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Featured TV on DVD Review: Mad Men: Season Five

October 15th, 2012

Mad Men: Season Five - DVD or Blu-ray

Mad Men was not a breakout hit when it first aired in 2006. Granted, it was AMC's most watched series premiere, but it still couldn't crack 1 million total viewers. This most recent season saw it crack 1 million in the prime demographic for the first time ever. The show is more popular than it has ever been, but is the quality also going up?

The Show

At the end of Season Four, there were some major changes in lives of the characters on the show. On the personal side, Don divorced Betty and was a single man, but not for long. The season ended with him marrying his secretary, Megan. The ad company of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce struggled at the end of the season and had to let a few of their employees go. These two events collide right away as the honeymoon period results in the pair being late for work, which hurts both of their job performances. And because everyone has to cover for them, it is hurting office politics. It doesn't help that Peggy has to help train Megan for her new, more prestigious job, while at the same time someone Peggy helped hire, Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman), begins to rise above her in the office. This leads to a plot point which is one of the more important in the season, but is a major spoiler.

Although to be fair to Don and Megan, the office politics are souring without any influence from them. Roger Sterling feels like he's no longer relevant to the ad company. Lane Pryce is nearly bankrupt and that leads him to take drastic measures. And Bert Cooper... I'm not even sure what he does there anymore. A little lower down the corporate ladder, Pete Campbell believes he isn't being given the respect he deserves for bringing in so many clients. He begins to make demands and develops an attitude.

On a more personal level... everyone's cheating on everyone and every marriage is falling apart. Maybe that's overstating things, but nearly everyone is in a messy relationship. Don and Megan's honeymoon period doesn't last too long and the age difference is a problem. It get's worse when her mother arrives. It's a stereotype to have a monster as a mother in law, but in this case, the mother is worse to the daughter. Joan's worried that she's being replaced at work while she's on maternity leave, while at home she's struggling as a single parent while her husband is in Vietnam with the medical corps. She also has a couple of later storylines that I can't touch on, but are powerful, even if the latter one seems a little... Were the 1960s really like that? January Jones also had a really strong season at first thinking she might have cancer. On a side note, that was a really well done fat suit. Normally with fat suits, the person doesn't really look fat, they look like they are wearing a fat suit, which is very distracting.

However, as good as this season was, I don't think it was as good as last season. I'm not sure why that is, but I think it is partially due to high expectations and partially due to the competition. Since this show was last on air, shows like Downton Abbey, Homeland, Game of Thrones all started and I think all three are currently better than this show.

The Extras

Extras on the four-disc set include audio commentary tracks on all 13 episodes; in fact, there are two audio commentary tracks for each episode. Disc one also has two featurettes, starting with Mad Men Say the Darndest (sic) Things, a 17-minute featurette on the writing. Is it ironic that there's a spelling mistake in the name of the featurette about the writers? What is There to Love if not the Enigma? is a featurette about Giorgio de Chirico, the artist whose work inspires a lot of the look of show, including the cover art of the DVD. Disc two has The Party of the Century, a 23-minute look at Truman Capote and his famous Black and White ball. Scoring Mad Men is a 21-minute look at the creation of the show's score. Disc three has a couple featurettes, the first of which is The Uniform Time Act of 1966, a five-minute featurette on the daylight savings time. I believe it is time to stop this practice. The way we've worked has changed to the point where this practice is now counter-productive. There is a second, 28-minute long Scoring Mad Men featurette. There is also a gallery of Newsweek magazine covers. Disc four as no additional extras outside of the commentary tracks.

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 Five is not quite as good as season four and it is not the best show on TV at the moment, but it is still in the top ten. Add in the incredible amount of extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray and it is an easy recommendation. In fact, it is a clear contender for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, Jon Hamm, Jared Harris, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser, Robert Morse, Elisabeth Moss, Jessica Pare, John Slattery, Christina Hendricks