10 Great Don Draper Wannabes on TV


Since these Mad Men trailers are giving us nothing to discuss (We get it! You’re back! Now let’s see some new footage, please!), we’ve decided to play a different game. The last season premiere opened with the question: “Who is Don Draper?” Now, what if we were to take this question literally (who is a Don Draper?) and apply it to our favorite TV shows? We’re looking for men who wouldn’t think of leaving the house in pajamas (ahem Max Blum, you lovable man-child), men who consider emotion and failure to be the greatest of character flaws and stood as beacons of hope during the “great mancession” (now officially over). We’re looking for men like Dick Whitman who bury their crises and secrets far beneath the fabric of their perfectly tailored suits and must carry the dead albatross of great sexual prowess around their necks every day. Click through to see who we came up with and, as always, we invite you to make additions in the comments, because what else do you have to do until Sunday night?

The Hour: Hector Madden, TV anchor

In the race to fill the Mad Men void in our lives this past fall, The Hour — the story of a ’50s BBC news program — came out the clear winner, beating out the likely-to-be-canceled Pan Am and almost-instantly-canceled The Playboy Club. And while they share basically nothing in terms of plot (unless Matthew Weiner is about to throw us for a spy-tinged murder mystery loop), we can certainly draw comparisons in terms of form. Take Hector Madden for instance, head presenter at the titular The Hour. Like Don Draper, he exudes confidence and style, and boasts a nice square jaw — attributes that, in conjunction with his family connections, bolster him to the top of the newsroom food chain. His colleague Freddie Lyon, who lacks “traditional” attractiveness and success with women, stands as the foil to Hector’s masculinity. Freddie is the clear brains of the show, but Hector’s face is more adept at filling out a television screen.

The man beneath the suit: Deep down Hector finds his relationship with his wife and her upper crust family to be unfulfilling and oppressive, leading him to pursue affairs with other women, namely his producer Bel. As their relationship ensues we see glimpses of insecurity and jealousy every time Freddie is around, evidence that Hector knows the flimsy of his masculine veneer.

How I Met Your Mother: Barney Stinson, corporate something or other

As the motivational posters behind Barney’s desk reveal, he’s successful because of his belief in traditional values like “awesomeness,” “strength,” “conformity,” “perseverance,” and “perfection.” He also applies these values to life outside of work, as demonstrated in his unwavering persistence in collecting a fist bump, accepting new challenges, and seeing Lily’s boobs. His success is also demonstrated in his proclivity for the finer things, including expensive scotch, man gadgets, and suits. He was once quoted as singing saying, “It’s a truth you can’t refute, nothing suits me like a suit.” The only time you’ll catch him not suited up is when he’s in costume because he’s trying to trick a woman into sleeping with him (see The Playbook).

The man beneath the suit: Barney is constantly looking for validation from his friends (namely Ted) and women. This probably stems from his father abandonment issues, the childhood trauma of being bad at sports, and Shannon, the woman who broke his heart and turned him to the dark side in 1998. Years (and a near-death experience) later, Barney finally opened himself up to love again with Canadian goddess Robin Scherbatsky, and their short-lived relationship has always been far from resolved. Now, as Barney moves seemingly closer to a lifetime commitment with Quinn, we are left guessing when and how his suppressed feelings for Robin will unleash themselves once more.

House of Lies: Marty Kaan, management consultant

Like Don Draper, Marty Kaan thrives in a universe where work and vice are symbiotic, the line between billable hours, drinking, and sex (“travel hook-up points”) perpetually unclear. The leader of his consulting group, Kaan (also known as “Daddy”) is good at his job and knows it, often breaking the fourth wall to give us “tutorials” on the art of manipulation and making millions of dollars. It’s clear Kaan lives for work presentations and the moment he knows he has the client “by the balls” (he said it, not us). Kaan relies on his junior staff (the “kiddies”) and makes a show of affording them the minimal amount of mentoring and respect he believes they deserve. For Jeannie (played by Kristen Bell) this means the casual sexual-harassment banter (“There’s an 87% likelihood that we’re going to sleep together,” he tells her in the pilot) and eye ogling. During one of his Zack Morris time-outs he bounces a coin off her ass. Really.

The man beneath the suit: When Marty Kaan isn’t working or sleeping with women, he’s trying to be a good father to his cross-dressing son who often runs into problems at school. At the same time he has his own parental issues to deal with, namely his mother’s suicide and a live-in retired psychotherapist father. Complicating matters further is a messy hate-sex relationship with his ex-wife who works at the rival firm.

Suits: Harvey Specter, senior partner at Pearson Hardman

Harvey Specter wears $12,000 suits, has Michael Jordan on speed dial (#23), and “is the best closer NYC has ever seen.” He doesn’t believe real men play tennis, do pro bono, or show emotions — although he’s not against using them to his advantage. He prefers the stakes high (his alleged reason for hiring his faux-Harvard Law grad associate Mike Ross) and he’ll do anything to win a case (except perjure himself). His skills include quoting Top Gun as well as delivering insanely wise career advice without betraying any inflection in voice or facial expression. If you’re ever in a bind, just utter “Harvey Specter” and watch your opponent cower in fear.

The man beneath the suit: It isn’t until the end of Season 1 that we see a small crack in the perfection that is Harvey Specter when we learn he put an innocent man away for murder in his former life at the DA’s office. We hope this is just the beginning of the Harvey Specter mythology because we’d really like to learn more about this guy, specifically the details of his Trekkie past (in flashback format, please).

