When Mad Men first came on the air in 2007, it took the world by storm with its stylish depiction of 1960s Manhattan, the glamorous day-to-day happenings at a Madison Avenue advertising agency and the misadventures of the charismatic Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm).
Mad Men (seasons 1-7) is streaming on AMC Plus.
The show ran for seven seasons on AMC, single-handedly revitalizing the mid-century period drama and creating a hunger in audiences for more thought-provoking and visually stunning productions along with it.
Our list of shows like Mad Men may not fully capture its lightning-in-a-bottle element, but they’ll do the trick if you’re looking for the more prestige dramas with broad ensembles of fascinating characters.
Mad Men wouldn’t have become the massive phenomenon it was without Jon Hamm’s iconic performance as Don Draper, and the same can be said of The Sopranos and James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano. The leader of a New Jersey mob family, Tony is a morally gray protagonist, continually forcing audiences to confront whether or not they sympathize with him.
Like Don, he’s emotionally impenetrable, recovering from a messed-up childhood and building up a wall around himself that even years of therapy can’t crack. With both characters, their struggle to evolve and become better versions of themselves is a constant story of one step forward, two steps back.
Watch on Max
For All Mankind
If you’re anything like Bert Cooper, one of the advertising partners on Mad Men played by the late great Robert Morse, the moon landing stands out as one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 1960s. So you’ll probably appreciate For All Mankind, a show that is period-accurate to the era of the Space Race in all ways except for one — it posits a world in which the Russians beat the Americans to the moon, leaving the United States to furiously play catch-up.
It shows how such an event could have major ripple effects throughout history, with its first season taking place in the immediate aftermath of the moon landing, and its second and third seasons showing the longer-term effects into the 1990s.
Watch on Apple TV Plus
You know how toward the end of Mad Men, its vision of Manhattan was getting a little dark and grimy, reflecting the deterioration of the city that would continue into the 1970s and 1980s? The Deuce picks up right where Mad Men left off, telling the less savory story of New York City, capturing its seedy underbelly of drugs, sex, and crime.
Over the course of three seasons, The Deuce spanned nearly two decades, employing frequent jumps forward in time to show the trajectory of two Italian-American twins (both played by James Franco) who get caught up in the mob, and the Times Square sex worker Candy, brought to life by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Watch on Max
Halt and Catch Fire
Part of what made Mad Men so appealing is that it highlighted a business that was at its most glamorous during the period in which it was depicted. Manhattan advertising agencies in the early 1960s represented the height of style and status for working professionals.
In a similar vein, Halt and Catch Fire takes a look at the world of personal computers during the 1980s, an industry on the verge of changing the world. It features a compelling main cast of engineers and computer scientists, with Lee Pace in an inscrutable lead role that was no doubt influenced by the success of Jon Hamm’s Donald Draper.
Watch on AMC Plus
Masters of Sex
Don Draper — one of the most sexually liberated characters on Mad Men, despite seeming like a stuffy, upper-class man in a conservative era — would have appreciated the work that we see on Masters of Sex.
The racy HBO series stars Michael Sheen as William Masters, a doctor who begins a series of studies on human sexuality along with his colleague and frequent lover Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan). Its approach to highlighting the very real limitations of the 1950s in both sex education and gynecology is fascinating, and it elegantly connects these to issues of gender studies. But as intellectual as it frequently is, it also isn’t afraid to get into the saucier side of things, demonstrating a cheeky sense of humor at odds with its protagonist’s often buttoned-up demeanor.
What Mad Men does for New York, Magic City does for Miami. In a glitzy, vibrant exploration of the city in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as Ike Evans, the owner of one of Miami’s most successful hotels, the Miramar Playa.
The show details the day-to-day dramas of those who live and work around the Miramar Playa, and Evans’ frequent interactions with the Mafia who have established a strong foothold in Miami. Although Magic City had enough charm and energy for five shows, it lasted for just two on the Starz network.
Watch on Peacock
The Queen’s Gambit
If you like the story of Don Draper, an orphan who pulls himself out of poverty with his unique talents, carving out a new path for himself, you’ll love Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) in The Queen’s Gambit, who does kind of the same thing, except with chess.
While growing up in a strict orphanage, Beth discovers an affinity for chess, which ends up shaping her life as she rises from local phenomenon to internationally-ranked chess superstar going toe to toe with the Russians. Come for the stunning 1960s production and costume design; stay for Taylor Joy’s incredibly compelling character study.
Watch on Netflix
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Audrey Fox is a features editor and film/television critic at Looper, with bylines at RogerEbert.com, The Nerdist, /Film, and IGN, amongst others. She has been blessed by our tomato overlords with their coveted seal of approval. Audrey received her BA in film from Clark University and her MA in International Relations from Harvard University. When she’s not watching movies, she loves historical non-fiction, theater, traveling, and playing the violin (poorly).