Friday 23 January 2015

My Top Ten Favourite Characters in MAD MEN

Having just finished watching all there is to offer of this wonderful series at the moment, and having seen all of it, from start to finish, over a period of two or three weeks, I am struck by my usual 'what the hell do I watch NEXT?' quandary.  To keep us going until we get the final seven episodes I thought I'd do a tribute to it, here, for fellow addicts!

So here goes with the rundown of my Top Ten favourite characters in Mad Men, in reverse order....

10.  Just slipping into the top 10 after a few were rejected for this spot, I chose department store heiress Rachel Menken, from series 1 (I think I preferred the earlier ones), played by Maggie Siff, on whom I wasn't so keen in Sons of Anarchy but thought was great in this.  Rachel was really cool, an independent, intelligent woman who wore amazing hats and didn't allow herself to go in for too much of Don Draper's idealistic romantic rubbish.  A match for him, indeed.  You were right not to go away with him, luv, but I think you sussed that out, didn't you? 

9.  Lazing about at number 9, the laid back and funny Stan Rizzo, played by Jay R Ferguson.  Calls a spade a spade, but basically a nice guy.  I love the way he seems to be laughing at his private jokes all the time and doesn't care too much what anyone thinks.  Only question - WHY did he grown that awful fuzz all over his face, later??

8.  Being dead straight at number 8, the delightful Henry Francis, played by Christopher Stanley.  Quietly attractive rather than drop dead sexy, the perfect husband, especially when you've had your heart wrung out by the Don Drapers of this world!  Even when he's being a bit shouty and laying down the law, you can kinda see his point.  I love the way he told Betty he wanted to marry her within only a few short meetings.  And meant it.  The move of a confident man.  Love it.

7.  I thought Michael Ginsberg (aka Ben Feldman) was going to really annoy me when had his first interview with Peggy "hold on while I throw some more toys out of my pram" Olson, but he very quickly made me laugh instead - and didn't he always get everything absolutely spot on?  That is, until the breakdown - I didn't see that coming but I suppose it happens to all the best creative geniuses (or genii!).

6.  How could you not love Lane Pryce?  Such a sweetie.  I always felt sorry for him because he wanted to fit in with Manhattan so badly but didn't quite, even though he loved it.  I also wish he'd had the courage to go off with the bunny girl he loved, instead of being so brow-and-literally beaten by his horrible father that he went back home to England.  Sad, sad end.  Come on, Don, you needn't have been so harsh, he would never have let you down again.  Played by Jared Harris.

5.  Into the top 5, and one of the best television deaths I've seen.  Don's secretary for part of one series, after Joan decided he didn't need any more pretty ones: Ida Blankenship.  Hilarious Brooklyn-Jewish accent, some great comedy moments. Played by Randee Heller.

....and the moment her demise was discovered....

"She died like she lived: surrounded by the people she answered phones for."

4.  ..... so said number five, Roger Sterling!  Played by John Slattery, after a psychiatrist encouraged him to understand his true self, he described himself as an inquisitive child who happened to have a successful business and a huge bank account (or something).  Totally hilarious, loved him. 

"Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people's names before I fire them." 

 "Have a drink. It'll make me look younger." 

3.  Well, self-indulgent, self-obssessed womaniser or not, he has to be in the top 3, doesn't he?  The thing with the totally lush Don Draper is that just when you think he's a complete asshole, he does something that softens your heart towards him, and just when you think that he's a nice guy underneath it all and is actually learning by his mistakes, he does something horrendous.  It's my theory that people who are consistently unfaithful are secretly looking for a type of love that doesn't exist, ie one that will keep the passionate beginning alive forever, when two people adore each other unconditionally.  Aside from the occasional one-nighter, Don's affairs were never just about sex, were they?  A screwed up psyche with a hundred and one hang-ups, all wrapped up in the big hunk of gorgeous that is Jon Hamm!

"The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one."

2.  I've seen her described as 'the bitter, vengeful Betty Draper', and my husband thinks she's all kinds of awful, but I really liked her, and I felt sorry for her, too.  In the days when women had little choice but to be a perfect wife and mother, she gave 100% to Don and the kids, always looked fabulous and put him first, every time, unlike 60s girl Megan who kissed goodbye to her happy marriage the minute she made her own career her priority.  Yet still Princess Betty got treated appallingly.

I felt the most sorry for her when, older, overweight and gotten frumpy, she went to pick the kids up from Don and Megan's new swanky apartment and clearly felt bitter and jealous; who could blame her?  She'd given her youth to Don and had the worst of him, whereas it seemed as though Megan had got the best.  I was glad she found happiness with Henry, lost weight and ended up looking gorgeous again - I bet January Jones was pleased to get all that 'fat' off her face, too.  Best moment: when she picked up a guy in a bar for sex, just so she could feel that she and Don were even, although she never told him about it.  Oh, and after their one brief night together in series 6; I thought Don realised what he'd lost, then...

