Customer Reviews: Mad Men: Season 4
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on October 13, 2010
When I think about Season 4, one word comes to mind -- "dark". This is the season of Don's discontent -- indeed, his comeuppance, if you will -- and as the season opens we find him living in a seedy Greenwich Village apartment, where his rendevous with the ladies end all too often in rebuffs rather than ravishings. On the work front, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce has all the trappings of success. They have nice offices, a corral of secretaries, and a big client list. Don is being interviewed by a magazine asking the question "Who is Don Draper?" and further on into the season, we see him accepting a Cleo for his talents. The only problem is, he's drunk when he's accepting it. In fact, he's drunk most of the time. Dead drunk, and his decisions and fine-honed genius with words suffer for it.

Of course, being Don, he looks good. Hard to believe a man can drink that much and still not show the wages of sin. But as the season progresses, we see him losing his grip more and more, on the business as well as the personal front. He blows up at clients, neglects his children, and uses his women to get what he thinks he wants. At the same time, he is watching himself, from a distance, deconstruct. He starts keeping a journal and swims every day to clear his mind. You keep thinking he's going to get a grip on it. He has to. He's Don Draper.

The supporting staff is suffering too, all the with exception of Peggy, who seems to have really come into her own this season. She is confident, perky, and looks great. She's even dressing the part. Joan Holloway is given more to do this season, thankfully, and her character only gets more intriguing. There's really no telling what Joan can pull off, because no matter what happens to her, she keeps on going. As for Betty Draper, she isn't present too often, but when she is, she is still very much the Mom you love to hate, and she doesn't seem to have learned a thing.

I can't reveal too much more without spoiling the season. In fact, I probably should have put spoiler alerts in the beginning of this, but I don't think I've ruined anything for anybody. This is great stuff, amazing stuff for television, and no matter how painful the journey, you've just got to watch Season Four. All of it.
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The excellence continues with this fourth season of MAD MEN. Matthew Weiner, its creator, was one of the writers on the SOPRANOS. He hovers over every detail of MAD MEN, getting it absolutely right, just as creator David Chase did for the SOPRANOS. The first choice he made was absolutely insisting that Jon Hamm had to play the lead. Everyone thought Weiner was crazy insisting on an unknown. Result? Jon Hamm is now a major tv star and probably going to be a major star period. Next bit of historical marvel was that HBO turned this show down so that Weiner took it to an upstart cable channel, AMC, and ended up putting AMC on the map. For those of you who don't know it, this show IS Weiner and this was nowhere more evident than at the 2010 Emmy Awards show where he walked up to the stage to receive Emmy after Emmy including the best drama show one, the big one. I am dwelling on this point because often viewers do not realize that it is one person off camera who is making the whole thing happen. That is certainly the case here.

Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) continues to be the fulcrum for the show; everything pivots around him. However, it is a very rich band of characters indeed who do that pivoting. In season four, everyone is coming into his or her own, whether for good or ill. Draper himself goes through a huge melting down crisis post divorce, flailing around now that what little identity he had seems gone. His entire identity now comes down to his job, which is finding a way to brilliantly project falsity, which is a metaphor for his entire life.

Betty, his ex, is becoming more of what she has been in the prior three seasons. More brittle, more vicious, more intent on achieving her ever elusive goal of perfection. This becomes so paramount that one scarcely notices her Grace Kelly like appearance anymore. Her new husband belatedly realizes what a morass he has gotten himself into by marrying her. Her relationship with Sally becomes one of the best of the show. There is a boiling point coming between the two of them which I am awaiting more eagerly than any other plot development,

Don Draper's secretary also becomes a pivotal force. For half of the show it is an old battleaxe who is just fantastic and then we get a very attractive, very maternal young French Canadian woman. As the show gathers steam towards its end, it becomes apparent that this is a very important character to watch.

Peggy and Joan also remain big characters. Rounding them out as the women of the mid 60s in the work force, is a woman who is the harbinger of things to come. She has her doctorate in psychology and is using it to measure and predict consumer acts in the advertising world. She begins dating Don and Peggy sees her as a role model for herself, a woman much further up in the business world model. Joan is still mired in the head secretarial world and also is stuck with unfinished business with her major weasel of a boss, Roger Sterling.

Don Draper's nemesis Peter becomes no longer his nemesis but now a comrade in arms. Where once these two were at odds, they now need one another, more than even they realize as Roger Sterling gives them only half the tale of a major crisis. Pete Campbell has changed a great deal as a character and is now a force for stability that once seemed impossible.

