Any worries that the sophomore season of "Mad Men" wouldn't live up to its heavens-praised, Emmy-winning debut are immediately dispelled with the first of 13 episodes. In continuing to defy viewers' expectations " and perhaps even combating them outright " the series stands tall as television's current best drama.
Now taking place during JFK's presidency, the show finds advertising genius and family failure Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in a midlife crisis. While he's used to skipping work for hours at a time for drinks and dalliances, he goes AWOL for days. That's because back home, his extracurricular activities have caught up with him, so Betty (January Jones) is no longer the patient wife; in fact, she kicks him out, and finds herself tempted to stray.
Just as interesting as the Draper household storyline is the one at ad agency Sterling Cooper, where secretary-cum-copywriter Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) struggles to fit in to the boys' club, while also internally dealing with the secret child she gave up. There's also heart attacks and alcoholism, and occasionally, work, pitching everything from bras to airlines.
Sublime and never soapy, "Mad Men" benefits from intelligent scripts that challenge yet respect its audience, and performances that are across-the-board excellent. It's a huge compliment that the AMC show is often compared to HBO programming, but I think it's even better than that pay-channel's offerings of past and present " yes, "Sopranos" included.
It's befitting this set is packaged like a button-down shirt: crisp, stylish, classy, timeless.