It's the end – for Mad Men, anyway. If you would have asked me a few years ago what my favorite show was, I would have said Mad Men, for sure. Recently, sometime around when Don Draper's second marriage started falling apart, I found myself less interested. Perhaps that's what happens when a show goes on for long enough, you feel like the same story is being told – like on Grey's Anatomy. I used to be obsessed with that show, and now I can't even tell you what's going on, or who is even still on it.
Sometimes, shows should end well before they actually do, and others are cut dreadfully short. But there are a precious few that get it right, such as Breaking Bad, and in the end, I think Mad Men did as well. Perhaps I strayed because I became more enticed by shows that used greater shock value, like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and had lost the attention span for something more artfully subtle.
But then I watched a bit of the marathon over the weekend, leading up to the series finale. I was binge-watching the final season, while remembering why I loved the show in the first place. In the beginning, I loved it simply because it was a show about advertising. I majored in advertising in college, hoping to work at a firm like Sterling Cooper at some point in the future – without all the sexism, of course. What I went on to learn, was that I actually had no desire to do such a thing. I was never one who could instantly turn on the charm and command a room like Don Draper, nor did I have the penchant for working well into the nights and on weekends, while sacrificing my twenties, like Peggy Olson. So I said good-bye to all that, and I am now willing to work well into the nights and on weekends for other things, but advertising isn't one of them.
In the end, I'd hope to be more like Joan. Despite not getting along with the McCann machine, she ended up doing her own thing, on her own terms, and knowing that she loved the work that she was good at, even if she did have to sacrifice the chance at love for it. It's a nice dream.
Another reason why I loved the show, of course, was for the nostalgia. Many remember the 60's, and others grew up hearing about them, like I did. My parents always told stories like, where they were when President Kennedy was shot or when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It was fascinating to watch a show, knowing the historical events that were to happen, and watching the reactions of the characters. I also loved the music, always the music. I grew up listening to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and found it funny when Don didn't quite gel with "Tomorrow Never Knows" from Revolver, or when he ended up at a Stones show with Harry Crane. It was like watching a history you were only ever told about; something not necessarily in school books, something very American.
The other fascinating thing for me was the excesses portrayed – the amount of alcohol consumed at work, the casualness of smoking, the sexism, the racism and on and on. You'll find people waxing nostalgic for "simpler times", as if American perfection was a thing that actually existed at some point in time. And yes, some of these things continue to exist, but it's interesting to see how very different things were when my parents were young, and in the grand scheme of things, that wasn't so very long ago. "The American Dream" was always a lie, brought to you by advertising. It was always a spin by clever men like Don Draper in boardrooms.
It makes me wonder what a show in 40 or 50 years about this decade would look like to our grandchildren. What about the way we live our lives would make them wince? Like when I see smoking on an airplane on Mad Men, will my children think the same thing about owning a gas-guzzling SUV? The things that we just accept as a part of life. What will have changed? Will it be for the better?
But for now, I'm also just wondering what to look forward to on Sunday nights, as it seems so many of the good shows have ended. The second season of Halt and Catch Fire doesn't seem that exciting, not even my love of Lee Pace is helping with that one, and I'm tired of watching The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones through my fingers, waiting for my favorite characters to die.
Perhaps Sunday nights just are not as special anymore with the end of Mad Men, and the "Golden Age of TV" has moved onto Netflix.