Mad Men: Season Four [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Ethan Stevenson (4th June 2011).
The Show

Contract disputes mean that “Mad Men” won’t be back on the airwaves until sometime next year. This is a crushing blow to fans of Matthew Wiener’s brilliant portrayal of 1960's era New York ad-men from Madison Avenue, mostly because the fourth season – season five would have been airing this August; it’s now pushed back ‘til early 2012 – is unequivocally the best yet. It seems like I say that the particular season being discussed in each one of these “Mad Men” reviews is the shows best, but, really Wiener’s creation does just keep getting better and better. Wiener and co have taken Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his coworkers, and their families to places, and reached emotional depths, rarely seen on television and it’s because of this that it isn’t an exaggeration, or some form of misguided hyperbolic praise, when certain critics (such as myself?) call “Mad Men” the greatest show currently on cable and network TV.

At the end of the third season the outwardly perfect world of Draper was upended when a person-shaped meteorite came crashing down into the darkly mysterious waters that hid the secrets of a man called Don. Blown apart on both a personal level, as wife Betty (January Jones) filed for divorce, and professionally – his time at the Sterling Cooper adverting agency, bought by British investors Putnam Powell & Lowell in the last season, came to a swift end with his, and most of his staff, getting the boot. This came as no surprise – although, it was, admittedly a shocking double-edged cliffhanger – to those who really knew Don (all of him, including his secret, true, past as a poor farm boy named Dick). It was an inevitability to those that watched the show; we all knew that Don Draper was bound to fall. For the first three seasons of the series Don was in a constant state of fear. Although his exterior, much like the faux-perfect façade of his tumultuous home, was seemingly calm, cool and collected, he was always afraid that someone would find out that for the past fifteen years he’d lived a life not his own. That Dick stole the Draper identity from a man who painfully died at his side on some nameless battlefield in Korea was Draper’s most daunting lie. He’d hidden this past away from all but a few. Draper’s associate, a young and ambitious executive named Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) got an inkling in season one that something wasn’t right when he met Don’s real bum of a brother who knew “the secret” and was hushed up with cash; Betty learned the truth close to the end of last season and it became the final thing that destroyed her marriage. And, of course, the true Draper’s widow Anna (Melinda Page Hamilton) knew; she entertained Don, one of the only people to still call him Dick, in Los Angeles on many occasions and remained one of his only real friends – a point that becomes important as she gets diagnosed with cancer this season and, sadly, dies.

That Draper loses one of the last links to his secret – but has it pushed into the front room by Betty, the one person whom he really, really never wanted to know the truth – provides the greatest defining moment for the character this season. He’s able redefine who he wants to be without any of the baggage, and finally take up the Draper persona without fear, only to find… that he doesn’t really want to. Instead, he embarks on an arduous journey to find the meaning of life’s purpose – or at the very least, to try and find a way to be a better person. Creator and writer Matthew Wiener cleverly notes this mission of self-discovery by having the first episode of the season, dubbed “Public Relations”, open with the line, “who is Don Draper?” A question to which Don cannot give an answer – the camera slowly pulls back while Hamm puffs on a cigarette, brow furrowed with an angry scowl. The question comes from a newspaperman quizzing the boss of the newest ad agency on Madison Avenue, the recently formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, for a fluffy interview that is meant in the show as more a product of good PR than anything else. It is nonetheless a moment of revelation for Draper, who realizes that who Don Draper is – an abusive alcoholic, who pursues meaningless affairs with dozens of women at a time, who neglects his three kids, and has absolutely no rapport with his staff – isn’t a very nice person at all. And not someone he wants to be. All this time, the nice guy he was with Anna – Dick, who told her stories about his life in New York, which featured an idealized version of Don’s marriage to a Betty he remained faithful to, and his relationship with the three Draper children quite prominently – was where he found himself at the most fulfilled. The happy stories that he told her? Quite understandably they really were what he really wished his life were like, only Don didn’t realize it at the time.

