Mad Men

The Final Season, Part 1

 

Mad Men ~ The Final Season, Part 1

Created for television by Matthew Weiner

Written by Matthew Weiner, Erin Levy, et al

Cinematography: Chris Manley

Editing: Christopher Gay

Production Design: Dan Bishop

Art Direction: Christopher Brown & Shanna Starzyk

Set Decoration: Claudette Didul

Costumes: Katherine Jane Bryant

Sound Mixing & Editing: Peter Bentley

Music: David Carbonara

Music Supervisor: Alexandra Patsavas

Produced by Erin Levy, Jon Hamm

Directed by Scott Hornacher, Phil Abraham, et al

U.S. Air Dates: April 13 - May 25, 2014

 

Cast:

Jon Hamm as Don Draper

Elizabeth Moss as Peggy Olson

Vincent Kartheiser as Pete Campbell

John Slatterly as Roger Sterling

Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway

Jessica Paré as Megan Draper

Robert Morse as Bert Cooper

Harry Hamlin as Jim Cutler

Allan Havey as Lou Avery

Rich Sommer as Harry Crane

January Jones as Betty (Draper) Francis

Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper

Ben Feldman as Michael Ginsberg

Kevin Rahm as Ted Chaough

Aaron Staton as Ken Cosgrove

Jay R. Ferguson as Stan Rizzo

Teyonah Parris as Dawn Chambers

 

Production:

Television: AMC

Video: LionsGate

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: Dual-layer 50 GB x 2

Episode Size: avg. 9.3 GB

Total Avg Bit Rate: Moderate (ca. 25 Mbps)

Runtime: avg 47:30/episode; 336 min. total

Episodes: 7

Chapters: 7 per episode


Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1

 

Subtitles: English SDH & Spanish

 

Extras

• Trial of the Chicago 8 (pt. 1) - HD (36:10)

• Trial of the Chicago 8 (pt. 2) - HD (17:20) - Gerald Lefcourt (activist & defense attny)

• The Best Things in Life Are Free - in HD (7:50) Bert Cooper / Robert Morse

• Gay Rights – in HD (23:40)

• Gay Power – in HD (21:40)

• Technology 1969 – in HD (Interactive)

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 2

Street Date: October 21, 2014



Lionsgate Product Description:

The beginning of the end for television’s most celebrated show, Mad Men: The Final Season, Part 1 will arrive on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital) and Digital HD on October 21 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. From creator Matthew Weiner (HBO’s “The Sopranos”), the critically acclaimed show features a top-notch cast that includes Golden Globe® winner and Primetime Emmy® nominee Jon Hamm and Primetime Emmy® nominees Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, John Slattery and Robert Morse. As TV’s most talked-about drama, Mad Men has been recognized for its intelligent storylines and stellar acting, winning three consecutive Golden Globe® awards for Best Television Series - Drama and four consecutive Primetime Emmy® awards for Outstanding Drama Series. Nominated for a 2014 Primetime Emmy® for Outstanding Drama Series, Mad Men: The Final Season, Part 1 is set in the captivating world of 1960s New York and continues to follow iconic ad man Don Draper, his colleagues and his family, as viewers get a glimpse at how the renowned television series will end.


       

 

The Series: 10

The time: The 1960s. The Place: Madison Ave. The Theme: Identity.

 

The Season: 9

The year is 1969. It’s the year that followed the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the election of Richard Nixon. It’s the year of “The Summer of Love” - Woodstock, and the first landing on the moon by human Earthlings. It’s the year that The Beatles broke up; ditto The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The U.S. began drafting young men for its misadventure into Vietnam, and Charles Manson ordered the executions of wealthy innocents. Elsewhere, Dr. Denton Cooley performed the first successful artificial heart implant on a human patient.


       

 

And, it was the year of Color.  This new season is awash in it, from the color renderings of the familiar credit design and menu designs reminiscent of TV shows of the era, to the psychedelic cover art of the Lionsgate home videos. Megan now has a green telephone. Don buys her a TV console so she can watch herself in “Living Color.” Betty is even more brilliant, if such a thing is possible. Indeed, as Don gradually comes out of his self-imposed prison away from the office, the lighting scheme brightens up considerably from crushed blacks to accents of bright lollypop colors.


       


You’ll remember that Don imploded at the end of last season, telling all about his history, embarrassing both clients and the firm with the help of serious quantities of alcohol, and was ignominiously expelled from the magic kingdom of SC&P. Continuing the overarching theme of identity it seems that every character finds him or herself in the midst of a crisis - everyone save Bert Cooper, who either is comfortable in his socks or doesn’t care.


       


Between the end of last season’s finale and this season’s opener, Megan has settled into her lifestyle as an aspiring Hollywood actress and into her lovely home in Laurel Canyon. Don visits her every few weekends, keeping up appearances that he still has a job. He continues to draw a paycheck and he remains a partner, but otherwise he is quite shut out, needing to get information about the day-to-day goings on from his erstwhile secretary, Dawn, who is none too happy about the subterfuge.


       


An irascible Lou Avery (Alan Havey) has taken up residence in Don’s vacated office and runs the team with a peculiarly disinterested hand. If Lou is actually creative, he keeps his talent secret. But the big news at Sterling, Cooper & Partners is the installation of their first computer, which takes up the space of two conference rooms and necessitates extensive remodeling in the process. The art department worries about their jobs while Michael, always a little excitable, finds the intrusion conspiratorial. His usual outcries against conformity and big business are insufficient to guide him through the crisis.


