To start off my decade in review, I watched my randomly selected episode from 2010. My date from 2010 was September 26. These are the shows I have written in my TV diary from that day:
Mad Men – 4.10 – Hands and Knees
Brothers & Sisters – 5.01 – The Homecoming
This was such an easy pick for which one I would rewatch. Mad Men is topping so many best of the decade lists and I was not going to turn down the opportunity to rewatch an episode.
This was the episode of Mad Men where government agents interview Betty to do a background check on Don for security clearance for an account. He starts freaking out that his secret identity is going to be unraveled. Meanwhile, Joan gets an abortion and Lane takes his dad to the Playboy Club.
This episode was only 3 episodes after “The Suitcase,” which is rightfully being hailed as one of the greatest television episodes of the decade. This episode sadly did not have Peggy in it at all, which was disappointing since she was always my favorite character. It did, however, have Jon Hamm acting the hell out of Don Draper. Which, I know, can be said for every episode of the series. The scene that stuck with me the most was Don’s panic attack as he realizes his life may be about to unravel. It is hard to do a good panic attack on screen. Typically, panic attacks are super overwrought. Or the director relies on the soundtrack and cinematography to convey the character’s inner turmoil. As someone who has had a fair number of panic attacks in her life, I typically roll my eyes when one happens onscreen. Jon Hamm, though, did the most realistic one I’ve seen in quite some time. I felt his despair through the screen. It reminded me why everyone was so outraged that he didn’t get an Emmy for this role until the final season.
I also had forgotten how matter-of-fact the abortion storyline was. Even though Joan didn’t ultimately go through with it, the show just gave it as an option she considered. There was no grandstanding about the morality of it. It was just something she could decide to do or not do. From the outset, it was presented as Joan’s choice. It was so refreshing to see it presented in such a quiet, realistic way.
Mad Men was the first “prestige TV” show I watched in (mostly) real time. I watched the first two seasons over Christmas break my freshman year of college. I loved all the rich discussion surrounding this show, especially as it gained in popularity. I remember watching “The Suitcase” and being blown away by the sheer genius and simplicity of the episode. This show seemed really popular at my college, but it could have just been that it was popular in my groups. Jon Hamm is an alum of my alma mater, so he was featured in the commercials that would play during football games. Plus, a good number of my friends were in the journalism school, so this was very much up their alley. After I graduated in 2012, I got my parents hooked on the show. I didn’t have cable and wanted to be able to watch the show live, so I would go over to my parents’ house on Sunday nights when it was airing. We would watch it together every week. I think this was the last TV series my dad and I ever agreed on watching. Even then, we liked very different things from it. My dad detested Peggy and loved to see her humiliated, whereas she was the secondary hero of the show for me. We would get into arguments all the time because I was fiercely protective of her. We would laugh at the end of episodes when those cryptic previews would play that gave away absolutely nothing about the next episode.
When I think of prestige TV from the early 2010s, “Mad Men” is always the show that comes to my mind. I tried to get into “Breaking Bad” and it never captured my attention the way that “Mad Men” did. Even just watching one episode out of context of the rest of the series, I was still struck by how solid the writing and acting was. It made me want to go back to the beginning and rewatch it, which is always the mark of a great show.