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What if 'Mad Men' Jumps the Shark?

Television
by Jon Friedman
April 5, 2013 1:58 PM
2 Comments
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Mad Men -- Draper Family Toast

Yes, America is panting for Sunday's night's new season of AMC's runaway train "Mad Men." If you don't believe me, run to the nearest social-media "comments" section and you'll see otherwise intelligent men and women acting like wide-eyed kids and counting down the hours till the ball drops and their beloved show goes back on the air.

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. 



Television
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2 Comments

  • Georg Csarmann | April 7, 2013 11:29 AMReply

    I don't think that this will happen with Mad Men, but I see your point. The most prominent current show that comes to my mind about which people oftentimes say "Is this still on?" might be 'How I met your mother'.

  • Dirk D | April 7, 2013 1:26 AMReply

    Really? Why don't you say that you've seen the first few episodes already? You've obviously discussed the matter with your critic buddies and this is the consensus view -- so don't make it look like you have some sort of crystal ball here, Jon.

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