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Update (1/11/09): MAD MEN just won the Golden Globe for the second straight year for Best Drama. Well deserved.

Frankly, I'm pretty despondent about the future of quality TV on the major four networks. The recent cancellation by ABC of the breathtakingly brilliant PUSHING DAISIES was the first major blow. When a show this great can get cancelled for weak (not genuinely bad, merely weak) ratings, you feel that something has gone wrong with commercial television. For one thing, TV history is resplendent with shows that started off weakly and then succeeded a couple of years into their run. THE X-FILES, SEINFELD, THE OFFICE, and 30 ROCK all started off with weak ratings, only to build an audience later. The second horrific piece of news undermining my confidence in commercial TV was NBC's announcement that starting next year Jay Leno will get FIVE HOURS (!) of prime time for a more politically oriented version of his talk show. First, why would we want Leno when we already have Stewart and Colbert? Second, this means losing FIVE HOURS (!!!!) of scripted programming on NBC each week. This is a recipe for disaster. And an act of despair. NBC clearly doesn't think it can produce 15 hours of quality TV a week, so it is trying to produce only 10 and then take the super cheap option with Leno. NBC, I have news for you: you get what you pay for.

MAD MEN could well be the model for successful quality TV shows in the future. Although it gets very low ratings, on AMC it is safe from cancellation because of its widespread critical acclaim. More and more, niche cable networks seem to be the place where quality TV series manage to thrive and avoid the constant threat of cancellation. AMC in fact has two superb series, MAD MEN and the very promising BREAKING BAD (which was seriously truncated by the writers' strike last year) and they've announced a new Sci-fi series based upon Kim Stanley Robinson's acclaimed Mars trilogy, about the settling of colonies on Mars. The series is taking its title from the first of Robinson's novels, RED MARS.

So, while I'm on the verge of giving up on ABC, NBC, and FOX (though under new head of programming Kevin Reilly its shows have become more interesting and he has so far resisted to kill shows prematurely as his predecessors did). CBS I gave up on years ago, since the network seems content to churn out an endless number of bland police procedurals. AMC, F/X, Showtime, HBO, ABC Family, the Sci Fi Channel, and similar networks may be where we all go in the future for the best shows.

MAD MEN became the first show not on one of the big four networks or HBO to win the Emmy for Best Drama this past summer. It will almost certainly win again this coming summer, since Season Two was even better than Season One. Moreover, during Season Two the show started building a buzz, culminating with a great appearance by Jon Hamm on SNL, including a skit with some of his MAD MEN guest stars. The show became part of our cultural sensibility, inspiring magazine photo spreads. I still think the show is one that people tend to know about rather than know. Thankfully people who do not have access to AMC can catch up on DVD (I watch it as it comes out, but my cable company shows AMC in low-def rather than high-def, so much of the show's physical beauty can only be recaptured on DVD or Blu-ray).

As good as the show was in Season Two, the sophomore season was even more brilliant. In my review of Season One, I mentioned that Jon Hamm's character Don Draper exemplifies Thoreau's statement that most people live "lives of quiet desperation." In Season Two, Hamm and his carefully constructed existence gradually begins coming apart at the seams. His Stepford Wife Betty begins to come apart at more than the seams. I really enjoyed January Jones in Season One, but primarily she was a beautiful manikin. In Season Two the human being inside is psychically rebelling against the roles she is being forced to play and the result is someone who is on the verge of collapse. One scene in particular was compelling. As she prepares for a dinner party she notices that one of the dining room chairs is wobbly. Moving the chair back and forth gives way to anger, as she displaces the stress of her life onto the chair and she begins to destroy and obliterate it. Indeed, the many moments where Betty loses control are among the season's finest.

January Jones's amazing performance as Betty gets a bit less acclaim than she deserves in part because of Elizabeth Moss's job as Peggy Olson. I think many people watching MAD MEN began in Season Two to realize that Peggy, as much as Don Draper, was central to the meaning of the show. I have very little evidence for this, but I believe that the show will end with Peggy Olson heading Sterling Cooper. The show started with her first day as an employee of the company, working as Don Draper's secretary. We've seen her become a successful copywriter for the company and at the end of Season Two even has the office next to Don's. I believe that a logical ending of the series, mapping al the changes that took place in national sensibilities in the sixties, would be for Peggy to become head of the company that at the start of the year was so completely male dominated. This does not mean, however, that Peggy's personal life has kept pace with her professional life. In fact, Peggy remains a bit of a mess. The season did end, however, with perhaps the best scene in the entire run of the show so far. Peter tells Peggy that he hates his marriage and that he loves her. Shockingly, Peggy tells him that she had had his baby and given it away. My feeling was that in telling Peter she was not trying to be cruel so much as she was trying to definitively close the door on one part of her life and open another. Peggy is one of the most wonderfully complex characters on TV. While Don Draper has artfully created a public self, Peggy has not. She has primarily resisted the roles that people have tried to provide for her. She has not yet become her own person, but you feel that she might. I also find her and Don Draper's relationship to be delightful. They are not close friends or perhaps not even friends. But a flashback in which Don visits her in the hospital when she is suffering from post-partum depression (intensified by the fact that she didn't even know she was pregnant) and essentially orders her to get her act together and get out of the hospital. Don is not always presented as a good person, but he has his moments, and the tough love he gives Peggy at the moment helps her turn her life around.

