by M. R. Brown
For every angry letter, online petition, or sofa rant spilled over a cancelled show, one thing is true: the reason many viewers' favorite bits of home cinema disappear, is because they aren't Mad Men.
With recent news of network and cable’s cancellations and re-ups for next season, it comes as no surprise that Mad Men will be back, and why shouldn’t it?
Mad Men’s trophy count would put Kobe Bryant to shame. Racking up near countless nods, it's won handfuls of metal from the Emmy’s, Golden Globes, and AFI, to name a few. It even won a Peabody Award. Matthew Weiner’s brainchild has earned the prestige that few series today, or in television history, can claim.
We may feel like we’re being told to go kick rocks over cancellations of such programs as Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, and Bored to Death, but there’s always hope for a second chance, or at least a new series, to let us down. These audience favorites are always canned by reason of insanity, also known as Nielsen ratings.
You may know the drill. A randomly selected family (some 20,000 households to be exact) is given a box that records watching, recording, even fast-forwarding habits. Nielsen collects that data, extrapolates it to the public as a whole and spews out numbers that advertisers then break down into a million pieces. Aside from being the best kept monopoly since Standard Oil, Nielsen and its model are troubling to analyze for many reasons, all of which I will pass on addressing at this moment. Feel free to use that Google search bar anytime, though.
Where Walking Dead puts up Lionel Messi type numbers- 11.4 million viewers, 7.3 in the coveted adults-under-50 demographic, Mad Men’s greatest claim to fame in the numbers department is last season’s finale, which reached 3.5 million viewers.
Programs fade from our memory quickly. Some are lucky enough to get a name drop years later in some obscure reference. (How about Community’s nod to The Cape last week?) Poor performance in ratings is a resounding call for death, but this issue doesn’t seem to threaten AMC’s golden child.
Mad Men exists on a plane that is nearly untouchable. From it’s highly lauded writing, production, costumes and sets, the series is a shrewd glimpse at history through an artistic lens. It’s undeniably brilliant.
But it can be painfully boring at times, something many critics pan the current season for being. Those who skewer this season are the same who are responsible for the idolatry created around the series. AMC is told all too often how great its darling boy is, so why worry about what the children at the playground think?
Regardless of Nielsen performance, Mad Men has transcended into a series that can create, at liberty, the program it wants to be without the worry of ratings and advertising money. The show is effectively what Don Draper and Co. are to 1960s Manhattan.