I loved the Rome look! 

1.  Who else could be number one but the fabulous Joan Harris?  Played by Christina Hendricks.  I thought she was just going to be an out and out bitch and gold-digger at first, but then her character was given more dimensions and she showed her supportive and understanding side.  Of course she's one of those terrific women who is smart, independent, but also understands the power of glam!

 Her worst moment was when she made the decision to sleep with a client for the sake of the company; the ghastly thing, of course, was that the partners (Don excluded) had little enough respect for her to suggest it in the first place.  I think she probably gained as much respect in business as any woman could during that particular era, on the whole.

I went off her a bit near the end of series 6, and series 7, when she was anti-Don, but, hey, she had her reasons.  I liked how she chose living as a single mother rather than succumbing to the countless men she could have been with, for the sake of having a husband.  Almost unheard of in those days!  Oh, and she was queen of the icy put down, too.... to the young guys in the office who laughed at her so cruelly, for no reasons other than that they were little boys trying to be big sexist men " I can't wait until next year when all of you are in Vietnam. You will be pining for the day when someone was trying to make your life easier. When you're over there, and you're in the jungle and they're shooting at you, remember you're not dying for me because I never liked you."

I still think (hope) she'll end up with Roger... 

What I love most of all about the whole show is how it shows the huge sociological differences that happened during the sixties - the world was a very different place in series 7, when compared with series 1.  Brilliantly observed and illustrated - as were the subtle changes in fashion each year, too.  Didn't you just love the clothes and hairstyles?

Just a few more episodes to go, before the Mad Men 1960s are all over....  

Catch you later, guys!



  1. A fab post Terry, I love your list and your analysis. I think the divine Don would be my number one though although I do love Joan. Like you, I'm really hoping that she and Roger end up together. I think I would have slipped little Sally in there somewhere as well. I really love how we've seen her grow up and become all rebellious. I can't wait for the last few episodes although we'll be in mourning once it's all over.

    1. Glad you liked! I am rather hoping Don and Betty.... a bit of a wild idea! I've had moments when I;ve liked Sally but I pretty much loathe all mouthy kids and teenagers, so she's more on my hit list, I think! I like dear little Bobby, tho! Couldn't put Don as my top one because to me it was like saying, it's okay to be a shit as long as you're great looking. Which of course it almost is, mostly - ha ha!!!

    2. I'm very shallow so I'm happy to take Don with all his failings :D I really like when Betty and Don have those moments of familiar connection. I don't think anyone knows them as well as they know each other. Don is a lot like Nucky Thompson in that they are doomed never to be happy but they also manage to destroy the lives of everyone who crosses their paths. It's as if neither one of them have the capacity to just accept they need to be alone. Strangely we should despise both of them but they have so much pathos we get sucked into their miserable web of deceit.

    3. I would take Don in whatever way, shape or form too, because I am shallow, too, and also a slag. Yes re Don and Nucky! As for being alone, well you know what I think about that, ie that it takes a rare personality to be happy single for a long period of time, and I don't think either Don or Nucky have it - most people just feel lonely! Incidentally, husband is listening to audio book about the bloke on whom Nucky was based, ie, Nucky Johnson, says is fab; BE was based on it too!

    4. That definitely sounds like one to read because Nucky is such an intriguing character. You are right that he and Don too selfish not to inflict their brand of misery on everyone else :D

  2. I've watched the series real time and now I feel the distinct compulsion to spend the rest of today binge watching from the beginning. This has been my favorite show of all time. Thanks for a great read! And I'm with you - Betty Draper is awesome. She didn't deserve all she got.

    1. Oh go on, why not!!! I watched it all 6 or 7 episodes at a time. Glad we agree on the lovely Betty, too!

  3. I started watching Mad Men again this morning because of your post! hahah I've re-watched it all multiple times and I never get sick of it- definitely a show that gives you that certain feeling you can't get enough of. Loved your picks of characters, Betty, Don, and Joan are my favorites, too. Will be so sad when it all ends!

    1. Oh me too - takes me ages to 'get over' a series I've loved. You just have to watch it all again, from the beginning - I hope you're having a lovely day!!!!!

  4. I just rewatched the series from the beginning with my kids over Christmas. It was interesting to watch the Michael Ginsberg character again knowing what was going to happen later on. He was showing signs of illness like paranoia and delusions but they came off as jokes rather than illness. That was some good writing on Matthew Weiner's part. I am excited to see the last few episodes, but I'll be sad to see them go.

    1. Oh, me too! I don't think I could bear to see all that wonderful sixties-ness move into the 1970s, though! Thanks for reading - and yes, it's so interesting seeing how the characters change, when you go back, isn't it?