Why Mad Men is So
Mad Men on AMC has just finished it's
fourth season, and it's more popular than ever. It's a
very highly rated cable TV show, which is nothing to
sneeze at. Both critics and fans love it. Mad Men is
basically a soap opera. It's probably the world's best
soap opera, in fact. It's certainly the best written and
Not every show has to live up to the standards that Mad
Men sets. Not very many primetime shows, let alone
daytime shows, can meet that standard. That level or
combination of excellent writing and acting is hard to
find and hard to predict or create. However, I believe
that all shows should try to be as good as Mad Men, and
not trying is just giving up and being lazy.
Mad Men tries very hard, and that's one of the reasons
it's very good. Few shows are set in a different time or
place like Mad Men. They work very carefully to
reproduce the 60's era in clothing, styles, and
attitudes. However, if that is all they did, it would
not make a good show. That 70's show did well in those
areas, too, and although it is a good comedy, it is not
as good as Mad Men.
Mad Men is a drama, yet it has many comedy moments as
well. The dialogue snaps. Even the silences of the show
speak volumes. The characters can accomplish more with
looks than any other characters on TV. The show can
sometimes be very obvious or very subtle, but the
writers are very careful never to do too much of
anything that is going to destroy the show. Maybe
someday they will. Maybe the show will jump the shark.
So far, it hasn't. Viewers tune in every week,
knowing that they will be laughing, crying, and glued to
their sets because there is no way of knowing what will
happen next on the show. Every week something
amazing happens, either with the story or just with
Daytime drama has many things going against it that Mad
Men doesn't. Their budget is lower, and they have to
produce shows every weekday. However, they do have very
talented actors and crew. They should be able to get
writers who are up to the challenge of making their
shows great. Since Mad Men is on once a week, let's just
say that the soaps should be 1/5 as good, shall we? But
they aren't. Now, you could say that Mad Men only has 13
episodes per season, and that gives it even more of an
advantage. I'm not going to bother doing the math on
that one. Soaps should still try to do the best possible
job they can. Do they? No, not even close.
You know what you will find on Mad Men that makes it a
soap? Continuing stories from one episode to another.
Stories that involve people with their families and with
romances. Lots of sex, and drama about sex. People who
are not perfect making bad decisions about who they are
sleeping with. Husbands and wives breaking up or
cheating on each other. Co-workers who flirt and sleep
together. Business people worried about their company's
future, and their own futures. Parents having problems
with their children. Pregnant women deciding whether to
keep their babies or not. Those are all elements you
will find on the daytime soaps as well.
Do you know what you won't find on Mad Men? Kidnappings.
Shootings. Mobsters. Women who constantly need to be
rescued by men. Hostage situations. Clichés.
Amnesia. Brain tumors that change people's
personalities. Evil or crazy twins. People coming back
from the dead. People changing paternity tests.
Predictable plots and dialogue. Male models that can't
act parading around with their shirts off for no
You won't find stories like these on Mad
Men: Y&R's Sharon falling in love with the horrible guy
who stole her baby and told her that it was dead. B&B's
Brooke having sex with her daughter's boyfriend at a
party by accident. Day's Hope going to prison (after
taking sleeping pills that made her into a psychopath)
and then finding a secret murder ring run by the warden.
OLTL's Rex finding out who his "real" parents are, after
numerous others have claimed to be his parents.
As long as soaps have boring stories and
dialogue, or ridiculous plots to "shock" us, instead of
just having interesting stories that are well-written,
they will continue to shrink in the ratings. Soap fans
will keep leaving as long as they have better shows to
watch or other things to do.
Page updated 2/28/13
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