Mad Men-Complete Third Season (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 31-May-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Audio Commentary-Several for Each Episode
Featurette-Mad Men Illustrated
Featurette-Cleaning the Air - History of Cigarette Advertising
Gallery-Photo-Flashback 1963
Featurette-Medgar Evers: An Unsung Hero
Featurette-We Shall Overcome: The March to Washington
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 620:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Phil Abraham
Tim Hunter
Lesli Linka Glatter
Andrew Bernstein
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring None Given
Case ?
RPI ? Music David Carbonara


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (3254Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Smoking Yes, Contextual
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     What is it about Mad Men, the buzz show about 1960s advertising men on Madison Avenue, that makes it one of the best television shows in recent memory - after only three seasons assuming the legendary status accorded to The Sopranos, The West Wing and perhaps Hill Street Blues, shows that went some way to redefining the medium of TV drama?

     Perhaps it starts with the writing. Before Don Draper has poured a single scotch an inordinately talented group of writers worked tirelessly to produce scripts that are often inspired with minute details of characterisation set against bold gestures. No one is entirely detestable in Mad Men, but then no one is essentially lovable either. Even Peggy, good sweet Peggy, can turn cold and brittle in an instant when her work identity is challenged. The amazing thing about a Mad Men episode is that everything in the script seems so right and consistent with the characters and yet there are moments that can surprise.

     Layered on the scripts are the pitch perfect acting performances from a group of talented actors who were hardly household names before the show began. Even now it is hard to think of some of the cast away from their Mad Men characters, so associated are they with the roles. Take Christine Hendricks as the voluptuous Joan Holloway. She has so expertly and intelligently essayed that character that it is hard to imagine her in anything else. She seems a different person. The big challenge post Mad Men will be for lead actors Jon Hamm and January Jones to see if they can make acting lives independently of this career defining show. It happened for Michael C. Hall who carved out the unforgettable gay character, David, in Six Feet Under and then went on to reinvent himself as the friendly serial killer in Dexter. So maybe there is life after Mad Men.

     Although the leads are exemplary and unforgettable, the writers give generous moments throughout the whole series to minor characters giving us time to get to know some of the lesser lights. Season 3 has gained even greater depth with the screen time given to Jared Harris as the Englishman in New York, Henry Francis as governors assistant Christopher Stanley and Chelcie Ross as Conrad Hilton.

     With the peerless combination of script performance and direction comes a show that rewards on a simple dramatic level yet provides oceans of depth.

     The final piece of the excellence puzzle can probably be found in creator Matthew Weiner's dedication to fidelity. The art direction is superb throughout. At times the show seems photo realistic of the 1960s and there are many stories of Weiner refusing to allow a object or advertising campaign to appear when it falls ever so slightly out of the time period. The show has gone deeper than the mere aficionados, it is possible to buy Don Draper suits and a New York Ad Agency had a Mad Men day last year combining work with the sort of heavy drinking often on show in the series. The results were, by the accounts of those that can remember, pretty solid!

     As the July television debut of Season 4 quickly approaches, we in Region B now have the chance to check out Season 3 on Blu-ray. For those without pay TV, or those who oppose downloading episodes fresh from the US, the series may be as new and exciting as a Sterling Cooper ad campaign. For this reason any attempt to dig too deeply into the plot would be a spoiler worthy of capital punishment. So, in true Sterling Cooper fashion, here is what to look forward to in Season 3:

Under New Management!

     At the end of Season 2 Sterling Cooper was sold off to British Company Putnam, Powall and Low. Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) is installed as the new head of the company with a specific mandate to shake things up and cut expenses to the bone. Season 3 begins 6 months after the buyout and Sterling Cooper is a changed place with a very different atmosphere.

Now All the Family Can Be Together!

     Back together again, but in a tentative fashion, Don and Betty are forced to change the rhythm of their lives when her father Gene (Ryan Cutrona) suffers from deteriorating health and moves in with the Drapers.

A Stay at the Hilton!

     Don forms a connection with Conrad Hilton, the head of the hotel chain. It is a huge account but one that comes with its own baggage.

Change With The Times!

     It is 1963 and there are some momentous events ahead for the USA which changed the landscape.

