MAD MEN is a lot like BREAKING BAD, other than both being the greatest cable shows ever, with extremely flawed leading men who are borderline villains, or perhaps anti-heroes... with blonde wives fighting back, and being hated by audiences for it... But MAD MEN never seems to completely know where its true strengths lie, and that's in Jon Hamm as ad-man Don Draper, who, through two marriages, has flings on the side and, sadly, these become more important than the business at hand, which includes creative pitches to non-creative companies where, especially during rejections, we see the true power, and color, of Don Draper... 

More of this was needed to make MAD MEN a truly perfect series like BREAKING BAD and less of a nighttime-soap opera, despite an abundance of middle-aged women viewers dreaming they could initially sleep with the square-jawed Hamm to then be cheated-on... a less-is-more actor who has never been able to get near this kind of intensity on the big screen, for which... like Bryan Cranston... he doesn't seem suited quite like television... And other flaws include the producer's son in a reoccurring role (as a creepy kid turned robotic teen) that tilts the cringe meter, stopping the show in its tracks while the central ad men, other than Draper and scene-stealing Roger played by John Slattery, master of the one-line quip... are really boys, seeming far too young for their very grownup jobs... In fact, if you look at pictures of the real life ad-men: they are mostly in their forties, or else look that way, as opposed to being counter-culture whiners against capitalism... which wouldn't quite work in this kind of job (only Joel Murray as normal-looking every-man Freddy genuinely resembles one of the true advertising guys)... Also, the series has to flow evenly with not only the soapy bedroom diversions, but true stories taking shape, from JFK to MLK's assassinations, in which these fictional characters flow through history like Jack and Rose on the TITANIC... And in this, sometimes the whole series seems geared towards a political agenda of sorts, more than bordering on cliches and generic left-wing platitudes... the teenagers are all dropout hippies who are smarter than the parents who raised (and spoiled) them, all soldiers die in war, and every businessman has 100 affairs: with supermodels, no less... But for the most part, what works is that Don Draper himself stays the same, with the slick short hair and perfectly-suited stiff suit while those around him progressively wear late-1960's-driven costumes (one major reason the early seasons are the best)... And really, when it comes right down to it, MAD MEN is about one person despite all that's going on around him. Rating: ****1/2

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