Meditations on a 'Mad Men' Emergency

The Atlantic Wire
Meditations on a 'Mad Men' Emergency
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Meditations on a 'Mad Men' Emergency

Mad Men could probably use another drink right about now. Not only did the show have one glaring anachronism on Sunday (no, Joan, Le Cirque did not exist in 1968), but the AMC favorite slid in the ratings, reminding us, once again, that for all we care about the trials and tribulations of Don and the gang, many people do not. Also: Don Draper is a jerk.

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The Hollywood Reporter explains that after dipping 20 percent last week from its 3.4 million ratings share for the season six premiere, Mad Men's third outing this year only averaged 2.4 million viewers. Compare that to the 4.9 million that tuned in to Game of Thrones. Dragons are winning out over feelings and cocktails.

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But even some of Mad Men's most ardent of supporters—those who will likely never abandon the show—are growing weary. The issues stem not necessarily with the show in its entirety, but with its tortured protagonist. In Sunday's episode Don was irredeemable. He was cruel to his loving wife Megan because she had to act in a love scene on her soap opera. Meanwhile, he cheated unabashedly with neighbor Sylvia. 

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At Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote that he's "growing a bit impatient with my beloved Mad Men — with Don, at least." On Twitter Rachel Shukert concurred with Seitz, writing: "I just feel like we're at a point where everything Don does, it's like, 'we get it, we get it.'" At The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates explains that this season we are seeing a Don stripped away of his some of his roles, leaving "a dude who makes adultery look beautiful." And in responding to an essay by writer Ken Levine, bemoaning Don's insipid negativity and unwillingness to change, TV writer Alan Sepinwall tweeted that he has "heard this sentiment from a lot of people lately." 

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That's not to say Mad Men this season is bad, or somehow not entertaining. But every time Don popped up on screen Sunday, we wanted to get back to other characters. It's always been hard to be sympathetic with Don, but in the past show runner Matt Weiner and his team have given us reasons to try; this season Don is no good, plain and simple.

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The backlash from fans is likely unrelated to the ratings drop. The Mad Men watchers and analyzers will still watch and analyze—hey, we've only got one more season after this. Still, the tone in which we address Mad Men at this moment seems to be one of frustration, and the show, like Don, is not performing the way we would hope it would. At least they threw in an awesome 30 Rock reference.

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