Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mad Men Season 4 Character Report Card

A very fine season 4 of Mad Men has ended. Before I dismiss the class for the year, here are my grades for the characters (not the attention in the back row!):

Honor roll:
  • Don Draper: A+. Head of the class. This season cemented Don Draper's status as one of the 50 best tv characters of all time (Tony Soprano...yuh hearing footsteps?). He was a slime bucket, amoral, sexual predator, and a violator of about every HR rule known to corporate bureaucrats....but I couldn't help rooting for him. And a tip of the fedora to both the costume designer who clothed him this year and his barber.
  • Lane Pryce: A. The Pryce was right! Lance stole almost every scene he was in this year. What a complex character. He seemed to have a stick up his bum yet he knew how to party with Don. He's definitely Mr. Bottom Line because he's so buttoned up, yet his personal life is a mess. His relationship with the Playboy bunny almost made his character hop the track but I'm willing to overlook in an otherwise very strong season for Pryce.
  • Roger Sterling: A-. What a wonderful evolution of the Sterling character this year (although the Sterling character displayed very little character). What a weakling. What a mess. Here's why I didn't give Roger an "A": I like the stronger, more self-assured Roger. The pathetic, weak Roger isn't as fun to watch.
Teacher's Pets:
  • Pete Campbell: B: He's still a weasel, but he's more sophisticated and confident. I particularly liked how Mad Men shows his conflicts at home brought about by the financial pressures in the office. But Pete is hard to like and I wonder how he will develop.
  • Joan Harris: B. The gal with the figure 8 figure got herself behind the 8 ball with her pregnancy and that offered a nice twist this season. I'd like to see a softer side of this character. She's in danger of becoming too one dimensional.
  • Peggy Olson: B. I like her professional development. She's really the voice of the awakening women's movement. But she's so uptight at times, it makes me squirm on my sofa. And I'm not sure about the Lesbian friendship. Where is that going?
  • Ida Blankenship: B. The gag of the old secretary got old pretty quickly, but it was good comic relief. Her death at her desk was brilliant. She's gone...but she won't be missed (by me).
  • Duck and Freddie: B. Minor roles this season but they are strong, colorful, tragic characters and I hope they'll have more work next season.
  • Megan: B-. She was a good addition to the cast this year. She's smarter than she seems and that may set up her character nicely for next season. (What are the odds she gets dumped by Don?)
  • Harry Cooper, Paul Kinsey, Ken Cosgrove: C. Supporting players who contributed to the season but had nothing really distinguishing.
  • Sally Draper: C. Uneven. Her scenes with Don Draper were excellent. However, most of the scenes back in Connecticut felt forced and stilted. Can't tell you how many times I dove into my Blackberry when those CT scenes were aired. But this character could have a break-out year in season five.
  • Bertram Cooper: C. His character was not fully developed this year. And his abrupt departure from the firm seemed unnecessarily hasty. (Unless it means he's somehow coming back next year.)
  • Henry Francis: C. Bland character but I like how he's starting to give Betty some serious pushback. He could make the honor roll next year.
  • Betty Francis: C-. Debbie Downer or Juanita One Note? She used to be this icy but interesting blond but now she's just a bundle of bad news all the time.
Remedial Readers
  • Faye Miller: D+. I never got Don's long-standing attraction to her. So many of her scenes felt stilted. Her best scene of the year was when he dumped her. That was the only time I cared for her as a character.
  • Stan the art director: D. Johnny one note. Okay, so he hits on Peggy all year. Is that all there is to this character?
  • Midge Daniels: F. Honey, you're no artist and you're certainly not a strung out junkie whose husband will prostitute so they can get another fix. It was like she dropped in from a Tarantino movie.
  • Glen: F. Can't tell if this kid is a creep and if Betty's actions are justified. It needs to be fleshed out better.

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