I mention Don, Betty, and Peggy, but one of the delights of MAD MEN is the very deep cast of characters. Joan Holloway (played by the beautiful Christina Hendricks) has a new fiancé, but it doesn't appear to be the healthiest of relationships (one of the most shocking moments in Season Two occurs when he rapes her in Sterling Cooper offices). The deeply closeted Salvatore starts gradually to confront his own sexuality and his attraction to men, including a coworker, while his "beard" marriage struggles. Roger Sterling struggles to overcome health problems in order to marry a much, much younger woman.

But at the heart of the show Don Draper remains the dominant character. Jon Hamm's performance as Don has been brilliant from the very beginning. On "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" series creator Matthew Weiner explained that Hamm instantly stood out in auditions, but the network wanted an established actor in the role. They were adamant that they did not want an unknown actor in the show's central role. Weiner finally issued an ultimatum, that without Jon Hamm as Don Draper, he was unwilling to proceed with the series. Weiner's wisdom in casting Hamm has been proven many times over. It is almost impossible to imagine this show without him. Don is one of the most artificial and complex characters in the history of TV. Just as he creates ad campaigns, so he has created the persona Don Draper. Season Two shows Draper having serious doubts about whether he wants to persist in playing the character he has created for himself.

I read a bit over a year ago that the plan for the show was to move a couple of years into the future with each ensuing season. If so, Season Three should pick up sometime past the Kennedy assassination, perhaps with the early part of the Vietnam War. Clearly the show intends to reflect the enormous social upheaval that took place in the decade. It also represents many of the now almost comic aspects of the pre-sixties world. For instance, in one scene Don, Betty, and their kids are enjoying a picnic on a blanket in a lovely country locale. As they finish, Don stands up and shakes all of their trash off the blanket and onto the ground. This was very definitely before Lady Bird Johnson's attempt to beautify America by picking up trash. I'm sure that Season Three will show many new changes.

This is easily one of the 3 or 4 best shows on TV. I put it up there with my own favorites PUSHING DAISIES, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and LOST. Notice that of those shows PUSHING DAISIES was on ABC and has been cancelled, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was on DirecTV in the fall and will be on NBC in the winter and spring, and LOST begins its penultimate season on ABC. I think in the future fewer and fewer of my favorite shows will be originating on the big four. AMC, with MAD MEN leading the way, is one of the last, best hopes for television
99 comments|107 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The second season of this AMC series is in story/character sense a lot like the second season of Sopranos was for itself. This season spends it's thirteen episodes expanding upon what has already been established at the same time as it balances sudden new story devices and taking things to their next logical (or sometimes illiogical based on the character) extensions. I found it very enjoyable and while it may not be a full reflection of life in the sixies it truly shows the aspects that it aspires to quite well and shows flawed characters who are full of unfortunate parallels with people in the world today.

This is a show that is telling a specific story while exploring specific character's in an attempt to disect certain issues within our world today. I look at this show as a reflection of recent times, the issue of never being happy with what you have and looking for happiness in the wrong places and feeling lost and unsure of your place in the world is something I see a lot of people dealing with in the world around me. The setting of the sixties is almost the perfect era to pair with such seemingly lost and depressed character's because of it's ironic nature at the same time as the literal sense of reinvention and change that occured in that time.

I feel the first season did a fantastic job of setting up this series. The second season acheived it's goal of expanding, elaborating and extending upon the world and character's we were introduced to. The third season is set up, like most shows, to take the best from the first and second seasons and finally show us a complete vision of the show without being tied down by these mandatory practices.