       


A chance run-in with Roger results in Don’s return to the office, which looks even more foreign to him than it does to us. As assignments shake out, Dawn finds herself in a totally unexpected role in the company and Don finds himself working under Peggy, the irony of which fails to amuse anyone. Meanwhile, Megan makes it clear she’s not happy with a bi-coastal husband, especially once she learns that he had the choice of re-locating, and didn’t. Roger has his nose rubbed in the question of parenthood once again, and Bert Cooper’s role is expanded and made critical in terms of Don’s future with the company. The half-season ends in the excitement of the moon landing and new possibilities for Don and SC&P.


       


Mad Men continues its tradition of subtly layered scripts with elliptical writing whose point takes a while to sink in, oftentimes. The filmmakers waste no time in timely “product placement,” but there is a maturity that comes with six seasons of doing this sort of thing. One of the best examples comes when Michael spies Jim Cutler and Lou Avery in the computer room having what appears to Michael as a conversation they preferred to be kept secret. The camera pans slowly from Jim to Lou, just as did Kubrick between Dave and Frank in 2001: A Space Odyssey as HAL reads their lips. Not satisfied with the clever allusion to a film that saw its premiere only the year before the current action, the subtext turns out to be much more significant. If we congratulate ourselves too loudly here, we might miss the fact that in 2001 the point of view in the aforementioned scene is that of HAL, the computer who has already by this time had his psychic crisis, only intensified by the discovery that his crew mates are planning to disconnect him. I shall say no more.


       


On the other hand, Weiner and company challenge (or burden, depending on how you see it) themselves with a decision that they appear to have made early on about the original cast - and that is: to keep their story lines alive unless they are killed off in some fashion. For this reason, it seems, Don’s ex-wife, Betty, remains in the picture, though her life outside their shared children is irrelevant to the overall narrative.  Perhaps the key is really Sally, their daughter, the product of parents incapable of intimacy. Whatever Don’s story was before he swapped identities with a dead man, it is not improbable that Sally will inherit her parents’ penchant for detachment.


       

  

Image: 9/9

Mad Men has always looked vivid and lush. . . kind of Technicolor with enhanced contrast leaning to black crush, which gives way in large part once Don re-enters his life in episode two, though there still remain plenty of darkly lit scenes, as much for artistic reasons as a nod to reality. As noted above, Color is an important theme this season insofar as the art direction is concerned. Bright colors, pastels, and saturated colors abound. The offices and byways of SC&P are rich with them, especially the walls and corridors. Scenes that aren’t in shadows or at night outdoors are immersed in light and color - I felt it made for an easier watch, and certainly an invigorating one. There’s a modicum of grain in the most dimly it scenes. I found no distracting transfer anomalies or compression artifacts.


       

 

Audio & Music: 8/10

Mad Men Season 7.1 on Blu-ray comes with an uncompressed surround mix that eschews directional cues in favor of a mostly front-directed, dialogue driven soundstage, which is how it should be in a drama such as this, bringing in the surrounds mainly to achieve a subtle sense of ambiance, but nothing that brings attention to itself.


       

 

Extras: 8

In addition to  several in depth contextual bonus features, Lionsgate offers a generous supply of episode commentaries for Season 7.1 - in fact, there is one for each episode. (Take that, Season 6!) It would seem that Matt Weiner knows the end is nigh and wants to flesh out his legacy good and proper - and we applaud the move, especially as these commentaries are not mere excuses for gladhanding and slaps on the back for a job well done.


       


As for the bonus features proper, there are four big areas of interest, two of which are divided into two parts each - I’m not sure why. That minor head scratcher aside, what we have here are two documentaries totaling 53 and 45 minutes respectively. The first is an extended examination of the history and trial, along with lots of archival footage, of the Chicago 8 - political radicals Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner and Bobby Seale (whose trial was dealt with separately, making the new total of defendants, 7.) They were charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot, among other things, because of countercultural protests that took place in Chicago outside and related to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The second piece is a look at how gay rights rose from the ashes of the Prohibition Era through mid-century American life and politics.


The third segment is a brief interactive series of slides that itemize the advances in computer technology in the 1960s. The fourth segment is the only one that relates directly to the series. Titled “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” it applauds the work of Robert Morse in his characterization of Bert Cooper.


       

 

Recommendation: 10

Mad Men doesn’t create the kind of thrilling, if fantastical, suspense of a series like Breaking Bad. Instead it unfolds like George Eliot’s Middlemarch or the Barsetshire novels of Anthony Trollope – character driven, with plots for their characters to move in, to grow, and to grow on us. In this way, Mad Men has more in common with Downton Abbey than just about any other current homegrown television series. The series has garnered much deserved critical praise, a number of Emmys and a growing viewership. By the start of Season 7, it had doubled its average viewership for Seasons 1-3. As of this date, their is no date set for the home video of the second and final segment of the series.

 

Fans of the series, even if you’ve already watched it already on broadcast, will not be disappointed with the Blu-ray, inky shadows and thin bonus features notwithstanding. Repeated viewings come with the territory here. Warmly Recommended.


       

 


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

October 16, 2014


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