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Daytime Opinion Article


Why Mad Men is So Popular By Suzanne

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 acted.

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 character development.

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 apparent reason. 

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.

Part One Part Two

Page updated 2/28/13

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