Note: Over the next two weeks, the Awards Daily TV Crew will be making the case for each nominee in the Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series categories in random order. We’ll be dropping one each day leading into and through the Emmy voting period. Share/retweet your favorites to build the buzz!
AMC’s Mad Men
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Number of nominations: 6
Major nominations: Drama Series, Actor Drama Series, Actress Drama Series, Supporting Actress Drama Series
If you’re like me, you were plenty irritated when AMC announced they were dividing the final season of Mad Men into two mini-seasons ala Breaking Bad. For one thing, Breaking Bad included a shit-stopping cliffhanger to merit the break. Mad Men included an eerie death/dance sequence that could have been a 1960s GAP ad. Mad Men is not an intense, edge-of-your-seat show like Breaking Bad (last year’s Emmy winner for Oustanding Drama Series), which is why the columnized formula didn’t work as well.
So Mad Men returned in April doing pretty much the same shtick it was doing a year prior. The “premiere” felt like a mid-season episode (which it was probably designed to be). It took about three episodes for the show to find its finale footing, and when it finally did, things really started to pay off. We got resolution from season 1 storylines (Peggy’s admission to Stan about the baby she gave up for adoption) and even followed up with familiar faces (creepy Glen grew up to be kind of hot—and still creepy!). There were sad goodbyes (sniff, sniff, Betty Draper) and welcome departures (Au revoir, Megan!). But most importantly, Don Draper made amends with himself and created one of the most recognizable commercials of all time.
Given how much the buzz had died down with the AMC darling, I expected the show to go out with a soft clink of an old-fashioned instead of the applause from a Zou Bisou Bisou party, but it did the reverse and clawed its way back into pop culture relevance. Everyone talked about the finale episode for weeks. (I personally couldn’t sleep that night I was so thrilled with the end.) Not many shows can do that. When they’re down and out, they’re down and out (Boardwalk Empire got only one Emmy nomination for its final season).
Of all of the Outstanding Drama Series nominees this year, Mad Men is truly the most iconic. People will be dissecting the shows for years to come. If Breaking Bad won the Emmy for never missing a beat with its tightly-wound narrative, then Mad Men should win for using its missteps to its advantage, for making Don’s quest out west not about drippy Diana (Elizabeth Reaser) but about Don learning how to share a Coke with Dick Whitman. Diana was a red herring for a greater storyline.
The old Don might have found Diana and tried to fix her. But new Don realized he had to fix himself.