With the rise both in quality and quantity of TV series now available on the vast array of cable networks, one has begun to hope that great shows would no longer fall victim to the most common practice of network--- staying past their expiration date. And given the way that cable has demonstrated over the past decade, in series such as The Shield, Six Feet Under, The Wire and Breaking Bad, a lot of these series have ended at just the right moment.
But there are still series that, even with an end date in sight, have started to show signs of ripeness. One such example, I'm sorry to say, has been one of the best series in TV history, AMC's Mad Men, which has begun it's extended final season this month. Unfortunately, it now seems like the series is starting to bare the resemblance of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce--- it started the decade looking hip and mod, but now is showing signs of becoming archaic, if not downright antiquated. Nor is this a recent affliction--- one could see the signs in last season, which took place during the year of turmoil 1968, where everything seemed to change but the characters.
Now it's 1969, and the times really have changed. The protagonists, sad to say, have hardly changed at all. Oh, the firms now bi-coastal, and it's definitely a lot bigger, but everything else is the same. Roger Sterling is still the sex-crazed senior partner, Pete Campbell has moved to California, but is still bitching about not being respected enough, Joan is still struggling for respect and balance in her elevated position. The thing is, there's no longer any entertainment value in watching these characters try and rage against the tide. Roger's patent ignoring of any attempt to reform or change his way now just seems pathetic. Don trying to maintaining a fake level of work after being placed on an indefinite leave of absence seems familiar--- didn't we see him undergo similar struggles while still at Sterling Cooper in Season 4? And the practices of trying to stay to the old practice in an ad world that's changing just seem dated now. An attempt to try and half a partner's meeting with a malfunctioning telephone didn't seem clever, it seemed a metaphor for how flat this series is now.
Worst of all has been seeing how badly Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who for the last six seasons has seemed to be the heart of the show, and who finally seemed to get the power she deserved with Don's meltdown last year. Problem is, she doesn't seem to have gotten any respect along with the title, and she's still dwelling over whether or not she needs a man in her life. The only one's who seem to be conscious of how outdated the world is are the black secretaries at the firm, and they are still treated as second class citizens--- Bert Cooper's refusal to have one in the lobby just shows how far behind the times this place is.
If there is any hope at all for this series, it clearly must lie in the next generation. In the most recent episode Sally Draper ended up in New York, and found out--- once again--- that her father had been lying to her about what he was doing. But in a moment that is by far the highpoint of the season, Don built on the honesty he showed to his children in the Season 6 finale, and confessed to Sally why he was at home and why it happened. It was gripping, penetrating, and had depth that the series has been lacking--- and hope that his character might be growing and changing at last.
The series is not a failure by any means--- the acting is still good, especially from Moss and Kieran Shpika. But it's hard to see why it's being heralded as the greatest series of all time --- which is a brag, by the way, Breaking Bad never had to make.