Selling America by the dollar.
An 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 whisky-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. What’s keeping it from a 10/10 you ask? Well, Joan’s dress in the Christmas episode was a bit too red, to the point of bleeding around the edges. Seriously, that’s how hard you have to look to find anything wrong with this image. Excellence.
I’ve always maintained that some shows just don’t have the gusto to make a DTS-HD Master Audio track work. Mad Men felt like one of them, but this season has stepped up a notch. It may not be as punchy as 24, nor have as many flashy effects noises as CSI, but it presents a lovingly recreated 60s ambience, complete with period song tracks and superb atmospherics. The focus is primarily on the important dialogue, which is certainly never less than clear and coherent. Ambient effects are subtle but 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, highlights in a reasonably restrained but nonetheless atmospheric aural offering.
The Seasons of Mad Men have always come sporting a broad array of extras – most notably averaging two commentaries per episode. Season 4 is no exception, boasting a whopping 25 Audio Commentaries, with associated cast and crew involved in all of them.
The season premiere gets the two most important players – series creator/writer Matthew Weiner and lead actor Jon Hamm; and other episodes see contributions from the actors who play the characters Pete, Roger and even Price, as well as some of the supporting players – with Weiner popping up for over half of the commentaries. The conversations range from episode-specific notes to broader-themed discussions; with the overreaching story-arc of this fledgling company trying to get off the ground playing in the background to every contribution. I can’t imagine who is going to be able to listen to all of these commentaries, but if you pick and choose a few – perhaps on your favourite episodes; or perhaps those with your favourite participants – then I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Marketing the Mustang: An American Icon is a 27 minute Featurette, consisting of archive footage, charting, in great detail, the birth of this American automobile, which was a turning point in the history of Ford (and perhaps the motor car in general).
Divorce: Circa 1960’s runs at a whopping 79 minutes and is split into three parts, taking a comprehensive look at marriage and divorce in the 60s, and what it meant for both men and, arguably more importantly in this era, women. Juxtaposing film clips with archive footage, it’s an interesting and mammoth trawl through history.
How to Succeed in Business Draper Style offers us nearly an hour (again, split into parts) of interesting discussions on the world of advertising, and what you need to do to get ahead. Another great offering, it doesn’t feel like it has the same punch, or relevance, as the Divorce Featurette, but it’s still worth checking out.
1964 Presidential Campaign takes 31 minutes to look at the promotional campaigns run during the election, with archive footage, narration and text-based prompts charting the run-up to the election and how the ads helped secure the win. Putting the show in context, and highlighting what makes the ‘Mad Men’ job so important, this is another weighty, must-watch extra.
Mad Men Season 4 offers a brand new beginning to fans of the show, as characters are forced to reinvent themselves, and the drama takes on a different path with the financial problems of the new firm reflecting the current economic crisis pervading the Western world. At the heart of it all – once again – is the implacable, flawed Don Draper, the mysterious ad man who still has alcohol and women troubles but, this time, has to deal with his problems head-on, or find himself broke and alone. It’s a pivotal year, and it’s no wonder that three further seasons have been commissioned off the back of this standout effort.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get excellent video, great audio and all the extras you could possibly want – and more – on a release that it sure to please fans, and should arguably already have been preordered by them. Newcomers? Hunt down the box set that includes the first three seasons and start back at the beginning. Working your way steadily to where we are now is half the fun that this lavish TV show offers. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
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