(The ten best dramas of 2012 will be revealed on Hulu’s homepage each weekday of this week. To view the rest of the list, click here.)
4 – Mad Men
Mad Men took some risks this year. It had a bottle episode where Don Draper gets stuck at a Howard Johnson’s in upstate New York. Roger Sterling took LSD and you could hear the baseball game being piped into his ear in a bathtub. It had a fistfight that looked more like a slowdance in a prom.
These things would tick points off of any other show, I’m sure, if it wasn’t Mad Men, a show that’s the closest thing to literature that’s ever been a timeslot on an American TV network.
Don Draper became a human being this season, forced to run head-on into the all of the alcohol and stress and detritus building up in his body. It made him certifiably less cool, a less staunch leading man and a teetering tragic figure. A lesser show-runner than Matthew Weiner wouldn’t have done it. Conventional wisdoms says would’ve sullied all cache Don Draper has earned as a character.
This show could’ve trod along and hit the same beats as previous seasons, with an infallible Don Drape out-cooling the world.
It didn’t. Precisely because of that—even with all of these risks that whiffed or barely struck a chord—Mad Men is TV about the past from the future. It’s storytelling on TV that will be emulated until people forget dramas were made in any other way.
Mad Men is a desperately strong television show, even in its weakest moments. It is a straight up achievement.—Ben Collins