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"Mad Men": Season 6 Blu-ray Review

Mad Men: Season 6 Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Mad Men: Season Six (2013)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Matthew Weiner / Executive Producers: Janet Leahy, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Matthew Weiner, Scott Hornbacher

Writers: Matthew Weiner, Erin Levy, Semi Chellas, Jonathan Igla, Tom Smuts, Jason Grote, Janet Leahy, Andre Jacquemetton, Maria Jacquemetton, Carly Wray

Directors: Scott Hornbacher, Michael Uppendahl, Jennifer Getzinger, John Slattery, Phil Abraham, Jon Hamm, Christopher Manley, Matthew Weiner

Regular Cast: Jon Hamm (Don Draper), Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson), Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell), January Jones (Betty Francis), Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris), Aaron Staton (Kenneth Cosgrove), Rich Sommer (Harry Crane), Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper), Jessica Parι (Megan Draper/Calvet), Kevin Rahm (Ted Chaough), Christopher Stanley (Henry Francis), Jay R. Ferguson (Stan Rizzo), Ben Feldman (Michael Ginsberg), Mason Vale Cotton (Bobby Draper), Robert Morse (Bert Cooper), John Slattery (Roger Sterling)

Recurring Characters: Linda Cardellini (Sylvia Rosen), James Wolk (Bob Benson), Brian Markinson (Dr. Arnold Rosen), Harry Hamlin (Jim Cutler), Charlie Hofheimer (Abe Drexler), Alison Brie (Trudy Campbell), Teyonnah Paris (Dawn Chambers), Channing Chase (Dorothy "Dot" Campbell), Brandon Killham (Young Dick Whitman), Mark Moses (Herman "Duck" Phillips), Christine Estabrook (Gail Holloway), Elizabeth Rice (Margaret Hargrove), Gary Basabara (Herb Rennet), Kip Pardue (Tim Jablonski), Stephanie Drake (Meredith), Patrick Mapel (PFC Dinkins), Joanna Going (Arlene), Morgan Rusler (Mack Johnson), Megan Ferguson (Ms. Swenson), Trevor Einhorn (John Mathis), Timi Prulhiere (Nan Chaough), Ray Abruzzo (Jonesy), Craig Anton (Frank Gleason), Beth Hall (Caroline), Rich Hutchman (Bud Campbell), Yaani King (Phyllis), Michael Gaston (Burt Peterson), Matthew Kimbrough (Mikey O'Brien), Brynn Horrocks (Abigail Whitman), Christine Garver (Moira), Tracy Silver (Margie Koch), Alexandra Ella (Clara), Kit Williamson (Ed), Derek Ray (Brooks Hargrove)

Notable Guest Stars: Talia Balsam (Mona Sterling), Peyton List (Jane Sterling), Pamela Dunlap (Pauline Francis), Kerris Lilla Dorsey (Sandy), John Sloman (Raymond Geiger), Collette Wolfe (Brenda), Marley Shelton (Kate), Ted McGinley (Mel), Ray Wise (Ed Baxter), Stephen Mendel (Morris Ginsberg), Nicole Hayden (Beverly Farber), William Mapother (Randall Walsh), Julia Ormond (Marie Calvet), Joe O'Connor (Tom Vogel), Danielle Panabaker (Daisy McCluskey), Sarah Aldrich (Peaches Rennet), Davenia McFadden ("Grandma" Ida), Danny Strong (Danny Siegel), Andres Faucher (Manolo Colon), Hudson Thames (Mitchell Rosen), Cameron Protzman (Julie), Martin Holden Weiner (Glen Bishop), Liam Aiken (Rolo), Kathryn Love Newton (Mandy), Sammi Hanratty (Millicent), Paul Rae (Byron)

Running Time: 616 Minutes (13 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-14 on air)

1.78:1 Widescreen / 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English) / Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Suggested Retail Price: $49.97 / BD Release Date: November 5, 2013 / Season Six Airdates: April 7 - June 23, 2013
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50s) / Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($49.98 SRP), Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video HD

Buy Mad Men: Season 6 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video • Instant Video HD

"Mad Men" has lost the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series the last two years, but it won that honor for a record four consecutive years before. That historic run has made a lasting impression. This series that took AMC into original programming has been cemented as television for the ages.
Who dares to dispute Rolling Stone's bold rear cover-quoted declaration that this is "the greatest TV drama of all time"? Television drama seems to consistently be getting better and this show is as good as any of its contemporaries. One can't even be concerned that it's lost its genre's highest honor twice, last year to "Homeland" and this fall to "Breaking Bad." It at least landed one of the award's six nominee slots in each of those years. Organizations tire of recognizing the same thing every year. Michael Jordan only won five MVP awards during his eleven dominant full seasons on the Chicago Bulls.

Most TV shows exhibit creative fatigue within a few seasons, as they struggle to continue to provide viewers what they like without repeating themselves. "Mad Men" isn't most TV shows, though. It benefits from residing on basic cable and therefore being able to play by its own rules: thirteen episodes per season that can run any time of the year they're ready. Created by "The Sopranos" alum Matthew Weiner, "Mad Men" has stood out for offering something different from everyone else, not having to meet weekly viewership demands, deliver a standard 22-24 episodes from fall to spring, schedule highlights timed to sweeps, rely on drawn-out teases, or resort to stunt casting. While such limitations of network television are well-known and tolerated, "Mad Men" also has avoided closely emulating the efforts of premium cable series, where there are expectations for frequent profanity, extreme violence, or regular nudity.

Instead, this series has managed to feel like an intelligent fall movie, only one that unfolds an hour at a time over several years. It's a true character study which keeps you riveted on the basis of those characters and the rich setting: a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the 1960s. Smoking and drinking are a way of life. Women and minorities are marginalized. And businessmen like Don Draper sell the American Dream, a job much bigger and yet emptier than the sum of all the confident pitches and deep-pocketed clients.

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) returns to his old womanizing ways with Sylvia Rosen (Linda Cardellini) in the sixth season of "Mad Men."

"Mad Men" is not a show that changes dramatically from one season to the next. Our focus always remains on Draper (Jon Hamm), a once reinvented and always successful ad executive. When we last saw him, he had seemed to settle down with his second wife, the young and pretty actress Megan (Jessica Parι). Season 6 returns Draper to his old lifestyle of infidelity, as he starts an affair with Sylvia (Linda Cardellini), a married woman in his building.

The series has never shunned from growth and as a result, it still chooses to follow up on focal characters that could have been written out. Don's first wife, Betty (January Jones, initially still saddled with some jowly remnants of her curious fat phase make-up), since remarried to a mayor's aide, remains present on the fringes, as the mother of their three children. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Don's loyal secretary turned respected colleague, has moved to a different agency, but we stay invested in her work away from those who groomed her, her relationship with an idealist reporter (Charlie Hofheimer) and the apartment they share in an unsafe neighborhood.

Other personalities continue to hold our attention, too. Like Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), the smug ladder-climber who gets a comeuppance for which he's long seemed overdue. There's also Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Don's white-haired, one-time mentor who doesn't seem to answer to anyone. And Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), who last season was made partner and given her own office but still feels like head secretary. Our familiarity with all these characters and their unique tricks of the trade also help the series amuse on a regular basis.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) and her new boss Ted Chaough (Kevin Rahm) come to Sterling Cooper, etc. as part of a mid-season merger. The hairline of Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) continues to recede as his marriage falls apart.

Period authenticity has always been one of the main attractions of the series. Never before has any television series gone to such great lengths to recreate an era. The efforts are worthwhile because they instantly supply social commentary and context.
"Mad Men" neither longs for the good old days when white men ruled the world nor criticizes them for their inequalities and prejudices. Instead, it uses the setting to create a complex universe full of engaging stories. It's tough to believe that Weiner was only born in the middle of 1965, for his depictions seem so precise and in line with what we know of the time.

Season 6 opens around Christmas of 1967 and proceeds to bring us through Thanksgiving 1968. The first season's setting of 1960 that seemed so distant has smoothly morphed into something resembling the 1970s and though that should entail fundamental change, the show has not lost a beat as it loosens the grip these unscrupulous execs have on the world and delves into the concerns of their marriages and families. More women are choosing professions over the housewife life, Don has an African American secretary (Teyonah Parris), and the younger generation becomes outspoken as drug use and antiwar sentiment both rise.

Weiner has already decided to make Season 7 the show's final one. Like the send-offs of "Breaking Bad", "The Sopranos", Harry Potter, and The Twilight Saga, it will be broken into two parts, the first 7-episode batch airing in 2014 and the second in 2015. Presumably, each stretch will be sold separately. In the meantime, with no date yet set for the first half to begin airing, Lionsgate brings Season 6 to DVD and Blu-ray today.

