Welcome to the first ever TenDown, my countdown of the ten best things that happened this week. Actually, it's a countdown of the best thing that happened this week - followed by the next ten runners-up. Sure, some of this may actually have happened prior to this week - but if it didn't happen to me until this week, it didn't happen. We live in a DVR world of time shifting and whatnot, I do not fight the tide. I am the tide. And whatnot.
The best thing that happened this week.....
Something happened, something terrible, and the way people saw themselves is gone.
-The Mad Men season finale was Sunday; although receiving the accompanying critical acclaim, at no point has Mad Men really been the best drama on television. It's been on the short list since ep 1, but with Wire/Shield and then season two of Breaking Bad (not to mention its peer group, Friday Night Lights and Big Love) there's never been a point where I would have definitively said, "that's the best drama on TV."
Until this season, specifically, until this week. Mad Men has always deftly played with its being a period piece, trying to co-opt the style of the late 50s/early 60s without the historical substance of the era acting as a barrier to modern viewers. In other words, you could appreciate the Mad Men universe even without appreciating the real universe in which it was historically situated.
-That's really ended (and for the better) this year; race/homosexuality/the women's sphere were all infused in front burner storylines all year - and building our readiness toward thinking of Mad Men as less stylized contemporary drama and more an insight into a pivotal moment in US history (sort of the way the Wire was about urban 21st century America - that you could watch it as much for socio-political insight as for entertainment). In the season finale, clearly Mad Men is staking out an historical view - that the Kennedy assasination marked the end of the "Mad Men" post WWII era of American history; Draper and his gang of bourgeious revolutionaries leave the comfort of Sterling-Cooper to go into business for themselves, and Betty leaves her marriage (and her two older children; Betty, if you're unaware, is a pretty crappy mom) with a similar motive in mind. A loyal viewer might be uncertain about season 4 - the show as it as been thusfar is clearly gone - the ad agency is now in a hotel suite and Betty Draper's on a plane to Reno - but that, of course, is the whole point. If the death of JFK is the big bang that creates the new America (a reductionist but defensible proposition) an America which could not have been imagined even three years previous - that's the sensation Mad Men created Sunday. It has taken the combustible uncertain soup of the time and risen from it a new world.
Mad Men is dead. Long live Mad Men. The remaining ten after the jump: