Few shows have received such universal praise as Mad Men. After a powerful first season, the show returned with another round of thirteen episodes for its second season that resulted in another slew of awards. With three Golden Globe’s and nine Emmy’s, Mad Men is already on the fast track to being one of the most memorable and critically acclaimed series in television history. And to think it all started on AMC – a network known previously only for the classic movies it aired. With consistently strong writing and absolutely fantastic acting by all involved, Mad Men will continue to be a show that remains on the viewer’s minds for some time…if they would just watch the show, at least. While it has undoubtedly increased in numbers with each consecutive season on air, the show still doesn’t have anywhere near the audience that it should for as much praise and awards that it receives (sounds like another show that Jon Hamm frequents on occasion [30 Rock]).
“Mad Men,” one of “TV’s best-ever dramas” (Boston Globe), is back on DVD and Blu-ray Disc with its third and most captivating season! From Matthew Weiner, the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning executive producer and writer of “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” is the ground-breaking series about the glamorous and ego-driven “Golden Age” of advertising. Returning for its third season, the show bursts with one scandalous surprise after another. This award winning ensemble continues to captivate us as they contend with a world on the brink. Welcome to “Mad Men” – a shocking portrait of a time that was anything but innocent. Nothing is as sexy. Nothing is as provocative. Nothing is as it seems. Winner of three Golden Globes and nine Emmys, including two for Outstanding Drama Series, the acclaim for “Mad Men” has not diminished after three seasons. The San Francisco Chronicle praised “beyond being the finest series on television, ‘Mad Men’ is both ambitious and exquisite, two of the ultimate rarities in the business,” The Boston Globe proclaimed it “absolutely gorgeous,” The San Jose Mercury News hailed, “TV at its finest,” and the Wall Street Journal exclaimed “The final episode was nothing short of brilliant.”
I mentioned it in the first season review, I’m sure, but this show really isn’t for everyone. I took issue with it at first and eventually warmed up to it, if only for the superb way in which the show is written, simply because of the way the female gender was represented. Once you acclimate yourself to the show, however, you can “settle” into it simply because that’s the time period represented by the series. And there’s an almost voyeuristic quality to the show…by that I mean to see the 1960’s in such a “scandalous” way feels like you’re looking at something you shouldn’t be.
The third season picks up a few months after the second ended (which, as you’ll recall, was around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis) and runs through the majority of 1963, which means that it also covered one of the biggest historical events of the past century. It was certainly a varied season with not only the historical elements coming into play but also the progression of our fictional characters and company that reminds us that even in today’s climate of downsizing and company mergers, it really wasn’t all that different forty-some years ago either.
Of course it was a lot different for women and minorities back then, as this show so emphatically displays to us on any given episode. Although past episodes and seasons have dealt with homosexuality and the repression of women before, this season jumped straight into it even more so within the first episode. We also run the full gamut of the cast, with everyone having their time to shine or progress their story in the season, although admittedly it’s Don and Betty’s relationship that remains the focus of the season. It’s really more of the same as far as the show goes, but at a much faster pace; whereas the previous seasons took a much more leisurely pace at progressing the season along, we hit the ground running with this seasons premiere and it really didn’t let up much as the season reached its conclusion either.
It’s really amazing that the season has kept its steady pacing three seasons in. Generally with the third season comes a few stumbling blocks (this is evident in the vast majority of television nowadays, although 24 and Lost spring to mind immediately as having very tepid third seasons), but Mad Men seems to endure no such un-pleasantries. Perhaps it’s due to the fact its set in a time period that has a set expiration date that the writers know when and where to cull real world facts from in order to intermingle it with the fictional world that the show has constructed. It’s moments like the integration of the JFK assassination into the story that really help this show feel a lot more authentic and realistic. Although why shouldn’t it? The time-period specific clothing, cars, furniture and well, everything just adds to the shows feeling of authenticity already.
Overall the third season of Mad Men is, in a way, more of the same, but when the show is already so deftly written and performed it’s hard to not simply want more of the Golden Globe and Emmy winning goodness. Highly Recommended.
Although there’s no fancy deluxe packaging for the third season this time around (at least none that I’m aware of), Lionsgate still manages to make one of the most attractive looking packages for a Blu-ray out there. Housed inside of a standard three-disc Elite Blu-ray case, the shot of a lone glass of scotch on a black background is a visually stunning shot that really sticks out on the shelf and sticks in the viewers mind. It also has a bit of elegance to it as well…hell, you’d think that an actual advertising agency was behind all of the production of these Mad Men sets as wonderful as they are with their visual appearance and extras list.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and hot damn does this series look fantastic! I never get over the attention to detail that they put into the series and the Blu-ray transfer just shows off that level of work and dedication brilliantly. The clothing has an extra added weight to it even on the camera and the level of detail is simply fantastic from start to finish. While none of the colors are really overly vibrant per say, they do boast a kind of pastel overtone for the most part at least in the office sequences—the at home segments are often dimly lit and dank, although still beautiful in their own respect with the rich wood textures that often inhabit the surroundings. Overall it is a simply stunning transfer that is pretty much as close to perfect as one can get.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and like the video it’s flawless. Of course the show does rarely branch out into the surrounds (most often they’re used only for ambient noises and the like), but it is quite a sterling (sorry) mix nonetheless. Dialogue is clean and clear out of the center channels and the shows score comes through brilliantly from all channels (and always at the right moments). It’s, again, a really pristine audio transfer and it really goes to show you just how pristine and clean the 60s were even when the rooms were clouded with smoke.
Extras? There’s certainly shortage of those here (as usual) as every episode has at least one commentary and some even boast two. The full breakdown:
• Mad Men Commentaries – Matthew Weiner and his cast and crew invite viewers to join them as they explore each episode through feature-length audio commentaries
• “Medgar Evers: An Unsung Hero” – A documentary exploring the life and legacy of slain Civil Rights Activist, Medgar Evers
• “Clearing the Air: The History of Cigarette Advertising” – A visual depiction of the relationship between Big Tobacco and Advertising
• “We Shall Overcome: The March on Washington” – The historic “I Have a Dream” speech accompanies a pictorial gallery of the March on Washington
• Mad Men Illustrated – Meet the mad artist behind the illustrations inspired by Mad Men
• Flashback 1963 – An interactive look at the inventions, events, and people that defined the year
All total there are twenty-two commentaries on the set (only three of the episodes have only one commentary each) and you’d be hard pressed to find a better collection of extras from a television show. The show has consistently shown what all TV show sets should consist of with the multiple commentaries as well as over two hours worth of featurettes both relating to show as well as the era the show lives in. This is particularly fascinating as you not only get an idea of how the show is made but also some history lessons on the 1960s. Especially interesting was the “History of Cigarette Advertising” two-part documentary that ran near forty-five minutes in length between the two segments—it really shows to what means companies went to back then.
Overall Mad Men’s third season is a Highly Recommended outing for newcomers and a Must Own for fans.
Mad Men – Season Three is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.