On holiday in Hawaii, Don (Jon Hamm) is asked to give away an Army soldier's bride in the Season 6 premiere. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and her boyfriend (Charlie Hofheimer) go looking for a new apartment together.

Disc 1

1-2. The Doorway (Parts 1 & 2) (1:33:00) (Originally aired April 7, 2013)
Don and Megan take a vacation in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, where Don gives away an Army soldier's bride. Betty takes interest in Sally's friend Sandy (Kerris Dorsey), a troubled aspiring musician whom she believes has joined a runaway community in the city. Peggy has to rework a Super Bowl headphones ad after a "Tonight Show" bit. Roger's mother dies. The Drapers host a New Year's party for their building neighbors, the Rosens.

3. Collaborators (47:32) (Originally aired April 14, 2013)
While Don's affair with Sylvia seems to be going just fine, Pete's gets him in trouble with his wife (Alison Brie), who asks him to move out.
A skeevy Jaguar client (returning Gary Basaraba) asks Don and company to propose a move from a national campaign to more regional ones. Megan reveals she had a miscarriage.

4. To Have and To Hold (47:38) (Originally aired April 21, 2013)
Don's agency secretly meets with a Heinz Ketchup executive (Kip Pardue), as does Peggy's agency utilizing a private personal conversation. Harry (Rich Sommer) wants to be made partner. To Don's objections, Megan agrees to love scenes as part of a promotion on her soap opera. Meanwhile, her employers want to become "friends" with Don and her. Joan's friend visits.

5. The Flood (47:27) (Originally aired April 28, 2013)
At an industry awards show, everyone learns of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an event that promotes strong reactions and troubling riots. Peggy looks for a new apartment.

Joan (Christina Hendricks) experiences pelvic pains as she shows Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) and others to their workspaces at the newly-merged agency. Season 6 is seasoned with flashbacks to Don's teenage years, growing up in a whorehouse as Dick Whitman (Brandon Killham).

Disc 2

6. For Immediate Release (47:34) (Originally aired May 5, 2013)
Sweeping change befalls Don's agency, after he loses Jaguar and Pete's awkward brothel encounter with his father-in-law loses Vicks. But not all is lost, as Roger pursues Chevrolet, which Don and Peggy's boss Ted (Kevin Rahm) have a crazy plan for landing...together.

7. Man with a Plan (47:39) (Originally aired May 12, 2013)
The merged agencies divvy up their accounts and duties, with Don and Ted feeling each other out. Pete's dementia-addled mother (Channing Chase) stays at his apartment in the city. Don takes his affair with Sylvia to weird places, as she stays in a hotel after a spat with her husband. Joan requires medical attention.

8. The Crash (47:31) (Originally aired May 19, 2013)
Don endures a stressful and disorienting three days after being injected with an energy stimulant at work to meet a deadline for Chevy. In his apartment, his kids deal with a woman calling herself "Grandma Ida" (Davenia McFadden).

9. The Better Half (47:39) (Originally aired May 26, 2013)
Don reconnects with Betty at their son's camp function. Peggy grows further concerned with the safety of her home. Megan runs into trouble at work.

Don (Jon Hamm), Roger (John Slattery), and Harry (Rich Sommer) bask in the warm glow of a California sales trip. Betty (January Jones) drives Sally (Kiernan Shipka) to the boarding school she attended for an interview and visit in "The Quality of Mercy."

Disc 3

10. A Tale of Two Cities (47:26) (Originally aired June 2, 2013)
As Don, Roger, and Harry fly to California to try to land Chevrolet, Joan and Peggy try to get Avon on their own. Also, the agency comes up with a simpler new name.

11. Favors (47:39) (Originally aired June 9, 2013)
The agency is embarrassed to realize the conflict they have by working with both Sunkist and Ocean Spray. Don tries to help Sylvia's 1-A teenaged son get out of military service. Peggy deals with a rat.

12. The Quality of Mercy (47:37) (Originally aired June 16, 2013)
Don stays home from work sick. A hunting accident leads Ken to surrender the Detroit travel duties of the Chevy account to Pete, who tries to get friendly go-getter Bob Benson (James Wolk) fired. Harry reports a large media buy from Sunkist. Sally visits a girls' boarding school to which she applies.

