MAD MEN: SEASON FIVE
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Jon Hamm as DON DRAPER
Elisabeth Moss as PEGGY OLSON
Vincent Kartheiser as PETE CAMPBELL
January Jones as BETTY DRAPER
Christina Hendricks as JOAN HARRIS
Aaron Staton as KEN COSGROVE
Rich Sommer as HARRY CRANE
John Slattery as ROGER STERLING
Created by: Matthew Weiner
BY KEVIN CARR
I must confess that I never watched “Mad Men” until I did this Blu-ray set for Season Five. It’s not that I had anything against the show, but by the time I heard about how good of a show it was, I was at least three years behind, and I just didn’t have time to do the catch-up watching.
However, while it’s a solid show that presents many intricacies of the characters’ lives, it’s not hard to slip into as a viewer. We see Don Draper and the oh-so-antiquated sexist men of the 60s advertising team struggle with social change and their own personal dramas in and out of the office.
Season Five drops the characters into 1966 and spills over into 1967. Like previous seasons, it uses some notable news elements to serve as a backdrop for the stories. The Civil Rights movement is touched upon when the agency finds a way to hire African Americans (though in true mid-60s fashion, those characters are brushed away almost completely once the statement has been acknowledged).
More prominent is the women’s movement, which has been a focus of the show for years. We see Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) coming into her own and trying to break through the glass ceiling. Joan (Christina Hendricks) has had her baby and struggles with coming back to work, finding her own less-appealing way to break through said glass ceiling. Don (John Hamm) is still juggling women, only it’s wives this time. Still trying to do the right thing, he provides a murky and flawed moral center to the show. (It’s not the best moral center you can find, but it’s one of the few in there.)
Other 60s elements that show up include the killing spree of Richard Speck in the background, snooty non-hippie attempts at recreational drugs and the Hari Krishna movement.
There’s a lot of subtitles to “Mad Men,” which seems to be the appeal. Plus, there’s a vicarious nostalgia for how things used to be that make the show seem oddly attractive. (Of course, those pleasant feelings fade as soon as you start to consider the practicality of living in those times compared to these.)
For the type of slow-burn this series is, it moves with a relatively brisk pace and doesn’t seem to have too much fat that could be trimmed from the episodes. It’s a deliberately made show, and even when it stumbles into cliche, it manages to present itself well in doing so.
The three-disc Season Five disc set includes commentaries on select episodes, plus the featurettes “Mad Men Say the Darndest Things” about scripting the characters’ lines, “What Shall I Love If Not an Enigma?” about metaphysical artist Giorgio de Chirico’s inspiration for the Season Five poster, “The Party of the Century” about Truman Capote’s high society party that becomes a backdrop for a key episode.
There are multiple “Scoring Mad Men” features about the development of the music, plus a look at the contemporary history of Daylight Savings Time in “The Uniform Time Act of 1966” and an assortment of Newsweek covers from the timeframe of the season.
On Blu-ray, “Mad Man” looks spectacular. Like the clean and angular contemporary design of the day, the show has a crisp look to it, featuring some fantastic production design. While unnecessarily grainy at times, it still looks fantastic in high definition, giving the sense that you’re paging through the advertisements being made in the film.