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Mad Men: Season Six(TV) (2013)
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 Six and the Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray release, see Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jon Hamm, January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, Aaron Staton, Christina Hendricks
Directors: Matthew Weiner, John Slattery, Tim Hunter, Jon Hamm, Alan Taylor, Andrew Bernstein
» See full cast & crew
Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray Review
Would you buy a new car from these people?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 2, 2013
If it's supposedly impossible to "unring a bell", is it similarly difficult to "unjump a shark"? Lots of longtime fans felt that Mad Men at least occasionally lost its footing in its fifth season, drifting earthward like the animated figure in the series' iconic opening credits sequence. There's always been an undeniably tawdry aspect to Mad Men, a kind of dime store novel ambience that is mitigated though never completely erased by the series' impeccable production design. One could almost imagine a filmmaker like Douglas Sirk having guided Don Draper (Jon Hamm) through the many changes he's experienced over the past several years, in what has at times become a surprisingly affected soap opera. And yet, here is Mad Men back on top in its sixth season. Is it occasionally pretentious? No doubt. But some sort of energizing force (one hopes it's not the chemical kind that's depicted in an episode of this season) has reinvigorated the series, and those who wondered if the fifth season was the first inkling of a long, slow demise may be able to quell their concerns—at least temporarily. Creator and showrunner Matthew Weiner pulls a few virtual rabbits out of his hat this season, including a game changing merger that reunites Peggy (Elisabeth Olson) with her former cohorts at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, but he also gets back to one of the central conceits that informed the series' first couple of seasons—namely, who exactly is Don Draper? Draper's "real" identity was long ago revealed (more or less, anyway), and it almost became a non-issue for the series, but here it is again, if not exactly front and center, at least coiling up through Don's subconscious as he attempts to come to terms with what has shaped him into becoming the man he is. Don has always been a fascinatingly ambiguous character, one who seems to be introspective but who seemingly has no ability to really delve into whatever is motivating him at any given time. Don is Mad Men's Id, a wild, unpredictable force of nature only occasionally tamed by the more guarded realms of the Ego. And that Id is on full display in this sixth season, with Don continuing his array of unwise dalliances while also channeling sudden bursts of inspiration that allow his advertising agency to weather the increasingly furious storms of the late sixties.
For those not up to speed on the Mad Men saga, thus far, a quick brush up might be in order:
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
Mad Men: Season Five Blu-ray review
The season starts far away from the concrete jungle of Manhattan—at least for Don and Megan (Jessica Paré), who are enjoying an all expense paid vacation in Hawaii to prepare Don for a campaign for a local hotel. But something seems odd about Don from almost the first moment. First of all, he's reading Dante's The Inferno, hardly the sort of material one would assume this gallivanting executive would take to devour on a beach. And he's even more reticent than usual—in fact, the first several minutes of the episode play out without Don uttering a word. There's some hidden subtext here which Weiner deigns to reveal—if it is a reveal—in a parting moment as the episode comes to a close and Don's latest "conquest" becomes apparent.
Meanwhile Don's ex Betty (January Jones) is engaging in her own "battle of the bulge", attempting to "reduce" in the parlance of the day while shepherding her kids and daughter Sally's violin prodigy friend through the holidays. Things seem to be generally fine between Betty and newish husband Henry (Christopher Stanley), but here, too, little cracks may be beginning to show. In a telling exchange that is certainly not typical pillow talk, Betty teases Henry about Sally's friend, going into somewhat graphic detail about Henry's supposed desires to have intimate relations with the young girl.
Peggy turns into something of a harridan in the early going this season, as she continues to try to find her way in the "man's world" of advertising. When an unfortunately timed stand up routine on The Tonight Show threatens to upend a long planned Super Bowl campaign for Koss Headphones, Peggy needs some kind of inspiration, which doesn't present itself right away. Instead she turns into a taskmaster with her hapless underlings, until Ted (Kevin Rahm) returns from a sort of Zen retreat and urges her to be a bit more understanding, especially since it's New Year's Eve. Later in the season, when Don and Ted collude to merge their firms in order to land a major account, Peggy is left to deal both with her pride and a really distasteful job she's given.
