Mad Men-Season Four (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 5-Apr-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series Audio Commentary-Several for Each Episode
Featurette-Divorce: Circa 1960's (79.36)
Featurette-How To Succeed in Business Draper Style (56.29)
Featurette-Marketing the Mustang : An American Icon (27.07)
Featurette-1964 Presidential Campaign (31.12)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 611:00
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 Jon Hamm
John Slattery
Vincent Kartheiser
Elisabeth Moss
January Jones
Cara Buono
Kieran Shipka
Christina Hendricks
Aaron Staton
Case ?
RPI $69.95 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 No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     The excitement many fans felt at the impending release of Mad Men - Season 4 on DVD and Blu-ray was tempered by some sober news emerging from the AMC Bunker. Ordinarily, the release of another season of Mad Men on home video would be accompanied by the imminent showing of new episodes in the US. On this occasion, it was not to be. For what seemed like an eternity AMC and Lionsgate were locked in a tight struggle over funding for Season Five of Mad Men. Would the show end with a whimper? Eventually the news we were all waiting for came out and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. Not only was Season Five being financed but two further seasons were set in stone. However, like the advertising office at the centre of this season of this iconic drama, it will be interesting to see what changes the budgetary negotiations and compromises have made on future seasons.

     At the end of Season Three a remarkable coup occurred which saw the key creative talent, as well as bean counter Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), swiftly and cleverly removed from the Hindenburg of the British run ad agency and leaping into a new, independent world. As Season Four begins that new world, the agency of Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce, is firmly though frugally established. Things haven't gone exactly as they planned. They are free but living on the edge. The firm has only one major client, Lucky Strike, and is feeling the pinch.

     In the opening moments of Episode One we get a clear idea of where the season is going. Don Draper (John Hamm) is doing the part of his job he likes the least, selling a product he has little confidence in-himself. The question posed by an interviewer for the New York Times is a simple one: "Who is Don Draper?" It's a question that Don has difficulty answering for reasons that have become pretty clear over three seasons of this award-winning drama. For Don is a man of secrets and lies, contradictions and single-mindedness. Season Four sees the writers digging deeper into the character of this complex man.

     Whilst the firm is struggling to win over new clients and achieve success it faces the impossible challenge of what to do if that one client decides to jump ship. For Roger Sterling (John Slattery) this is a year of denial, anger and humiliation. In that he shares companionship with many others including the devious yet dedicated Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). Meanwhile Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) is trying to decide whether she made the right decision in moving into the new stables as she is never sure whether her creativity gets the credit it deserves.

     On the home front Don is still in the post-divorce stage with Betty Draper (January Jones) who is still living at the Ossining, New York house with her new husband. Don wants her out and so does her new husband, feeling that her reluctance to move is a refusal to deal with the past life with Don. He might be right.

     Don forms a new relationship with a new type of lady - the confident career woman in the form of Dr Faye Miller (Cara Buono). Dr Faye is everything that Don needs in a woman, someone who is prepared to work through his problems and provide him with strength and support and not just another floozy to bed. Chief amongst those problems is a drift back into heavy drinking which sees Don challenged at times for creative genius. Of course, three seasons of Mad Men have shown us that Don has trouble sometimes doing the right thing and the Dr Faye relationship makes a fascinating storyline.

     Mad Men - Season 4 dates from late November 1964 - October 12, 1965. This takes in a number of important events though nothing as momentous as the death of Kennedy from the previous Season. Race relations, the rise of women and the growth of the hippie movement are all tracked in the show. So how does season for rate against other seasons of Mad Men?

     Pretty well, in my view. There are thrills and spills, surprises and heartbreak. There are, like in other seasons, some plot points and characters that never really developed. Kieran Shipka as Don's daughter puts in a great performance as a troubled young girl but her storyline never really develops. Those, like me, who were hoping for a comeback from Sal (Bryan Batt) tough luck - he is nowhere to be seen. The wonderful Christina Hendricks makes some choices that are riveting but a little tricky to follow and the return of an old character is tinged with sadness. And then there are some moments that are unforgettable. In the case of Season Four there is episode seven-The Suitcase-which ranks amongst the finest of all Mad Men episodes. Uncomfortably trapped in the office, with a deadline, with their respective relationships folding around them Don and Peggy have their "will they or won't they moment", a long dark night of the soul that had been coming for some time. The episode is so well written and directed that you find yourself forgetting to breathe.

