The end of the dream...
PictureThe discs present a broadcast correct 1.78:1 1080p transfer and are Region locked to B.
Unlike the previous four season which were filmed, this fifth season uses digital cameras and newly developed intermediate compression codecs for the cinematographic processing – but you’d never know as it is natively 1080p/24 leading to a very filmic look. The digital cameras therefore pick out the smallest detail giving rise to a wonderfully textured image that oozes style and demands attention. You can see the individual artwork mock-ups of the presentation posters, desks are covered in clutter that, if you are so inclined, you can pick apart to see what’s there, skin has a clear texture to it, clothes have definite weaves, eyes are suitably watery (with the women’s eye makeup being particularly easy to pick out) and edges are held well into the (admittedly limited) backgrounds. Check out the sixties wall paper in the offices, or the wood veneer walls or floors; how crisp and detailed it all is.
Colours are typically muted, but while this is a stylistic choice it is by no means a drab picture; all the primaries are bold and distinct. Check out some of the summer jackets, whose sixties fashion is shocking, but the colours are vivid and defiant. Likewise with the décor of the offices or homes. So whilst the colours could never be described as ‘lush’, they are certainly ‘thick’ and never show any signs of wash or bleed. Skin tones are very natural, even the ‘fat’ makeup applied to January Jones looks good; or particular delight is the sun burn applied to Megan after her day on the beach – excellent.
Brightness and contrast are set to give extremely good blacks, though the series seldom makes use of them; the occasional night time shot, or dark corridor/bedroom scene display decent enough shadow detailing notwithstanding. The blacks however do add a certain punch to the picture and help to add depth to the image.
Digitally there are no compression problems, edge enhancement, posterization/banding or aliasing to contend with, there is no digital noise with the picture still retaining a very filmic quality and look despite being digitally shot. It doesn’t have the modern blockbuster ‘sheen’ but you’ll struggle to see a better looking TV show.
SoundOnly the one sound track to choose from: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. This isn’t an action packed block buster full of explosions and gunfire; therefore don’t expect any great shakes in the surround department – what you can expect is a thoroughly well designed sound stage with plenty of care and attention to detail, and that is exactly what you get. Dialogue is given the most prominence, since this is a talky series; it is rich and natural given a little directionality when needed, but most obviously is clear, coherent and dominates the sound stage. Stereo effects are well utilised with obvious effects such as character or actions taking place off screen and the sound following that action being subtle but clear. The surrounds are only used to fill out ambience, but they are used in every scene; the offices are the most obvious with general chatter, typewriters clacking away and telephones ringing to help preserve the atmosphere of a real office, but homes, or other venues contain other ambient noise to help sell the visual impact form street noises, to ticking clocks, or birds or other natural sound. Whilst it is not the most dynamic sound stage it is probably the most natural. Bass is rather lacking though, not a function of the track rather a function of how life really is – we’re not constantly bombarded with heavy bass in our everyday lives (well unless you review for a living …) and thus, this too is natural for the track. It therefore does not have the urgency of many action tracks, but it does have the subtlety of real life and therefore can’t mark it down for being correct.
ExtrasAudio Commentaries – Every episode in the season gets not one, but two commentaries from a variety of participants that discuss relevant portions of the episode with customary enthusiasm and information. A full list is below:
A Little Kiss Parts 1 and 2: 1) Matthew Weiner & Jennifer Getzinger. 2) Jon Hamm & Jessica Pare
Tea Leaves: 1) Matthew Weiner, Jon Hamm & Erin Levy. 2) January Jones & Christopher Stanley
Mystery Date: 1) Matthew Weiner & Victor Levin. 2) Christina Hendricks & Jay Ferguson
Signal 30: 1) Matthew Weiner & John Slattery. 2) Vincent Kartheiser & Aaron Staton
Far Away Places: 1) Scott Hornbacher & Dan Bishop. 2) Matthew Weiner, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss & Jon Hamm
At the Codfish Ball: 1) Matthew Weiner & Jonathan Igla. 2) Janie Bryant, David Carbonara & Kiernan Shipka
Lady Lazarus: 1) Matthew Weiner & Phil Abraham. 2) Vincent Kartheiser, Alexis Bledel & Elisabeth Moss
Dark Shadows: 1) Matthew Weiner & Erin Levy. 2) Kiernan Shipka, Ben Feldman & Jessica Paré
Christmas Waltz: 1) Matthew Weiner & Michael Uppendahl. 2) Rich Sommer, Michael Gladis & Jared Harris
The Other Woman: 1) Matthew Weiner & Semi Chellas. 2) Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks & Jon Hamm
Commissions and Fees: 1) Matthew Weiner & Andre & Maria Jacquemetton. 2) Christopher Manley & Jared Harris
The Phantom: 1) Matthew Weiner & Jonathan Igla. 2) Jessica Paré & Julia Ormond
Mad Men Say the Darndest Things (16:41) – In amongst all the show clips is a short discussion on the writing style of the show and how the writers come up with the witty dialogue.
What is There to Love if not the Enigma? (17:10) - A profile looking at the life and work of artist Giorgio de Chirico, the inspiration of which devised this season's central image and official poster (also the cover of the Blu-ray).
The Party of the Century (23:05) – Deborah Davis and Peter Duchin take a look at Truman Capote’s infamous Black and White Ball.
Scoring Mad Men: Inside a Session (21:14) - Composer David Carbonara, orchestrator Geoff Stradling and scoring mixer James T. Hill take us behind the scenes in a recording session for the show.
Scoring Mad Men: Themes of Season 5 (27:56) - Composer David Carbonara, orchestrator Geoff Stradling and scoring mixer James T. Hill take us behind the scenes in what it takes to score a typical episode of the series.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 (5:22) – Pictorial history of Daylight Saving Time with relevance to the USA.
Blu-ray VerdictIt may have taken two years, but season five of Mad Men is back and it’s better than ever. Critically acclaimed and the recipient of numerous nominations and awards, season five continues the story of advertising company Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the turbulent sixties where race riots, the Vietnam war, civil liberties and flower power may form the backdrop but are nothing compared to the internal politics of the firm itself. Don Draper’s identity story having come to a conclusion last season has meant that there is a new focus to the show, it is now allowed to breathe with all the characters and their interconnecting and multi-layered story arcs forming a very cohesive whole. The show continues to be the most stylish and sexy show on TV, and with a re-invigorated focus this year propels it even further, making it a clear must see.
As a Blu-ray set Lionsgate have another excellent package boasting top notch picture and sound and a slew of extra features that are both informative and entertaining. Whilst is it preferable to have seen the preceding seasons, and I would strongly advocate seeing them before embarking on the Mad Men journey, you could pick up this season as a one off as it takes a new direction and pushes the established characters in new ways meaning it feels somewhat like a re-boot. It is the best of the series so far and comes highly recommended.
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