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MAD MEN
Season One

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser
Director: Matthew Weiner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1, English, Spanish subtitles
Studio:  Lions Gate
Features:  See Review
Length:  616 minutes, four discs
Release date:  July 1, 2008

“What do women really want?”
“Who cares?”

“She (Peggy) is like a lobster…all the meat is in the tail!”

“I love redheads…their mouths are like a drop of strawberry jam in a glass of milk.”


Show ****

This is the best show on television.  More than a few fans think that the best television drama of modern times is The Sopranos, and I have to agree.  It raised television to levels normally reserved for films, and with several years of episodes, characters could evolve and change with long arc story lines that usually could not be worked out in film.  But with its demise, there was a vacuum. 

With its end, other networks were eager to make a series of its caliber and success, which led to Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner having his new idea about advertising men made into a series on AMC.  Winner of Best Drama and Best Actor (for Jon Hamm as Don Draper) Golden Globes, it will probably continue our modern age of great television drama a little bit longer.

I can name the one scene that made me a believer:  Mr. Sterling has a heart attack, which in 1960 was almost worse than death to most people, and in his hospital bed he exclaims “I’ve been living the last twenty years like I was on shore leave….I want to go somewhere!”

Mad Men is a drama about advertising men in New York City in 1960 and from its first frames, the viewer can almost smell the constant cigarette smoke, the perfume of the women in the typing pool, and taste the Scotch that flowed beginning in the early afternoon.  They are ambitious and desperate---just as any interesting characters are---and we learn as the historians say that the seismic societal shifts that exploded in the late 1960’s actually began much earlier.  It is smartly written, wonderfully cast, and like The Sopranos  it does not necessarily take brand new subject matter, it just takes old ideas and presents them so believably that the viewer is drawn in and can’t turn away.

Which of course is what every cable television network wants.  When viewers can rent television and movies anytime, cable networks have to come up with new things that are not seen on the non-cable channels or they will eventually be nothing more than another TV Land.

In this James Bond age, men were men and women were women. And frankly the women are more gorgeous and far more talented than Bond girls, with January Jones (yes, that is her real name) playing Don Draper’s depressed Barbie-Doll wife, Elizabeth Moss (President Bartlett’s daughter Zoe from The West Wing) as Don Draper’s new secretary, and Christina Hendricks as Peggy the voluptuous redhead who keeps the women of the office in line.  She will give any male viewer a heart attack as she flaunts herself in front of a one-way mirror as the office girls try new lipsticks and the men gawk at her.  Peggy coins the phrase “basket full of kisses” and she is made a writer, which was unheard of in that day.  Mrs. Draper even shoots her neighbors pigeons for crying out loud! 

And by the end of the season, we have more than enough questions for at least two more seasons.  Why does Don talk to his wife’s psychiatrist?  What will a certain someone do about her baby?

Video ****

Crisp and sharp, bringing out the wonderful period colors and styles.  We feel like these are the ad men in The Godfather era.  Even without the great writing and acting, it looks great and the transfer is excellent.

Audio ***1/2

The other channels are not used as much as they could be but the sound is well mixed throughout, only now and then is dialogue murky or mumbled.

Features ***1/2

The nice long “Establishing Mad Men” not only shows how the series was cast and made but the cast loves what they do.  Audio commentaries feature different cast members on different episodes and are a mixed bag, they are fun but then you get different insights from each person, and some episodes have more than one commentary track.

Summary:

If you want to get back at your boss, buy him twenty raw oysters and liquor and then pay the elevator man to say it is broken, and make him walk up a dozen stories so he pukes in front of a new client.  Just because he flirted with your wife.  That’s what Don Draper would do.  If you look for this at the store, it is in a plastic-metallic case shaped like a Zippo lighter, and you can even buy one with the Mad Men logo.  The mania is upon us.  Next time you are having a bad day, watch Mad Men and ask, What would Don Draper do?

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