little boy – like he’d been punched in the gut.
How many times did Mad Men punch us square in the gut?
1 Don Draper selling. Nothing fired me up more watching this show than when Don was in his element in the conference room selling an idea; explaining how the consumer thinks, feels, envies, romanticizes…wants. For better or for worse, advertising makes the world go ’round ~ “not like a wheel, but like a carousel” ~ and Don Draper could sell snow to Eskimos.
How about his reassuring line to the London Fog client who worried that everyone who needs a raincoat already has a raincoat: “There will be fat years, there will be lean years. But it will rain.” Or his meeting with Peggy and her writers for Hilton: “Tag line’s flat,” he says, to which Peggy responds “That was yours’.” To which Don Draper responds: “Doesn’t make it good. If it’s bad, don’t use it.”
How about when Don explained to Coppertone, right before he kicked them out of his office: “You need to decide what kind of company you want to be, comfortable and dead, or risky and rich.” Vintage Draper.
But best of all, I will never forget how he bagged Kodak with his family slide show: “Nostalgia is the pain from an old wound…it takes us to the place where we ache to go again…a place where you knew you were loved.”
Thanks for the memories, Mad Men. Not just a tv show, a victory for civilization.