The first season of “Mad Men” was all about introducing — or, if you’re old enough — reintroducing the audience to the world of the early 1960s, when men wore hats, women wore skirts and the alcohol flowed freely.

The first season of “Mad Men” was all about introducing — or, if you’re old enough — reintroducing the audience to the world of the early 1960s, when men wore hats, women wore skirts and the alcohol flowed freely.

It was thrilling and depressing: Life seemed a lot more fun back then — if, that is, you were a straight white male. And even if you were, that fun came with a high price, as the complicated life of Don Draper (series star Jon Hamm) and the other employees of the Sterling Cooper advertising agency proved, over and over again.

Things don’t get any simpler in Season Two, which is now on DVD. Don still has trouble at work (a new rival), after hours (an affair with a comedian’s wife) and at home (wife Betty, played by January Jones, gives him the boot). To complicate matters, during a business trip to California, Don ditches his responsibilities and spends a few strange days with a house full of Los Angeles weirdos. They’re not hippies — not yet, anyway — but Don’s layover in La La Land is one of the show’s sly reminders that the early, buttoned-up ’60s are about to become an entirely different sort of decade.

Big changes are afoot back in New York, too. After having a baby at the end of last season, Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) is ignoring motherhood and focusing on moving up the corporate ladder — at least as far as a woman can go in 1962. Pete (Vincent Kartheiser) loses his father in a plane crash, then has to help Sterling Cooper land the lucrative airline account. And Salvatore (Bryan Batt), the agency’s art director, begins to feel an attraction for fellow employee Ken (Aaron Staton). But no matter how much the times they were a changin’, coming out of the closet was not an option in the “Mad Men” era.

And those storylines barely scratch the surface. “Mad Men,” bless its repressed little heart, is a dense show. Creator Matt Weiner and his writing staff keep the plot threads intriguingly tangled, and if one story drags a bit (frankly, Don overstays his welcome in California), there are others that zip right along. What’s more, for a show with a huge cast of characters, Weiner and Co. aren’t afraid to being new personalities into the mix. There’s “Duck” Phillips (Mark Moses), Don’s rival for power at Sterling Cooper. There’s Jimmy Barrett (Patrick Fischler, also on “Lost”), that hack comedian who, it turns out, knows how to play the game just as well as Don.
And there’s Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray), a past-his-prime account exec whose grim, alcohol-soaked life could be a warning to Don about his own future.

The Season Two “Mad Men” set includes plenty of extras, including a musical sampler, multiple commentary tracks, interactive time capsules of the 1960s, and features on the fashions and changing roles of women. It’s good stuff, adding to the richness of the viewing experience, but the real star is the show. Quite simply, it’s the best thing on TV.

Will Pfeifer writes about new DVDs on Tuesdays and older ones on Fridays. Contact him at wpfeifer@rrstar.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movieman/. See video reviews at go.rrstar.com.

Make Room

Some DVDs out today:

“Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5”
“Combat Shock”
“Dollhouse: Season One”
“Green Lantern: First Flight”
“Miss March”
“Repulsion: Criterion Collection”
“Sita Sings the Blues”

And CDs:

Ashley Tisdale, “Guilty Pleasure”
Ryan Star, “11:59”
Riverside, “Anno Domini High Definition”
Rick Braun, “All It Takes”
Laurent Korcia, “Cinema”

Sources: dvdtalk.com, tophitsonline.com