But not me. I'm going to take a more pragmatic approach.
So without further ado, here are the top five Mad Men characters for the cutting room:
5. Roger Sterling - I probably should have said top four Mad Men characters for the cutting room, because I really, really want to keep Roger. His drinking and his quipping and his general congenial scumminess is Mad Men, even more than Don. But if you'll think back to the very first season, you'll recall he's already two heart attacks deep. The show implied way back then that the man was living on borrowed time. Since that point, he's managed to remarry, get rich(er), and generally carry on as if nothing had happened. Sorry dude, but it's time to pay the piper. You're clearly living under a star, and as a result your world-weariness is starting to feel a bit... put-on. How to cut him: The heart attack thing is too obvious, and it doesn't leave him very many opportunities to croak out one final, wry quip. So it's up to Jane to do the dirty work. Look at her and tell me she's not capable of putting rat poison in his drink. Tell me she's not.
3. Harry Crane - Boring, boring Harry Crane. Harry "Nice Guys Finish Last" Crane. Harry "I Do the Actual Business of Selling Ads So Everyone Else Can Drink and Screw" Crane. Harry "We Married Him Off So You Don't Have To Watch Him Have Agonizingly Dull Affairs" Crane. Harry "Wait, Aren't You Just a Less-Funny Paul Kinsey?" Crane. How to cut him: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce changes offices, forgets to tell him. Six months later, construction workers recover his skeleton.
2. Don Draper - I'm not just trying to be controversial here. At one point, Don absolutely belonged at the center of the Mad Men universe. Don Draper was a man of his time, and also, a man who transcended it. He fit neatly into the regressive world of the Sterling Cooper office, but you always got the sense that he had a transgressive streak that was absent in his colleagues. Despite his many, many flaws, Don had secret reserves of brilliance, or insight, or competence, or something, that he could fall back on in times of crisis. It's what made him an effective ad man, and what made the scenes where he sold his pitches so compelling: you saw a man glimpsing truth through the murky veil of the present. Even after the secret of his identity was resolved, there was always an air of mystery to Don -- the sense that he was holding something in reserve. Don is a large part of what made Mad Men more than historical-reenactment-in-the-key-of-soap-opera. Without Don, every character reverts to form. Don's unpredictability and inscrutability was the chaotic element in the system, forcing the characters in unexpected directions.
But the end of Season 4 changed all that. Now, some might say Don's abandonment of Faye in favor of his approximately-fifteen-year-old secretary was exactly the sort of sudden left turn we'd expect from the guy. But not really. Instead, it was Don becoming Roger Sterling. The end of Season 4 seemingly quashed whatever je nais se quoi Don possessed that allowed him transcend the dictates of his station. He became just another alcoholic executive with an affinity for pretty faces. Maybe that's more realistic. Maybe that's even the point: nobody can escape the gravitational pull of social and class norms. But if that's the case, it also forms the logical end of Don's character arc. Who wants to watch a show where everyone behaves exactly as you'd expect? I'll just read a book about 50s gender politics instead. Besides, we already have one Roger Sterling, we don't need two, and if we have to choose, I'd rather stick with the original, thank you very much. How to cut him: Well, he drinks himself to death, obviously. Someone has to eventually.