Mad Men is the ultimate ensemble drama series with adult themes that drill deeply into the human mind, considered to be by many one of the best series to ever exist on television. If you miss watching this incredible series, we have curated a list of the best shows like Mad Men you can watch instead! What makes the show so good is that there are a lot of deep-rooted themes about the pursuit of happiness, the depths of darkness that reside even in the best of men, the importance of self-motivation and grit, and the evolution and progress of man despite the earlier generation’s despair that the future is grim. Mad Men portrays the lifestyle of the people in the 60s, together with the conflicting life of a person with a bad past. It puts you in the shoes of various characters at various points of the show, making you understand the real classic era of America.
List of TV Shows Like Mad Men
1. The Sopranos (1999)
Tony Soprano, an Italian-American mobster, struggles to strike a balance between his family life and his position as head of the Soprano family in the HBO series The Sopranos. The show pioneered high-calibre television and set the path for subsequent programs like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, etc. It’s impossible to stress how brilliant The Sopranos’ script, acting, direction, and cinematography are during its entire six-season run.
If you want a sense of realism with fantastically engaging storytelling, go for it. I am in awe of the amount of research that must have gone into the creation of this show because of how thoroughly each character’s intricacy is examined. The show is so densely packed with information that every time you watch it, you will learn something new from each episode and perhaps even each scene. Each episode has its own universe. The Sopranos is easily one of the best shows like Mad Men to watch.
2. Boardwalk Empire (2010)
The main character of Boardwalk Empire, Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the treasurer of Atlantic City, is friends with gangsters and politicians alike, resulting in the federal government taking special interest in him.
I would put this up there with the best series like Mad Men as one of the most binge-worthy TV shows ever made. Phenomenal Series. Many real-life gangsters are thrown in a pot for a wild mixture, and the results are unexpected. Boardwalk Empire’s antihero, Nucky, is as unforgettable as Don Draper. But as big and brilliant a star as Steve Buscemi is, performances by Steven Graham (Al Capone), Michael Pitt (Jimmy Darmody), and Vincent Piazza (Lucky Luciano) are just as brilliant.
3. The Americans (2013)
The Americans is a story of a Soviet family living in America during the cold war. The parents are both spies- they perform their duty to the motherland while the ramifications of their actions affect their lives. Like all the great stories, this one revolves around the relationship amid the real spy stuff. It explores the relationship between the main characters, which started as forced but later blossomed into a true partnership.
Similar to the series Mad Men, The Americans focuses on relationships with their children, neighbours, agents, handlers, friends, etc. At the same time, every action they perform asks them the same question: What would happen to their and their children’s lives if caught? Or how would they handle new lives if they had to move back to the motherland? Everything from casting, storytelling, pacing, and consistency is amazing. Once you finish the first episode, you won’t stop!
4. Succession (2018)
One of the most well-made American dramas, Succession, looks at the capitalistic billionaire world from the eyes of a wealthy family of Roys. Logan Roy is the creator of the Mega huge media conglomerate empire and a father of 4 children, namely, Connor, Kendall, Siobhan, and Roman. Similar to shows like Mad Men, Succession is a provocative series focusing on the desperation to do anything to be the face of the American dream.
The children are on the verge of competition when their father, Logan decides that he will soon be stepping down and deciding who will succeed him. The show incredibly highlights the heartless and dark-humoured behaviour of the dysfunctional family. The problems of dealing with power, money, and relationships. Succession is a modern-day masterpiece that you won’t regret watching and one of the best shows like Mad Men.
5. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (2017)
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel is an excellent series following Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a housewife in the 1960s who has the perfect life- living in Upper West Side- New York, with a picture-perfect family. But her talent and passion for stand-up comedy turned her on a different journey. Mad Men and The Marvelous Mrs Maisel are both set in the 1960s, so it is natural that there will be many similarities between the two.
Midge begins a journey that takes her out of the comfortable life and puts her in cafes and clubs of that time. This makes it possible for the show to explore many feminine-centric sides of the 1960s world we may not have seen even in an intensely packed show Mad Men. The characters in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel are original and uniquely written. Humour has been used perfectly to tackle many political issues from the time. Hence as a fan of shows like Mad Men, I highly recommend that you add The Marvelous Mrs Maisel to your collection.
6. Masters of Sex (2013)
Another historical drama that takes place in the 1950s is called Masters of Sex. Based on actual events from the William Masters and Virginia Johnson human sexuality research, the series examines the friendship between the two colleagues who pioneered in their field. Here we see Johnson, a divorced mother taking steps far ahead of her time and proving her great determination for her career.
