Why Madmen Sucks

I’ve watched the first two episodes of Madmen and have watched, years ago, later episodes in no particular order. I have several problems with the show based upon its own merits (or rather the lack thereof).

I get that it takes place in the 1950s/60s. That mere fact provides its own shock value. Wowzers, they smoke and drink all the time, cheating on your wife is a given, misogyny is expected, racism normal, homosexuals must live in the closet, men run the show, technology is new, etc. No mystery there, give me a one page paper or a history lecture. Nearly 2 hours of recycled motifs fast becomes dry. Madmen has yet to explore these cultural values/shifts in meaningful ways.

I don’t care about the characters, except the women who function as obvious underdogs. Unfortunately, being an underdog is a generalization and doesn’t lend itself to anything more than a superficial care. Don Draper is a son of a bitch, all the men are sons of bitches. It’s a routine that isn’t going anywhere. But wait, something is going on with Don? What is his background? And why is he so mysterious? Who gives a shit. When examined he’s not a compelling character. Rather, he is a caricature: the WW2 veteran suffering from shell-shock, the strong silent type, the male leader, the deep thinker and troubled soul, etc. Learning about him will not make the show more interesting.

The show is mildly entertaining. Unfortunately it draws out the story-lines and forces the audience into these “oh my” and “I can’t believe” pauses. Madmen’s lack of substance and lack of action leave us with a boring show. I can watch the most (subjectively) boring crap but it probably informs me of social and political issues in a substantive way. Madmen does not. I can watch pure action driven programs that hold little moral value. Madmen is no action packed program. Hell, the show ain’t even funny.

Once we get over the 1950s style, the macabre culture that is given only surface treatment, and the underdeveloped caricatures then we see what the show really is: above average set-design, a hard-working fashion team, and novel direction/production paired with barely mediocre story-telling.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Why Madmen Sucks

  1. Fair enough. Jen and I happen to be partway through season two of this show right now, and we’re enjoying it. I get what you’re saying, though.

    One of the things that makes it interesting for me is this era in advertising: when agencies began to employ Freudian psychological methods with considerable success. I studied a paper that traced the rise of this kind of thing, and Mad Men captures it fairly well.

    • I agree. The psychology portions are interesting but unfortunately only make-up a small amount of actual show. There was this great scene in s01e02 with the copywriter walking with Peg and telling her how the ad business works. The office was out for lunch and it was just the two of them walking around as he pointed things out. It was an allegory for the USA at the time and spoke volumes about the make-up of industry, capitalism, and society. Unfortunately this dialogue only lasted about 45 seconds.

      My question would be, does the show offer anything more? From what I’ve gathered, it doesn’t.

  2. I hear what you’re saying, but you’re completely wrong. There’s a lot more going on in Mad Men than what you observed. But I know…that’s just like my opinion, man.

    One thing you definitely got wrong, though…the name of the show is two words not one. But wait, I get it. You must be making some kind of witty commentary by writing it as one word.

  3. Yeah, we watched the first two episodes the other night after me sort of avioding the show for a while, and dude, I don’t know. it’s so overly dramatic and self-important, and full of a**holes and po-faced situations that make me chuckle rather than gasp. I don;t know if I’ll keep watching because I think I get it. And I don’t think it’s for me.

    • I’ll give it two more episodes, if I can give Geoff Johns multiple tries then I’ll give this highly rated show a shot. However, being a cause célèbre doesn’t grant it a free pass.

    • Started checking out reasons why the show did so well and in turn found a like-minded post:

      “Mad Men is poorly written, it spews continually lackluster dialogue, and it struggles with one boring plot line after another. The show boasts quite the cast, but this only underscores how poorly the writers have done in utilizing the talent at their disposal. When it first came out I was intrigued, and subsequently watched several episodes, but it didn’t take long to come to the realization that there is simply no “there” there. Short of the somewhat unique premise of the series, there is absolutely nothing about this show that warrants the attention it is getting. Are people really so shallow that they fall for this sophomoric, gimmicky drivel? When I heard that it was actually winning awards I couldn’t even believe by ears. Mad Men is every bit as trite and pathetic as our modern movies and music. Style over substance, nothing more.”

