When it debuted as AMC's first original weekly drama series July 19, 2007, "Mad Men" could not have started out further from the TV industry's consciousness. Its premiere was pretty much a spectacular non-event.
But as the weeks piled up, word began to filter out that this little period hour set in the hard-drinking, chain-smoking, brutally sexist New York advertising world circa 1960 was pretty damn good.
The ratings remained tragically low, but the buzz seemed to grow exponentially, even after the 13-week season wrapped. Now, of course, the show faces a divergent but equally daunting challenge: avoiding a sophomore swoon and meet the soaring expectations of critics and fans alike -- stoked by 16 Emmy nominations and Golden Globe wins for top drama and lead actor Jon Hamm in its rookie season.