     For me Season Four is another reason why Mad Men is one of the best shows on television, of this or any other era. Not only is the writing superb but the actors have settled into their characters so deeply that in the case of some, like Christina Hendricks, it is difficult to imagine them separate from their iconic roles. And yet, the show still has the capacity to surprise. There are a few gotcha moments in this season, though none is as shocking as the lawnmower scene from the former Season, but there is a great joy in seeing characters that both act in a predictable fashion and yet still have the capacity to surprise. Well perhaps the last scene with Miss Blankenship deserves a special mention for combining horror and humour.

     For many the conclusion of Season Four, in the episode Tomorrowland, came as either a shock or disappointment. Message boards still rage about Don's decision-making and his life choices. Even if we have to sit it out until 2012 to see it I can't wait to see how creator Matthew Wiener explains this choice. I can't wait to dip back into the lives of these flawed yet fascinating people. At the end of the last season of Mad Men the core team had barely managed to break away from the British owners and set up a new agency. Some months on and the pioneer spirit is willing but the troubles are piling up. Another season of this great show means a whole lot more sex, heartache, drama and despair as Don Draper must come to terms with himself and his past and work out : "Who is Don Draper?" A great season and a great Blu-ray set with excellent sound and vision and hours of interesting extras material.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Mad Men - Season 4, 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 sharpest and best looking shows on TV. Once again the colours are bright, clear and accurate, giving support to the wonderful set design and costumes. The flesh tones are accurate.

     There are subtitles in English, English for the Hard of Hearing and Spanish. The subtitles give a good account of on-screen action.

     A great looking show, without being flashy.

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

Audio

     There's not a lot to say about the sound for Mad Men - Season 4 that hasn't been said in previous reviews. Mad Men - Season 4 comes with a punchy 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track.

     The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The music for the show is delivered crisply including the by now iconic theme. There is a constant inventiveness, however, in the music for the moods of the episodes. 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

     In keeping with tradition the Mad Men Season 4 Blu-ray is liberally sprinkled with extras. Not only is every episode given one, mostly two, audio commentaries but there are a series of features which illustrate some of the ideas behind the show. As per previous Blu-ray sets the audio commentaries vary in quality and purpose. Weiner is intent on giving the intricate details and motivations whereas some of the cast struggle to remember what they were doing on that day in a punishing shooting schedule. Good to see the blend of actors and technical people including writers on hand and also good to see young Kiernan Shipka getting a word in.

Blu-ray 1:

Audio Commentaries

Marketing the Mustang: An American Icon (27.07)

     A nice feature about the Mustang, an iconic American vehicle.

Blu-ray 2:

Audio Commentaries

Divorce: Circa 1960 (79.36)

     This detailed feature looks at the assumptions made about the nuclear family during the post-war period, particularly the rules and stigma associated with divorce. Quite lengthy but worth a watch.

Blu-ray 3:

Audio Commentaries

How to Succeed in Business Draper Style (56.29)

     What, on paper, looked like a potentially glib take on the Draper style turns out to be an interesting and informative feature. A series of ad execs and business gurus reflect on the 10 essential rules of a successful manager and, by reference to snippets from the whole series, reflect on Don’s adherence to those rules. Leaving out the drinking and sleeping with his secretaries, he does very well!

1964 Presidential Campaign (31.12)

     The 1964 Johnson/Goldwater election campaign is remembered for many things, not the least of which is the use of TV advertising as a potent force in driving voter behaviour. At a time of the Cold War and social change never was there a better time to sway the populace with slogans and images. The Gruen Transfer recently profiled one of the most controversial adverts of all time, the Daisy Girl, used by Johnson, and shown here, to get voters to reject the pro-nuclear stance of Goldwater. The feature is not narrated and consists of adverts and TV spots as well as filmed speeches. Fascinating!

R4 vs R1

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

     The Blu-ray editions are the same in different territories.

Summary

     Mad Men Season 4 is another unforgettable look into the murky, cruel, often exhilarating world of advertising.

     The show has kept to its own high standards and the Blu-ray is beautifully rendered in sound and vision terms and features a set of high quality extras that extends by many hours the viewing experience.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. 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.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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