The pleasure I get from other shows, that is.
Whether it’s really that good or it just struck some kind of chord with me, I can’t help comparing other TV series to it. We typically get entire seasons on DVD and watch, but after completing all episodes of Mad Men, I find it hard to get into anything I like as much. A show that’s clearly set in the real world, where every single character is interesting and likable, with no forced action or comedy, and a setting more interesting than any alien planet Star Trek could come up with. With no real villains, no real heroes and nobody being simply comic relief. Heck, I even look forward to the ending credits. Let’s face it, I’m hooked. Most other shows I try to watch feel phony and, well, TV:ish to me now.
I typically never watch TV in the traditional way, so I don’t catch any shows by chance. Except for Mad Men, I haven’t really seen that much from the past two years.
So I was going to ask, what other shows out there have some of the qualities that would appeal to a Mad Men addict? Which I’m thinking would include: set squarely in the real world, with people having real jobs (not ghost hunters or secret agents), and with focus on characters, atmosphere and dialog over plot, comedy or action? The Wire and The West Wing are my second and third favorite shows.
Mad Men, The Wire, and The West Wing are my three favorite shows. My husband and I actually just finished re-watching all of them over the last few months.
I would suggest the oft-suggested Six Feet Under and Breaking Bad. These probably round out my top five. They have similar characteristics to the ones you pointed out in Mad Men. As a warning, Six Feet Under is a legitimate hour-long show that went on for many seasons, so you could be in for the long haul. Breaking Bad is at the other end of the spectrum as it has only been on for two seasons.
I’ll add that Breaking Bad is fairly plot driven, but it has the other things you’re looking for. As someone who seems to enjoy the same type programs, I’d urge you to give it a try for an episode or two.
Oh, I love Six Feet Under. Another show about real people, not television characters. I usually don’t go for comedies, but I liked Arrested Development and The Office - because the people they portrayed were believable even when they got into absurd situations.
Breaking Bad sounds interesting! I thought it was some kind of run-of-the-mill crime show, but after reading a little about it, it sounds really intriguing! The concept - ordinary, middle-aged guy gets into organized crime late in life and we get to see it from his perspective - sounds like it could have a lot of potential if handled right. I’ll probably check that out next. Thanks for the suggestion!
LOL, “Breaking Bad” is not about organized crime.
The Wire. The Wire The Wire The Wire.
Have you tried Big Love?
The misogyny in Mad Men made me squirmy. The misogyny in Big Love makes me extra squirmy.
And if you like characters…boy there are enough characters in this show to fill THREE HOUSES.
Big Love? Hmm… religion as part of a show’s concept is kind of unusual. I’m not religious myself, I don’t come from a religious family and none of my friends are what you’d call pious, and I tend to get uncomfortable around true believers, especially those who express a wish to turn me into a fellow Pod Person.
I suppose not all characters in that show are the kind of people who hand out Jack Chick tracts, though. I’ll give it a few episodes and see if I like it.
I think Friday Night Lights fits all your criteria. The first four seasons are available to watch on netflix.
The HBO miniseries Band of Brothers was thoroughly good, and well worth buying on DVD. HBO’s Rome is worth watching, but perhaps more of a rental.
I highly recommend FX’s recently cancelled Terriers. The single season works as a self contained story, and it was the best current show outside of Mad Men in my view.
Three seasons. I would also recommend Breaking Bad - the quality of writing and complexity of the characters is similar to Mad Men but the feel and pace of the show is very different. Both are fantastic.
I’m with you, OP. I will never in my life understand the mindset of fanboys who (for example) wish there were no humans in the Transformers movies and argue that the robots are emotionally compelling on their own. Give me real humans with real lives every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Breaking Bad is great, but fair warning that it fails miserably in one of your criteria, that of all the characters being likable. At some point, every character on Breaking Bad breaks bad. If you can handle that, it’s awesome.
Deadwood is a crowning achievement in great television, with bonus reality points for being based on actual historic people and events. Fair warning that it is chock full of extremely stylized language. If you can buy into that, you’ll love it. Not everybody can, but worth finding out because if you can get into it it’s the closest thing we have to modern day Shakespeare.
Rome was fantastic, IMO, and I particularly loved the way it showed a cross-section of classes. The Emperor’s life was offset by seeing the lives of regular soldiers. I thought the contrast worked very well.
Friday Night Lights is very good. It’s about teenagers in highschool so expect a little sudsiness, but mostly it’s a straightforward ensemble drama. It’s been said that the coach and his wife portray the most compelling married couple on television.
The first season of Damages was great. The second was good but a bit chaotic, and then they got some of those kinks worked out in the third. The first remains the best, and I’d say worth a shot.
The first two or three seasons of Weeds were very good and in touch with real life. In the last three or four it went off the rails with wacky hijinx, but while they live in their suburban cocoon it’s quite good.
I think Dexter is a great show but it may not appeal to you based on your premise of wanting to watch normal people. Dexter is not normal. Worth a shot, maybe.
My husband and I tried to watch Breaking Bad and hated it, fwiw. There was no charm.
We’re ten years late on this, but we’re really enjoying our first viewing of The Sopranos. It’s highly character-driven in the first season especially, but the plots are great. I’d say it’s extremely comparable to Mad Men.
I’ll admit I watched it because I had heard that Christina Hendricks had…well you know. Was not disappointed on that or any other score.
How many episodes did you watch? There’s charm, but it’s not obvious. The characters all have big or little moments when you can see how much they care for each other. (Jesse covering for his little brother in S1, for example.)
Justified comes back in February, I think. It compares favorably to the other shows mentioned. It’s a crime show, but the relationships provide as much drama as the criminal stuff.
Ditto for The Wire, Terriers, Deadwood, Rome.
I recommend in order:
Sopranos (I’ve been all the way through 3 times.)
- **The Wire **(I’m on my second time through, currently near the end of season two.)
- Breaking Bad
- **Six Feet Under **( A long slog if you watch the whole series, lots of really good stuff, some of it drags.)
Dexter (Gory, not very “real world” but fun.)
I did not love Deadwood or **Big Love **as much as some here but better than most network stuff.
Oh, man, I heard the ratings were dismal but that it had been renewed. I hope you’re wrong about it being canceled.
No, it’s dead.
Not a fan of the later seasons? (New season premieres this Sunday night.)