Is Mad Men the Gossip Girl for Adults?

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July 31st, 2008

I received a few e-mails about the post on ABC Family's Secret Life of an American Teenager doing better ratings-wise than Gossip Girl.  Most of the e-mail went like this: Oh sure, pick on Gossip Girl but then RAVE about Mad Men.  That's not too hypocritical now, is it!?

I was originally titling this post "Is Mad Men Cable's Gossip Girl?"   A show with all the buzz, all the magazine covers, all the stories, all the critical acclaim and hardly watched by anyone.  As I noted when I wrote about the Mad Men's ratings improvement that as nice as it was, it would still not put it in the cable weekly top forty.  And let's face it, the show gets crushed by The Closer, WWE Raw, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, Monk, Psych, Hannah Montana, iCarly, Back at the Barnyard and a whole lot of SpongeBob.    And as Wayne Friedman notes, although the season two premiere of Mad Men more than doubled last season's average, it only actually fared 20% better than last year's premiere.

Am I a hypocrite?  Perhaps.  Though it took me four or five episodes to get completely sucked in to Mad Men, I definitely am completely sucked in now.  Completely separate from the ratings, it's definitely a quality show.  My bashing of Gossip Girl and the CW is not about the quality of Gossip Girl.  Is Gossip Girl a great quality show?  I have no idea!  I'm a 46 year old man, and there's not really any basis for me to watch the show. 

Gossip Girl Cover of New York MagazineEven if I watched it, I still couldn't opine on the quality of the show as it's not really targeted at a general audience. It's targeted at young people.  I can't opine on Gossip Girl when it comes to quality.  All I can tell you is I've seen Blake Lively interviewed a few times and seen a video of her on YouTube being accosted by a gaggle of teenage girls and she seems like a truly lovely person who handles everything very well. 

Is Mad Men the Gossip Girl of cable television?  I don't really think so for one reason:  AMC isn't a broadcast network and it's never been that huge of a cable network.  I would argue that CW should be able to have at least one show that consistently performs as well as Burn Notice or In Plain Sight perform for USA.  It doesn't.  I wouldn't make the same argument about Mad Men/AMC.

But when it comes to the question of "is Mad Men the Gossip Girl for adults?"  Yes, I think it is.  It has all the buzz, critics swoon over it, it truly is a fabulous show, but...hardly anyone watches it.   There's a lot of television I love that doesn't pull fabulous numbers.  The Wire and Dexter come to mind.  Sure, those shows both ran/run on subscription cable channels - but so did The Sopranos, which routinely was near the top of the weekly cable top 40.

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