Who is Don Draper?
PictureAn HD-transmitted TV series, Man Men translates extremely well to the home viewing format, presented almost flawlessly on Blu-ray with a 1080p High Definition video rendition in the series' original transmitted aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It really does look amazing, and for each episode's forty-five minute runtime you almost feel like you were back in the 60s amidst martini-sipping execs in lavish offices. In fact, those who experienced it for themselves will no doubt attest to the fact that it probably never even looked this good. With keen attention to detail, Weiner's brainchild makes for perfect High Definition TV material. Detail is spectacular, the image totally devoid of defects and showing no softness, or edge enhancement over its entire run. I've honestly never seen a TV show look this good - even the Bruckheimer-helmed CSIs with their clinical caserooms and neon-lit streets do not hold up this well to scrutiny. Near-perfect maybe, but never this perfect. Even the black levels on this show astound; the shadows strong throughout and night sequences remaining unquestionably solid. Top notch.
SoundWhilst the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio is also top quality, it does not quite have the same material to work with, the show's reserved, slow pace not leaving any room for the kind of shock tactics usually employed, through the use of either effects or strong score moments. Instead the focus is primarily on the important dialogue, which is certainly never less than clear and coherent. Ambient effects are subtle but reasonably well observed, and the score does come into play, offering up even a little low end bass rumble at key moments. Both the opening credits track and the varying closing track play vital roles in the broader-ranged aspects of the experience, but they are highlights in an otherwise quite restrained aural offering. Still, it likely couldn't be any better presented than this.
ExtrasReminiscent of Stargate in its attention to the extras on the box-set releases, this season of Mad Men maintains the high standards exhibited by its preceding seasons. Every single episode boasts at least one full-length Audio Commentary, often with creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner, who makes for the most interesting of the contributors. Almost every single one of both the principle and supporting cast members participate in at least one Commentary each, even if they are part of an ensemble group. Aside from these significant offerings, we also get a selection of decent Featurettes: Mad Men Illustrated takes a 14 minute look at the artistic talent behind the opening credits sequence; Clearing the Air: The History of Cigarette Advertising does exactly what it says on the tin, taking 35 minutes to chart the promotional side of the tobacco industry during that era; Medger Evers: An Unsung Hero takes a whopping 70 minutes to look at this civil rights campaigner; and We Shall Overcome: The March on Washington takes a comparatively short 17 minute look at Martin Luther King's seminal input during the year, culminating in his famous (oft-depicted in this season) 'I have a dream' speech. We also get Flashback 1963, a nice little photo gallery, rounding off one of the most comprehensive and well-created set of extras I have ever come across on a TV show release.
Blu-ray VerdictMad Men is a luxury TV series, the Hilton of dramas, a cleverly and lovingly constructed snapshot of history, counterpointing the depicted 60s era of decorum-infused-with-prejudice against our modern state of society. Character-driven and richly engrossing, despite its lack of overt action and thrills it remains consistently entertaining, the show running strong even in its third season. On Blu-ray the video presentation is truly flawless, the audio doing the best with the restrained material that is on offer, and the comprehensive extras rounding out an excellent package that should please all fans. If you've never encountered the show, and are a fan of quality TV productions like Deadwood and The Wire, you should seriously consider checking out a few episodes, then picking up the first season cheap. Fans should already have this third entry in their shopping carts.
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