Draper reforms himself this season but not without going off the deep end first, as Anna’s death, his divorce, and the shattering of the world he once knew and understood all does a number on him. He decides to sober up and curb his out of control drinking; no more binges during office hours. He reshapes his philosophy about business, and takes the struggling Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – much to the tempered unease of co-owners Roger (John Slattery), Burt (Robert Morse) and stiff-Brit Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) – into unexplored new directions. Don spends his sober days heading deals that get the firm involved with creating new political campaigns for certain candidates and has them exploring the burgeoning frontier of anti-smoking advertising. The latter comes from the responses to a letter to the editor that Draper pens, admonishing Lucky Strike for legally selling a product that kills its customers; the piece he writes, which came about only because the cigarette giant, their biggest client, jumped ship for another agency, causes a fire storm in the industry. It means both good, and bad, things for Draper and company. Don takes to working on his personal life too, finally showing a human side to his employees – now a much smaller staff consisting of Pete, Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), Joan (Christina Hendricks), and Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) – while actively trying to be involved with his daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka), and two sons, Bobby (Jared Gilmore) and baby Gene. The second is a task that is simultaneously easy and startlingly difficult for Draper because he’s in constant conflict with the always-troublesome Betty and her new husband Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley). Betty wants Francis to be Gene’s father figure, and thus Don out of his life and she also won’t move out of the house that Don rightfully owns. On the other hand Don’s older children – especially Sally who finds her mother impossible to talk to, hates being forced into therapist with a child psychologist, and is easily won over by tickets to see The Beatles – flock to him like never before, and he gladly takes them in. Draper’s response to both trials show a change in character as he approaches each situation with a softness and understanding Old Don would never dream of displaying.

While the fourth season is mostly about Don and his sometimes-destructive personality reconstruction, Wiener and his fellow writers make sure to develop subplots around the supporting cast whose characters are often even more interesting than Draper. Pete faces his own struggles, including continuing spats with rival accounts-man Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) and dealing with the prospect of fatherhood (once again). Although Pete and his wife Trudy (Alison Brie) are told they won’t be able to conceive, a minor miracle seems to befall them and the Campbell’s are expecting by the middle of the season. Pete is overjoyed, but also worried. He’s broke, having invested all of his savings into Don’s new ad firm, and must once again turn to Trudy’s father for financial support – support that may not be there a second time. Roger gets a great storyline this year with his increasing alcoholism and general unhappiness with life, culminating in one of my favorite episodes of season four called the “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”. Don wants to land a new client; a client that they need to stay in business. The client is Honda, wanting to bring their new small car to America. To impress the clients Don, Pete and the staff bow to their Japanese traditions and try to woo them with sweeping gestures that supposedly express cultural values like honor and respect. Respect that Roger, a veteran of the Pacific Theater in World War II, doesn’t think they deserve because he watched his buddies die on the beaches of Iwo Jima. In his drunken state he nearly loses the clients, and further sullies the already questionable reputation of the new company. Slattery is a powerful force in the episode, and does an excellent job, giving Roger a bit of purpose that he’s been lacking for sometime.

Jared Harris continues to be a great addition to the “Men” cast. He gets promoted to the main credits the season and so Lane Pryce, who joined the ranks after he had a falling out with his English bosses, decides that he likes the United States quite a lot. His wife, Rebecca doesn’t, and fled back to England last season. Pryce has no problem with this and even engages in an affair with an African American lounge singer, to hell with social mores of the time period. The madwomen of the series Peggy and Joan – who always come out smelling like roses even though they consistently put up with a lot of garbage (that mostly smells of latent, rotting sexism) – get their time this season too. Young Peggy Olson explores the emerging counter culture with some of her bohemian-but-not-quite-yet-hippy friends, meeting some colorful characters including a butch lesbian and an artsy Marxist, both of whom sort of fall for her. At the end of last season Joan came back from her early retirement as a doctor’s wife when husband Greg (Sam Page) failed to get Residency at his hospital and instead enlisted in the Army. This season it’s more adjusting for everyone’s favorite busty, redheaded secretary as she takes command of her new life and new streamlined office. Joan also spends her time worrying about the impending dangers of the soon-to-escalate Vietnam War (presumably, next season, shit will really hit the fan, and with Greg enlisted, the writers will explore this decade-defining event more thoroughly). She and Peggy take a stand against some blatant office-based sexism in one of my other favorite episodes this season, and she and Roger – both sexually unfulfilled by their respective partners who are otherwise engaged – rekindle their long dormant romance. All does not go well.

