There’s a fine line between saying “Hey, remember…?” and being a grumpy old man who shouts at the clouds about how millennials have ruined… whatever thing they have allegedly ruined. It’s a slippery slope. You can go from fondly remembering something from yesteryear to saying everything was better then to ranting about teens vaping on Snapchat, all before you even realize what happened. So I’m going to be careful here, because I’ve got something to say, and I don’t want it to get clouded with collateral nostalgia rage. I want to be precise. This is important. Here goes:
I miss Mad Men.
I miss it so much. For a lot of reasons. First, and most importantly, because it was a really good show. It was smart and well-cast and dramatic and beautiful to look at and, occasionally, as funny as any comedy. I think maybe people who didn’t watch the show never understood that part, the range it had. They looked at it and said “Ugh, a period drama about advertising executives in the 1960s,” but writing it off like that isn’t really fair, because just when you think it’s some boring show about boardrooms and soap commercials BOOM a guy gets his foot run over with a riding lawnmower, inside a skyscraper, in Manhattan. That happened. I swear to God it did. We did a whole oral history about it.
That’s another thing about Mad Men: It’s remembered as this big fancy prestige drama — which it was, and yes, I still get a little choked up thinking about Don and Peggy dancing — but it was a profoundly weird show, man. So weird. Often in small bursts, too, that served as little periodic exclamation points to shock you to attention. Bert Cooper had expensive tentacle porn in his office. Peggy accidentally stabbed her boyfriend with a long knife-stick she made to kill rats. Ginsberg cut off his nipple because he thought a computer was turning him gay. Never let anyone tell you nothing happened on Mad Men.
(In addition to the short blasts of weirdness, there was also an entire episode about the staff getting shady speed injections and hallucinating all day. You know, like you do at your job. It was very relatable like that.)
I think what I miss most about it, though, is that it was one of our last big water cooler shows. The timing of its run fell right in that sweet spot between the quality of TV ramping up and there being just way too many shows to keep up with. It was a show “everyone” watched (“everyone” here meaning “my friends and the people I follow on Twitter”), which meant there was almost always a fun next-day discussion. I knew I could wake up on Monday and see a ton of interesting takes about it. Serious ones, funny ones, one that were basically just GIFs stacked on top of each other. Remember Mad Men GIFs? Damn, was it is ever a GIFable show. Here, look, it’s Pete Campbell falling down the stairs…
… and here’s Betty housing whipped cream…
… and here’s Joan blinking and smoking a cigarette, because Joan was the best.
What shows do we have left like that now? Game of Thrones and… nope, just Game of Thrones. Right? There’s so much to chose from that our viewing habits have become splintered into a million tiny pieces, which is great if you want to find shows that are hyper-targeted to your interests, but less great if you want to have a conversation with someone about the thing you just watched. I realize I’m teetering into a “things used to be better” diatribe that I promised I wouldn’t do. I’ll move on. But still.
Hey, you know what else I miss about Mad Men, selfishly? How fun it was to write about. Man oh man, was Mad Men fun to write about. I once wrote over 1000 words about Roger Sterling’s mustache. I wrote a dumb, tossed-off post that ended up correctly predicting the ending, which was and still is hilarious to me. One day I got fed up with Pete Campbell and his whole deal and I wrote a post about him getting eaten by a bear, and the next thing I knew this had happened.
I regret nothing. I still want him to get eaten by a bear. Maybe Matthew Weiner can write it into his new Amazon show. Do it, Matt. Dooooo it. Please. For me.
My point in all of this is… actually, I don’t think I have a point. I don’t want Mad Men rebooted or reimagined or anything. I don’t want a Mad Men movie. I just miss it. It was a fun, interesting, sometimes heartbreaking show that wasn’t about a bleak murder investigation or zombies, a show in which the characters moved the plot forward by talking. And cutting off their nipples, too, I guess. But only once. There was a lot going on. I didn’t even mention Stan’s facial hair or Bob Benson’s swim trunks. Maybe another day. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about them for a long time.
Okay, I feel better now.