There have been volumes written about both of these shows by people far more qualified to dissect the art of television drama and comedy than I am, so I won't even attempt to add my two cents about what made these shows great.
I merely want to acknowledge their effect on my life and suggest one way they might have touched yours.
I fell in love with Dave Letterman during my college years. He was irreverent, defiant, curmudgeonly, uncomfortable in his own skin, and a truly refreshing comedic voice. Along with Steve Martin and Bill Murray, Dave was one of my comedy heroes. As a student, I even sent a packet of material to him, hoping it would land me a gig as a staff writer. It didn't. (I over-shot by proposing a new feature called "The Top 11 List.")
I was instantly attracted to Mad Men because of its setting in a New York advertising agency. I found the show mysterious, sensual, cool, remarkably detailed and visually stunning. It was thrilling to watch Don Draper think through his clients' needs and deliver creative solutions. And it left me nostalgic for an era I was too young to appreciate as I was living through it.
Both shows have been inspirational to me for many reasons. But, hopefully, they've reinforced for all of their viewers the value of great work; beautiful, carefully crafted, passion-filled work. Work that's designed to have an impact. Work that's built to last. Work that stays true to the one-of-a-kind vision of its creator.
We'll be watching - and talking about - both of these shows for a long time because that's the kind of work they are.
And no matter what you do for a living, I wish for you that same approach to your work.