The Maddening Part of Mad Men

08/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Sunday night marks the return of Mad Men, the AMC program that is now without dispute the best program on television. What's most interesting about this series is that even though each episode emphasizes different characters having different experiences and feeling different emotions, one prominent element of every episode is the same: Boy, things sure were different back then! And that's the fun: watching these smoking, drinking, red meat-and creamed corn-eating, philandering, cynical, sophisticated, destructive, trapped, but ultimately certain men and women come to the realization that there is something wrong with their lives. The payoff for the viewer, of course, is the safety and superiority we enjoy, the comfortable knowledge that we have largely solved so many of these conflicts about prejudice and sex roles and so on. Lucky for executive producer Matthew Weiner and company, the really terrifying question posed by the show never really intrudes on the fun: what are the things in our lives that are we so very confident about -- The stability of America? The viability of our planet? The widespread use of prescription medicine? The enthusiasm for blogging? -- that audiences in 2058 will see depicted on a TV show set in 2008, and will find similarly ridiculous, ignorant and tragic?