Mad Men is a really interesting, addictive, and important show. It may well be one of the best shows on TV. But it is notÂ the best show on TV.
That title goes toÂ Breaking Bad, now thatÂ The Wire is over.Â Mad Men is too self-indulgent, too pleased with itself, too quick to get audiences to look for inside jokes, winks, nods, and allusions. It’s too ambitious and not grounded enough. It seeks to satisfy on too many levels and comes up not fully succeeding at any of them. It tries to make too many points. It is a modern allegory more reminiscent ofÂ Pilgrim’s Progress than its creators are willing to admit. Each character is a type. The show works because we haven’t seen many of these types portrayed so well, but their job too oftenÂ is to represent a Very Important Trend or stand-in for Something Important that is Lost (for good or ill).
Meanwhile,Â Breaking Bad is a better acted, better plotted (although this last season sagged a little bit in the shows before the final two) show with actual human beings. Morally it is much more compelling because it really only has one point: evil is a seductive cancer. I don’t know if the show’s writers would use the word evil, or describe their point that way at all. They might see it all as a grand allegory about drug use or addiction or some such. But that’s what it’s really about: The seductions of evil. Walter White (the main character) wanders from the straight and narrow for the best possible reasons, and he has become lost. Â Don Draper is a handsome enigma. Walter White is aÂ mensch at sea.
Agreed 100%. If you haven’t seen it, get it on DVD and enjoy.
Ross Douthat at the NYT agreed in June:
I hadÂ early doubts about â€œMad Men,â€ but eventually I gave myself over to its charms, and after three excellent seasons I took it for granted that the saga of Don Draper was the best show on TV â€” the rightful heir, insofar as one could possibly exist, to â€œThe Sopranosâ€ and â€œThe Wire.â€ But after working my way through AMCâ€™sÂ other drama, â€œBreaking Bad,â€ which had its season finale Sunday night, I find that Iâ€™ve changed my mind. And not only because â€œBreaking Badâ€ is brilliantÂ â€” though it is, it is â€” but because its dramatic strengths expose some of the weaknesses of â€œMad Men,â€ and puncture, ever-so-gently, the mystique thatâ€™s built up around Matthew Weinerâ€™s show.