There’s a lot packed into the fourth season of “Mad Men”. All of it is exceptionally written and terrifically shot. The show oozes, as the series always does, the 1960's in a way few other period pieces set in the decade ever have. The intricate production design and costuming remains a standout amongst others. The importance on historical events to surround the characters this season are a little less than previous years, but that matters little as Wiener and his staff put such attention on the values and social norms of the period that anytime their characters interact with anyone or anything fans get glimpses at what life was like in the past; and that is more than enough to satisfy. Wiener crafts a smart drama that’s mostly serious and engaging, but also occasionally funny. A subplot involving Don’s new secretary, Ms. Blankenship (Randee Heller), whom Joan hired specifically because she’s a gossipy old lady – and thus Don won’t sleep with her – offers a bit of lightness. The resolution of Blankenship’s storyline is utterly macabre but oh so funny, much in the same way a previous season’s lawnmower massacre, er, party, proved to be uncomfortably hilarious. Truthfully, season four of “Mad Men” is the best yet and will delight any fan of the series.

All 13 episodes of season four are spread across three discs. These include:

- "Public Relations" - In the perfect premiere Don agrees to sit down for an interview with a newspaper reporter, but doesn't want to talk about himself. This proves disastrous and Draper comes off both cold and inhuman, neither of which will draw in new clients who might read the piece. Meanwhile, a manufacturer of family-friendly swimwear has a new two-piece bathing suit and wants to hire the firm to promote it, but doesn't want the proposed campaign to suggest anything too risqué.

- "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" - The annual Christmas party is nearly spoiled by the late arrival of a surprise and not-so-welcome visitor. Also at the office: Ol’ Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray) resurfaces at the new agency and he hasn’t changed at all. Don stupidly begins an affair with his secretary. Meanwhile, Sally reconnects with Glen Bishop (Marten Holden Wiener), sending Betty into a rage.

- "The Good News" - Lane and Joan get into a disagreement and Lane buys her flowers to apologize. Unfortunately, a mix-up with those flowers and the one’s he sent to his estranged wife leads to Mrs. Pryce staying in London indefinitely. On holiday, Don leaves for Acapulco with a stopover in Los Angeles. While in LA, Don visits Anna and she has news that forces him to change plans. Once back in New York, Don and Lane get to know each other better on New Year's Eve.

- "The Rejected" - Pete must break bad news to his father-in-law but receives wonderful news about him and Trudy. Meanwhile, Don gets into a confrontation with on-again-off-again girlfriend Allison (Alexa Alemanni) after a failed focus group and Peggy meets an eccentric girl named Joyce (Zosia Mamet) in the building.

- "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" - Don and Pete try to land a new client but Roger's attitude about the potential client may ruin their chances of showing up their competition. Also, Sally acts out and Betty begins to wonder if therapy is the solution.

- "Waldorf Stories" - Peggy and the new art director do not see eye-to-eye and Peggy goes to interesting extremes to get his attention. A potential new employee reminds Don and Roger of when they first met, and their relationship begins to mend. Pete is unhappy that Ken Cosgrove may be joining their firm; when he voices his thoughts to the partners he learns a harsh truth about where he stands in the agency. And, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – or, really, just Don – is up for a CLIO award.

- "The Suitcase" - “The Suitcase” is a bit odd to synopsize because it doesn’t really fit the series mold. It’s a “bottle” piece, meaning it takes place in one location (Don’s office) and is quite singularly focused. It’s also really, really good – and probably the best of the season considering what is accomplished on such a small set and budget. The plot is simple: a deadline on the Samsonite account disrupts Don and Peggy's plans on the night of the Ali-Liston fight. Peggy has a birthday dinner and Don has a call about Anna that he needs to return, but knows is bad news. The acting by both Moss and Hamm is superb here. Also, it proves to be one of the smartest mixes of history with plot ever in the show. The boxing match provides a framework but exists on the fringes and is only heard in passing. The focus, in stead, is on the characters and their relationships.

