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12 Shows Like Mad Men For Fans of Smoke And Mirrors Dramas

shows like mad men

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.

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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.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few fabulous shows like Mad Men that didn’t make it to the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Minx
  2. Suits
  3. The Queen’s Gambit

When Lost aired over a decade ago, its successful narrative created a pop culture impact and changed the landscape of television. If you are a fan and want to watch shows like Lost then you can have a look at this list we made just for you.

Lost

The hugely successful television series Lost aired in 2004. The premise, as we know, deals with a group of people surviving a commercial passenger plane crash on a remote island. The show masterfully explores supernatural and sci-fi elements on this mysterious south Pacific island. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTu8iDynwNc

The use of cliffhangers at the end of each episode of Lost kept the viewers on the edge of their seats, desperately craving for the next episode to come. Even though it's a large ensemble cast, most of the characters receive a justifiable personal arch. Lost was inspired by the movie Castaway and became one of the most expensive pilots to be shot at the time! Lost continues to be appreciated for its originality in storytelling and dynamic character arcs. 

List of TV Shows Like Lost

  1. The Leftovers
  2. Manifest
  3. Lost Room
  4. Twin Peaks
  5. The Prisoners
  6. Battlestar Galactica
  7. The New People
  8. Flight 29 Down
  9. Fringe
  10. Alcatraz
  11. Under the Dome
  12. Dark

1. The Leftovers (2014)

IMDB ratings: 8.3/10

Cast: Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Margaret Qualley

Creator: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

The director of Lost, Damon Lindel also created a supernatural drama series called The Leftovers. The show begins 3 years after an unexplainable global event called ‘Sudden Departure’  where almost 2 per cent of the population, nearly 140 million people, disappear. The Leftovers isn't about WHY people are gone, it's about how the ones who remain dealt with their loss, people often try to comfort themselves with dreams, angels, gods, or even death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLT3YUALJno&t=8s

The Leftovers will leave you with so many questions but beyond words, you have to feel it and savour its unanswered questions to find peace. The Leftovers is an incredible television series that starts incredibly well but loses its way by the series's end. I have to say though, Carrie Coon has brilliant moments in the end. The Leftovers is so weird, fragmented and nonsensical at times that it reminds me of Lost. If you are looking for shows like Lost, I recommend that you give The Leftovers a try.

2. Manifest  (2018) 

IMDB ratings: 7.1/10

Cast: Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and J.R. Ramirez 

Creator: Jeff Rake


The Manifest is a supernatural drama show about a bunch of people who discover that they lost 5 years of their lives when they landed in New York after their aeroplane faced severe turbulence. All the people on the plane were presumed to be dead. Now, these people have to find a way to adjust themselves to a new life around their loved ones. Mild spoiler! They learn their loved ones and the rest of society is not as they left it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1hNAIzkQWY

I found that the show’s premise was very intriguing and the actors give a very convincing performance. The narrative details of the show, however, in my opinion, are a bit sloppy and inconsistent. The writers surely have room for improvement but their concept is incredibly thrilling. Every episode of Manifest keeps you on your toes. Manifest has completed 3 seasons up until now and continues to be on air. Manifest is a pretty good choice if you want to watch TV shows like Lost.

3. Lost Room (2006)

IMDB ratings: 8.1/10

Cast: Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies and Peter Jacobson

Creator: Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom

This lesser-known show The Lost Room is an American Sci-fi television miniseries which only had 3 episodes of 90 mins each and no follow-up seasons. The show was based on a very unique idea where the room in question (known as the ‘Lost Room’) and the objects in the said room had supernatural powers. This strange room is set in a 1960s motel along the iconic U.S. Route 66. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfWrECLnFYU

One day the protagonist (Peter Krause) Joe Miller’s daughter disappears inside the room. Joe, with the help of objects present in the room, tries to find his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning). The story of Lost Room was intensely engaging. I found the direction and the actor’s performances to be absolutely brilliant. It baffles me that the creators did not return to make another short season within the same concept. If you have been searching for TV series like Lost then I can assure you that Lost Room will be worth a watch.

4. Twins Peaks (1990) 

IMDB ratings: 8.8/10

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn and David Lynch

Creator: David Lynch

David Lynch, the well-known director of weird and captivating films such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet created an iconic show called Twin Peaks. It is a hauntingly eccentric show about the investigation of the mysterious murder of a small-town homecoming queen named Laura Palmer. Believe me, as odd as the show may seem at first, you will grow to love it, after all, it is considered to be one of the best mystery shows ever created. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwn9ou_nf-I

With the mysteries, the supernatural elements and the list of bizarre characters, Twin Peaks has it all. In my opinion, the cinematography of the show was truly ahead of its time. Kyle’s Dale Cooper was especially entertaining. Twin Peaks’ experimental formula of the satirical soap opera is extremely unsettling yet rewarding to watch, I must warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted!  If you are in search of TV shows like Lost then Twin Peaks won’t disappoint you.

The Prisoners (1967)

IMDB ratings: 8.5/10

Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat and Geroge Markstien

Creator: Patrick McGoohan


The Prisoner centres around an unnamed British agent (Patrick McGoohan) who tries to flee his country after abruptly quitting his high-ranking government job. He is abducted and held captive in a strange ‘sea-side’ village that is isolated from the rest of the world. This village is a highly secure and monitored place filled with weird technology. There are only 17 episodes to this late 60s show but it manages to bring up such surreal surprises, it's sure to leave a great impact on the viewer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JrNr85fPms

The Prisoner’s unique concept influenced many popular shows including Lost. The creators of Lost even cited the show. I was very impressed by how ahead of its time The Prisoners proves to be. If you want to watch more shows similar to Lost the Prisoners should definitely be on your list.

6. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos and Tricia Helfer 

Creator: Glen A. Larson

The 2004 Battlestar Galactica is a reboot of the original 1978 miniseries of the same name. Do not be mistaken by the title, the show is not related to Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica is set in the 7th millennium AD and follows Cylons, the robot enemy of humanity that resurfaces to destroy the 12 colonies of Mankind. Only a few survive and are able to escape on ships led by a powerful warship called Battlestar Galactica. Mankind struggles to fight the Cylons and work their own political agendas and disputes while finding their long-lost 13th colony Earth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnYsf2Yv8i8

The show is a dark, intense and gritty socio-political commentary with EPIC cinematic value. The script is especially clever and as a huge fan of sci-fi shows, this show ticks the boxes in all the right categories. When the show was released, it blew the viewers and critics away. As far as an obsessive and gripping story goes, Battlestar Galactica is one of the most similar to shows like Lost. 

7. The New People (1969)

IMDB ratings: 7.3/10

Cast: David Moses, Zooey hall and Tiffany Boiling

Creator: Larry Gordon Aaron Spelling

The New People is an American Tv series that aired only for 1 season and is focused on a couple of college students who survive a plane crash. The incident takes place while they were returning from a trip to Southeast Asia, their plane crashes on an island in the south of the Pacific ocean. 

By now this show must already be sounding a lot like Lost to you, and it surely is. The remaining group of people discover an unusual truth about the island: there’s an above-ground unused nuclear test site filled with supplies for the survivors. If you want to see more plane survival stories like Lost then The New People should definitely be on your list.

8. Flight 29 Down (2005)

IMDB ratings: 7.2/10

Cast: Allen Alvarado, Halle Hirsh and Corbin Bleu

Creator:  Stan Rowgow D. J. MacHale

The show Flight 29 Down is a drama series about a group of pre-teens/teens who are stranded on a South Pacific island after their plane crashes in a tropical storm while they were flying from an eco-adventure camping trip in Palau. The show is in many ways a younger version of the Adult-centred show Lost but sans the supernatural elements. I’d say that the show draws inspiration from the show The New People.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLeG0w3kL8k

Flight 29 Down uses the technique of a video diary as a plot device for the viewers to keep up with the story of these children. It was very engaging to watch young intelligent characters finding their way on the island. The first two seasons of the show are quite engaging but I seemed to lose interest in its 3rd and final season. Regardless, Flight 29 Down is a really good series to watch if you want to see TV shows like Lost.

9. Fringe (2008)

IMDB ratings: 8.4/10

Cast: Anna Torv, John Noble and Joshua Jackson

Creator: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci

Fringe is a popular Sci-fi crime drama television series. It may seem like a standard procedural drama at first, but the show actually explores the parallel universe, alternate versions of people filled with crazy scientific experiments. I personally had a great time watching this show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29bSzbqZ3xE

Fringe is actually inspired by shows like Lost, The X-files and The Twilight Zone. The 3 main characters of the show work with a special division called Fringe. There are so many brilliant twists and turns in Fringe that in my opinion, the show is at the top of its category. If you are searching for TV series like Lost, I strongly recommend you watch Fringe

10. Alcatraz (2012)

IMDB ratings: 6.9/10

Cast: Sarah Jones, George Garcia and Jonny Coyne 

Creator: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt

This American fiction show is based on the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary built on Alcatraz island in San Francisco Bay. The prison is now closed but once kept some of the most dangerous criminals of America. The show takes the liberty to make a show around the conspiracies of the place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V514ACIGp_k

In the interesting premise we see that under unknown circumstances, 256 inmates and 46 guards of the prison disappear without a trace. Later the disappeared ones start to appear one by one without ageing a day and resume their criminal activities with no realisation of disappearance. A special government unit is dedicated to finding and putting those criminals back in prison. If you are looking for mystery shows similar to Lost, try watching Alcatraz. 

11. Under the Dome (2013)

IMDB ratings: 6.5/10

Cast: Alexander Koch and Rachelle Lefevre

Creator: Stephen King

Based on a novel written by the sci-fi legend Stephen King, Under the Dome tells the story of the residents of the fictional small town called Chester's Mill, when a huge, transparent and indestructible dome suddenly cuts them off from the rest of the world. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Y5YeYrqUk

Now the trapped residents try to find a way to discover the truth, origin and purpose of these domes. This journey forces them into situations where they learn more about each other than they ever knew. Under the Dome may not be on the top of this list but it’s quite a decent watch if you’re looking for mystery shows similar to Lost

12. Dark (2017)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Louis Hofmann, Lisa Vicari and Gina Stiebitz

Creator: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

The German-language Netflix series Dark is an interesting blend of Science fiction and Mystery. Truly a compelling and mind-bending story to watch. At the beginning of Dark, many children suspiciously start disappearing in the German town of Winden. The dark past of generational mysteries of 4 families living in the town namely, Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler, and Tiedemann is brought to light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrwycJ08PSA

After the discovery of a wormhole, the lives of the families intertwine more than one can imagine. I believe every element of the show is top-notch, especially Dark’s cinematography, which is a TRUE masterpiece. If you are looking for TV series similar to Lost then the intense and gripping story of Dark is sure to keep you engrossed.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few TV shows like Lost that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Carnivale
  2. Yellowjackets
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. Black Mirror
  5. Flashforward