At New York Times, ‘Mad Men’ = ‘American Idol’

Occasionally, the New York Times or another big East Coast media outlet lets slip that it is in some respects the bastion of cultural elitism that such enterprises are regularly accused of being. Such was the case with a Sunday Styles piece about “Mad Men.”

MMs4ep401_DD Two statements near the top leapt out at me, and would have rung hollow and sounded alarms to Times editors if “Mad Men” didn’t probably do a 90 rating in the paper’s cultural editing ranks.

“THE nation is once again transfixed by ‘Mad Men,'” the essay begins, opening the second paragraph by referring to “the phenomenal success of the show.”

Let’s see: After an enormous amount of advance publicity, the fourth-season premiere drew 2.9 million viewers — just under 1% of the U.S. population. Now, for AMC that’s not a bad number (though it’s less than “Breaking Bad” normally does), but it’s about an eighth of what “American Idol” or “Dancing With the Stars” deliver during an average week.

I wouldn’t make a big deal out of such a distorted claim except that the Times does this sort of thing quite a lot — especially in the Styles section — assuming because something is considered chic within a certain tony, well-heeled demographic that it’s on the tip of “everybody’s” tongue. (Tellingly, Maureen Dowd also weighs in with a “Mad Men”-themed column, although without making any such grandiose references about the show’s popularity.)

I say this, by the way, as a fan of the show (see my previous post) and an advocate of smart television — someone who fervently wishes that the audience for “Mad Men’s” season premiere wasn’t half the size of “Jersey Shore’s” return on MTV.

But wishing doesn’t make it so — unless, I suppose, you work in the rarefied air of the Sunday Styles section.

   

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