13. In Care Of (47:39) (Originally aired June 23, 2013)
Don announces a plan to move to California for the Sunkist account, which Ted asks to give him instead. The season ends with Don in states of professional and marital limbo.

A doctor's energy stimulant injection puts Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in a strange state as he tries to come up with big ideas quick for Chevy.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Lionsgate's Blu-ray sports terrific picture and sound. The season opens with the vibrant colors of Hawaii and, befitting the year, seems to employ more vivid hues than before. Throughout, the 1.78:1 picture is sharp, clean, and full of detail, making the period production design so very accessible and admirable. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is great, too. Dialogue drives the series and never ceases being crisp, but score and some workplace ambient noise also garner notice. In addition to the English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles nicely offered, the discs use clean burned-in subtitles to translate Megan's infrequent bit of French with her Montreal-based parents.

Disc 1's interactive "Summer of Love" gallery treats us to materials from 1968, the year during which Season 6 of "Mad Men" is primarily set. Disc 2's out of place documentary "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" celebrates psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The makers of "Mad Men" seem aware that their show is good enough that people will buy it with or without many bonus features. Season 6 is quite a bit lighter on supplements than each of its predecessors, holding just a single extra on each disc and not a single audio commentary.
That's sure to disappoint those who have enjoyed listening to the typically two commentaries attached to every previous episode. Truthfully, I imagine many found it difficult to make time to hear them.

At least what we do get is solid. Disc 1 holds the interactive gallery "Summer of Love", which has you move around a bulletin board to look at photos and watch short videos from the summer of 1968. Newsreels discuss a Detroit Love-In, a Seattle Be-In, anti-war protests, the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, the ensuing race riots, and drug usage. It's cool material that was presumably inexpensive to license and adds unneeded but welcome context to the season. Plus it's creatively laid out. This is definitely not the first valuable atypical supplement to join the show on disc.

Disc 2 adds "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" (29:36), a documentary celebrating psychedelic drug advocate Timothy Leary. Historians, authors, and Leary's official archivist recall the divisive figure who believed in the value of experimenting with LSD and other hallucinogens. We also get a number of excerpts from Leary's own speeches. Though it's a nice piece for those who care, I doubt the typical viewer will. It would have been more relevant on Season 5, which at least had characters try LSD, but it's better suited for something else altogether, since apart from a mention and some stills of "Mad Men", it seems completely irrelevant to the show.

"Recreating an Era" turns our attention to the series' award-winning production design, art direction, props, and sets. Each disc's menu takes us around three-dimensional glamorous black and white shots of the Mad Men cast.

Finally, Disc 3 contains "Recreating an Era" (26:14), a piece that looks into what goes into the series' production design, art direction, props, and sets. The individuals in charge of all four of those things speak, with specific regard to Season 6, though their words are complemented by illustrative clips from over the years. They zero in on designing and dressing the workplace, Don Draper's apartment, Pete's bachelor pad, Betty's house, Peggy's slum,
and Joan's house, pointing out furniture and other finds from Etsy and antique malls. Though a little dry for general public consumption, it's the set's most (and somewhat only) relevant supplement.

Disc One's "Also from Lionsgate" listing replays the ads which automatically launch that disc, promoting "Mad Men"'s 2014 return, "The Men Who Built America", Lionsgate-distributed television, and EPIX.

Each disc's menu cycles through black & white cast photos while music plays. Lionsgate does right as far as disc authoring goes. These discs allow you to set up to 25 bookmarks on all the episodes (the list of which show up on each disc's menu) and also give you the option to resume playback after powering down and ejecting any disc. That greatly enhances the experience.

The three discs, each adorned with images of two cast members, occupy a standard Blu-ray keepcase which holds the second platter on a swinging tray. Topped by a slipcover which reproduces its unusually inspired artwork, the case also holds an insert with episode titles, synopses and disc breakdowns as well as an ad for the show's 2014 return.

Season 6 of "Mad Men" concludes with a down Don Draper taking his three children for a Thanksgiving Day visit of his childhood home.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While the Emmy Awards may have slowed down, "Mad Men" is still unquestionably one of the most watchable and rewarding shows on television today. As someone who has difficulty finding the time and interest to invest in an hour-long series, I can wholeheartedly declare this show, even in its sixth season, worthy of such devotion. That makes this Blu-ray easy to recommend, even with fewer bonus features than usual.

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Reviewed November 5, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 AMC, Weiner Bros., and Lionsgate.
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