The TV drama Mad Men premiered in July of 2007 and immediately received high critical acclaim and a huge base of loyal followers. Set in the 1960’s, the show tells the story of a fictitious Madison Avenue ad agency, Sterling Cooper, and the men and women who work there. The show centers around star ad man Don Draper, played by the handsome Jon Hamm, his wife Betty (January Jones), and his two children. Other major players are secretary turned copy writer Peggy Olson, newbie and spoiled rich boy Pete Campbell, aging playboy and partner in the firm Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway the voluptuous head secretary.
Mad Men has won numerous awards including fifteen Emmys and four Golden Globes. It is the first basic cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, which it did the first four years of the series. Writer’s Guild of America ranked the show seventh in their list of 101 best written TV series of all time. Many believe it is because of the realistic depiction of the iconic culture of the 60’s including the non stop cigarette smoking, drinking, racism and historical feminism. The staging and costuming have won awards as well. Creator Matt Weiner and his team have won critical acclaim for “It’s historical authenticity and visual style.”
While Don’s adultery continues to be a recurring shock factor taking us from season to season, there are other shockers as well, including pregnant women chain smoking, flagrant racism and outright sexism. Most likely in today’s world Don Draper would be in rehab for sex addiction, a member of AA and be the recipient of a large number of sexual harrassment suits. Still, the show has certainly left it’s mark on the entertainment industry. This years Season 7 will be the last and final season of the groundbreaking show. Below are the highest viewed Mad Men episodes to date.
5. Season 6 Finale “In Care Of”: 2.7 Million Viewers
The last episode before the final season, the season six finale is full of highs and lows and had roughly 2.7 million viewers. Don falls from grace and goes from being the ad man everybody wants to a bumbling down and out blowhard. He does try to get himself together by telling Megan they will move to California to start fresh and that he plans on giving up drinking cold turkey. After a business meeting goes bad, Don tells Megan California is off and she leaves. Before Thanksgiving, the office holds an intervention for him, telling him he needs to take a leave of absence.
At the end we see Don with his children in front of the brothel where he grew up and we are left to wonder is he finally facing up to who he really is, or is this just the beginning of a downward spiral? An upnote is that Joan is now enjoying her status as partner and living the life she wanted. She allows Roger to join her and her son for Thanksgiving and has said that she will let Roger be a part of Kevin’s life. Peggy Olson also gets a break here, with Don away on leave, she looks like she may be next in line for his big corner office.
4. Season 5 Finale “The Phantom”: 2.7 Million Viewers
In this season five finale, the phantom of Lane Pryce who committed suicide hangs over the office and Don, suffering from horrendous pain from an abscessed tooth, sees someone who resembles his dead brother in an elevator just as doors are closing. Pete, believing that Beth is the answer to his problems, begs her to run away with him but she opts for another round of shock therapy, which diminishes her memory, thereby forcing him to return home to Trudy.
Most importantly, at the end of this episode, Don finally agrees to use his influence to get Megan cast in a commercial. From that point he seems to revert back to the Don Draper of old, as we see him sitting in a bar with a whiskey sour talking to two attractive women. This somewhat depressing downer of a finale had over 2.7 million viewers.
3. Season 4 Premiere “Public Relations”: 2.9 Million Viewers
The season four premiere opens with a reporter asking our beloved hero, “Who is Don Draper?” That folks, is the question that has been circling our heads since season one, when it comes to light that Don Draper was originally Dick Whitman, and took the identity of poor Don Draper who was killed in an explosion during the war. Don answers with a question, “What do men say when you ask that?” because of course it would never occur to him that a woman might get interviewed based on her success, thereby again showing us the sexism of the sixties.
In this episode we also see the hip offices of the newly formed “Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price,” which has a lot of buzz on the street, but is definitely struggling. Also in this premiere episode, Don has a blind date with Bethany, a friend of Roger Sterling’s wife, and Betty, the ex Mrs. Draper, is now remarried to a handsome politician, Henry Francis. They are living with Don’s children as a family in the house that Don owns, and perhaps the saddest element in the show, is his daughter Sally’s despair and confusion about these new arrangements.
Season four shows Don’s deeper decline into alcoholism and his penchant for prostitutes. A highlight of this season was his growing friendship with copywriter Peggy Olson and the loss of his dear friend Anna, (the real Don Draper’s wife.) This premier had over 2.9 million viewers.
2. Season 6 Premier “The Doorway”: 3.3 Million Viewers
This opening episode shows Don and Megan vacationing in Hawaii where Megan is recognized as the character Corinne in her show To Have and to Hold. We see Don later unable to sleep, sitting at the bar where a drunk PFC asks him to give his bride away at his wedding to take place the following day. Betty gets a ticket for reckless driving when transporting Sally and her friend Sandy home from The Nutcracker. She later accuses Henry of being infatuated with Sandy. Later we see a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Draper residence. Don escorts his friend Arnold Rosen out when he is called into work. Saying he needs to go get cigarettes and he joins Sylvia Rosen in bed, before returning upstairs to Megan. The old Don is back. This episode had over 3.3 million viewers.
1. Season 5 Premiere “A Little Kiss”: 3.5 Million Viewers
The season 5 premier had the highest number of viewers to date with a total of 3.5 million viewers. In this episode, we see Don and Megan, the newly married couple and their new swank apartment. Don is making breakfast for his three children when Megan walks in, and they appear to be a happy group. A big factor in this episode is the beginning of the fight against racism when African American protesters carry signs in front of the building demanding equal opportunity employment.
Megan throws Don a 40th surprise birthday party which he does not enjoy. He tells her he hates being the center of attention and her sexy serenade to him was beyond embarrassing. Joan becomes a military wife and mother, (though we know the baby is Roger Sterling’s) and deals with having her mother move in while her husband is away in Vietnam.
One odd tidbit in this premier is Lane Pryce’s obsession with a woman named Delores. He finds her picture in a man’s wallet left behind in a cab and actually has a phone conversation with her with the intention of meeting her to return the wallet. When the man shows up to retrieve the wallet instead, he removes Delores’ photo and sticks it in his pocket. A big factor in this episode is Megan’s desire to fit in with the staff and her inability to do so.