DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Mad Men – Season Five, Blu-Ray/3 Discs (2012)

Award-winning TV drama still has a huge impact.

Published on November 16, 2012

Mad Men – Season Five, Blu-Ray/3 Discs (2012)

Cast: Jon Hamm; Elizabeth Moss; Christina Hendricks; Vincent Kartheiser; John Slattery; Jessica Pare; Robert Morse
Studio: Lions Gate Entertainment [10/16/2012]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16×9 1080p HD Color
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD MA; 5.1 Dolby Digital (DVD)
Languages: English, English SDH
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: : “Mad Men Say The Darndest Things”; “The Uniform Time Act Of 1966”; “What Shall I Love If Not The Enigma”; “The Party Of The Century”; “Scoring Mad Men; Inside A Season”; “Newsweek Magazine Digital Gallery”; Mad Men Season 5 Commentaries” – behind-the-scenes feature length audio commentary for all 13 episodes.
Length: 611 minutes total
Rating:   Audio: ****      Video: ****1/2

Mad Men had an undeniable impact on audiences. American culture of the early sixties was examined through the eyes of a Madison Avenue advertising agency. The protagonist, Don Draper, was a slick fast-talking purveyor of the public’s commercial appetites. With a seemingly perfect marriage and financial potential, the future was bright. But Don had a very dark past that haunted his soul. This conflicted hero (or anti-hero) became a symbol of early sixties (or maybe present-day) corporate America. Don is ruthlessly focused on business and the toast of advertising.

The agency (Sterling Cooper Draper, Price) includes his mentor/partner Roger (a sardonic John Slattery), a young ambitious executive, Peter Campbell Vincent Kartheiser), a voluptuous office manager, Joan (Christina Handricks), and a spaced-out older partner (Robert Morse).  Giving the story some depth, Don takes on a female protégé, Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) who underscores the changing social environment of the time. On paper, all of this would sound like a daytime soap opera, but Mad Men is much more. These pretexts are developed in unexpected and fresh patterns. Also, it should be noted that this show is on AMC. Unlike series on premium cable networks (HBO, Showtime), the language and situations are subject to restrictions.

After a seventeen-month hiatus, Mad Men returned for its fifth season. It is now 1966. Don Draper, who had proposed to his secretary (Jessica Pare), is now happily married. The cultural turbulence of this era is reflected by a civil rights march. Joan, bored on maternity leave, is restless. And of course Peter is angling to acquire power in the agency. Despite these conventional plot lines, the characters evolve and so does the plot.  Peggy, who continues to flourish as a copywriter, arrives at a crossroads in her career. Lane Price (played with great feeling by Jared Harris) provides dramatic punch as he deals with a life that is spinning out of control. This is a nice touch—having the most staid character becoming unraveled. Don’s wife, Megan who wants to be an actress, shows great flair for advertising which adds some angst to the existing tension. Their marital interaction is portrayed with incisive, brilliant writing. Hamm is a versatile actor. He is able to maintain the essence of his character in uncharacteristic settings.

There are some developments that are somewhat uninspired. Draper’s ex-wife Betty (played by a pregnant January Jones) battles her weight and attends Weight Watchers. Roger the cynical womanizer has remarried again.  After a trip on LSD (remember…it is 1966!), he reverts to  stereotype. Occasionally, topical references are clumsy. However, as it has been since its inception, Mad Men is built on extended scenes of dialogue that are crisp and have a hip vibe.

The audio quality of the Blu-ray is balanced and precise. As much of the sound is in the form of conversations, every word and vocal inflection is pristine in clarity. Background noise is mixed to not interfere with the front-dominant mix. When there is some music (theme song) or sudden bursts of sound (Hare Krishna chanting, bustling office activity) the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is very dynamic. This series has always been known for the luxurious filming. In high definition, the sets and costumes are more vibrant. Close ups are very sharp, and more distant shots remain in complete focus. There is a bonus feature with audio commentary of all 13 episodes (for those who like “inside” takes).

Mad MenSeason Five is further evidence that this is an iconic television series.

—Robbie Gerson

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