Along with the era, Mad Men and Masters of Sex also deal with a number of the same issues. Both series spend a lot of time delving into the complexity of interpersonal interactions. Also covered in each of them is the historical period’s professional women’s lifestyles. Masters of Sex’s episode ‘Fight’ reminds you of Mad Men’s episode ‘The Suitcase’. If you miss TV shows like Mad Men, then Masters of Sex should make a great substitute show for you.
7. Breaking Bad
In the massively successful series Breaking Bad, after receiving a cancer diagnosis, Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, partners with Jessie Pinkman to become a skilled meth cook. In order to safeguard the family, Styler—a worried, devoted wife and a concerned mother forcibly listens to and backs her criminal husband.
At first appearances, it’s easy to dismiss Don and Walter as very different from each other. And it makes sense. One’s a posh fashion icon, while the other is a bald guy who gets chemo. But essentially, their personalities match; they are both ruthless geniuses with troubled wives and unlikely protégé. Both shows are all about work! Breaking Bad is a beautifully twisted masterpiece with incredible acting performances, amazing direction, and cinematography. In the intense drama genre, Breaking Bad is one of the best shows similar to Mad Men.
8. House MD (2004)
Talking about geniuses, Dr Gregory House is a medical genius who leads a group of diagnosticians as they solve puzzling cases of patients with obscure illnesses. In finding the answers, House often breaks the hospital’s administrative rules and often behaves miserably with others, including the patients and their families. Already seen this excellent series? Check out more shows like House MD you might enjoy.
However, there is something particularly compelling about a character who, despite being so unlikeable in many respects, you can’t help but like. Traits that Don Draper and House share. Although they are rude, direct, and arrogant, both are extraordinarily good at their work. Hence, House is worth watching for anyone seeking shows similar to Mad Men.
9. Six Feet Under (2001)
When Nathaniel Fisher Sr. left his funeral home for his 2 sons, Nathaniel Jr and David to run, the circumstances gave rise to deep family conflicts. Six Feet Under is a hard-hitting show exploring all the difficult things that we as people experience in life. Depressing at times, the show is also gloriously cathartic and wonderful.
Six Feet Under is a very meaningful and impactful show. The funeral home as the setting for this whole series was beyond inspiring. Not every show can do as well as this one does in reflecting the dysfunctionality of a family. If you love a well-written drama with quirky, damaged characters like those in shows like Mad Men, then this show is for you.
10. BoJack Horseman (2014)
BoJack Horseman, a humanoid horse, believes it’s time for a comeback after becoming lost in a sea of self-pity and alcohol. He was once the star of a sitcom from the 1990s in which he portrayed the adoptive father of three orphans. The show really helps people understand just how much society affects us as people and our personalities.
As odd as it may seem, in this adult animated show, BoJack Horseman’s central ‘Horse-man’ character, shares similar traits with Don Draper. He is emotionally detached, self-destructive struggling with existential angst, and longing for human connection. BoJack Horseman is a great comedy-drama option for a shows similar to Mad Men.
11. Peaky Blinders (2013)
Peaky Blinders depicts the titular group taking control of Birmingham, England’s streets. Tommy Shelby, the daring gang boss, grows his family’s company from horse race tampering to one of the most dreaded gangs in history. If you’ve already seen you, you can check out our list of shows like Peaky Blinders.
Tommy Shelby would do anything to ensure that he and his family succeed, including working as a spy for Winston Churchill and eliminating competing gangs around England. Tommy reminds me of Don Draper from Mad Men in his cleverness and cunningness. Similar to shows like Mad Men, Peaky Blinders was able to do replete with ruthlessness and political intrigue that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
12. The Wire (2002)
In the excellent show The Wire, the streets of Baltimore serve as a microcosm of both US drug policy and general urban deterioration. Witnessed not only through the eyes of a few police officers and drug gang members, but also through the eyes of the politicians, journalists, drug users, and common people who affect and occupy their society.
You’re probably missing out on the best television series ever if you haven’t watched The Wire. Rich characters represent everything that is complex and contradictory in The Game. Cops, drug traffickers, middlemen, political figures, and kids. Offenders are young and old, and victims are both. For great series similar to Mad Men, you cannot go wrong with The Wire.
Here are a few fabulous shows like Mad Men that didn’t make it to the list, but you can check them out nonetheless:
- The Queen’s Gambit