AMC’s Mad Men was one of the most acclaimed television shows of the new golden age of television. Why did it come to an end after seven seasons?
Mad Men was a major hit for AMC before coming to an end with season 7, but it wasn’t due to a cancelation. Known today as one of the most acclaimed shows of the new golden age of television, Mad Men, which debuted on AMC in 2007, played a big part in launching the post-Sopranos era of slow-burn antihero dramas such as Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, or House of Cards. Despite its soap opera-like format which, presumably, could’ve allowed the series to go on for much longer, Mad Men came to an end after only seven seasons.
The final season of Mad Men saw Don Draper (Jon Hamm) fleeing his responsibilities at the McCann Erickson advertising agency and driving West. This journey featured several emotional and sometimes surreal encounters that forced Don to confront his past. The series came to an end as Don seemingly experienced some kind of epiphany while at a spiritual retreat in California; it was hinted that this inspiration will lead to him creating the famed 1971 “Hilltop” Coca-Cola commercial that Mad Men ended with.
Mad Men wasn’t canceled, but instead, it ended with season 7 because creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner felt it was the right time to conclude the story. Indeed, most of the characters had reached the natural conclusion of the arcs. Weiner already knew how the show would end all the way back in season 4, so the final seasons were all about getting the characters where they needed to be, calculating their trajectories. Seeing Don Draper continue his womanizing ways, never finding meaning or a sense of identity in his life, would certainly have become repetitive had the series continued past its seventh season. Don Draper had three wives and 19 mistresses throughout the show’s run, which was probably enough, even for Don. The character needed to experience some kind of growth, some kind of major change, and once that change occured, the series fittingly ended.
Of course, Mad Men was also a series about a specific time and place in American history, therefore, it wouldn’t have made sense for it to continue indefinitely. The series began in 1960 and ended in 1970; having the story continue into the 70s would likely mean raising a number of new thematic concerns related to the political, social, and cultural changes that occurred during that decade. But Mad Men was always a story about life in the 60s and the particular kind of post-war malaise that Don Draper’s search for identity reflected. Whether it was political events like the JFK assassination or cultural shifts like the emergence of hippie culture and the rise of feminism, all of these concerns were woven into the fabric of the series and very much constituted its thematic identity, solidifying that Mad Men is a series tied to a specific era.
It was also likely that many of the series’ main actors wanted to move onto other projects. Spending the better part of a decade dedicated to one character might not have been the most artistically fulfilling thing for an actor. Speaking in an interview (via Today), Jon Hamm explained that he never wants to play that kind of character again. And so, it’s clear that Mad Men ended after seven seasons for a variety of narrative, thematic, and practical reasons. The series wasn’t canceled, it ended exactly when it should have.
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