- "The Summer Man" - Joan must deal with questionable – read: sexist – activities at the office. Peggy's reaction to them makes Joan angry. Also, Betty and Henry run into Don while he is on a date; a date he’s using as a way of coping with the news of Anna’s death.

- "The Beautiful Girls" - Unable to deal with Betty anymore, Sally runs away from home and ends up in the city, at Don’s office. Instead of sending her right back to the suburbs Don actually spends some time with his daughter for once, and finds that he actually has a good time. Elsewhere, Roger tries to reconnect with Joan, and does in a big way, and Peggy must kill a news story that could put her in hot water with the firm.

- "Hands and Knees" - After landing a government contract, Don panics when two G-men arrive at Betty's house. Do they know his secret and will Betty tell them if they don’t? Pete faces a moral dilemma while Lane introduces his visiting father (W. Morgan Sheppard) to his black girlfriend. Also, Roger juggles Joan's latest abortion with bad news from Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie) about the important Lucky Strike account.

- "Chinese Wall" - The staff is called to an emergency meeting when the partners discover that Roger has lost their biggest account. Don, Burt and Lane try to keep their cool, and hold the news from the employees for as long as possible, but rumors begin to spin around the office. Meanwhile, Trudy Campbell goes into labor, and Don tries to convince Faye (Cara Buono) to compromise her ethics to drum up new business.

- "Blowing Smoke" - In the brilliant second-to-last episode of the season, the agency scrambles to lure new clients and Don makes a risky move in the hopes that it will help them all. Later, Don runs into an old friend, Midge (Rosemarie DeWitt), who brews up some unneeded drama for Draper. Sally comes to a realization in therapy, and her psychiatrist tells a skeptical Betty that they’ve made a breakthrough. Could the problem have been Betty all along?

- "Tomorrowland" - The season finale is typically epic. Peggy and Ken attempt to land a new client for the firm. Don takes the kids with him to California so they can see Disneyland, faces a life-altering decision, and comes back with a big, equally life-altering announcement. Meanwhile, Betty prepares to move out of the old house, fires Carla (Deborah Lacey) the nanny over a minor disagreement, and proves once again that she’s basically the worst mother who ever lived.

Video

Fans know this already, but “Mad Men” looks gorgeous on Blu-ray. It has since the first season. Unsurprisingly, it still does in its fourth. As always Lionsgate’s 1080p 24/fps high definition transfer, encoded via AVC MPEG-4 compression and presented in the original broadcast ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, is as close to perfect as I imagine possible with blu-ray. Easily outclassing the awful, over-compressed AMC broadcast – my feed is particularly blocky and artifact ridden – it’s nice to once again see “Mad Men” is the pristine lens it’s intended to be seen through.

Wiener’s period drama is one of the few things that I think ever matched, if not surpassed the fan-favorite ABC series “Lost” (2004-2010) in terms of Blu-ray picture quality, and while “Mad Men” never had the impossible-to-match locations of that series, it’s always made up in quality production design that created a sense of pure-cinema rarely, if ever, seen on television. In the true fashion of mise-en-scène, every inch of the frame in “Mad Men” is packed with intricate patterns and delightful, eye catching colors, all wrapped in a gorgeous atmosphere and framed tastefully and deliberately. The results mean that “Mad Men” just is the 1960's – a colorful, textured decade, perfect for the clarity of high definition; the show is a glorious marvel of visual splendor, all dazzling in its Technicolor grandeur and when you watch the show, you feel transported into the past.

