"Mad Men" is under orders to cut up to six -- if you believe The Wrap -- characters over the next two-three years, which seems like quite a crowd, doesn't it? But maybe not. Today, we go through the list of who's expendable or not, grading each on a scale of one to 10 -- one being easily expendable, and 10 being not. I think this list demonstrates the adage that everyone to some degree, particularly on a TV show, can be replaced. Remember, the show must go on, even if there's no one on screen to speak the lines, so who knows, even Don may be seeing a little less screen time . . .
Jon Hamm/Don Draper: "Men" is, of course, Don, but if creator Matthew Weiner is getting $30M over the next two seasons, then what is Hamm worth? He's the star, and a very very key reason why "Men" has succeeded. But what if Don is in a few less episodes next season? Is that possible? After all, we know his secrets now -- all of them presumably. Season's one-three peeled those away and the fourth explored them. Where do we go from here? Score: 9
Elisabeth Moss/Peggy Olsen: The journey of Peggy has in some ways just begun, and it does appear she and Don are in some ways destined to continue her voyage together. But is she an utterly vital character? No. Score: 7
Vincent Kartheiser/Pete Campbell: Campbell remains a character stuck in amber; not quite a practicing adult or ethical one either (who is here?). He strikes the same note a little too often. He could go as easily as Duck, I'm afraid. Score: 4
Michael Gladis/Paul Kinsey: Sure, he symbolizes the moral world, as someone who functions within a largely amoral (as opposed to immoral) one. As an idea, he's vital, but could other actors handle this archetype? Score: 3
January Jones/Betty Draper: Weiner seems content to keep Betty as a boob, without much insight into her character or the world at large. She's made a mistake in her second marriage, but do we the fans have to watch in agonizing detail how that is repaired? The show never gave viewers enough reason to care about Betty in the first place. So she is expendable. Score: 3
Christina Hendricks/Joan Harris: Certainly is a more interesting character than Betty, but a vital one? Her Roger affair is past, and her husband's fate unknown, but where exactly is she headed, and do we care? Score: 5
Jared Harris/Lane Pryce: Well . . . no. I like him and certainly like the actor (hell, I like all of them.). But he could be gone for weeks, and sadly, no one would notice all that much. Don has already corrupted the poor blighter anyway. Score: 3.
Aaron Staton/Ken Cosgrove: Staton was off to the side for a good piece of last season anyway. He's a necessary foil to Pete, but if Pete isn't the world's most necessary character, than is Ken? Score: 3
Rich Somer/Harry Crane: Mr. TV is like all the other minor characters on the series, a valued member of an ensemble, but an utterly essential one? Alas, no. Score: 3
Christopher Stanley/Henry Francis: Well, sure. Henry has served his purpose -- to pry Betty away from Don. Mission accomplished. Score: 1
Robert Morse/Bert Cooper: Morse is such a classic, and you never want to see a classic go. Bert serves his purpose in the larger scheme of things, and I certainly think you want him around, but he's not in all the episodes, never has been. So he could see less screen time too. Score: 4
John Slattery/Roger Sterling: Finally, I get to the heart of the lineup. Slattery/Sterling is utterly essential to this series because he represents -- in every way imaginable -- the empty shriveled heart of the ad business that "MM" represents. He is the humor, the style, the very philosophy of "Mad Men." He is everything to this show. Yes, Slattery's Sterling is indispensable. Score: 10.