Review: Mad Men Season 4 DVD

STUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTORS: various | STARS: Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, Vincent Cartheiser, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Jared Harris
RELEASE DATE: 3/29/11 | PRICE: DVD $49.98, Blu-ray $49.99
BONUSES: commentaries, featurettes
SPECS: NR | 611 min. | Television drama | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Mad Men TV scene

The boys are back in town in Mad Men.

My reaction on hearing that Season Five of AMC’s much-beloved original series Mad Men might be pushed back until early 2012 was much like Peggy’s reaction in the Season Four finale upon learning that Don (Jon Hamm, Howl) had spontaneously proposed to his secretary Megan (Jessica Pare, Hot Tub Time Machine): “That is such bullshit.” Like any dedicated fan, I’d been counting down the days until we finally learn whether that marriage takes place, how plucky upstart ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Price recovers from the stutter-step of losing the Lucky Strike campaign, and what happens when the counter-culture of the late 1960s finally catches up with the decidedly late-1950s corporate culture of SCDP and advertising ubermensch Don Draper.

Fortunately, Mad Men: Season Four arrived on DVD and Blu-ray chock-full of extras and special features to tide us over like so many Betty Draper Francis canapés. Like previous seasons on disc, there are feature-length audio commentaries from Matthew Weiner, along with the cast and crew, for all thirteen episodes, and many episodes feature two different commentary tracks. There are also over three hours of original mini-documentaries.

The docs on the Season Four discs are a bit more ambitious than in previous seasons. “Divorce: Circa 1960s” is a three-part documentary on the growing social and personal impact of skyrocketing divorce figures in the 1960s. “Marketing the Mustang: An American Icon” is an informative behind-the-scenes look at how the US ad industry claimed the sports car, from its original European roots, as a distinctly American phenomenon. “1964 Presidential Campaign” rehashes the landslide ’64 presidential election between President Johnson and Senator Barry Goldwater (a man whose tone-deaf TV ads will forever live in campaign advertising infamy).

The only piece that falls flat is the two-parter entitled, “How to Succeed in Business, Draper Style.” A lineup of CEOs and executive coaches you’ve probably never heard of are trotted out to comment on a string of hoary old business chestnuts you’ve probably heard too often, such as “Know Who You Are,” and, “Know Your Business.” (Thanks for that—and here I’ve been, assuming that complete ignorance is the key to business success!) The only bright spot is the presence of legendary New York ad man Jerry Della Femina, creator of Joe Isuzu and the singing Meow Mix cats, among countless others, and author of the seminal 1971 From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front Line Dispatches from the Advertising War. (It’s no Sterling’s Gold, but still an entertaining and—for this erstwhile copywriter—formative read.) It seems reasonable to expect that, having gone to all the trouble of dragging Della Femina out of semi-retirement, they could have found something more engaging for him to comment on than “Don Draper Rule of Business Number Eight: Promote From Within,” because if there’s anybody still alive and sentient who can tell us how accurate Mad Men’s portrayal of life in a ‘60s-era ad agency is, it’s Della Femina. Alas, however, the opportunity is wasted here.

Still, Mad Men: Season Four looks and sounds gorgeous on disc, and helps to ease our anxiety while we wait to return to our regularly scheduled programming.


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About Gwen

Gwen Cooper is a movie and TV lover and the author of Homer's Odyssey (no, not the one you're thinking of).