Sharp, detailed, bright and clean, this season of “Mad Men” – just like its last – is among the best I’ve ever seen on the format. The show is so sharp you can see the tiny wrinkles around people’s eyes even in medium shots. Focus is excellent too, and the 35mm photography has almost limitless depth. Blacks are deep, but shadow details are well resolved. Softness isn’t a bother. Costumes are ripe for HD. The “Mad” women are wrapped in patterns of bright colors, and of course, the men sport pinstriped and checker-boarded suits that crackle with detail. A delicate, unobtrusive grain structure is finely preserved, reminding that the series is still shot on film – if only just, having been almost entirely post-produced in the digital realm via some form of non-linear editing and mastering software. On the aesthetic front, the series is unmatched. On a technical, so is the Blu-ray encoding. No harsh edge enhancement or worrisome noise reduction, no noise, no banding, and no fringing, even on the reddest of reds or bluest of blues. Nothing unappealing whatsoever can be found on these discs.

Audio

Fans should know what to expect going into the fourth season of “Mad Men” on Blu-ray. If you haven’t experienced the show in HD, know that it isn’t going to surround you with endless action effects, rattle your windows, or lay down an explosive amount of Michael Bay-ian bass that will rival the latest blockbuster. It’s just not that type of show, no matter the format, lossless delivery or no. As long as you don’t expect the soundtrack to shake your fillings loose with earth-splitting bass, or encapsulate you with an overpowering wall-of-sound at every turn – note, sometimes, very infrequently, the series does activate the full 360-degree field, just only when needed for a particularly busy sequence – I think most will be pleasantly surprised by the richness of Lionsgate’s English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) track. “Mad Men” is a dialogue heavy program, so the mix is generally more front-focused and subdued, but it makes excellent use of the soundstage with nice, natural stereo pans. Dialogue is clean sounding, sharp, and undistorted. The mix is also crisp, stable and strikes a natural balance between score, effects and speech. There’s a robust clarity to the whole package, far surpassing the Dolby Digital derived broadcast, with a wide, supportive range noticeably present whenever the show works in a musical underscore from series composer David Carbonara or some vintage artist. “Mad Men” is a show with an understated soundtrack due to the intimate, even domestic nature of the dramatic plots, but Blu-ray does certifiable justice to the material and is probably the best the show has ever, and will ever sound. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

Extras

Lionsgate really ought to stop spoiling me with these extras – every other TV release, even the one’s that actually offer a number of impressive supplements in their own right, just look completely bare in comparison. “Mad Men: Season Four” offers a ton of wonderfully informative, well made, and thoughtful bonuses that both entertain and enlighten. They’ve loaded up all 13 episodes with optional audio commentary from the cast and crew. Every episode – save for my personal favorite, “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” – has not just one, but two commentary tracks, running the season total up to a whopping twenty-five commentaries. Moving away from stories about the production of the series and focusing on the historical background of Wiener’s creation are a featurette about advertising the Ford Mustang, a feature-length documentary on divorce in the 1960's, another lengthy documentary about Don Draper’s particular managerial style and unique approach to the world of business, and another featurette about ad campaigns during the 1964 Presidential Election. Optional bookmarks are also included on each disc. All video based extras are encoded in 1080p or 1080i (where noted) high definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.

DISC ONE:

