Mad Men has been delayed.
I hope you know what this means. For the last two years, after I caught up on the second season while sitting isolated in my hostel room in Belfast, stealing internet from the hallway, Mad Men has been a core part of my summer and gotten me through the first bend of each school year.
Like certain pieces of indelible art, the show has come to color in and frame whole blocks of my life. And now it’s been delayed, a casualty of success, mired in monetary disputes and disagreements over what characters may or may not be indispensable.
The one thing everyone agrees on is that creator Matthew Weiner is indispensable. So who can we spare? What sacrifices need be made to ensure the return of one of the greatest long-running narratives in culture?
A quick poll of my Mad Men-watching friends provides interesting feedback. Out of the six people I talked to, I received six different answers—a testament to the variety of emotions the show inspires in people. Everyone favors different characters and subplots, as it should be with any effective multidimensional fiction. The results are: Roger Sterling, Lane Pryce, Harry Crane, Henry Francis, Betty Draper and Bert Cooper.
Naturally, nobody said Don—there wouldn’t be much of a show without him. And Pete got away clean, which doesn’t surprise me, what with his endless entertainment value and the constant uncertainty as to whether he’ll play the hero or the villain. As did Peggy, probably Mad Men’s best character; Joan, its most charismatic; and Trudy, its most weirdly likeable.
Roger is a bold choice, and he’s always been my favorite, mainly because of his old-school wit and terrible vulnerability. Without Lane, the show would lose its acerbic Brit. As events get farther into the future, one has to imagine that Harry, the television czar, will become even more important. Henry Francis has already proven far more interesting than I ever thought he would, and he provides a much-needed foil to Betty’s unhinged behavior. But, crazy as she is, Mad Men isn’t Mad Men without Betty Draper, the ultimate casualty—at least, at this point—of its vaunted, cigarette-burned chauvinism. And Cooper’s getting old, but he’s so damn funny.
The point here is that none of these figures are worth casting off, and I salute Weiner for fighting the powers that be, even if it does get me a little worried. Artists aren’t exactly at the height of their financial viability in the new decade, though television remains an arena in which writers can achieve a fair level of financial success and security.
Regardless, there are few shows on TV right now that inspire the same sort of fervent viewership and constant speculation that Mad Men does, and it has single-handedly made AMC one of the most cutting-edge producers of content in any medium. I can’t see this stalemate going on too long. That might just be wishful thinking. But if I have to contemplate lockouts in the NFL, NBA and Mad Men, all going on at the same time, I might lose my mind, so think of this as a self-protective measure.
For my money, I’d fire Roger Goodell.
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