If six characters really do end up having to go, which should they be?
Who — if anyone — can "Mad Men" afford to lose?
AMC, which is negotiating with producer Lionsgate Television to renew "Mad Men" for a fifth season, is countering that Weiner is exaggerating, and that he's only been asked to cast carefully and only sign actors who will deliver more than just a few lines per season.
But if the character-chopping happens, six someones will have to go — and that puts us yet again in speculation mode.
Also read: 'Mad Men' Negotiations: Who Wants What
It's not that we want any of the show's characters to go, mind you. And we certainly don't wish unemployment on any of the actors involved. But speculate we must. Or at least want.
We know who absolutely can't go: Don Draper and Joan Harris.
Not only does "Mad Men" revolve around Draper, but female viewers would no doubt drop the show in droves without Jon Hamm involved.
And their boyfriends and husbands would defect without the possibility of seeing Christina Hendricks' buxom office manager at least once per episode.
Everyone else, however, would seem to be fair game — but some are fairer than others.
Here's our completely speculative take on who the show could best survive without, if it had to, and suggestions for how the show's writers might phase them out.
Agree? Disagree? Discuss.
Character: Trudy Campbell
Played by: Alison Brie
Why she can go: While the upbeat Trudy is a fun character, she's also non-essential. Plus, since Brie's other series, NBC's "Community," recently got picked up for a third season, and looks poised to have a long, robust life, she would have little to lose by getting written off "Mad Men."
Possible means of exit: She leaves hubby Pete Campbell for the milkman, taking baby Tammy with her, giving "Humps the Camel" even more to pout about around the SCDP offices.
Character: Henry Francis
Played by: Christopher Stanley
Why he can go: The no-nonsense political aide has never really fit in with the chummy advertising clowns who drive the series, which explains why he rarely mixes with the core cast members. There could be a rich storyline in Betty attempting to raise Sally, Bobby and Gene on her own — and it might be interesting to see Betty and Don get involved again.
Possible means of exit: He succumbs to a heart attack while dealing, for the millionth time, with something stupid that Betty does.
Character: Bertram Cooper
Played by: Robert Morse
Why he can go: We'd miss the elder statesman vibe and Colonel Sanders-y goatee that Morse brings to the show. But Cooper essentially quit the firm in disgust after reading Don Draper's Jerry Maguire-ish New York Times ad in the penultimate episode of the fourth season — a fitting goodbye to his gruff, grandfatherly character. Plus, Morse, a distinguished actor for more than half a century, is pushing 80. He, too, has more than earned his retirement.
Possible means of exit: Exactly how he left season four: by sticking to his principles.
Character: Freddy Rumsen
Played by: Joel Murray
Why he can go: Because no one would miss him. We've seen every episode of "Mad Men" and couldn't even recall off the top of our heads anything about this guy other than that one time he pissed his pants during a strategy meeting.
Suggested means of exit: Death by elevator shaft.
Played by: Jessica Paré
Why she can go: For one, her character doesn't even have a last name yet. [Update: We stand corrected -- it's Calvet.] And the seeming absent-mindedness with which Don Draper proposed to her in last season's finale could indicate that she's not ultimately going to be around for long anyway — which would fit nicely with the Draper secretary-and-paramour carousel.
Possible means of exit: Draper jilts her; she runs to her French-extraction mama.
Character: Stan Rizzo
Played by: Jay R. Ferguson
Why he can go: Rizzo's unrequited flirtations with Peggy, who he has called "the smuggest bitch in the world," have reached their inevitable nadir. What else has the character brought to the table?
Possible means of exit: Peggy finally gets fed up with this oppressive douchebag and stabs him in the neck with a drafting compass.