Mad Men, Season 5

Harry Crane May Be a Jerk, But He's a Hapless Jerk
Talking television.
May 21 2012 12:55 PM

Mad Men, Season 5

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In praise of Harry Crane, hapless jerk.

Crane & Krishna.
Harry Crane and Paul Kinsey

Photograph by Jordin Althaus/AMC.

Rich, it’s so great to have you joining us this week. And to learn that you think Harry has always been kind of a jerk—me, I never forgave him for not recognizing Joan’s talent when he tasked her with reading soap scripts for the TV department. But what I’ve always appreciated about Harry is that he’s a hapless jerk.

John Swansburg John Swansburg

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

SCDP is full of talented jerks: Jerks like Roger, whose wit makes him loveable. Jerks like Don, whose suaveness makes him loveable. And jerks like Pete, who is a bit less loveable, but who uses his jerkiness to get ahead. Then there’s Harry: He’s the guy who talks about having sex with the boss’s wife and gets caught. The guy who stumbles into the right department at the right time, but doesn’t have the balls to hold on to the good office that comes with his success. The guy who can’t tell the Trade Winds from the Rolling Stones, for god’s sake! His bumbling provides comic relief in a different register, and it’s wonderfully refreshing. It’s amazing, though not entirely surprising, to learn, that everything in the show is so carefully scripted. But has there ever been a line, or a scene, that didn’t feel like Harry to you? Have you ever pushed back and said: That’s not how Harry Crane would do it?

I know that everyone loves and misses Sal, and I do too, but Paul Kinsey was always one of my favorite characters, so I nearly jumped out of my seat when I saw Michael Gladis’ cherubic mug last night. Poor Paul! Remember when he got so jealous about Cosgrove’s literary success that he punched his friend in the face? Imagine how devastated Kinsey would be to learn that Cosgrove is now a pseudonymous sci-fi star. Gene Roddenberry probably sends Ben Hargrove fan mail. Rich, it sounds like you missed acting with Michael dearly. Is it hard to work on a show where seeming regulars can disappear rather abruptly? Have you ever despaired about Harry’s future at SCDP? My impression is that for all of his social awkwardness, Harry is actually pretty good at his job. (I liked his wise line about the nature of projections last night.) We don’t get to see Harry actually at work all that often—in your mind, is he good at what he does?

Speaking of Sal … Rich, we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask you about the episode last season when short-lived SCDP creative Joey Baird interpreted Harry’s enthusiasm for getting him an audition on Peyton Place as a come-on. It seemed to me that Harry was merely trying to show off his new Hollywood connections, not making a pass. (The alacrity with which Harry took to Lakshmi’s advances suggests he’s still very much interested in the ladies; then again, he was also quick to don that boa in the Season 5 premiere ...) Were we meant to wonder about Harry’s sexuality last season? And more generally, is this part of the fun of being on a show like Mad Men, participating in the occasional bits of misdirection over which we obsessives obsess? This is a version of a question Patrick asked the Jaquemettons, when they joined us in the TV Club a few weeks ago, but I’m curious to hear the answer from an actor’s perspective: Do you follow any of the week-to-week commentary about the show? Are you curious how the episodes play with critics and viewers, or once a season is in the can, are you focused on other things? (I can imagine that rehearsing for your upcoming role in the Broadway revival of Harvey might take precedence over reading recaps.)

Finally, what can you tell us about your character’s wonderful taste in furniture? Harry Crane and Roger Sterling do not have the same decorator.

I'm burning for your response,

John

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