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Mad Men: Critics Love It, Viewers Ignore It

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July 9th, 2008

The Television Critics Association is meeting in LA this week, and in sifting through all the news I was struck by a number of items from critics about AMC's Mad Men, the New York advertising world centered drama ["Mad" = Madison Avenue] set in the early 60's.

From the LA Times:

The AMC drama, set on Madison Avenue in the midst of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, is basking in accolades that have only gained momentum as the Emmy Awards nominations draw near.

The cast is still rather taken aback when it comes to its phenomenon status.

And from our San Francisco Chronicle's TV critic, Tim Goodman:

The brilliance of "Mad Men" is that the drama is mostly in the words. Actions are subtle. ... Right now there's probably no scripted series ahead with as much anticipation,

Also the fact that AMC is about to spend $25 million to promote it.

But what really startled me was reading that it only averaged 900,000 viewers in its first season.

Taken together, I believe that makes Mad Men the #1 show for the volume of critical acclaim divided by the actual number of TV viewers. No other show with as few viewers gets even remotely as much press.

It may very well be great television. But this isn't meant to be a review of the show, just my astonishment that there's so much continuing attention, and now marketing money, for something that's been ignored by viewers.

For the record, I watched several episodes last season and liked that it brought back memories of the time period (I was about the same age as the children in the show at the time), but once I got past that level, the show just didn't have enough to keep me around.

7/10 Update: More fawning praise for Mad Men.

Hold on, is there a Mad Men skeptic out there? Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post:

So what if more people probably read about "Mad Men" in last month's New York Times Sunday magazine cover story than actually watched the first season (circulation 1.46 million; average audience 1.1 million). It's the new "Sopranos."

 
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