Mad Men Debate

Has MAD MEN jumped the shark? Or is it getting better?

For my money, AMC’s Mad Men has been all but unwatchable this season, with Don Draper transformed into a pathetic figure and the show has lost its joy. But Scott Lemieux feels Sunday’s installment was “perhaps the strongest episode of what is shaping up as an exceptional season for the best show on American television since The Wire.

I don’t doubt that the cinematography and whatnot are still fantastic.  But I no longer find the show particularly enjoyable.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Schmitty says:

    I’m with Scott. The scene at the end of the episode two weeks ago with Peggy and Campbell catching each other’s eye while in their own very distinctive, very different groups was exquisite. No words, yet so much said.

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    I don’t watch it on tv because of travel disruptions so have to catch up when on DVD. I’m a tremendous fan, probably because I do literally remember when it was like this in the mid sixties and believe me they have got it exactly right. If Don has been reduced to a pathetic figure it sounds bad but I suspect he’ll get his cojones back after a couple of stiff martinis at lunchtime. And people did used to drink two at lunchtime! In many ways it was a happier time (for professional and executive males anyway) and despite issues there was a lot of optimism around. The christmas parties were pretty good too.

  3. anjin-san says:

    Mad Men is an accurate reflection of life. Sometimes we kick ass, and sometimes we are pathetic, and sometimes we lose our joy. Things change, we get a groove going, we struggle to maintain it, and sometimes we fail. This season is perhaps less fun, but no less brilliant. I grew up in this era, and they have nailed it perfectly.

  4. Dodd says:

    I thought Sunday’s episode was the best since, possibly, S1. This season is hard on the characters, but that doesn’t make it unwatchable. It proves the showrunners aren’t just resting on their laurels, doing what’s worked before. Every episode is layered with meaning and ruthless in allowing the realistic consequences of the characters’ actions to play out.

    Don’s skeletons aren’t just sitting back, not causing him any real difficulty he can’t stoically ignore any more. He’s actually starting to see his decades of self-centeredness start to take a toll. And, as he said himself this week, he doesn’t know what to do. It’s positively riveting television, challenging even since we, as viewers, have been sucked into rooting for the guy all the while and now we, too, are being forced to re-examine our own feelings.

    I, for one, am impressed.

  5. sam says:

    “Mad Men is an accurate reflection of life.” Well, Jesus, who needs that? I’m a True Blood man, meownself. (When it comes to TV, I subscribe to a variant of the Horace Rumpole school of wine drinking — the primary purpose of which is to get slightly drunk.)

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    “the Horace Rumpole school of wine drinking”

    I thought Horace took Chateau Thames Embankment for his bowels also.

  7. I’m finding season 4 too clever by half. The excessive contrast between the brightness of the offices at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and the home environs of the characters remains the key reason. Yes, Don’s life is dark, tragic, brimming with despair. And that darkness infects his living space, where nothing is said of his despair. But the partner meetings center on the difficulties of the firm to stay afloat in the face of a loss of clients like Jai Alai.

    I felt the moment where Peggy was nearly kissed at the party by the woman who invited her was forced for the sake of edginess in The Rejected. But then the Chrysanthemum and the Sword plays out and I feel confident with the direction. Sunday’s episode has me very curious about what will transpire next. But I have become somewhat wary that the story may jump the tracks at some point this season. I look forward to being proven wrong.

  8. sam says:

    “I thought Horace took Chateau Thames Embankment for his bowels also.”

    And damned fine, wine is for that purpose, too. (I speak, of course, of only the more expensive of the cheap red wines. That white stuff is swill.)

  9. anjin-san says:

    True Blood is my second favorite show 🙂