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Even though True Blood is a colossal hit, the biggest for HBO since The Sopranos, Mad Men gets more features, think pieces, and references from Maureen Dowd. If you doubt that it's the darling of the prestige press, take a look at Katie Roiphe's close reading in Sunday Styles yesterday, explaining how the appeal of Mad Men relies on "the thrill of casual vice, on the glamour of spectacularly messy, self-destructive behavior." It's a perfectly fine argument, but it would be much better if you replaced every mention of Mad Men with True Blood. The shows, both stylish and soapy and blessed with excellent actors work the same fantasy, but True Blood gives it to you with a splat.
It may be that old elite snobbishness toward lowbrow genres remains. Then again, The Sopranos earned acclaim for following and challenging conventions of the gangster drama, and the series did not shirk on the sex and gore either. And the period knowingness of Mad Men is no less heavy-handed than the political metaphors of True Blood.
The reason the vampire series has not been embraced as a must-see among the smart-set is, I think, its style of comedy. Its gleeful bad taste is part of the fun, but the sexual puns ("I want you to be my girlfriend, and I really want you to eat my biscuits") and sloppy violence may cost the show some effusiveness among critics, not to mention a few Emmys.
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