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Mount Rushmore debates are the peak of all arguments. My favorite, of the many: the Mount Rushmore of television.
Last night, while rewatching Mad Men, I tweeted that it has a strong case for a spot on the mountain. A fun Twitter discussion followed.
Mad Men — I’ve been rewatching — has a strong case for the Mount Rushmore of TV. It’s fantastic.
Draper is a phenomenal character.
— Bobby Burack (@burackbobby_) July 28, 2020
In addition to Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Lost, The Leftovers, and Deadwood are candidates. Twitter followers thought I mistakenly left out The Shield — fine, put that in the pool. A few reached out about The Americans — no way.
I don’t buy the case for sitcoms and comedies despite the unrivaled, never-ending love of Seinfeld, Cheers, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The Sopranos is on Mount Rushmore. It’s the George Washington of TV. Without it, the other great shows wouldn’t have been greenlit. David Chase’s masterpiece introduced the world to Tony Soprano, the anti-hero. It created Don Draper and Walter White. The mafia-drama brought a weekly movie to the small screen. The time spent with Tony, Carmela, A.J., Meadow, Christopher, Junior, and Adriana proved not long enough.
On approximately 50% of lists, The Wire ranks first. It’s lower on mine due to an overlooked average fifth and final season. Killing off Stringer Bell in the third was a mistake. The Wire needed him in the end. Though, the show remains an achievement. David Simon set a standard that critics deem untouchable.
The Leftovers is already carved into my Mount Rushmore. It touched and changed its viewers. Grief is the most relatable feeling. A theme Damon Lindelof cruelly explained over three seasons. Viewers found themselves in at least one character. The Leftovers gave perspective on death, hope, love, fear, empathy, and life.
It’s hard to leave Breaking Bad off. Of the great shows, who would’ve thought the one centered around a teacher selling methamphetamine could end most effectively? Breaking Bad ushered in the streaming/Netflix era as an early mainstream binge experience. Vince Gilligan crafted a drug. A show that kept getting better; one impossible to turn away from.
Walter White is to TV what blue ice is to him.
Mad Men is the opposite of Breaking Bad. It’s slow, not easy to watch for days straight, and at times, boring. But it’s great. Aspiring screenwriters should be mandated to read the scripts of Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed seven-seasons. It’s the pinnacle of character development, dialogue, and storytelling. There are 92 episodes; 0 are below very good.
Deadwood and Lost are on the outside looking in. Lost cannot erase its disastrous ending. The Deadwood movie, 13 years after its final episode, reintroduce the magic that lived too short of a life.
And then there is Game of Thrones. It’s been a year, and millions of fans across the world have not forgiven David Benioff and DB Weis for the final season. They never will. In an evident rush to finish, Benioff and Weis crashed the landing. The showrunners slow-cooked a meal then microwaved it to serve.
GoT fans believed every detail, backstory, flashback, power, skill, and species led to a decade-built conclusion. In the end, none of it mattered, not even the ancestry.
The final season of Game of Thrones is going to keep it off most Mount Rushmores. Including mine. However, at its peak, it was a never-before-imagined spectacle. A void TV can never fill.
My Mount Rushmore:
- The Sopranos
- Breaking Bad
- The Leftovers
- The Wire … just barely over Mad Men.