Technology Is Destroying Mad Men

The internet: We must be stopped. Scripted TV doesn’t need Twitter.

“Mad Men” came back last night! Did you see it? No? Don’t worry! Just look at…

… the literally millions of tweets about the show

… the roughly 127 recaps

… the 50+ gifs, some of which were posted before the show was even over

Last night’s episode was pretty good. I think? I don’t know. I was too busy bisecting the still-living episode’s chest, like a mad Army surgeon murdering a dazed alien, to realize that it was just trying to explain the secret of cold fusion, in English, right to my blood-soaked face.

Now it’s dead mush on the operating table, mixed in with the gore from the puppy I opened up last week (I needed to establish exactly why it was SO CUTE, medically and empirically) and I can’t tell which part is which. Oh, I think I found its jiggly balls, LOL, gif’d! Welcome to Earth, “Mad Men” season five episode one.

I’m not saying the Twitter backchannel hasn’t made TV better — if not for the funny people I follow I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the Grammys or the Oscars. I’ve gotten more enjoyment from four years of reading sports tweets than from twice as many years playing. I’m the kind of person who’ll read five movie reviews after getting home from the theater.

Same goes for reality TV! There are two shows on TV right now that exist to make fun of “Jersey Shore.” Riffing is so central to the concept that without Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and OhNoTheyDidn’t “Jersey Shore” wouldn’t have a reason to exist. Recaps can add something!

But “Mad Men” is not “Jersey Shore,” and it’s not being performed in front of an audience. There are no gaffes to wait for, no winner, no loser, and no real-life consequences for the humans onscreen. Group viewing does not help “Mad Men.” It destroys it.

It’s a show that was meant to be watched like a movie, either alone or with people you’re close to that understand that “Mad Men” time is a time to be quiet. Actually, this goes for almost all scripted TV. If it’s not live, if there’s no physical crowd, if there’s no element of improvisation, then you’re not part of it — at least, not while it’s airing. The impulse to tweet during scripted TV comes from the same place as the impulse to shout a joke in a movie theater. Nobody likes the guy who shouts jokes in the movie theater.

Mad Men premiere is nuts. Glen just murdered everyone and he’s on the run from the cops! #FakeMadMenSpoiler #GlenistheBest— Aziz Ansari (@azizansari) March 25, 2012

I’m trying to remember my favorite parts of the episode and I can’t see anything but tweets, gifs, and endless articles about Zou Bisou Bisou. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. It’s like I watched it in a dream, or huffed gasoline during the opening credits. I feel like I maybe didn’t really even watch it, which makes me feel actually insane.

I’m watching Mad Men again next week, and I’m turning off my phone. You should try it too! We can still meet up on the internet. Just, right after.

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