The various “Mad Men” home video releases have some of the most satisfying audio commentaries out there; each episode in the series so far has had at least one track (most have two). Season four is more of the same, really, with optional commentary providing a ton of great insight into an already illuminating series. The commentaries with creator Matthew Wiener are my go to – he is always on point and a worthy listen. The actors are usually at their best when paired with him, but that only happens rarely this season. Luckily, one of the actor team ups is on the premiere episode with leading man Jon Hamm, adding yet another layer to that particular discussion. Also of note: the series’ own Roger Sterling, John Slattery, does double duty as director and actor in both of his commentaries. Slattery directed two episodes this season and has some interesting things to say about stepping behind the camera instead of in front of it. His tracks are second only to Weiner’s. Due to the sheer amount of talk time spread out over these discs, collectively, “Mad Men: Season Four” has a few weaker commentaries too, mostly by the actors who, when left to themselves, tend to be less focused, somewhat sycophantic, and decidedly superficial. Although not necessarily bad, the actor-led-tracks are generally less informative (if, probably, were more fun to record and are “easier” to listen to) than anytime Wiener, another producer, a director, or other crewmembers are grouped in elsewhere. Disc one includes the following:
- Audio commentary on “Public Relations” with creator Matthew Wiener and actor Jon Hamm.
- Audio commentary on “Public Relations” with musician David Carbonara and costume designer Katherine Jane Bryant.
- Audio commentary on “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” with actor Joel Murray and actress Alexa Alemanni.
- Audio commentary on “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” with creator Matthew Wiener and director Michael Uppendahl.
- Audio commentary on “The Good News” with actress Melinda Page Hamilton and actor Jared Harris.
- Audio commentary on “The Good News” with creator Matthew Wiener and script supervisor Jennifer Getzinger.
- Audio commentary on “The Rejected” with actors Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery and actress Cara Buono.
- Audio commentary on “The Rejected” with creator Matthew Wiener and cinematographer Chris Manley.
- Audio commentary on “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” with creator Matthew Wiener and writer Erin Levy.

The first featurette in the set is called “Marketing the Mustang: An American Icon” (1080i, 27 minutes 7 seconds) and it really is terrific. Various auto enthusiasts, Ford historians, and Mustang men discuss the genesis of Ford’s most iconic car, the 1964 ½ Mustang. We think nothing of car commercials – or, for that matter, most attainable cars – these days but in the 1960's, Ford’s Mustang team, led by the brilliant Lee Iacocca, pioneered the way a company revealed a new model to the public with its uniquely coordinated cross-Network commercial debut. And the car – meant for the younger generation – was pretty spiffy too. The production value of this piece is like higher-end History Channel stuff (not the new “Swamp People” (2010-Present) and “Pawn Stars” (2009-Present)-heavy History Channel; more like the “old” one that used to actually have programs where knowledgeable people discussed the past), and is supported by a lot of tattered vintage footage, which transfers only fairly to HD. Still, definitely worth a look.

DISC TWO:

The second disc offers more must-watch and must-listen extras. The first stop for many will be more of the awesome “Mad Men” audio commentaries with the cast and crew. Disc two includes the following:
- Audio commentary on “Waldorf Stories” with actors Aaron Staton, Jay R. Ferguson and Danny Strong.
- Audio commentary on “Waldorf Stories” with creator Matthew Wiener, script coordinator Brett Johnson and executive producer Scott Hornbacher.
- Audio commentary on “The Suitcase” with actress Elisabeth Moss.
- Audio commentary on “The Suitcase” with creator Matthew Wiener, editor Tom Wilson and cinematographer Chris Manley.
- Audio commentary on “The Summer Man” with actors Christopher Stanley, Matt Long, and Rich Sommer.
- Audio commentary on “The Summer Man” with creator Matthew Wiener and editor Leo Trombetta.
- Audio commentary on “The Beautiful Girls” with actresses Christina Hendricks, Cara Buono and Kiernan Shipka.
- Audio commentary on “The Beautiful Girls” with creator Matthew Wiener and producer Dahvi Waller.

Next up is the unexpectedly thorough three-part documentary titled “Divorce: Circa 1960's” (1080p, 1 hour 19 minutes 36 seconds total runtime). Despite being set in the time of the “traditional American family”, divorce is a prominent feature of the “Mad Men” universe – with Roger and his wife, Don and Betty, and later Betty and her second husband, all filing or considering filing for one throughout the series’ run. It makes sense then that the astute “Mad Men” blu-ray producers would commission a feature-length piece to provide some sort of historical context. The documentary looks at the social perception of divorce, broken marriages, and single parent family homes in the 1960's, and the shocking disconnect between fact and fiction, reality and ideality, and the myth of the stable and harmonious past. A handful of experts – historians, sociologists, therapists, and film critics – discuss the growing divorce “epidemic” of the time and how it impacted society and the media of the era. These “Mad Men” documentaries, just like the series they supplement, continue to get better and better.