The second season contains the following 13 Episodes:

1 For Those Who Think Young
2 Flight 1
3 The Benefactor
4 Three Sundays
5 The New Girl
6 Maidenform
7 The Gold Violin
8 A Night to Remember
9 Sixth Month Leave
10 The Inheritance
11 The Jet Set
12 The Mountain King
13 Meditations in an Emergency

This DVD release will be a 4-disc set presented in Anamorphic Widescreen Video, English Dolby 5.1 Audio, with Subtitles in English & Spanish along with closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

The Packaging for both the DVD and Blu-Ray is described as being "available as a limited-edition sleek shirt box with see through window".

Special Features Announced So Far Include:

-Audio Commentaries With Cast & Crew on all 13 Episodes
-"Birth Of An Independent Woman Parts 1 & 2" - Featurette examining the rise of female independence in the 60's.
-"An Era Of Style" - Featurette exploring the fashion of the 1960's and it's lasting influence on designer's today.
-"Time Capsule" - Interactive featurettes paying homage to historic events on the 1960's and the daring generation that lived through them.

I will update my review when/if any more special features or information are given closer to July, when this will be released. I will also update my review when I have actually seen the special features on the set, but for now I have seen these episodes and think there is a lot to be found here for those interested and on top of that this show looks beautiful. Thanks For Your Time.

*Rather than further clutter up this review page I have included a list of short non spoiler giving episode descriptions in my comments section for those interested.
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on December 12, 2009
I started watching Mad men during its second season after hearing raves about it from friends and relatives. I am in my seventies and can say without equivocation that this is the best tv series ever. I do not let any show become a must-see, except perhaps Masterpiece Theater. However I eagerly awaited Sunday evenings and was sorry to see season three end. This is the first series I have ever purchased and enjoy watching it. The acting is superb and the writing is beyond excellent.The scenes and depiction of the fifties and sixties is so true. As a college student in the late fifties on the east coast, I know those places, attitudes and yes even the clothes. So authentic. The price at Amazon was reasonable. If you want good theatre, get this series. Nostalgia, drama, even humor, Kudos to Matthew Weiner et all. Award worthy.
0Comment|9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Frankly, I'm pretty despondent about the future of quality TV on the major four networks. The recent cancellation by ABC of the breathtakingly brilliant PUSHING DAISIES was the first major blow. When a show this great can get cancelled for weak (not genuinely bad, merely weak) ratings, you feel that something has gone wrong with commercial television. For one thing, TV history is resplendent with shows that started off weakly and then succeeded a couple of years into their run. THE X-FILES, SEINFELD, THE OFFICE, and 30 ROCK all started off with weak ratings, only to build an audience later. The second horrific piece of news undermining my confidence in commercial TV was NBC's announcement that starting next year Jay Leno will get FIVE HOURS (!) of prime time for a more politically oriented version of his talk show. First, why would we want Leno when we already have Stewart and Colbert? Second, this means losing FIVE HOURS (!!!!) of scripted programming on NBC each week. This is a recipe for disaster. And an act of despair. NBC clearly doesn't think it can produce 15 hours of quality TV a week, so it is trying to produce only 10 and then take the super cheap option with Leno. NBC, I have news for you: you get what you pay for.

MAD MEN could well be the model for successful quality TV shows in the future. Although it gets very low ratings, on AMC it is safe from cancellation because of its widespread critical acclaim. More and more, niche cable networks seem to be the place where quality TV series manage to thrive and avoid the constant threat of cancellation. AMC in fact has two superb series, MAD MEN and the very promising BREAKING BAD (which was seriously truncated by the writers' strike last year) and they've announced a new Sci-fi series based upon Kim Stanley Robinson's acclaimed Mars trilogy, about the settling of colonies on Mars. The series is taking its title from the first of Robinson's novels, RED MARS.

So, while I'm on the verge of giving up on ABC, NBC, and FOX (though under new head of programming Kevin Reilly its shows have become more interesting and he has so far resisted to kill shows prematurely as his predecessors did). CBS I gave up on years ago, since the network seems content to churn out an endless number of bland police procedurals. AMC, F/X, Showtime, HBO, ABC Family, the Sci Fi Channel, and similar networks may be where we all go in the future for the best shows.

MAD MEN became the first show not on one of the big four networks or HBO to win the Emmy for Best Drama this past summer. It will almost certainly win again this coming summer, since Season Two was even better than Season One. Moreover, during Season Two the show started building a buzz, culminating with a great appearance by Jon Hamm on SNL, including a skit with some of his MAD MEN guest stars. The show became part of our cultural sensibility, inspiring magazine photo spreads. I still think the show is one that people tend to know about rather than know. Thankfully people who do not have access to AMC can catch up on DVD (I watch it as it comes out, but my cable company shows AMC in low-def rather than high-def, so much of the show's physical beauty can only be recaptured on DVD or Blu-ray).

