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Mad Men: Season Five(TV) (2012)
What you are, what you want, what you love doesn't matter. It's all about how you sell it. Mad Men delves into the lives, loves and ambitions of a group of ruthlessly competitive men and women working in a 1960s advertising agency. Set on and around Madison Avenue - home of New York's ad agencies at the time, and the "Mad" of the title - the series was created by Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner and has gained rave reviews in the US. The series revolves around the complicated world of Don Draper, the biggest ad man (and ladies' man) in the business, and his colleagues at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency. As Don makes the plays in the boardroom and the bedroom, he struggles to stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing times and the young executives nipping at his heels.
For more about Mad Men: Season Five and the Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray release, see Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 13, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Matthew Weiner, John Slattery, Tim Hunter, Jon Hamm, Alan Taylor, Andrew Bernstein
Writer: Dahvi Waller
Starring: Jon Hamm, January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, Aaron Staton, Christina Hendricks
» See full cast & crew
Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray Review
Does 'Mad Men' still ad up?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 13, 2012
They say that anticipation is better than realization, and that may have been part of what played into some of the nascent grumbling once Mad Men finally had its fifth season debut almost two years after the fourth season ended. One of the longer hiatuses in series history had built up a veritable frenzy of watercooler chat about what would happen to Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his new wife Megan, and the rest of Don's Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce advertising coterie. But almost as soon as the series actually started to air, there were significant complaints that the show was just not up to snuff and that it was getting off to a really slow start. As the season progressed, there were a number of outright shocking elements that led several rabid fans to insist that Mad Men had "jumped the shark". Seen now from the vantage point of at least a little time, there are some shocking developments in this season of Mad Men, but truth be told, probably no more so than it at least a couple of previous seasons (how quickly we forget Don Draper's "real" identity). And the series has always had an incredibly deliberate manner in rolling out its plot points, something that in fact probably was at least part of the reason it took a while to become whatever kind of phenomenon it's ended up being. Mad Men is not a show that instantly "hooks" the viewer, unless that viewer is obsessive compulsive about the sixties and is a fan of impeccable production design. This has always been a series about character more than overt plot mechanics, and that means viewers must invest time getting to know these people, something that doesn't always translate into an easy relationship with a weekly television outing.
The opening seasons of Mad Men exhibited a kind of "you and me against the world" ethos as Don and his advertising cohorts forged their way in the wild and wooly world of Manhattan's early sixties culture. For those not up to speed on "the story so far", several salient plot points are touched upon in our reviews of the series' previous seasons:
Mad Men: Season One Blu-ray review
Mad Men: Season Two Blu-ray review
Mad Men: Season Three Blu- ray review
Mad Men: Season Four Blu- ray review
Perhaps predictably this far into the story, the fifth season becomes a time of fraying relationships, with both professional and personal breakups abounding and an interesting subtext where Don, still the Big Man on Campus (as it were), discovering that there's a new generation chomping at his heels. In fact the series begins with Don's fortieth birthday, and there's a none too subtle implication that he may be at the beginning of a long, slow slide into irrelevance if not outright dessication (as hinted at later in the season with his persistent tooth problem).
There are a number standout arcs this season, including the evolving relationship between Don and new wife Megan (Jessica Paré). Megan is an undeniably interesting character, certainly hugely different than Betty (January Jones), Don's first wife, but her development doesn't really fully blossom until when her imperious but incredibly elegant French mother Marie (Julia Ormond) shows up, ostensibly to spend Easter with her daughter. It's obvious that Marie has an ulterior motive, a sweetly vicious attempt to deprive her daughter of ambition, and making sure Don keeps Megan "in her place". The scenes between Ormond and Paré crackle with a very real energy that is also on tap in another nicely drawn mother – daughter pairing, that between new mother Joan (Christina Hendricks) and her sweetly vicious parent Gail (Christine Eastabrook, who has really been tearing it up lately in everything from Desperate Housewives to her fantastic turn as the realtor in American Horror Story: The Complete First Season).
