Last night was the first time in several months that we had to face a Sunday evening without Mad Men. What to watch? There are plenty of options, but how will they stack up against the critic's darling?
The biggest lesson is that there isn't much out there that is as great as Mad Men. It's going to be a long wait until the show returns next summer, but until then, maybe we can all keep ourselves warm with one of these substitues, but it's doubtful.
Similarities to Mad Men: Mining '60s culture for a modern day story.
Differences from Mad Men: This remake seems to be scared of its heritage, avoiding the pseudo-psychedelic, swinging London vibe of the original.
Reasons to Watch: AMC thinks it's a worthy replacement to Mad Men, placing The Prisoner in Mad Men's time slot cage for its six-episode run. Ian McKellen is pretty awesome in everything, espeically when he plays the villain.
Reasons to Avoid: We were underwhelmed with the first installment, and it's only six episodes long. That will barely get us through the first month of MM withdrawl.
Replacement Analogy: The Prisoner is to a Rolling Stones cover band as Mad Men is to Mick Jagger live in concert.
Similarities to Mad Men: An intelligent drama with a dark mood and characters with questionable morality that every so often has some grisly blood spray.
Differences from Mad Men: Showtime's serial killer drama doesn't have the subtlety that we get from Draper and company.
Reasons to Watch: It is an interesting and suspenseful take with a very distinct point of view. This season John Lithgow is doing a knock-out job playing the calm but crazy Trinity Killer.
Reasons to Avoid: There's lots of back story to catch up on, and if you don't like blood, guts, and murders, you're better off cracking open a book.
Replacement Analogy: Dexter is to a bludgeoning as Mad Men is to a slow death by poison.
Brothers and Sisters
Similarities to Mad Men: Lots of family drama and intrigue in the work place.
Differences from Mad Men: Ojai Foods is a far cry from Sterling Cooper, and Betty Draper couldn't care less about her kids where as meddlesome Nora Walker can't go 10 minutes without calling them on the phone.
Reasons to Watch: ABC's ensemble drama has a look inside some fun and wacky family dynamics. Also, Nora has a hot new boyfriend.
Reasons to Avoid: This season has the two story lines that make all TV shows boring: cancer and pregnancy. Every episode is kind of the same: there's a secret, the family has a dinner party, the secret comes out at the party, everyone fights, then they make up. Yawn.
Replacement Analogy: Brothers and Sisters is to a family funeral as Mad Men is to an Irish wake.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Similarities to Mad Men: A wealthy, creative, annoying man driving everyone crazy.
Differences from Mad Men: Larry David only dreams he could be as handsome as Don Draper, and when Mad Men makes you cringe, it's from finely crafted emotional storytelling, not wacky embarrassing stunts.
Reasons to Watch: Haven't you heard, there's a Seinfeld Reunion and it's only on HBO.
Reasons to Avoid: Larry David.
Replacement Analogy: Curb Your Enthusiasm is to Bruno as Mad Men is to Borat.
Similarities to Mad Men: Um...
Differences from Mad Men: This ubiquitous, animated Fox comedy that is a string of non sequiturs, absurdest rants, and silly ditties is about as far away from the '60s advertising drama as you're going to get.
Reasons to Watch: In case you need to have a conversation with a straight boy between the ages of 16 and 28.
Reasons to Avoid: It's Family Guy.
Replacement Analogy: Family Guy is to beer bongs as Mad Men is to scotch.
Similarities to Mad Men: CBS' news magazine also features bunch of people who have been working since the early '60s.
Differences from Mad Men: The people are old now (and don't dress as sharply) and think they still know what goes on in the world.
Reasons to Watch: Inappropriate crushes on Leslie Stahl and nostalgia for the ticking watch.
Reasons to Avoid: Andy Rooney.
Replacement Analogy: 60 Minutes is to Parade as Mad Men is to vintage Esquire.
Going to the Movies
Similarities to Mad Men: Decadent and at times either serious or comedic, depending on the mood.
Differences from Mad Men: It's the movies, not TV, so every time it's different. This week we went to see Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was smooth, sylish, and visually interesting, like Mad Men, but its overwrought hipster vibe couldn't be different from the show's cool detachment.
Reasons to Watch: Going to the movies every week will keep you culturally relevant. If you catch the late show on Sunday night when MM is usually on, the cineplex is also less crowded than the rest of the weekend
Reasons to Avoid: Leaving the house on Sunday night, $12.50 a pop, and the empty calories from all that pop corn.
Replacement Analogy: Going to the movies is to Twizzlers as Mad Men is to Betty's meatloaf.
Mad Men on DVD
Similarities to Mad Men: Well, it's Mad Men, just all the ones you've seen already.
Differences from Mad Men: No commercials, watch as many as you want whenever you want, bonus material.
Reasons to Watch: With a show as difficult as this, you can't catch everything the first time around, so a rewatch is definitely rewarding. Knowing what happens in season three puts everything in seasons one and two in a different context.
Reasons to Avoid: There are no surprises.
Replacement Analogy: Mad Men on DVD is to your wedding day as Mad Men on TV is to your first date with your future spouse.