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Mad Men Sweeps the Latest Awards and Loses A Key Character

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Very good news on the Mad Men front. Along with some bad (if realistic) news.

The 1960s New York advertising drama has, in the latest round of major awards, picked up where it left off last fall. Then the show won its second Emmy Award in a row as the best dramatic series on television. This month it's swept all three major awards of the year to date in that category.

First it won the Golden Globe for best series, for the third year in a row. Last Saturday night, it won the Screen Actors Guild equivalent, best ensemble, for the second year running. Then on Sunday night, it won the Producers Guild Award as best dramatic series.

The essential milieu of Mad Men is not all that admirable.

The Writers Guild Awards are in February. And it's very likely that Mad Men will clean up there, both for best dramatic series and for best episode, where it has two of the six nominated episodes. (The only danger for Mad Men being that votes may be split between episodes.)

The two episodes nominated are "The Grown Ups," written by Brett Johnson and Matthew Weiner; and "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency," written by Robin Veith and Matthew Weiner. "The Grown Ups" focuses on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" is the one about the bright young London executive brought in to run Sterling Cooper only to run afoul of an errantly piloted lawn mower.

With these glittering results, a third Emmy Award for best dramatic series seems highly likely next August, when Mad Men's fourth season should be on the air.

There are a few down notes, of course. It wouldn't be life otherwise.

For one thing, none of the individual actors won awards in their categories.

Jon Hamm was nominated for best actor at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. (There's no Producers Guild award for acting.) Both times Michael C. Hall, who plays a serial killer of serial killers on Dexter, won the prize.

January Jones was a Golden Globe nominee for best actress for her role as Betty Draper.

January Jones was nominated for best actress at the Golden Globes, but she lost out to Juliana Margulies, who plays the wife of a scandal-plagued politician, forced to go back to the practice of law in The Good Wife. Margulies also won the SAG award.

Oddly, there are no supporting actor awards for television at either the Golden Globes or the Screen Actors Guild Awards. I could see Vincent Kartheiser (whose Pete Campbell really came to the fore at the end of the season) and Elisabeth Moss (whose Peggy Olsen is key to the show) along with Jared Harris (the agency's surprisingly sympathetic Brit overseer) up for best supporting actor awards at the Emmys. And John Slattery as witty agency partner Roger Sterling and Christina Hendricks' sexily uber-capable Joan Holloway would be fine choices, though I don't know if their characters got enough attention this past season.

In a few months, Slattery will be seen around the world in Iron Man 2, playing Tony Stark's company founder dad.

I'd like to see Jon Hamm finally win best actor at this year's Emmy Awards. Don Draper is the pivot of Mad Men, as well as a key icon of the new century. Hamm, who spoke on behalf of the cast at the SAG Awards, resplendent in his new beard, has shown time and again that his real life persona is very different from the role he plays on Mad Men. And this past season, he turned in some fabulous work, especially late in the season when the seemingly disparate strands of the story came together in thrilling fashion.

Unfortunately, one strand of the story appears to have spun out of this novel for television. That is the strand relating to Salvatore Romano, the closeted art director at Sterling Cooper, fired after he resisted a brutal pass from the even more closeted son of the agency's biggest client. The tobacco scion demanded Sal's firing and, in some oddly truncated and I thought rather arbitrary storytelling, that was that.

TV Guide reports that Bryan Batt, who has very ably and movingly portrayed Sal through the first three seasons of Mad Men, is no longer a regular on the show.

Don Draper learned Sal Romano's secret in spectacular and poignant fashion in the Season 3 opener.

It's very unfortunate, but not surprising. When Sterling Cooper's principals all left the agency as it was about to be sold by its British overseers to ad giant McCann Erickson in the season finale, they were able to set up shop quickly only because the big tobacco account came along with them.

With Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce operating out of a suite at the Pierre Hotel, it is pretty hard to hide Sal. Which doesn't mean we won't see his character again, but probably not as a regular.

This sort of thing can be hard for fans to understand. Some shows, like 24, frequently kill off beloved major characters. But other shows generally find ways to keep people involved, to the point of implausibility.

The first part of this past season of Mad Men was occasionally grating for me because two of my favorite characters -- Christina Hendricks' Joan Holloway and John Slattery's Roger Sterling -- weren't playing a big part. It seemed that the Joan character might even be on her way out of the story after she quit her job at Sterling Cooper for her ill-starred marriage to Dr. Blockhead (as I think of him).

I didn't like it, at all, but that's the way real life can be. Why shouldn't a series that aspires to present a major canvass of American life in one of the country's critical eras be the same?

Don Draper was on top of the world. Right before the fall. The seeming fall, that is.

Incidentally, here are the cast members who won Actor statuettes as part of Mad Men's best ensemble victory at the Screen Actors Guild Awards:

Alexa Alemanni / Allison
Bryan Batt / Salvatore Romano
Jared Gilmore / Bobby Draper
Michael Gladis / Paul Kinsey
Jon Hamm / Don Draper
Jared Harris / Lane Pryce
Christina Hendricks / Joan Holloway (Harris)
January Jones / Betty Draper
Vincent Kartheiser / Peter Campbell
Robert Morse / Bertram Cooper
Elisabeth Moss / Peggy Olson
Kiernan Shipka / Sally Draper
John Slattery / Roger Sterling
Rich Sommer / Harry Crane
Christopher Stanley / Henry Francis
Aaron Staton / Ken Cosgrove

You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.