DISC THREE:

The third and final disc offers up still more audio commentaries, highlighted by another track with John Slattery on “Blowing Smoke”, the second and last episode he directed this season. Disc three includes the following:
- Audio commentary on “Hands and Knees” with actor Vincent Kartheiser and actress Christina Hendricks.
- Audio commentary on “Hands and Knees” with creator Matthew Wiener and composer David Carbonara.
- Audio commentary on “Chinese Wall” with actresses Jessica Paré and Cara Buono.
- Audio commentary on “ Chinese Wall” with creator Matthew Wiener and writer Erin Levy.
- Audio commentary on “Blowing Smoke” with actor John Slattery, co-executive producers André and Maria Jacquemetton, and actor Robert Morse.
- Audio commentary on “Blowing Smoke” with creator Matthew Wiener, advertising consultants Bob Levinson and Josh Weltman.
- Audio commentary on “Tomorrowland” with actress Kiernan Shipka, creator Matthew Wiener, and actress Jessica Paré.
- Audio commentary on “Tomorrowland” with creator Matthew Wiener and writer Jonathan Igla.

Clocking in at just under an hour is “How to Succeed in Business Draper Style” (1080p, 56 minutes 29 seconds total runtime) the second, two-part, documentary included with this season. Various CEOs, university professors, journalists and business analysts discuss Draper’s ten-point plan for success in the corporate world. With the assistance of episode clips, they discuss Draper’s managerial style and negotiation tactics – among other things – over the course of this piece, which is split right down the middle 5-5. Again, as I always do, I have to wonder why the documentaries on “Mad Men” get split into multiple parts. It probably has something to do with actor/interviewee fees or something; all I know is that the practice is pointless on both of the documentaries this season because they are so completely engrossing and each “part”, or chapter, is so closely connected with the next.

The presidential race between Lyndon B. Johnson and senator Barry Goldwater is notable for culminating in one of the most lopsided elections in US history. If you’ve ever taken a PR, advertising, or media studies class in college, you know that the ad campaign and media coverage was especially brutal, which eventually swayed the vote in Johnson’s complete favor. If you’ve taken any such classes you’ve also likely read about and seen – and thus know the story behind – this positively insane campaign ad` featuring a nuclear explosion from Lyndon B. Johnson’s run for president in 1964. Or perhaps this little ditty from Barry Goldwater’s camp, which falsely subtitled statements made by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, making it look like he wanted to kill the citizenry of the United States and turn their children into communists. If you haven’t, a featurette, titled “The 1964 Presidential Campaign” (1080p, 31 minutes 12 seconds) includes both of those ads and more from the volatile run. It compiles many of the actual ads, speeches, and even the inauguration of Johnson after his eventual win, in a montage of vintage clips that provide even greater historical context to the at-times seemingly alien world of “Mad Men”.

Packaging

Cover art and packaging is generally awful these days and especially so on TV releases. It’s a treat then that “Mad Men: Season Four” seems to buck the trend and actually offer something nice to look at, that is also simple and fuctional. A thick, sturdy cardboard slipcover adds some hefty weight to the three disc set and the neat “Vertigo” inspired artwork is also imprinted with a 3D holographic effect that further accentuates the disorienting black-and-white depiction of the little cover-man’s descent into Hell. Three dual layer BD-50s are packaged inside an normal width Elite style keepcase, complete with an episode guide. The fourth season is marked for worldwide playback and is Region Free.

Overall

I will almost certainly be hungry for new episodes on AMC in the coming months but, as the new season isn’t arriving until 2012, Lionsgate’s release of the fourth season of “Mad Men” has sated me some and will likely continue to do so for some time because it’s so good. The latest season of Matthew Wiener’s brilliant series is the best yet. Certainly, the magnificent 3-disc Blu-ray has given me a chance to revisit the same episodes I saw last year, but in much, much better quality and that improves the viewing experience immensely. The high def release offers typically brilliant video, outstanding audio, and a seemingly endless amount of great extras. A must own for any “Mad Men” fan.

The Show: A+ Video: A+ Audio: A Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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