     The Episodes are spread over the 3 Blu-rays. They are as follows:

  1. Out of Town
  2. Love Among the Ruins
  3. My Old Kentucky Home
  4. The Arrangements
  5. The Fog
  6. …Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency…
  7. Seven Twenty-Three
  8. Souvenir
  9. Wee Small Hours
  10. The Color Blue
  11. The Gypsy and the Hobo
  12. The Grown-Ups
  13. Shut the Door. Have a Seat.

     Season 3 of Mad Men is a continuation of the quality of the series which continues to surprise and delight at every turn. Whereas the First Season was about the men and the Second about the women, the Third Season is really about change and the effect it has on the ad men of Madison Avenue. It comes highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Mad Men Season 3, like the previous seasons, was shot on High Definition video. It comes to Blu-ray at the standard widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

     Mad Men has always been one of the best looking shows on TV. That reputation is not based on flashy effects or a lighting scheme that seems drawn from fantasy (I am looking at you CSI:Miami!) Instead, Mad Men has rich, deep and accurate colours that typify and exemplify the era. Joan Holloway’s dresses may be startling red at times, but the men favour grey and dark suits. The flesh tones are accurate and the superbly detailed sets are revealed in all their Madison Avenue glory.

     A wonderful looking set that does not have to advertise its qualities. There are subtitles in English, English for the Hard of Hearing and Spanish. The subtitles give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Mad Men Season 3 carries a 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track. This exceeds the technical requirements of the show but is appreciated nonetheless. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The music for the show is delivered crisply including the by now ubiquitous theme (unlike House, which also began its first season with a trip-hop theme, Mad Men's theme has never altered). The social depth of the theme and opening credit sequence was cemented when Homer Simpson took the long fall past the advertising billboards not long ago.

     The sub-woofer is used for emphasis and the surrounds don't really get much action.

     There are no technical problems with the sound transfer whatsoever. The actors are in audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     The Mad Men Season 3 Blu-ray comes with a wealth of extras. Completists will have weeks of entertainment ahead sifting through all the material. What is particularly pleasing is that the extras include a fair bit of historical background to the changes that were going on at the time of the show - social, cultural and political. So dig deep...

     There are more audio commentaries on this set than may be thought humanly possible. Fortunately the range of participants on offer is equally expansive so the commentary tracks never become boring. Don't expect each of the commentaries to have a wealth of interpretive insight into the show. You are just as likely to get a group of performers riffing on current issues. As a general rule the commentary tracks featuring Matt Weiner are likely to have background information on the production and the themes. Being television the actors are working so fast that they sometimes struggle to recognize the episode being played. But don't let that put you off. Each of the commentaries is worth a listen, even those like the one for The Color Blue where the actors talk about the recent Golden Globes, chuck jokes around and often talk about anything but Mad Men! My favourites are those with the writers, technical people like production designers and cinematographers.

DISC ONE:

     Audio commentaries:

Mad Men Illustrated (14:01)

     There is a woman calling herself Dyna Moe who produces animations based on Mad Men and puts them on the internet. A strange person, a strange feature (in 1080i HD) but one which shows how extensively Mad Men has influenced the art community.

DISC TWO:

     Audio commentaries:

Cleaning the Air: The History of Cigarette Advertising (part 1 (25:28) and part 2 (19:58))

     This two-part documentary (in 1080i HD) tells the history of cigarette advertising (and a little of the history of cigarettes themselves). It begins with a series of intelligent looking talking heads and threatens to become Advertising 101 but persevere as this gathers ground and becomes a fascinating insight into the world of smokes and smoking. How to promote a product that just might kill you is one of the key problems facing the Season 3 Mad Men team so this doco couldn't be more relevant to this Blu-ray.

Flashback 1963 interactive photo gallery

     A chance to look back at the events of 1963.

DISC THREE:

     Audio commentaries:

     This disc contains two contextual documentaries. Both are in 1080i HD.

Medgar Evers: An Unsung Hero (70:28)

     A fascinating documentary on this little known Civil Rights leader, assassinated in 1963. Compared to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X his legacy may seem slight but watch this documentary and you will get a greater insight into this courageous man.

We Shall Overcome: The March on Washington (16:56)

     This interesting feature consists of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech with accompanying images from the march on Washington. Stirring stuff.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The features on the Region A Blu-ray are identical to the Blu-ray.

Summary

    If you own a Blu-ray and have watched Seasons 1 and 2 of Mad Men then buying Season 3 is really a given - do it now. Rest assured the quality is still there and in many ways the show is able to ramp up another gear. The extras are peerless.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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