The only bad thing about season four is that it ended. For those of us who are in its thrall, that we have to wait until next summer to delve into season five, is a very sad state of affairs indeed.

Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
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Some viewers were surprised by some of the twists in this season's MAD MEN. Having grown up in Don Draper's 1960s era, I think his character is utterly consistent with his time and place in America. Draper often tries but there is only so much he can overcome. He's creative and talented. He can be audacious in his ideas and his work. However, he is always a prisoner of his past and forever on the run from it. Hence, I am not surprised that his two closest people at the end of this season are women who appeal to the feminine side of his own creative nature. That one is superbly maternal would be an incredible draw to someone with his childhood always dragging along behind him. The other, Peggy, is what is best about himself, unaccompanied by the worst of himself.

I was very interested to also see how thin things are wearing between Betty and her new husband. Increasingly, he finds her doing one vicious or despicable thing after another. This brittleness in her nature is also becoming more and more apparent in her every scene. I wonder if this guy can survive another five years with her.

I also think Sally is becoming a major character and I can hardly wait until next season to see if I am right. Sally did well in her therapy with the psychiatrist but, predictably, Betty refused treatment for herself when the psychiatrist suggested it. I am just as interested in seeing the fireworks with Sally and Betty next season as I am anything else.

Also, that weasel Roger Sterling has some big surprises coming his way. I see fireworks in his future too.

In conclusion, sigh, I can't believe I have to wait a year for season five!

This show won best Emmy drama in 2010 and nothing else was even close in competition to it.
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Matthew Weiner is the creator and writer of this show. He oversees every aspect of it, from having personally found Jon Hamm (Don Draper) to every piece of memorabilia used on the show. When Don's kids are watching tv, it was as if I were a kid again watching those shows and on that kind of early tv (which looks very strange nowadays). There are two aspects to the opening season: the new ad agency painfully finding its niche AND Betty and Don in their new personal lives. They are equally fascinating with perhaps Thanksgiving Dinner at Betty's new mother-in-law's table the best scene of the first episode. I have seen Jon and January (Don and Betty) on other tv shows and you would be hard pressed to tell that they are even the same people. Physically they look very different, which again shows Weiner paying obsessive attention to detail in recreating looks which resonate with 1960s icons. I don't want to ruin this for everyone by saying more. Let's just conclude with the observation that the show is perfection and a must seel.
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VINE VOICEon May 16, 2011
The fourth season of MAD MEN, the best American dramatic television show of the last decade, begins with Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his ex-wife Betty (January Jones) both allowed what seems to be a fresh start: newly divorced from Don, Betty has married the handsome politico Henry Francis, while Don has started a new upstart advertising firm headquartered in the Time-Life Building with his old bosses at Sterling-Cooper. Yet neither Betty nor Don finds themselves able this season to make the break with the past they might have hoped: Betty insists on keeping her children in the old home in Ossining, while Don's shame over his divorce brings him further and further down as he drinks more and more heavily, as his new firm struggles to find its feet.

MAD MEN is so much better written (and filmed, and acted, and designed) than other American television shows today that it seems almost wrong to complain, but even so the fourth has been the weakest of the seasons so far. Individually some of the episodes are absolutely first-rate (particularly "the Rejected," a superb episode focusing on the aftermath of Don's drunken amorous tumble with one of his secretaries), the characters' cynicism and sourness begins to wear a bit, particularly in the case of Betty Draper Francis, whom series creator Matthew Weiner seems to have it in for. Even if Betty's constant bullying fights with her daughter Sally (the excellent child actor Kiernan Shipka) are realistic, they wear out their welcome pretty much, as does Don's constant nastiness towards his creative staff at the new firm. The introduction this season of two sunny major new characters, a research specialist (the warm and intensely likable Cara Buono) and a beautiful French-Canadian secretary (Jessica Pare), is a tremendous help, but even so you can't help hoping Weiner decides to take the character of Betty in an entirely new direction because it seems to be bringing the whole series down (and January Jones's one-note acting in the role isn't much help).

