Good Girls Revolt and All the Other Shows That Tried to Be the Next Mad Men

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Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson/Vulture and Photos by AMC, Amazon, Showtime, WGN, ABC and NBC

There will never be another Mad Men, but that hasn’t stopped the rest of TV from trying. Ever since the AMC drama premiered to (mostly) widespread acclaim in 2007, its formula inspired imitators. Don Draper, who was himself part of a lineage of antiheroes, became a model for other troubled TV geniuses. The show’s deglamorized approach to the gender politics of the past became de rigueur for many period dramas that followed. And, of course, it led a collective trip back to the 1960s. While Mad Men’s influences on TV may be too subtle to compile in totality, it has a spawned a specific kind of imitator, of which Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt is just the latest entry. Call them all the shows that tried to be the next Mad Men, whose ad campaigns and reviews inevitably referenced the show in some way or another. Some of these shows grew out of their first impressions, while others never did. But if you asked Don Draper about them, he’d probably say the same thing he tells Michael Ginsberg, “I don’t think about you at all.”

Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014)
Network: HBO
Number of seasons: Five.
The pitch: A political antihero conquers Prohibition-era Atlantic City.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period setting, difficult male lead, a fascination with the details of U.S. history
Its legacy: Blending together the influences of Mad Men, The Sopranos, Deadwood, and more into one big 1920s stew, but never quite getting the attention those shows got on their own. 

The Playboy Club (2011)
Network: NBC
Number of seasons: Less than one, only three episodes aired.
The pitch: A trip down the rabbit hole with the Bunnies and the customers of Chicago’s Playboy Club.
Mad Men-ish traits: The 1960s setting, the very ’60s fashion, and the extremely ’60s misogyny.
Its legacy: Being canceled after three episodes, failing to properly deploy Laura Benanti, often being confused for Pan Am.

Pan Am (2011–2012)
Network: ABC
Number of seasons: One.
The pitch: A trip to an era when air travel wasn’t a total pain, and people were jealous of the lives of flight attendants.
Mad Men-ish traits: The 1960s setting, a love of plane travel, a focus on women in the workplace, fascination with sexism.
Its legacy: Far more popular outside the U.S. than in it, Pan Am won best series at the Rose d’Or awards before it was canceled. By now, it’s mostly remembered as a footnote in the rapid ascent of Margot Robbie, who moved from Australian TV’s Neighbours to Pan Am to About Time and The Wolf of Wall Street.

The Hour (2011–2012)
Network: BBC
Number of seasons: Two.
The pitch
: Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, and Dominic West try to put on a weekly TV news show for the BBC during the 1950s.
Mad Men-ish traits: Mid-century period setting, hyper-competent female lead, fascination with workplace sexism.
Its legacy: Showcasing a bunch of strong character actors, being a British alternative to The Newsroom, remaining a lasting source of good Ben Whishaw.

The Pitch (2012)
Network: AMC
Number of seasons: One.
The pitch
: It’s an advertising reality show. You pitch things!
Mad Men-ish traits: A focus on the advertising industry, a belief that said industry is more fascinating onscreen than it really is in practice.
Its legacy: Further evidence that AMC really didn’t know how to replace Mad Men (until The Walking Dead started to take off).

The Crazy Ones (2013–2014)
Network: CBS
Number of seasons: One.
The pitch: An advertising agency that’s run by Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Mad Men-ish traits: Set in the advertising industry, nominally about what it’s like to be a woman who’s misunderstood in the workplace.
Its legacy: Acting as proof that TV writers don’t know how to use Sarah Michelle Gellar, being James Wolk’s side gig when he was also on Mad Men (screen-time-wise, Mad Men was his side gig, but did The Crazy Ones ever put Wolk in great shorts?).

The Astronaut Wives Club (2015)
Network: ABC
Number of seasons: One.
The pitch: Based on Lily Koppel’s book, this limited series focused on the wives of America’s spaceflight pioneers.
Mad Men-ish traits: The 1960s setting, the focus on workplace misogyny, the expensive costuming.
Its legacy: Presaging future revisionist looks at space-race history (see Hidden Figures), giving Chuck’s Yvonne Strahovski something to do.

The Americans (2013–present)
Network: FX
Number of seasons: Four aired, two more left.
The pitch: A pair of undercover Russian spies try to hold their marriage together while conducting espionage in 1980s Washington.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period setting, love of symbolism, antiheroic leads, era-appropriate needle drops.
Its legacy: Making us all rethink America’s sweetheart Keri Russell, getting Russell and Matthew Rhys together in real life, leading a new fascination with the 1980s, growing into one of the best shows on TV.

Masters of Sex (2013–2016)
Network
: Showtime
Number of seasons: Four.
The pitch: Researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson dig into the science of human sexuality, defying the rigid mores of their time.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period (1950s through 1970s) setting, obsession with love and sex, focus on sexism, hyper-competent female lead.
Its legacy: Giving Showtime a prestige period drama of its own, getting Allison Janney yet another Emmy, proving Lizzy Caplan really can do anything.

Manhattan (2014–2015)
Network: WGN America
Number of seasons: Two.
The pitch: A sprawling WWII drama set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where America’s best minds raced to build an atomic bomb.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period setting, focus on brilliant people trying to solve problems in the workplace, love of symbolism.
Its legacy: Helping WGN America kick-start its scripted TV programming, giving a Gummer something to do, being much better than most people gave it credit for.

The Knick (2014–Present)
Network: Cinemax.
Number of seasons: Two, potentially more (though it's unclear).
The pitch: Clive Owen pioneers new methods of surgery while working in New York’s Knickerbocker Hospital in 1900, spilling a whole lot of blood in the process.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period setting, brilliant antiheroic lead, love of symbolism, fascination with workplace drama.
Its legacy: Bringing Steven Soderbergh’s brand of auteur filmmaking to TV, making us all very glad we figured out penicillin.

Halt and Catch Fire (2014–Present)
Network
: AMC
Number of seasons: Three aired, one more left.
The pitch: Lee Pace leads a group of Texas entrepreneurs looking to profit off of the personal computing boom in the early 1980s.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period setting, antiheroic male lead, hyper-competent female leads, love of symbolism, fascination with workplace drama, era-appropriate needle drops.
Its legacy: Turning a near-carbon copy of Mad Men into something entirely its own, staying on TV for years despite dismal ratings, proving Mackenzie Davis is a perfect fit for the 1980s.

Vinyl (2016)
Network: HBO
Number of seasons: One.
The pitch: A music executive tries to survive the 1970s, and does a whole lot of coke in the process.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period setting, brilliant antiheroic male lead, (occasional) fascination with workplace sexism.
Its legacy: Flopping hard, proving that audience might be over seeing the same stories play out again and again on TV.

Good Girls Revolt (2016–Present)
Network: Amazon
Number of seasons: One, so far.
The pitch: A group of women working at a magazine band together in the face of gender discrimination.
Mad Men-ish traits: Period setting (1969–1970), focus on sexism in the workplace, era-appropriate needle drops (see: “Is There All There Is?” which was also used by Mad Men).
Its legacy
: Who knows? For now, it gives a different Gummer something to do, while being more like Mad Men than any other show on this list.