“Mad Men” was one of the unguilty pleasures of 2007 — written, acted and produced with a maturity and attention to detail that established the series as a dramatic force and helped establish AMC as a reputable source of original scripted programming. Seen through the eyes of the handsome but equally mysterious Don Draper (Golden Globe winner Jon Hamm), an advertising wunderkind with a beautiful wife, two children and several mistresses, the skein explores what it truly means to have it all in 1960s America.
The first season’s arrival on DVD conveniently arrives a few weeks before the July 27 second-season premiere, giving newcomers a chance to catch up. It also acts as a reservoir of additional insight for hardcore fans and offers context into creator Matthew Weiner’s world where derisive sexism was part and parcel of the workplace.
An hourlong “Establishing Mad Men” documentary tracks the production from pilot to series, while in “Scoring Mad Men,” composer David Cabonara explains how the soundtrack is built on connections between each character’s theme. The show’s historical context gets special attention with “Advertising the American Dream,” which goes light on series footage to instead showcase genuine commercials and print ads from the time period while also offering analysis of advertising’s place in American society.
Interviewees also comment on the show’s graphic portrayal of the ad biz as booze and sex-filled. As ad legend Joy Golden remarks, “There was a lot of hanky panky that went on behind closed doors. I mean, I don’t want you to think that I hanked and panked. Well, maybe a little bit. But it was always elegant.”
Hair, make-up and costume galleries found on the second disc are good ideas in theory, but the actual execution is complicated and clunky.
Commentaries are a treat — each episode has at least one, sometimes two — and while some pair-ups lack spark (Rosemary DeWitt and January Jones have little to say), Weiner’s detailed breakdown of the pilot (the script for which got him his “Sopranos” gig) is dense and engaging.
Given that 1960 is a time properly remembered through a smoky haze, newcomers to “Mad Men” might wonder if the characters are actually inhaling nasty tobacco — an issue the pilot immediately addresses when Draper puffs away while struggling to create a new ad scheme for Lucky Strike cigarettes.
DVD packaging, though, goes one step further with an innovative case resembling a Zippo lighter, the top flipping open to reveal four discs within. While it’s a design that emphasizes style over disc preservation, it ties in perfectly to the show’s commitment to authenticity above all else, including political correctness.