So the Mad Men season three finale airs on Sunday and it's promising to be a corker. The characters are perched precariously on the brink of a new and frightening America. Marriages are crumbling, secrets are being unearthed, and minds are stumbling into whole new ways of thinking. It almost feels as though the show is... gulp... wrapping up. Don't get scared, it's definitely not. But what if it were? If you wanted to see a Mad Men character developed further in some sort spin-off—the way we followed Frasier Crane out of the Boston bar and over to Seattle—who would it be? Where or when would it be set? Here are some of our ideas.
How the other half lives
Though the Drapers' black nanny/maid Carla has been a presence since the first season, she loomed a lot larger in this year's episodes. She became something gently symbolic, a haunting and evocative reminder of the other, bigger conflicts raging outside of the Draper household. So we'd totally watch a show all about who Carla is—a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead about strata of class and race in 1960s New York. Where does Carla live? How is she with her own children? What does she say about the Drapers and their selfish, inward lives when she's out of the uniform and home with her family? We haven't had many shows about the black civil rights movement told from an African American perspective—though the terrific I'll Fly Away comes to mind (also about a housekeeper), many of the rest of these stories are told from the lens of confused white middle class suburbia. A Carla spin-off could offer some much needed balance.
Birth of a movement
Think of Sal's spin-off as the TV version of the recent (and soon-to-be ongoing) off-Broadway play The Temperamentals (featuring Ugly Betty's Marc!). Basically, once the closeted art director has stopped reeling from the whole Sterling Cooper firing him thing, and when he blessedly untethers himself from his poor wife, he gets in with a group of smart, driven gay men who are tired of living in secret. Thus, through Sal's eyes, we see the foment of the gay civil rights movement, up to Stonewall and beyond. Love, life, revolution—all that good stuff would be bundled up into a stirring, rabble-rousing drama series. Plus we'd finally, finally get to see Sal a little happy and in love. Maybe with some dashing, tweedy Columbia professor. Or a beatnik-turned-hippie intellectual. Oh the possibilities!
Are you going to San Francisco?
During last week's Kennedy assassination episode, we reveled in the brief moment where stuffy weasel Pete Campbell seemed to suddenly blossom into someone more thoughtful and compassionate. He spoke about his disgust with the unfeeling corporate world, with cynical conservatism. His timid sparrow of a wife Trudy got on board with him, staging their own little boycott against a tony society wedding. Is our once-prudish young couple turning into a pair of hippies? We hope so! Their spin-off would find them entering the world of free love and anti-war rebellion, from the smoky enclaves of Central Park to the wastoid recesses of the Haight. Think Hair, only probably with less singing.
Mr. Warhol, I presume?
This season we learned that Don and Betty's daughter is a mite bit... troubled. Well, maybe not troubled exactly, but she certainly marches to the beat of her own drummer. So we think it'd be pretty fascinating to take a look at a teenage/early-twentysomething Sally on the loose in New York City. We envision her stumbling through the cokey heyday of disco and Studio 54, rubbing elbows with the glamorous cultural elite, haunting The Factory like some skinny wraith. As a rich girl from Ossining, she wouldn't really need to work. No, her Barnard degree is all for show. She spends her time merely trying to survive the Me Decade, unaware that the whole post-war party is swiftly going to dissolve into the bleak Reagan years.
Paris, je t'aime
Remember a couple weeks ago when bossman Roger and that dog food lady reminisced about their heady days as young expats in pre-WWII Paris? Wouldn't you just love to see more of that story? Well, we would. Cast some suave kid to play the young Sterling, haul the crew to Paris, and just have at it. Romance, philosophy, the impending clouds of the world's near-destruction, fabulous costumes... It could all be done in a beautiful, wistful manner befitting the most beautiful, wistful city in the entire world. Think The Talented Mr. Ripley set in 1930s Paris instead of 1950s Italy. And, you know, with a lot less killing.
And there are loads of other possibilities. We certainly wouldn't object to something about Joan, or even one of the other ad guys. What about you? What eras and characters would you like to see the terrific Mad Men creative team explore?