Mad Men: Season 3
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Returning for its third season, the two-time Golden Globe®-winning series for Best TV Drama bursts with one scandalous surprise after another. Jon Hamm and the rest of the award-winning ensemble continue to captivate us as they contend with a world on the brink. Welcome to “Mad Men” - a shocking portrait of a time that was anything but innocent. Nothing is as sexy. Nothing is as provocative. Nothing is as it seems. “Mad Men": Where the Truth Lies.
Everything about Mad Men is stylish, even when it's all falling apart. And in season 3 of this Emmy-winning drama, many things fall apart--marriages, childhood, even the ad agency itself--but the unspoolings play out delicately and tragically, making for utterly compelling television. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) appears to dedicate himself to being a devoted family man, with the impending birth of his third child with Betty (January Jones), but the premiere episode, "Out of Town," has him right back to his philandering ways. While the Drapers do enjoy a romantic interlude during a business trip to Italy that makes you wish those darn kids could just work it out, the writing's on the wall that this marriage is sputtering out. Adding to the complication is Betty's discovery of Don's identity-switching past, her own dalliance with a politician, and their oldest child Sally's growing petulance as she observes her world crumbling around her (9-year-old Kiernan Shipka is a revelation). Meanwhile, the Brits infiltrate Sterling Cooper after a merger, leaving Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) and Ken (Aaron Staton) competing for the same job; Conrad Hilton (Chelcie Ross) brings in his business and his idiosyncrasies; the closeted Sal (Bryan Batt) nearly gets pushed out of the closet by some compromising situations; Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) asserts herself in the workplace and experiments with loosening her collar (this includes a surprising fling); and Joan (Christina Hendricks, arguably the sexiest woman on television) finally leaves the agency to be a housewife, only to find herself looking for work when her doctor husband comes up short in the promotion department. As usual, the comic relief lies in the reliable hands of the razor-sharp John Slattery as agency partner Roger Sterling, whose marriage to the much-younger former secretary of Don's drives tension between the once-chummy colleagues. At the end of the season, JFK's assassination provides a tragic backdrop for people preoccupied with their own troubles. The top-drawer writing and staging feels very much like a play, especially in the way it merges Don Draper's past with his present. Each episode also includes commentary by creator Matthew Weiner, various writers and directors, and pretty much all cast members (some are entertaining, some pretty superfluous). Also included are featurettes on the history of cigarette advertising and civil-rights documentaries on Medgar Evers and the "I Have a Dream" speech. The latter features, while substantial and well made, feel curiously out of place next to the materialistic and ethically challenged characters on Madison Avenue. Although not as consistent as the first two seasons, Mad Men's third season has enough power to keep it the best series of 2009. --Ellen A. Kim
Stills from Mad Men: Season 3 (Click for larger image)
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For all the fans and true "Mad Men" addicts out there, Season 3 was much-anticipated. At the end of Season 2, we had reason to believe that Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the charismatic creative director of Sterling-Cooper, had come to his place of reckoning and was ready to turn a new leaf (sorry for all the cliches) in his marriage, if not his career. His gorgeous, emotionally stunted wife Betty (January Jones) just found out she was pregnant, and they apparently decide to mend their marriage and try to make a go of it. Presumably, women didn't have many choices back in the '60's. Also, Betty just might be that kind of woman - she needs a man to complete her.
But right from the beginning of Season 3, the viewer can see that not much has changed at all, and Don is off being the bad boy again. Betty seems in a world of her own with her pregnancy, and then her father's decline in health and the subsequent decisions that have to made give her all she can apparently cope with. I found myself growing angry at her numerous times because of her cold, unfeeling treatment of her adorable children. Even with all his immaturity, Don seems to be the far more caring parent, at least while face-to-face with his children. Sally Draper, their little girl, had some of the best acting of the season, and I think she will mature into a terrific actress.
So much happens on the career front, it would be a mistake to give it all away in a review. I heard complaints from various people that Season 3 was too slow -- but remember that this is a show about character development and nuance, above all. The last two episodes, about the Kennedy assassination and the Season finale, are as action-packed as any plot lover could want. They are magnificently written and acted, and left this viewer, at least, panting for Season 4. What more can a series offer?
Mad Men is truly an excellently produced show on all levels, as should be evident from it's adament fans, critical praise and many awards. The first season established the world and introduced the characters, the second season expanded and elaborated on each and the third season finally presents a complete vision. The third season doesn't have quite the same punch of the first season, nor does it have the exploration of the second. What it does have is a nice combination of many elements. After all the anticipation and two seasons of building up this season things began to happen, it was also a season with more comedic elements tossed into the mix after the seriousness of season two. If you watch this show you'll want to buy this set to catch nuances you've missed in the first viewing and if you haven't seen this show catch it on AMC or buy the first season because now is the time to immerse yourself in the well crafted world of Mad Men.
This season contains the following 13 episodes:
Out of Town
Love Among the Ruins
My Old Kentucky Home
Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency
Seven Twenty Three
Wee Small Hours
The Color Blue
The Gypsy and the Hobo
The Grown Ups
Shut the Door, Have a Seat
This three disc Blu-Ray set will be released on March 23rd, I'm glad they're not making us wait until July like last year when they wanted the second season release to coincide with the third season television premiere. The episodes will be presented in 1080p resolution widescreen video and likely English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. English and Spanish subtitles will also be included. Closed Captioning doesn't seem to be included on the Blu-Ray but is found on the DVD, I presume the producers of these sets thought vision impaired purchasers wouldn't care about the picture quality of the episodes. The set will also include the following special features:
Mad Men Commmentaries: As with previous seasons cast and crew will provide audio commentaries on the episodes, in the past commentaries have been included on each season episode with some episodes having more than one commentary option.
Medgar Evers: The Patriarch. The Activist. The Hero - A documentary that explores the life of the Civil Rights Pioneer who believed in a better way of life for all through equality and the end of segregation.
Up In Smoke: A visual depiction of the juxtaposition between the world of advertising and big tabaco in the 40's, 50's, 60's and today.
We Shall Overcome: The March on Washington - Dr. Martin Luther King's speech accompanied by images detailing the historic moment when over 250 000 people who marched on Washington.
Mad Men Illustrated - Dyna Moe gives commentary leading you through the "animated" photo gallery of Mad Men illustrations.
Flashback 1963: An interactive look back at the events and themes that defined that year.
All in all you're getting a lot of special features by the time you add up all the, always in the past, insightful commentaries with the amount of featurettes on the sixties. These features are great for those interested in the era of Mad Men and I've always been one who enjoys a good commentary but I must say I'm still upset at the lack of behind the scenes special features. No actual interviews with the cast, crew or writer's of this fine series. No 'on set' or 'behind the scenes' looks, no journey into the writing room to see how they designed this crucial season. I'm not saying the special features they are providing aren't great though, just that personally I'd love to learn more about how the show itself is made and that hopefully they will announce more features before this season is released.
Five Stars for the quality of these episodes after having seen them on television and for the quality I'm sure we can expect the Blu-Ray episodes to be in, this show looks magnificent on Blu-Ray. Also five stars for the amount of bonus features they continue to include, which are always interesting despite not being as much about the show production as I'd personally like (I still hope that will change). Ultimately Mad Men is a great show that most people can find something to enjoy about and this season is crucial as it's the one where things have started falling apart. It's like the season three ending song Shadaroba says, "the future will be better than the past", and while things may get worse for the characters of Mad Men, certainly before they get any better, we can bet that the future of this show will only get better. Fans know this show is amazing and those who haven't tried it yet should before the fourth season really shakes things up. Thanks for your time.