30 Rock: Jack Donaghy, NBC executive

Jack Donaghy is living proof of the American Dream: any white man with a head full of hair can make it in this country. Working since the age of 12, he went on to earn two Ivy League degrees, invent both the “Trivection oven” and “Porn for Women Network,” and is now a nationally recognized negotiator and author (see Jack Attack: The Art of Aggression in Business), among many other things. Jack takes pride in his appearance (especially his winter crystal eyes), is almost always in a suit (but tuxes after six), and is physically averse to FiveFingers.

The man beneath the suit: Jack’s greatest source of anxiety is his mother Colleen, who tried to send him to Vietnam at the age of 12 and is constantly getting involved in his personal affairs. When he accidentally hit her with his car it took him eight minutes to call 911. In contrast to Colleen, Jack’s parenthood has softened him this season, almost causing him to lose to his teenage arch-nemesis Kaylee. (She plays the absentee parent card and he sympathizes, admitting he “once took a log with googly eyes to a father-son picnic.”) Meanwhile, Jack’s attempt to sabotage Liz’s new relationship with Criss, a free-spirited hot-dog vendor, leads us to wonder: Will the mentor finally admit he cares for the mentee?

White Collar: Neal Caffrey, con artist/FBI consultant

Neal Caffrey is a self-made man, albeit in the less traditional sense, having built himself into one of the best forgers in the world. And even though he got caught, he carries out his sentence as an FBI consultant with confidence and style. Sometimes it’s hard to believe there’s an ankle monitor underneath those perfectly tailored suit pants. And did we mention he scales walls and parachutes off buildings? If you are a white-collar criminal we recommend not looking directly into his perfectly symmetrical face — he just might glamor you into a confession.

The man beneath the fedora: As we’ve learned from Jack Donaghy, any self made-man will have to build himself back up from rock-bottom at least once. The question with Caffrey is: What side of the law does he want to be on this time? Will he choose Mozzie or Peter? It’s a dilemma that has us hooked on what would otherwise be your pretty standard procedural. OK, that and Matt Bomer’s piercing blue eyes.

New Girl: Schmidt, young professional and sexual snowflake

When Schmidt looks in the mirror we’re pretty sure he sees Don Draper. He finds his own body irresistible (“a temple”) and believes everyone wants to seduce him, including the UPS guy (“He said he had a package. For Schmidt.”). He takes pride in his arduous climb to the middle of the corporate ladder, flaunting his success with $80 plates of sushi, expensive conditioner (never to be confused with shampoo), and networking events with Scott Caan. His ostensible reason for not settling down is the belief that “Every time you have sex with the same person you die… It’s like a copy of a copy.”

The man beneath the suit kimono: In Schmidt’s dark past he wore cargo shorts, was overweight, and his voice was half an octave higher. And although he’s now a self-proclaimed “Los Angeles Baller,” his hang-up with Cece clearly proves that his resistance to monogamy is a front. In fact, Jess’s recent OCD intervention indicates this man needs a stable relationship more than anyone. Plus, his interest in the female psyche seems more a function of admiration than a manipulation tactic. He said himself Women’s History Month is one of the sexiest holidays.

Archer: Sterling Archer, World’s Greatest Secret Agent

Sterling Archer is an all-conference lacrosse player turned secret agent who became the first person to realize the turtleneck’s potential as a tactical garment. As he once said, “I gotta get a turtleneck, I’m not diffusing a bomb in this!” And although we aren’t sure what the etiquette is on calling cartoons hot, we’ll just say it: he makes those tactilenecks look good. When he’s not getting shot and ninja-starred, Archer enjoys booze, women, and idolizing Burt Reynolds. He’s unabashedly self-centered and says pretty much whatever comes to his mind. He was once asked, “In spite of your personality you get plenty of women, right?”

The man beneath the tactileneck: Mother abandonment issues (think Lucille Bluth reincarnated in cartoon form), finding said mother’s vibrator, and alcoholism, are just a few internal conflicts Archer may or may not be dealing with. As his ex-girlfriend Lana once said, “If you’re looking for insight into why Archer is Archer you need to jump in a time machine and then go have a threesome with Oedipus and Sigmund Freud.”

Parks and Recreation: Ron Swanson, Parks Department Director

Ron Swanson is more open to casual wear than the others on this list, a flaw that he makes up for in solitude and stoicism (to date he has only cried twice — once in seventh grade and again when Li’l Sebastian died). He ascribes to the American exceptionalism endemic to Don Draper’s world, as well as a number of other traditionally masculine pursuits, all outlined in his Pyramid of Greatness. He can also pick up women by simply eating a steak.

The man beneath the mustache: Swanson’s secret alter ego is Duke Silver, a saxophone player popular with the Midwest mom demographic. And although he doesn’t ostensibly believe in friends, Swanson’s proved on more than one occasion that he cares for his colleagues, especially Andy Dwyer, who he clearly enjoys mentoring and calls “Son.” His deepest personal battles lie with Tammy 1 and Tammy 2, the ex-wives who threaten to unravel his manhood every time they appear.

Mad Men: Dick Whitman, identity thief/preternatural ad man

Who wants to be Don Draper more than Dick Whitman himself? As the story goes, Dick assumed the identity of Lieutenant Donald P. Draper during the Korean War to start a new life for himself. Under the alias of “Don” he worked his way up from used car salesman to founding partner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Along the way he married Betty Hofstadt and together they embarked on a prefabricated American lifestyle. Their marriage eventually crumbled and when we last saw “Don” it looked like he was about to take the plunge with a woman who has no inkling of his past life as Dick… or does she? (Dum da-dum dum!) Hey, we’re taking a stab, because seriously, what’s going to happen?!?!

The man beneath the suit: We’ll probably weigh the good and evil of “Don Draper” until the series’ end and beyond. Because, as creator Matthew Weiner once said, Mad Men is about “the experience of human life,” and as we all know, life is really just a lot of gray area.