But what if?
What if the unthinkable occurs? What if "Mad Men" no longer has the charisma and power to enthrall a nation that has blithely gone along with every single plot twist and blissfully carried on a love/hate relationship with Jon Hamm, January Jones & Co.?
Specifically, what if "Mad Men" jumps the shark -- the vernacular in TV land for a popular show that loses its mojo, the indefinable quality that caused a word-of-mouth stir in the first place? It takes a lot of planning, smart execution and good luck to spawn a show on the magnitude of "Senfeld" or "Modern Family" or "Girls," one which somehow manages to sit in the popular culture sweet spot and define a generation of Americans who love it. They get so wrapped up that they start quoting the show's catch phrases (admit it: You still love to mutter, "Yada yada," in honor of "Seinfeld") and, voila! The show is a part of their everyday lives. That, my friends, is a true sign of success.
But it's very easy, too, for a program to hit the skids and slide downhill. It can take the form of a character suddenly becoming too likable or unlikable. It can feature lame flashbacks -- a sure sign that the writers have run out of fresh, catchy ideas -- or plots that don't seem to make historical sense. The writing can lose its oomph.
Then, someone watching at home can get bored, turn the channel and find something better -- and stick with the new, new thing. Before long, a whole nation has moved on. Yikes!
When that happens, you start to hear people shrug and say -- "Is that show still on?" It is a variation on the derisive taunt that Samsung employed in its marketing evisceration of Apple's iPhone: "Do you still use that?"
The "Mad Men" creative team is nothing if not resourceful, though. Remember how the show received a ridiculous amount of attention merely for inserting "Tomorrow Never Knows," The Beatles' 1966 psychedelic song that closes "Revolver," into a plot?
Actually, "Tomorrow Never Knows" is a useful way of describing a TV show's prospects -- even a hit -- as it enters a new season.
Will "Mad Men" really jump the shark?
We'll find out soon enough.
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