Mad Men's Not as Good as You Think

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"After three excellent seasons," writes The New York Times' Ross Douthat, "I took it for granted that the saga of Don Draper was the best show on TV--the rightful heir, insofar as one could possibly exist, to 'The Sopranos' and 'The Wire.'" But now he's pushing back at this conventional wisdom. Mad Men has one big weakness, Douthat says: the opacity of its characters. To put it simply, "we don't quite understand what makes its protagonists tick," and at some point that moves from being a good thing to a bad one: "what's struck me watching 'Breaking Bad' is how much more invested I am in its characters as human beings than I am in any of the leading players on 'Mad Men.'" Here's his final verdict on the insufficiency of Betty's hint of a pout when it comes to creating a real audience connection:

As a brilliant (if ever-so-slightly pretentious) screenwriter's experiments in telegraphing psychological complexity, they're impressive and engaging and sometimes even transfixing. But I'm not as invested in their fates as I might be if their motivations were a little less complexified, and their psyches somewhat more transparent.
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