A goodbye to Mad Men, a show that helped Netflix rise

Mad Men starring Jon Hamm left Netflix in early June 2020

In June, Netflix said goodbye to one of its shows that, for me, encapsulates the service almost as a whole: Mad Men.

When I first started watching Mad Men, I was probably too young to be doing so. But there was a luxury about it that caught my eye. I got my mom to buy me one of the seasons in a TV box set, before anyone in my family had Netflix.

From there, I was interested, even though I didn’t quite get it. I remember staying up late in my room and watching it with the lights off, trying to figure out its many references and snappy dialogue.

As I kept watching, I think one too many things went over my head before I stopped watching. There was also the hassle of having to buy each individual DVD without my parents finding out just how adult of a show Mad Men was. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it; I just didn’t really grasp what was happening for a lot of the time until I got older.

Eventually, Mad Men became too hard to ignore. My family later caved and got a Netflix account years later. One of the first shows you could watch online instantly was, you guessed it, Mad Men.

Mad Men has been a critically acclaimed show for so long, and it has been available on Netflix for so long, that its longevity and appeal led me back to it.

Around high school, I gave the show another shot and was hooked. Since then, I’ve probably watched most of the episodes at least a couple of times. The attention to detail — everything from the newspapers, cars, clothes, signs and storefronts, to the songs and the references — really makes it seem like you’re inhabiting a past era.

Whereas some shows attempt to capture the full scope of life in equal measure, Mad Men did so without ever veering away from its main focus: work. Sure, you see Don Draper’s family, his personal mishaps, and you get a nice change of scenery with settings in California, Hawaii and elsewhere, but the one aspect of the show that stays consistent pretty much throughout is that the characters’ wins and losses are either from their work, or consequences of it.

Peggy has a falling out with a boyfriend because she’s working. As she climbs the corporate ladder and finds success in her profession, her life typically falters because she prioritizes her job above all else.

Same with Don. His life crumbles around him, multiple times. He remains distant from all else but work, to the detriment of a family member, his wives, his children and his coworkers. At times, the characters in the show make it seem like success at work can solve all their problems, but it’s that hunger for success that creates many of them.

Mad Men is a love letter to work, one that is unapologetic about ambition, money, and greed. I think a question that will continue to get asked down the road is whether that was a good thing or not, whether we should see this portrayal of people drinking pretty much every day, smoking cigarettes all the time and having a life that consists of getting burned out on your job. Yes, it’s easy to see that life and think that’s not for you. But it’s also easy to see their lives through rose-colored glasses at times — with how often the various lifestyle choices are romanticized.

Regardless of whether they should or not, Americans derive a lot of fulfillment from their jobs. Mad Men used its characters as a way to see that fulfillment, how each was devoted to their ad agency for better, but quite often for worse.

What started as a slow burn for me, finished as one of the most fulfilling TV watching experiences of my life. I think that might not have happened had Netflix flopped. Mad Men was easy to watch if you had a Netflix account in 2011 and after. Now, that ease is gone.

I can’t believe a show that defines Netflix for me is now off its streaming platform.

Mad Men will likely be shopped by Lionsgate Television to one of the many streaming services in the future. We don’t know where the show will end up, but we should find out soon!

You can still rent Mad Men on Netflix DVD.

Next: 50 best TV shows on Netflix right now
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