The Madison Avenue staff of Sterling Cooper (and the family members they introduced us to) were quite the mixed bag of personalities from varied backgrounds, making Mad Men a surprise-a-minute to watch when they all interacted.
As much as fans often like being able to tell the good guys from the bad guys, this award-winning series was a heightened version of the reality of office life (spilling over into the characters’ personal lives) where people are human. They acted in earnest in one situation, and then turned around and made a choice that caused upheaval from which none involved would ever recover. During the decade that was chronicled in the show (1960-1970), those characters that fans got to know over 92 episodes showed the best and worst of themselves, and fans loved them anyway.
Best: Leadership–The man who never met a bow tie he didn’t like had been helming the ship his adult life and once he stepped into any given situation, his was the only opinion that mattered. When the agency went into crisis mode after Roger’s first heart attack, it was Bert (Robert Morse) who called the shots with the others doing his bidding.
Worst: Emotionally distant–The agency’s founding partner and avid nipponophile could be a bit cold, such as the time Don refused to sign his contract, Bert, without a hint of avuncular concern, handed him the document with a pen, and said, “Sign it.”
Best: Intuitive–Before our eyes, Sally (Kiernan Shipka) went from 8 to 18, from tiny ballerina to boarding school brat to second mother to her younger brothers, Bobby and Gene. At every stage, Don and Betty’s eldest understood the dynamic in her household but chose to suppress her feelings until she couldn’t anymore.
Worst: Melancholy–There’s a sadness about Sally for what might have been if her parents actually acted like decent human beings once in a while, so she often looks melancholic and acts out accordingly.
Best: Self-preservation–“Crane” (Rich Sommer) as he was referenced, was an unimpressive account man who backdoored his way into becoming the head of the TV department (a job he created for himself before anyone realized there were big bucks in placing ads on TV shows), then parlayed that into wheeling and dealing in Hollywood.
Worst: Self-pity–“Everybody else gets (fill in a complaint here: a nice office, a raise, a partnership, a work trip to California…).” Harry never stopped to think maybe it was because they earned it while he was complaining.