There are a number of good subplots that weave their way through this season. John Slattery's Roger Sterling continues not to take his analysis all that seriously, but there's an oddly affecting and effective moment early on where first Roger feels nothing when his aged mother passes, and then collapses into near hysteria when the local shoe shine guy shuffles off this mortal coil. Christina Hendricks' Joan has perhaps less of a central role this season than last, though last season's sensational storyline involving Joan's "extracurricular" activities to secure a client comes back to haunt her this year, providing the character with what is arguably her strongest showcase. Vincent Kartheiser's Pete Campbell seems to be continuing his efforts to be a kind of B-movie Don Draper, without the good looks and suave manner. And there is some new blood on hand as well, including a young upstart named Bob Benson (James Wolk, who has gone on to work for a "different" ad agency in the Robin Williams sitcom The Crazy Ones), who begins to give Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) some career jitters. There's also a really interesting development between Don and Betty that may presage some marital fireworks in the coming season.
The sixth season reestablishes the series' fine modulations between soap operatic drama and nice character driven comedy, but there are still some niggling concerns hovering around the edges of an overall excellent year. Once again Don devolves into a series of neuroses that seems to be endangering his future. While perhaps more "clinical" than in previous seasons, this is just the latest iteration of the "Don freaking out" syndrome that has been used previously to varying effect. The show continues to mine its historical epoch quite well (this season sees the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, as well as race riots and the debacle of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago), but next season should (if the show follows its general template) get to 1969. It might be time to start thinking about letting Mad Men expire with a modicum of dignity, rather than drawing things out to, say, 1974 when disgraced resignations became all the rage.
Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray, Video Quality
Mad Men continues to be one of the best looking series on television right now, and this sixth season Blu-ray, arriving courtesy of Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1, continues that tradition in sometimes stunning fashion. While the opening moments in Hawaii give the series an incredible rush of bright, bold colors, even the somewhat more subdued confines of the various Manhattan locations provide incredible production detail which comes through brilliantly in this high definition presentation. Colors are vivid, accurate and very well saturated, and fine detail is consistently impressive, catching everything from the pill on various costumes to some of the heavily textured walls that were the rage in the late sixties. Even close-ups of bodies are exemplary in this regard (take a gander at that oiled midriff in the fifth screenshot accompanying this review for a good example). Contrast is consistent, allowing dimmer interior scenes to pop with much the same vivacity as the brighter outdoor sequences. (There are a couple of niggling exceptions to this rule, including one weirdly over dark segment in a car when Betty gets a traffic ticket.) This series set a new bar for film like ambience in series television in its first year, and that continues unabated now in its sixth. The image throughout this sixth season offers substantial depth and precision, with nary a compression artifact to be seen.
Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Mad Men's sound mix has always been subtle at times, but it's almost always immersive—if you're listening for it. This season's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix provides a wealth of surround activity, albeit sometimes just with hints of ambient environmental noise (listen to how the breeze and surf noises waft through the surrounds in the opening Hawaii sequences, or to the general "buzz" around Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for just two examples). The series' trenchant dialogue is presented very cleanly and clearly, and the source cues (somewhat less ubiquitous than in earlier seasons) also sound great.
Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Mad Men wends its way through a typically languorous but unusually compelling set of dilemmas for the various characters this season. The series has always been something of a "slow burn", and that tendency continues in this season. For those who are already under the spell of Don Draper and the huge cast of supporting characters, probably no more need be said than this is one of the better seasons of this now long running show. For those new to the fold, allow Mad Men's deliberate pace to work its way into your mind (if not your heart—at least instantly). Letting this show work its magic will reap incredible dividends if you give it a chance. As with previous seasons, the technical merits of this Blu-ray set are first rate. Highly recommended.
Mad Men: Other Seasons
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Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: November 5-12 - November 2, 2013
For the week of November 5th, New Line and Warner Home Entertainment are bringing the extended version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to Blu-ray. Other titles include the sixth season of Mad Men, White House Down, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Lovelace ...
• Mad Men: Season Six Blu-ray - August 19, 2013
Liongate Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will bring to Blu-ray Mad Men: Season Six on November 5th. The 3-disc Blu-ray set, which features all 13 episodes of Season Six, is packed with bonus materials, including numerous innovative featurettes ...
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