As good as the show was in Season Two, the sophomore season was even more brilliant. In my review of Season One, I mentioned that Jon Hamm's character Don Draper exemplifies Thoreau's statement that most people live "lives of quiet desperation." In Season Two, Hamm and his carefully constructed existence gradually begins coming apart at the seams. His Stepford Wife Betty begins to come apart at more than the seams. I really enjoyed January Jones in Season One, but primarily she was a beautiful manikin. In Season Two the human being inside is psychically rebelling against the roles she is being forced to play and the result is someone who is on the verge of collapse. One scene in particular was compelling. As she prepares for a dinner party she notices that one of the dining room chairs is wobbly. Moving the chair back and forth gives way to anger, as she displaces the stress of her life onto the chair and she begins to destroy and obliterate it. Indeed, the many moments where Betty loses control are among the season's finest.

January Jones's amazing performance as Betty gets a bit less acclaim than she deserves in part because of Elizabeth Moss's job as Peggy Olson. I think many people watching MAD MEN began in Season Two to realize that Peggy, as much as Don Draper, was central to the meaning of the show. I have very little evidence for this, but I believe that the show will end with Peggy Olson heading Sterling Cooper. The show started with her first day as an employee of the company, working as Don Draper's secretary. We've seen her become a successful copywriter for the company and at the end of Season Two even has the office next to Don's. I believe that a logical ending of the series, mapping al the changes that took place in national sensibilities in the sixties, would be for Peggy to become head of the company that at the start of the year was so completely male dominated. This does not mean, however, that Peggy's personal life has kept pace with her professional life. In fact, Peggy remains a bit of a mess. The season did end, however, with perhaps the best scene in the entire run of the show so far. Peter tells Peggy that he hates his marriage and that he loves her. Shockingly, Peggy tells him that she had had his baby and given it away. My feeling was that in telling Peter she was not trying to be cruel so much as she was trying to definitively close the door on one part of her life and open another. Peggy is one of the most wonderfully complex characters on TV. While Don Draper has artfully created a public self, Peggy has not. She has primarily resisted the roles that people have tried to provide for her. She has not yet become her own person, but you feel that she might. I also find her and Don Draper's relationship to be delightful. They are not close friends or perhaps not even friends. But a flashback in which Don visits her in the hospital when she is suffering from post-partum depression (intensified by the fact that she didn't even know she was pregnant) and essentially orders her to get her act together and get out of the hospital. Don is not always presented as a good person, but he has his moments, and the tough love he gives Peggy at the moment helps her turn her life around.

I mention Don, Betty, and Peggy, but one of the delights of MAD MEN is the very deep cast of characters. Joan Holloway (played by the beautiful Christina Hendricks) has a new fiancé, but it doesn't appear to be the healthiest of relationships (one of the most shocking moments in Season Two occurs when he rapes her in Sterling Cooper offices). The deeply closeted Salvatore starts gradually to confront his own sexuality and his attraction to men, including a coworker, while his "beard" marriage struggles. Roger Sterling struggles to overcome health problems in order to marry a much, much younger woman.

But at the heart of the show Don Draper remains the dominant character. Jon Hamm's performance as Don has been brilliant from the very beginning. On "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" series creator Matthew Weiner explained that Hamm instantly stood out in auditions, but the network wanted an established actor in the role. They were adamant that they did not want an unknown actor in the show's central role. Weiner finally issued an ultimatum, that without Jon Hamm as Don Draper, he was unwilling to proceed with the series. Weiner's wisdom in casting Hamm has been proven many times over. It is almost impossible to imagine this show without him. Don is one of the most artificial and complex characters in the history of TV. Just as he creates ad campaigns, so he has created the persona Don Draper. Season Two shows Draper having serious doubts about whether he wants to persist in playing the character he has created for himself.

I read a bit over a year ago that the plan for the show was to move a couple of years into the future with each ensuing season. If so, Season Three should pick up sometime past the Kennedy assassination, perhaps with the early part of the Vietnam War. Clearly the show intends to reflect the enormous social upheaval that took place in the decade. It also represents many of the now almost comic aspects of the pre-sixties world. For instance, in one scene Don, Betty, and their kids are enjoying a picnic on a blanket in a lovely country locale. As they finish, Don stands up and shakes all of their trash off the blanket and onto the ground. This was very definitely before Lady Bird Johnson's attempt to beautify America by picking up trash. I'm sure that Season Three will show many new changes.

