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Featured TV on DVD Review: Mad Men: Season Six

November 13th, 2013

Mad Men: Season Six - DVD or Blu-ray

Season Six of Mad Men is the penultimate season for the show. This is bittersweet for fans, because a lot of them will be losing their favorite show. Also, it makes the expectations really high. Fans will demand the show go off on high note and any sign of a decrease in quality might send them off in a panic. Are there reasons to panic? Or does it look like the seventh and final season will be a great send off for the show?

The Show

Like with the previous season, it's hard to talk about this show for too long without getting into some pretty serious spoilers. There are some spoilers from last season that we can talk about. The new advertising firm, Don Draper, Roger Sterling, et al started, began to grow after Joan takes over the bookkeeping. However, not everyone seems to enjoy the benefits of this success. Peggy becomes so disillusioned that she left the firm. Joan, on the other hand, while dealing with a divorce, is pressured into sleeping with a client to get an account. Lane gets news that he owes a lot of money in back taxes in the U.K. and in order to pay, he embezzles money from the company. When he is caught, he is fired, and subsequently commits suicide.

When season six begins, we see Don and Megan on vacation. (It's actually a working vacation, as the hotel / resort they are staying at is a client.) It seems their marriage is good (as good as any marriage involving Don can be) while her acting career has finally taken off. We then look in on Betty and Sally. Her mother-in-law, Pauline is staying with them, as is Sandy, a 15-year old violinist whose mother died and who is trying to get into Juliard. Peggy's new job is more demanding, but she's thriving by being in control, even if she hasn't make a whole lot of friends in the process. Sterling learns his mother passed away. He's very stoic about it. (She was 91. It wasn't a shock.) His secretary takes it really hard. We also meet Bob Benson, who felt instantly smarmy to me. He tries too hard to be nice, so you know he's up to something. It's like he's supposed to be a younger Don Draper, but less charming and less appealing. As the season continues, that's exactly what he turns out to be.

However, Don Draper also turns less charming this time around. In the beginning of the season, the doorman at his building suffers what appears to be a fatal heart attack. Fortunately, Dr. Arnold Rosen, a heart specialist, is able to revive him. Unfortunately for Dr. Arnold Rosen he's married to a beautiful woman, Sylvia, and he lives in the same building as Don Draper. Even though Don and Arnold are friends, Don and Sylvia begin an affair. Don's had many, many affairs during the six seasons of Mad Men, but this one feels particularly scummy. I know that this is part of the overall storyarc for Don Draper. We have to see him at his lowest before he redeems himself. However, there were more than a few times this season I thought to myself, "If I didn't have to watch this show for the review, I would fast forward through a lot of these scenes." I know a lot of people think I'm missing the point of this show, and I realize Don is an Anti-Hero, but when the Anti part takes over, I lose interest. This is one of the reasons I never got into The Sopranos. It is also upsetting when a character I like, like Harry Crane, starts to act like a complete ass. We do get to see the beginning of what will probably be a much better year for Don Draper in season seven, so I'm not too upset about the lows this year.

That said, while Don, and many characters become less appealing this season, there's still enough people I found sympathetic. Peggy is always engaging, as is Joan. I liked Joan and Roger Sterling's relationship and how it grew and helped Roger grow up more. There are also plenty of supporting characters that get their moments to shine. Dawn Chambers is an important side character, because without her, there's practically no African-Americans in the show, and considering what was happening historically at the time, this is an important point of view to have. (Also, Joan gives her the most awkward hug after MLK's assassination, which is a good moment of humor when the show needed it.) Speaking of history, this was a turbulent year in American history with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy within two months of each other and then the riots at the DNC later that summer. There are also some great guest actors, including Kerris Dorsey, whom I mentioned above. Also, Ted McGinley shows up, which I really liked. There used to be a site called Jump The Shark that tracked when great shows went south. Ted McGinley used to be the patron saint of Jumping the Shark, as he was on a number of shows and was usually added to the cast just before or just after the Shark-Jumping moment. This is not his fault, as he is a good actor. It's just a strange coincidence it happened so often.

Like I said last review, for a while, Mad Men was arguably the best drama on TV, but that is no longer the case. It's not that the show has taken a Dexter-like dive in quality. In fact, some will argue this is the best season in the show's run. However, the competition has gotten stronger. Breaking Bad, Homeland, Game of Thrones have risen to the high bar this show set.

The Extras

The only extra on the first disc is Summer of Love, a massive interactive photogallery that looks at many aspects of the summer of love with images and videos. Disc two has a 26-minute long featurette on Recreating an Era. Disc three has Tune In. Turn On. Drop Out., which is a 30-minute featurette on Timothy Leary and the psychedelic drug scene. There are no extras on disc four. Last season there were audio commentary tracks on all 13 episodes. This year there are none. That seems really odd.

I don't have the Blu-ray to review, but it costs the same amount as the DVD and when I've reviewed the Blu-ray in the past, I was impressed by the video and audio quality.

The Verdict

Mad Men: Season Six is a season where Don Draper hits his lowest point and it sets up what should be a very good seventh and final season. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray, which is troubling, that said, it is still worth picking up, but perhaps not Pick of the Week material. (Yes, I know I awarded it Pick of the Week when it came out, but this is why I don't like doing that when I haven't seen the screener yet.)

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Filed under: Video Review, Linda Cardellini, Jon Hamm, Jared Harris, January Jones, Brian Markinson, Ted McGinley, Elisabeth Moss, Jessica Pare, John Slattery, Kiernan Shipka, Pamela Dunlap, James Wolk, Christina Hendricks, Kerris Dorsey, Rich Sommer, Teyonah Parris