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In the wake of The Walking Dead announcing that it would spin off a whole new world with different characters, and Breaking Bad spinning off an hour-long, mostly comedic Better Call Saul, Twitter immediately went into its knee-jerk riffing about other shows (particularly those on AMC, like Mad Men).
But instead of trying to be funny or snarky about it and setting up the most ridiculous character combinations or premises, I started thinking about which characters I’d like to watch in their own shows, carrying all the baggage from the past that we’ve witnessed on Mad Men.
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But first, with the seventh and final season still to come, there’s still so much left of the original Mad Men cast for creator Matthew Weiner to work with and dream up scenarios for in their final acts. I still remain fascinated by what’s to become of Don Draper, because it can only get worse from here. I don’t see a happy ending anywhere in that man’s future, nor do I want to see one. He’s haunted and he should stay that way. If Weiner learned anything from his time writing on The Sopranos, it’s that people rarely change. They don’t have the willpower to see it through. They don’t have the sense of examined self to know when they need to make changes.
If you think of all the main characters on Mad Men, it’s a certainty that die-hard fans want to know about their fates going forward — be it Don, or Peggy, Pete, Joan or Roger.
But if Weiner really wanted to keep playing with the extended cast, he’s certainly created enough intriguing people that what they do and look like and how they turn out years from now (or from when the series ends) would actually be interesting. So, taking this seriously, here are the more fringe characters who would make for interesting spinoff series:
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1. Sally Draper. We’ve already followed her so far already (and who knows what will be in store for her in season seven). But Kiernan Shipka is really developing into a wonderful actress, and she has the chops to be the focus of a coming-of-age series wrapped in the tumult she’s about to face and also the glorious possibilities that lie ahead.
2. Ken Cosgrove. When we last saw Ken, he was battered. Defeated. He’s never really wanted to be in advertising anyway. The best work actor Aaron Staton has done with Ken is transforming him from one of the guys leering at female co-workers in the early years to putting the emphasis on how Ken is as a writer — a published writer. To later find out he’s into sci-fi, and some dark stuff at that, gives so much fodder to where he would be going at that point in the century (and beyond). Ken, as an early leader of the nerd revolution, would be compelling — as would his failures to help make sci-fi be taken seriously. A series about the struggles of a writer chasing his dreams in a leap-of-faith departure from his career (which would put the emphasis on his wife being the breadwinner, another interesting take) would allow all sorts of possibilities.
3. Ginsberg. Listen, at this point, I can’t believe we don’t know more about Ginsberg and his father than we do. His introduction was bizarre to begin with, and now he’s just sitting there. Ben Feldman has a ton to offer as an actor, and if the reveal about Ginsberg’s background and motivation were sufficiently dark or weird or groundbreaking in some way, I’d love to follow where that story might go. As in any of these ideas, the notion that Weiner could take someone we think we know, set him on a path we think he should be on and then blow that up and send them spiraling to find purpose in the world would be, in Weiner’s hands, I think very riveting storytelling.
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4. Salvatore. This one is kind of a slam dunk. No doubt we’d find Sal out of the closet, free of (most of) the chains that hold him back. I want to see Sal stop living the lie and come out. Especially because when he did, he wouldn’t be a young buck. He’d be older; there would be so much terrain to cover. And Weiner could shift coasts and set it in San Francisco. Bryan Batt is so multi-talented. You could have him in a Beach Blanket Babylon-type situation. And as a brilliant twist with a ton of believability, I would like this particular spinoff to feature Francine (Anne Dudek) and Faye (Cara Buono) as lesbian lovers and neighbors. Those two should abandoned men and find enlightenment and happiness together.
5. Paul Kinsey. I can’t say this is much of a reach. We already know Paul got hooked into the Krishna scene. He’s been such a poser and pretender and wanting desperately to be taken seriously. I think a series about his unending search for self and happiness — consider it a less drunken and less guarded existential crisis from Don’s — would be both magnificently sad yet replete with comic moments. Weiner could really crush this one. All the ingredients are there. Paul Kinsey always wanted the next thing but was never right for it. His blind spots to his own place in the world, so much farther down in the pecking order than his ego could imagine, would set up some pretty great (and yes, depressing) drama.
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