Mad Men: Season 4: Perfection in a Box

Big Love is done. Californication, Dexter, The Walking Dead and several other great shows are on hiatus. Now seems like the perfect time to indulge in the liquor-and-sex-filled word of Mad Men. Season 4 arrives on DVD today.

Season 4 has Don and Betty Draper (Jon Hamm and January Jones) drifting further apart. Don has moved out and Betty is now married to another man. The family is in disarray. To make matters worse, the firm is struggling to stay afloat. Don’s penchant for secrecy leads to a negative portrayal in an Advertising Age review. Furthermore, a major client has backed out, which could lead to the firm’s demise.

Things just aren’t very cheerful in Mad Men world.

Season 4 delivers the level of quality we’ve come to expect from Mad Men during its previous three seasons. Seriously, is this show good or what? I love Dexter – I mean absolutely love Dexter (in a purely heterosexual way) – but there’s just something about the slow, methodical plodding of Mad Men that works in every conceivable way.

Mad Men is one of those rare shows that leaves me wanting more after every episode. Even Dexter, with its blood-splattered goodness, doesn’t always do that.

The stakes are even higher this season. The first couple seasons portrayed a world where there were few consequences; Don could do as much or as little work as he wanted, screw whoever he wanted, drink until he passed out and smoke like a chimney. The firm was rich and things were good.

Mad Men is beginning to feel like the real, modern world, bit by bit. Nothing is sacred, nothing is guaranteed. The world is changing and, for characters like Don Draper, it’s coming apart at the seams. And yet the people behind the show keep hope alive just enough. There is light at the end of the tunnel – it might be dim, it might be faded, but it’s there.

For that reason, Mad Men is the best show on television.

The one disappointing turn that the show has taken is the dissolution of Don and Betty Draper. Their relationship has always been fascinating, but with Betty now married to another man she received very little airtime in 2010. The show capitalizes on their divorce with the precision you’d expect from Mad Men, but it’s hard not to miss the scenes of simmering tension between the two of them.

Nevertheless, Mad Men: Season 4 hits all the right notes.

The 4-disc DVD set contains all 13 episodes (duh) as well as a few bonus features that explore divorce, business and politics in the 1960’s. The cast and crew also provide feature-length audio commentaries for each episode.

By Erik Samdahl
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