  4. pml

    Mad Men is a really shitty show. I watched the first 2.5 seasons, and while I did find the original season and the mystery behind Draper to be fairly compelling, I just got sick and tired of the same shit happening all the time. After the first season there is really no reason to watch it. Every episode is the same as the one before it and nothing substantial happens. I feel that many people and critics like it because it makes them feel edgy. It’s waaaay overrated and there is a too many good shows on TV to waste time watching a shitty show where nothing ever happens.

  5. I could care less for that show.

    What I do care about is doing Mad Men Mondays here at my office. Dressing up in suits, drinking whiskey, laugh at all the money we are making and passing out by lunchtime.

  6. Pingback: J. Edgar | Friends of P

  7. Randall

    THANK YOU! FINALLY SOMEONE ARTICULATES WHAT I HAVE BEEN FEELING!

  8. TMac

    Late to the party about Madmen. I liked the high expectations of me .. I rented 2nd season, references to Place in the Sun Monty Clift and Frank O’Hara … I felt challenged by the midcentury references … but once I figured out the characters … I looked up Mad Men Sucks and it took me here … Glad to know I’m not alone.

  9. Just Me

    I noticed that most people who like Mad Men are dudes who long for the day their grandfathers behaved like pigs and women pretended to like it. Women who like it are those “too hip, I’m a fun girl” to notice the piggishness because Don is hot.

    When we strip away all the things we can say about this topic, that’s the bare bones of it right there. And I don’t say these things just because I want to think it’s this way–I know actual people who think like this. The actual program/writing sucks. I always thought it did. And the program has little to do with actual advertising or meaningful things we can take away from it.

  10. Tim

    Yup. Don’t care about any of the characters and the show is completely devoid of humor. Unless you’re a fan of 60s decor not much to like here.

  11. I watched some of the Youtube segs just to familiarize myself. I got a little bored. The only reason why I even thought about Mad Men was this over PR of Jon Hamm’s character, D Draper. I’m gonna try to watch it (mainly because i’m completely superficial), but if it does not have substance after a few episodes, I will refuse to. Unless I see some Hamm…you know what i’m talkin about ladies. Kay, I’m really not that superficial about “that”, but it better be good over all. Maybe the reason why so many shows have such shitty writers….is because WE NOW LIVE IN A MEDIOCRITY IN AMERICA…with a very low federal minimum wage that has driven down so many of our wages ! That and – there are no more Gene Hackmans or Meryl Streeps. Course Gene Hackman would be even better if he looked like Don Draper. And not in his 80s of course.

    • Friends of P

      There are some really good shows that offer substance and style: Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and Walking Dead (season 03). Jon Hamm can’t act though he does some mean comedy routines.

  12. Mike Jones

    Boooooooooooriiiiiiiiiing! After watching the first 3 episodes, I am in serious shock that this drivel is winning awards!

  13. J

    The writers got very lazy and dumped story arcs that would have made the show much more enjoyable. The gay guy is suddenly gone after don catches him with a man. This is done off camera and we are left to assume he left because he was ashamed of being gay and terrified of being outed, I get that. However letting the audience see how the characters would react to an outed homosexual would have been fascinating.
    Don’s past never catches up to him fully. It’s swept under the rug right when you think you are in for a great conclusion to what mystified you for most of the series; how Don became Don. While we do seem glimpses of how he came to be and the people he used to get there, it never gets the climax it deserved.

    Last but not least….

    IT WAS A FU***** DREAM?????
    When he kills that women….. My god… That scene.
    . only to be ruined by a “phew it was just a dream” look on Don’s face. That would have sent the show through the roof, but alas the sweet taste of what could have been an amazing show turns to ash in my mouth. Good riddance.

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