Time Line: April 1960-October 1960
Plot: The plot revolves around a fictional advertising agency in Manhattan in the 60’s, Sterling Cooper During this time, the viewer is taken back to a somewhat simpler time and yet sometimes cruder time with family birthdays with the neighbours, mother days outings, houses with white picket fences. Politically the race to the US Presidency between the conservative Nixon and the young Kennedy plays an important role in the story with the agency competing to promote Nixon. On a darker side we also see a conservative and narrow minded society frowning and shunning off a recently divorced woman who moves into their neighbourhood, wondering how “that would affect the property value” with heavy drinking and smoking and an extremely sexist and racist work environment with white wealthy men being the salt of the earth.
Donald Draper (John Hamm) is the Creative Director of Sterling Cooper, a fictional mid size advertising agency in Manhattan New York. Revered by most of his peers and envied by a few, he leads the perfect life. He is highly successful and is the powerhouse of the agency. Clients are mostly in awe of his creative genius and are thrilled with his ideas. Outside of the office he is married to a beautiful wife: Betty Draper and has two children and a picturesque home in the suburbs in Ossining. Yet despite all of this relative success and accomplishments Don displays a quite often gruff and secretive attitude choosing to avoid talking about his past. He over drinks and cheats on his wife. He has an affair with a freelance artist Midge and begins seeing Rachel Menken, one of the clients of the agency.
One day he receives an unexpected visit from his half brother, whom he has not seen in years and nobody in his circle knows about and the secrets from his past are finally laid bare. His real name is Dick Whitman and he stole the identity of Lt. Donald Draper a higher-ranking official who dies in front of him in a freak accident in the Korean War where he was posted. Panicking that his secret may be disclosed he shuns his brother and offers him money never to contact him again and to start his own life, a decision he later deeply regrets. Professionally we see Don being coveted by Advertising giants, McCann Erickson but eventually chooses to remain at the firm and is offered a partnership.
Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) – Peggy, a naïve girl from Brooklyn is appointed as Don’s secretary who turns out to have an unexpected skill for analysis and copywriting. She has to endure the petty jealousies of other secretaries and the sometimes abusive nature of her superior, Joan. What’s worse, she unwisely sleeps with Pete on her first day and harbours secret feelings from him and has to endure him getting married to his fiancée. She also has to endure an extremely sexist work environment where different executives constantly and brusquely hit on her simply to sleep with her. After completing a successful project for cosmetics and later for a healthcare client she is promoted by Don as a junior copywriter.
Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) – Peter is young and ambitious account executive at Sterling Cooper. He is of aristocratic upbringing, something that weighs down on him personally but ironically this is what helps him secure his job at the agency. He is engaged to a lively young woman: Trudi Vogel and after his stag night cheats on her with Peggy. Shortly after marrying Trudi he displays an impetuous and over ambitious behaviour at the agency wanting to always been noticed and promoted. His zeal drives him to step over Don on a presentation which has him almost fired (his family name saved him) and to later blackmail him when he finds out his secret identity.
Betty Draper (January Jones) – Betty has what some would say, the perfect life, during this time; married to a successful advertising executive and with a lovely home in the suburbs and two children she seems to lead a fairy tale life. She is young and attractive and is popular amongst her friends’ circle in her neighbourhood. Yet she harbours deep insecurities and frustrations. She does not feel accomplished and is sometimes treated by others like a child. She attends psychotherapy where she tries to explore deeper into her feelings but these amount to little. A big part of her frustrations lie deep in the fact that she does know about her husband’s infidelities and suppresses this. Her sense of loneliness lead her to connect more with the neighbours son, Glenn a young child who seems to understand her more than a any adult.
Roger Sterling (John Slattery) – Roger is one of the senior partners of the agency, a title he inherited from his father (one of the founding partners of the firm). He is of an extremely privileged and wealthy background and often displays a callous and arrogant attitude at work. Yet he is very skilled at key account management due to his excellent interpersonal skills. He is in charge of the agency’s main client, Lucky Strike. Despite being sometimes short and rude with some of his employees he respects Don deeply and is fond of him to the point of going out together with their families or going the extra mile with him to convince him to stay at the agency when he fears he might be lured by more tempting offers. Like many executives during this time, he is a heavy drinker and chain smoker and cheats on his wife. One evening messing around with a young model he suffers a heart attack followed by another one in front of their most important client and is allowed to take some time to recover.
Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) – Joan is the supervisor of the secretaries at Sterling Cooper. She is extremely professional and dedicated but can sometimes be overbearing to her fellow female co-workers. Her dedication to the establishment is such that she never questions the lack of professionalism or personal decor by the executives (men) but rather confronts the secretaries who are not able to deal with their shortcomings. She has an on and off affair with Roger for whom she harbours feelings of attraction and almost maternal affection despite being younger than him and is visibly distraught upon knowing of his heart attack.