From its setting to its writing to its network, much has been made of how “Mad Men” revolutionized television. As the show prepares for its final pitch meeting, Variety looks at 10 other shows that might have been harder sells if it weren’t for creator Matthew Weiner’s epic story of the professional lives and private pursuits of Madison Avenue’s best and brightest.
Masters of Sex
Creator Michelle Ashford’s series about sex research pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson is one of the most successful period dramas to come out of the “Mad Men” boom, resulting in Emmy recognition for actors like Lizzy Caplan and Alison Janney and articles calling it the “feminist ‘Mad Men.’”
Like Matt Weiner, Vince Gilligan was turned down by multiple networks when he pitched “Breaking Bad.” “Mad Men” premiered several months before “Breaking Bad,” making audiences (somewhat) aware of AMC’s programming upgrade and igniting the slow burn that was Gilligan’s beloved drama.
The Playboy Club
Not all of them can be winners. NBC’s attempt to capitalize on the “Mad Men” theme of celebrating a bygone era aired for just seven episodes in 2011. Coincidentally, a 2010 episode of “Mad Men” paid a visit to a Playboy Club.
ABC’s “Mad Men”-style interpretation also premiered in 2011 and fared a little better (14 episodes). It also premiered after Pan Am flight attendants appeared on “Mad Men.”
AMC’s bold programming choices made producers (and viewers) look to other networks besides HBO and Showtime for premium storytelling — including AMC sister channel SundanceTV, which premiered this powerful family drama in 2013.
WGN America also got on the original scripted drama bandwagon after “Mad Men,” greenlighting this stylized period drama set around the secretive and seductive world of the Manhattan Project.
This TNT series was set in the present day and starred Tom Cavanagh and Eric McCormack. It was supposed to show that not much has changed in the advertising world since the days of Don Draper and “Mad Men.” But no one bought the concept, and it lasted just a season.
House of Lies
The Showtime comedy starring Don Cheadle based on management consultant Martin Kihn’s 2005 book of the same name shows that advertisers aren’t the only swindlers in the business.
AMC’s short-lived reality show that promised to go behind the scenes of an ad agency was meant to be an accompanying program to its critical darling. Instead, it proved that no one really wants to know how the sausage is made.
Astronaut Wives Club
It remains to be seen how much creator Stephanie Savage’s upcoming summer soap will draw from “Mad Men.” It is based on Lily Koppel’s book of the same name, which follows the wives of men in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and was called “‘Mad Men’ meets ‘The Right Stuff’” by the New York Daily News.