Last year, cable channel AMC wanted to play the HBO game, and its first try was the original series “Mad Men.” Set in the early Sixties at an esteemed advertising agency in New York City, it’s even created by one of the guys who wrote one of HBO’s biggest hits, “The Sopranos.” And “ sacrilege alert “ I think “Mad Men” is far more satisfying on both a creative and emotional level than “The Sopranos.”
Jon Hamm is excellent as conflicted ad man/family man Don Draper, a brilliant but stubborn creative director who perpetually cheats on his depressed wife (January Jones) and butts heads with clients. He’s threatened by the pushy, silver-spoon rich kid (Vincent Kartheiser) playing junior ad exec, yet pushing his mousy secretary (Elisabeth Moss) toward things greater than taking dictation. He’s also harboring quite the big secret “ while we slowly learn pieces of it over the 13 episodes that comprise the show’s first season, the revelations lead to more dramatic tension.
“Mad Men” enjoys an ensemble cast in which there are no weak links, and the same can be said for the various writers and director behind each hour. The storytelling is exquisite, and proof that one doesn’t need HBO’s lax attitude toward sex and swear words to be adult and edgy.
Creator Matthew Weiner deserves commendation for making all this gel, and closely eschewing to a world that feels authentic (a documentary featurette shows just how authentic). Honestly, the lone drawback to this four-disc set is its unwieldy packaging.