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Featured TV on DVD Review: Mad Men: Season Four

March 29th, 2011

Mad Men: Season Four - DVD or Blu-ray

When Mad Men first aired in 2006, it was AMC's first original series in several years. Now they've added Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, but Mad Men is still their best. In fact, it's arguably the best drama on TV right now. Of course it's not on TV right now, but that's another issue. Will season four live up to the high standard set before? And will there be enough extras to make the DVD or Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Show

There were major, major changes for the lead cast at the end of season three. The team at Sterling Cooper found out their British parent company was planning on selling the firm. However, in a preemptive strike, they got their immediate boss to fire them so they could pillage the client list and start their own advertising agency. At the same time, Don Draper's numerous infidelities finally caught up with him and he and his wife filed for divorce.

That happens at the end of season three, but by the time season four starts, a year has past. Things at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the new ad agency founded by John Sterling, Bert Cooper, Don Draper, and Lane Pryce are going strong, or at least going. As an upstart ad agency they sometimes struggle for clients and have to pretend they are bigger than they are. Of course, while the show centers on an ad agency, and they do talk about advertising issues, it is mostly about the changing times of the 1960s.

Don and Betty are going through a divorce, which was not exactly a common thing for the day. This not only has an effect on Don, it has a huge effect on Sally. (On a side note, Kiernan Shipka is becoming one of the best young actresses on TV, and given the caliber of acting on this show, it's amazing she even stands out.) Other stand out performances come from Elizabeth Moss who is incredible all season long, but is a stand-out in The Suitcase, which is arguably the best episode of the season.

Although arguing about which episode is the best episode is rather pointless, as they are uniformly amazing. There are a few that stand out for other reasons. For instance, Danny Strong, a.k.a., Jonathan from Buffy, is in a few episodes, which gives the show nerd-cred. Also joining the show this season is Jessica Pare, a Canadian actress who I've been a fan of for a while.

The Extras

Extras on the four-disc set include audio commentary tracks on all 13 episodes, while many of them have two tracks. It's a huge amount of information and it ads to the already impressive replay value of the show. (I would not be surprised if fans who have seen the show when it was first aired will sit down to watch these select episodes three times over.)

If there were just the audio commentary tracks, that would be plenty of extras. But there are also hours of featurettes. Disc one has a two-part, nearly hour-long featurette called How to Succeed in Business Draper Style, which discusses how to succeed in business, using the show to give examples of what the experts have to say. Marketing the Mustang is a 27-minute long look at the creation of the iconic American muscle car. It's very in-depth; more in-depth than I was expecting. Disc two has the first two of three parts Divorce: Circa 1960s, which continues on disc three. Again, there's a lot of real-world information that uses Mad Men as an example. The final featurette on Disc three is a 31-minute look at the 1964 election.

I don't have the Blu-ray to review, but it only costs $2 more than the DVD, so the Blu-ray is a much better deal.

The Verdict

Mad Men is arguably the best show on TV right now, it certainly has the hardware to back that up (13 Emmys and 4 Golden Globes). Season Four maintained the high quality of the show and both the DVD and the Blu-ray are worthy of Pick of the Week Honors. The latter appears to be the better deal.

On a side note, the show will be back, but not until 2012 and there's a good chance it will lose some of the main cast along the way.

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