A couple of other choices the writers make for this season are questionable at the very least. A burgeoning romance between Roger (John Slattery) and Marie has one unseemly moment that seems to have been injected for purely salacious reasons. Roger's newfound love affair with LSD is also a little odd, though of course the character has always been volatile and emotionally rambunctious. Perhaps the oddest arc, and one that caused huge controversy, is one involving Christina and the lengths she's asked to go to to secure a huge new account. As I've personally pointed out in my reviews of previous seasons (including some reviews for other sites I worked for before coming to Blu-ray.com), Mad Men has been as much about the females in the story as the males, and the nascent feminist movement has been an underlying subtext throughout much of the series' history. The Christina angle (which I won't spoil in this review for those who haven't yet seen it) in this season is really unusual and seems to be contraindicated by the show's otherwise fairly consistent exploration of women coming into their own sense of power. (Rather interestingly, that formulation is left largely to Elisabeth Moss' character of Peggy.)
Marital discord is a running theme in this season (as of course it has been in previous seasons). Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) finds his suburban dream of happiness going up in veritable smoke, something exacerbated by his somewhat rash decision to become involved with the wife of a man he commutes to work with. That arc is one of the sillier of the season, including a lachrymose element that sees the woman undergoing forced electroshock treatments to rid her memory of the affair. Joan also has her issues with her husband, and Roger's marriage completely falls apart after his dalliances with a certain hallucinogenic drug. Rather ironically given the series' focus on Don and Betty's "issues" in previous seasons, Don and Megan are relatively happy, which doesn't preclude momentary skirmishes from time to time.
Don Draper continues to be one of the most incredibly complex characters ever crafted for a dramatic series. A man of incredible contradictions, Don waffles between nobility and charlatanism, pragmatism and idealism. This is summed up in near perfect fashion in this season's final episode when within mere minutes Don helps Megan with her career and then seems to be on the verge of cheating yet again. It may not exactly be a cliffhanger (let's face it, Don has a tendency to give in when passion calls), but it continues to mine the extremely ripe territory of the shades of gray in one man's psyche.
Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray, Video Quality
It used to be a running battle as to which unique dramatic series had the best high definition presentation: Lost or Mad Men. Since Jack Shepard and his cohorts have shuffled off this mortal broadcast coil, it's obviously less of a contest, though high definition finesse in series television has become the norm now rather than the exception. The irony of course is that it was Mad Men which helped make it so. That tradition of excellence easily continues on this fifth season, presented courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. The series continues to be elegantly designed and lushly filmed, and those elements all pop magnificently in this high definition presentation. The series tends to favor close-ups and midrange shots which helps to considerably boost fine object detail. Colors are perfectly accurate and very well saturated and the entire series simply continues to set the bar as to how good a weekly outing like this really can look.
Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mad Men's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio continues the series' fine aural tradition of careful surround activity bolstered by one of the most consistently excellent uses of source cues and original underscore in series television. This season is perhaps a little less reliant on popular songs which seek to instantly create a sense of time and place, but David Carbonara's appealing original score is still very much in evidence and sounds fantastic throughout each episode. For such a dialogue driven show, there's a surprising amount of surround activity, whether that be the sounds of a busy advertising office, the urban cityscape of Manhattan or indeed the quieter climes of the suburbs where several characters either reside or journey to. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is rather wide for this type of show.
Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Despite what you may have heard from longtime fans, if (and that's an if) Mad Men took a step backward in this fifth season, it wasn't a very big one. The series still continues to be one of the most consistently well written shows on television. That said, if you don't simply surrender to this show's deliberately slower rhythm, there's no way to really enjoy it. More so than perhaps any other regular dramatic series currently on the air, Mad Men is a show about characters rather than huge dramatic plot arcs, and that means attention must be paid to the ostensibly smaller elements that float by in any given episode. There are some questionable elements that crop up in this season, and for that reason alone I'm slightly docking this season's overall score to reflect what I personally consider too strong a reliance on the salacious and provocative. Otherwise, though, Mad Men is still selling its wares with its typical aplomb. This Blu-ray continues the series' home video release tradition with superior video and audio and excellent supplements. Highly recommended.
Mad Men: Other Seasons
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