Must TV is launching a campaign to get you to (re)watch this this iconic series, which follows a group of cut-throat advertisers that occupy Madison Avenue in the 1960s.
From the off, you’re not going to know how you feel about this show – it’s shot through a hazy, nostalgic lens, romanticising the Golden Age of New York, where you could be and do anything, leading you into a false sense of security before promptly reminding you of the rampant racism, homophobia and misogyny of the time. The characters – Don Draper being the prime example – are at once irresistibly charming and yet utterly deplorable. And watching them fight their way to the top of the advertising food chain, you both want them to succeed and will them to fall flat on their face.
Machiavellian main-man Don is the epicentre around which the show’s brilliance unfurls. He’s the classic alpha-male. Slick-haired, suited and booted creative genius, working in a well-regarded company and then going home to his wife and two children, in the suburbs. At least that’s what it looks like. We soon realise he’s the embodiment of toxic masculinity, his wife and kids are unhappy – and his secret girlfriend, too – and the whiskey his employers keep quaffing is starting to have a negative effect.
As his life unravels, so does the story. We follow him to the office, meeting with his equally awful boss, Sterling Cooper, and his assistant and aspiring protégé Peggy Olson played by the ever-amazing Elizabeth Moss. Then there are his brown-nosing team of try-hards, and office manager Joan. With this gang of advertising arseholes we journey through the 60s, watching through their eyes as the world shifts around them, and they desperately try to stay on their feet.
The series is regularly regarded as one of the best of all time, renowned for its portrayal of complex characters and difficult history. It’s not always comfortable to watch, in fact the series got in some hot water in 2020 over an episode in season three which featured blackface. A representative from Lionsgate said they would not remove the episode from their series, saying that by showing this it brings attention to errors of the past, which we can learn and grow from.
Aside from this, the series has received overwhelmingly positive press – The Telegraph’s Stephen Bayley says it “was more than just superb TV – it was art,” and The Guardian’s Will Dean thinks you should “mix yourself an old-fashioned, sit down and savour it.” Reviewing the brilliant final episode, Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times t “a rich and captivating look at the ’60s” that “ends with the dawn of the strong women who get to work and the sensitive men who get in touch with their feelings.” And in the Independent Sarah Hughes celebrates the show, for showing “snapshots into the wonder of life in all its messy glory.”
First shown July 2007.