100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

From time-capsule sitcoms to cutting-edge Peak-TV dramas — the definitive ranking of the game-changing small-screen classics

4. 'Mad Men'

2007-15
The American dream and how to sell it – except for Don Draper and the hustlers of Sterling Cooper, selling is the American dream. Mad Men became a sensation as soon as it appeared, partly because of its glam surface – a New York ad agency in the JFK era, all sex and money and liquor and cigarettes – but mostly because it was an audaciously adult drama that wasn't about cops or robbers (or doctors or lawyers), staking out new storytelling territory. Jon Hamm's womanizing adman, Don, is a genius at shaping other people's dreams and fantasies, but he can't escape his own loneliness – he's a con man who stole the identity of a dead Korean War officer and built a new life out of lies. "A good advertising person is like an artist, channeling the culture," creator Matthew Weiner told Rolling Stone. "They're holding up a mirror saying, 'This is the way you wish you were. This is the thing you're afraid of.'" Don can reduce a room to tears pitching the Kodak Carousel, even though the happy family memories he's selling are a fraud. There was nothing on TV as seductive as Mad Men before – and years later, there still isn't.

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