This is easily one of the 3 or 4 best shows on TV. I put it up there with my own favorites PUSHING DAISIES, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and LOST. Notice that of those shows PUSHING DAISIES was on ABC and has been cancelled, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was on DirecTV in the fall and will be on NBC in the winter and spring, and LOST begins its penultimate season on ABC. I think in the future fewer and fewer of my favorite shows will be originating on the big four. AMC, with MAD MEN leading the way, is one of the last, best hopes for television.
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on August 8, 2013
I'm on the tail end of Season Two and my wife and I have not been disappointed. The show picks up where it left off. Peggy has had her child, and you will be surprised how she deals with it. Is Don Draper still womanizing after his regret for not joining his family for Thanksgiving? I'm not going to spoil it for you. The people in the office still try and one-up each other, vying for attention and a hefty bonus.
The story lines are good (the writing has never been better), and the stories are vividly real. This upper-class society also hints at the tough-as-nails one must be to fit in with this society, and still holds true today. One of the more impactful part of this show is how well everyone dresses in the workplace. I remember the day when people traveled on planes wearing suits and dresses. Gone are those days. The fashion of the 60s was never classier!
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on October 24, 2013
I'm starting to relate this series to LOST: the first season had a few whizbang revelations, a few shockers, a few cliffhangers, and tons of polarizing stylistic social commentary... season two builds upon that, but rather than forcing these aspects down your throat, we are now following Don and crew along their merry little path. The shockers (are they supposed to be shockers?) don't have the same impact as in the first season; in fact, as the finale drew to a close, I simply acknowledged it and moved on to buying season three.

Don't get me wrong: it's a quality show, and very engaging. The writing and the characters are slick -- in fact, I'm sure a portion of the *lack* of shock is that I am getting such a feel for the characters that 'what happens next' feels very organic, rather than forced-for-shock-value.

On another note: one of the things I like best from the first season to second, is that some of the sexism has mellowed out a bit. I'm not saying that I want to close my eyes to how bad it may or may not have been... but from an entertainment perspective, I started hating EVERYBODY because they're just all bad people. Season two brings it down to a level where I can like/dislike people without having my face ground into it, and I'm curious to see what happens next!

O, and be sure to peruse the extras! They're not earth-shattering, but they're interesting. They are imminently shareable if one person can watch the video while the other is busy.
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on April 12, 2013
Mad Men Season 2 continues the excellent story-telling and acting from Season 1. However, a few episodes in the middle of the season seemed to drag or weren't as tightly written as Season 1's episode. The show manages to pick itself back up in the last few episodes for a very bombastic and fitting finish.
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on February 22, 2015
I got hooked on Mad Men at the end of its run and was intrigued by it; thus I decided to watch this series in its entiriety. All I can say is BORING! Each episode seems to be the same soap opera format - who is sleeping with who, far too much alcohol consumption, and cigarett smoking that i swear could give someone emphazema just from watching this series. The dialogue is predictable and repetitious....I grew up in the 60's and could relate to the clothes and hairstyles - even the behavior to a point ... but, like everything else produced in Hollywood just more of the same.
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on March 27, 2015
I stayed away from this show. The 60's? really?? When we were invisible, ignored or worse? yet, I caught it Sunday mornings in rerun on AMC and fell in love. At 66, I remember all of this. The misogynists, bigots, racists(black face, are you kidding me?), etc. In light of the Netanyahu visit, it brings back into focus American's true feelings about Jews. I love Don. womanizer, yes but does not play into the above I listed. He does not join in and when he wanted to walk out on Roger and his banjo show, I relay loved him. His former wife, shallow, empty headed ditz whose only reason for a divorce is actually, 'what would the neighbors say, if they found out who he really is I married. Her new husband is beginning to see the light and I feel for Sally. I love Joan and boy can she strut as we did during that time in our form fitting, posture making foundation garments. Peggy is really a head of her time but refuses to accept that, good for her and good for Don who does not coddle her. The smoking is normal for the time. Womanizing is on par. Drinking, oh, my yes. Liquid lunches were the norm of the day. My former boss kept his Wild Turkey on hand. We were still going out for lunch and after lunch into the 90's. Miss those days. I am on season 4. Trying to catch up before the 7 episode finale.
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on May 12, 2016
Had my Thyroid removed Nov 2015. some reason I started getting bleeding bladder infections every 5 weeks.In all my life I've never had one ever till I had a thyroidectomy. So after missed work 3 separate times, antibiotics ,Co pays Dr appts and that horrible burning feeling. My aunt suggested cranberries as my uncle who had lost his parathyroid glands had the same issue.Ive been on them 2 months and no more UTI.What a blessing to feel better again
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