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How to Spend $20

By Eric Hughes

March 29, 2011

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Welcome to How to Spend $20, BOP’s look at the latest Blu-ray discs and DVDs to hit stores nationwide. This week: Mad Men enters 1965, Natalie Portman does harmful things to her body and David Simon revitalizes New Orleans.

Pick of the Week

Mad Men: Season Four

When Mad Men went off the air at the close of its third season, it left us patient viewers hanging on with the series’ most exciting chain of events to date: Sterling Cooper would cease to be – at least how we’d known it for three good years – and in its place would be an ambitious and completely at risk upstart, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. All in a handful of minutes. And from the outro of the season finale, we’d learned that the number of full-time employees had dropped considerably, main operations would be out of a hotel room and, to save money, Trudy Campbell would probably be in charge of many a noontime snack.

When season four premiered, I was all but certain – rather begrudgingly, mind you – that the worst of my season four fears had likely come alive: Matthew Weiner really had cheapened the events of “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” by cheating us out of those first few weeks, or months, of Draper and Co. starting their new business. Shame on him! Namely, the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce already out-flashed those of the former company, and Don, Roger and the rest appeared far too comfortable in their luxurious outfittings and sparkling, glass cages.




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But then we’re told that Lucky Strike accounts for more than half of SCDP’s business, and that the office itself is without a bloody conference table. And that Don Draper is a sad, sad man when he isn’t all pretty and primped in hair gel and black tie.

Mad Men: Season Four is an experiment in how to do reinvention mostly right. A lot could’ve gone wrong through the kind of radical transition Weiner put in motion at the end of season three, and I have to say that, on the whole, I like what he and his writing staff – OK, mostly Weiner – came up with in their brainstorming sessions.

On the soapy end, Don’s life is in pieces now that Betty married another man, and he goes through a season-long arc of self-discovery that ends about as unexpectedly as Sal’s exit from the show. And Peggy, sweet Peggy, is still distancing herself from the naïve youth we met in the pilot. With a new friend and social circle, she engages in activities that put to shame her silly adventures with pot in early season three.

But what I’m finding I liked most about the fourth season is the series’ return to, well, business. If season three of Mad Men was season four of The Office, then season four of Mad Men is Office season two. I’ve confused you. What I mean by that is that much of the season’s drama comes from SCDP at work. It was refreshing in this season to see Don and his men (and Peggy!) do what they get paid big money to do. Much of that seemed to be missing even a year ago.

With that said, it’s a damn shame Weiner and AMC are unable to come to terms on a contract both sides can agree on for seasons five and beyond. I’d had to see a series like Mad Men lose steam creatively over something as pithy as how much Weiner deserves to be paid an episode.

Disc includes: Divorce: Circa 1960s featurette, How to Succeed in Business Draper Style featurette, Marketing the Mustang featurette, 1964 Presidential Campaign featurette, audio commentary


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