The DVD set is perhaps the most horribly designed of all the series' badly designed DVD sets (it's very difficult to reassemble after you've opened it up, and the plastic cases the DVDs snap into keep coming ungummed). It comes with some fine features including a study of bourgeois divorce in America in the 1960s; there's lots of commentary, too, although be warned that when Matt Weiner is joined by his directors and editors and advisers he almost completely drowns them out with his own ideas, and they are of course too cowed for the most part to get a word in edgewise. (Fortunately, he has much intelligent to say.) One of the nicest surprises of this set is that John Slattery's commentary for the episodes he directs is much more thoughtful and sober than his wearying fratboyish commentary turns as an actor in other seasons.
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Most other reviewers have picked up on the fact that is probably the Best Season so far in a series that has been superlative from the start. And while "Mad Men" has been accused of being too detached in One, Two and Three (all style and no substance) - this Season has seen the hugely watchable cast and their slowly fleshed-out characters all get to really shine. The writing is brilliant, it's very funny, it's effortlessly chic and well dressed - but it's also very poignant and touching too. It's a job well done. But I'd like to talk more about the PICTURE QUALITY...

Filmed entirely on 35mm stock (as HIGH DEF as it gets) - "Mad Men Season Four" has picture quality that rivals benchmark stuff like "Band Of Brothers" and "The Pacific". No episode is ever less than beautiful and at times - absolutely breathtaking. Episode 7 is a good example - called "The Suitcase" (a Samsonite advert campaign dominates the program), it's where Don and Peggy get really close and Don's drinking is really getting out of hand. There are scenes in it when your jaw drops to the floor at the clarity. You notice the luminescent Sixties glow of garish ashtrays on tables, the old labels on bottles of Canadian Club, the shape and colour textures of boxes of tissues on toilet cisterns, the speckled weave of finely tailored suits - the detail is awesome.

There's also some great extras - one in particular about the advert campaign for the Ford "Mustang" car which is pure Don Draper.

Our home has taken the plunge and bought all 4 Seasons on BLU RAY rather than DVD - and I have to say they're keepers.

"Mad Men" may be cheaper on DVD - but don't be tempted - BLU RAY is the only way to see this exceptionally classy TV show.
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on January 17, 2011
While I cannot rate the packaging/full product itself (though if it is anything like its predecessors, I can at least say it will be good), I can say that this is undoubtedly the best season of Mad Men yet. This season is the most enticing from its queezy beginning, to an earth-shattering end. You will see most complex character development in this seasons then others and bigger dilemmas, dramas and setbacks...this is a must have for Mad Men lovers, and a must see willing to give Mad Men a second (or fourth) chance
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on April 15, 2011
This is a great show, we all know that, no point going on about it.

This review will confine itself to the Blu-Rays. Sadly, there is an audio defect on Disc 1, Episode 5.

At 20:30-20:54, as Sally gets brought home from a sleepover, the dialogue suddenly jumps from the center speaker to the rear speakers for about thirty seconds. It's jarring and needs to be fixed. I've chatted with a number of other people online who all have the same issue, it's a defect in the masters, not my individual disc.

People who don't use 5.1 sound systems may not notice this, but anyone who does will be unhappy.

No point returning your disc to Amazon, they're all like this. Here's hoping Lionsgate corrects the error.
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It is a testament to the actors and writers of this series that it can survive with not even one likable person in any of the leading characters. Season 4 even underlines, italicizes & bold fonts the "unlikable" premise. Of course this makes the series even more addictive; like watching a train wreck. The continuity in presenting the 60's chronology is so dead on that it looks like it followed the day to day work life of my friends & me. I see this show and question why I didn't just punch my boss in the nose - he certainly deserved it. But we didn't, god help us, we just didn't.

Season 4 is the best season yet but please buy them all if you haven't been following this series.
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on July 22, 2015
There are so many ideas on managing clients and staff available in this series. As an editor for a technical journal, I think I'll extract a few for my column.

I especially liked the episode where Draper threw out Jansen, a client who wanted to sell bikinis but not show skin. Don called them prudes and idiots! I wish more engineering firms understood that the client-firm relationship is very delicate: it requires patience and honesty on both sides. Many a time, I have wanted to fire the client; instead, we build the process and it was either a nightmare of corrections or a product that limped out the door.

As drama, the series is excellent. Draper and company could have been my father and grandfather. These were tough men who didn't talk about their feelings, at least not in public. It was nobody's business.

Season 4 starts up where Season 3 left off. The only Season that is a little iffy is Season 1, in which the actors were still exploring their roles. We saw the same thing in Breaking Bad and House. By Season 2 Mad Men had a clear message and direction.

You should stack Mad Men in the shelf with Breaking Bad and House, MD and entertain yourself and your family for decades to come.

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