My latest obsession is Mad Men as some know already -- I can't seem to shutup about it.
Like many other gamers, I also have a passion for music, television and film. Mad Men, much like The Sopranos (its creator was an executive producer on the latter show), is a blend of television and film -- episodes are 45 minutes and have a very cinematic feel in ways. What I love most about this style is it borrows from the strengths of TV and film and isn't hindered by the major weaknesses of either -- time constraints (film) and pointless plots (TV), so the viewer doesn't have to follow the show. You have to follow Mad Men. You have to watch every episode or you're missing critical pieces of the picture every time.
This is a show for adults. Set in the very early 60s (the culture and style of dress still largely feel 50s), the primary setting is an advertising agency on the infamous Madison Avenue in New York City. But don't be so silly as to think the show is all about advertising. As I've explained to a friend, it's no more about advertising than say, Six Feet Under is about funerals (another great show). In a similar manner, Mad Men doesn't hesitate to dive into each of the characters' personal lives both inside and outside the workplace.
Our main character is Donald Draper, creative director at the agency. Draper is largely responsible for the company's reputation as unique, passionate, and at times wild. While in some ways he is far from respectable in his personal life, Draper is very passionate and creative with his work, and made even me see another side to advertising, one that has merit. I say "even me" because although advertising has done a lot for me personally -- thank you advertising ;) -- I do largely detest it. Regardless, Mad Men has made me realize as with anything in life, it's what you make it.
One of the show's greatest strengths is its character depth. As in real life, things are often not what they seem. Pete Campbell -- one of the account managers -- is presented as despicable at first, and a great source of tension for Draper. Over time we see his character alternate between well intentioned and utterly human, and thoughtless, selfish, and ruthless -- a true internal struggle of duality I've witnessed in many before. Campbell is just one example -- we get to know virtually all of the characters in a similar manner over time, whether they be pure or remorseful or secretive or ambitious or hell, even happy.
I would say the other greatest strength is how the show tells us just enough about a character's actions or struggle then leaves quite a bit to interpretation. This is hard to exemplify without spoiling anything, so I'll just say there will be many times you'll find yourself reflecting on what a particular scene is about for the show and your own life as well.
Above all I would say Mad Men is about the struggle to be good, to have good, and to do good work. It's something I can relate to on all levels, and I recommend it very highly to anyone interested -- I don't want to confirm it quite yet, but I think it is my favourite show. That used to be Six Feet Under, but the godawful ending and the fact none of the characters even really achieved happiness bothered me quite a bit -- there's only so much despair I can take before I wonder what the point is (still an amazing show though).