There's no stopping 'Mad Men'

  • Article by: RANDY A. SALAS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2008 - 11:58 AM

The critically acclaimed TV drama about the 1960s advertising world makes a strong pitch in a sensational first-season DVD set.

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John Slattery, (Roger Sterling,left), John Hamm (Don Draper) and January Jones Betty Draper) star in " Mad Men: Season One."

Photo: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

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Everything about the hot retro TV drama "Mad Men" is hip and cool, even the first-season set arriving Tuesday on DVD.

The standard four-disc set (Lions Gate, $50) comes in a box shaped like an old cigarette lighter, a nod to the smoking that takes place in virtually every scene of the critical sensation that debuted last year. Or you can spring for the three-disc version on Blu-ray (also $50), the trendy high-def disc format for those whose home theaters are fashionably up to date.

From their swank menu designs to the robust extras that invite rewatching the 13 episodes, both packages keep dedicated fans in mind while luring new viewers into the heady world of Madison Avenue's advertising men, aka "Mad men."

Although set in 1960, the only thing "old-fashioned" about "Mad Men" is the mixed whiskey drink that's the favorite cocktail of leading man Don Draper -- played by Jon Hamm, who, like the show, won a Golden Globe. He's the flawed creative director of an ad agency who revels in the excesses of his industry while trying to keep his affairs in order, as the discs' second-season preview cleverly points out. (The new season starts July 27 on AMC.)

In his workplace, drinking, smoking and come-ons happen more frequently than ad pitches and dictation. But that's just the surface.

"'Mad Men' is about the conflicting desires in the American male and the people who pay the price for it, ... the women," creator Matthew Weiner ("The Sopranos") explains in an hourlong documentary.

Besides great writing, one of the show's assets is its authenticity, right down to the underwear. In an interactive gallery, costumer designer Katherine Jane Bryant says the foundational garments set the tone for the women's vintage look and carriage: "It's all about the bra and girdle."

The series' cool-jazz score also helps set the mood.

"I really wanted a simple sound, simple melodies -- something you could grab onto through the season," composer David Carbonara says in a featurette about his music.

The discs offer a sampling of the period songs used on the show, too.

For truly dedicated fans, each episode includes commentary by virtually every person associated with "Mad Men." In fact, there's so much talk from insiders that most episodes have two alternate audio tracks with their edited comments.

A featurette called "Advertising the American Dream" explores how advertising hit its stride in the 1950s and '60s simply by promoting materialism, a concept at the core of "Mad Men."

"There's always more. There's always better," says Albert Lieberman of New York University's Stern School of Business. "And if you can afford it, you can have it."

Just like "Mad Men," one of the finest first-season DVD packages available. And that's not a hard sell.

Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542

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