Two of the best series on television and some memorable movies are coming out this week on DVD and Blu-ray:
*"Treme: The Complete First Season" ($59.99 DVD, $79.98 Blu-ray, HBO): David Simon's "The Wire" turned sociology into compelling drama, combining brilliant performances by an exceptional ensemble cast, powerful story lines and incisive observations of the social, political and economic crisis in one city, Baltimore. "Treme," Simon's latest series for HBO (co-created with Eric Overmyer), is about another great American city, New Orleans, set three months after Hurricane Katrina when residents are just beginning the daunting process of rebuilding their lives and communities.
Like "The Wire," "Treme" is often angry and passionate, and always provocative. Simon tapped two actors from "The Wire" -- Wendell Pierce and Clark Peters -- for crucial roles in "Treme," as well as two extraordinary actresses from his earlier shows -- Khandi Alexander from "The Corner" and recent Oscar-winner Melissa Leo from "Homicide: Life on the Street." But "Treme" is as much a celebration of New Orleans' unique culture, particularly its music, as it is an indictment of the slow pace of reconstruction and repopulation after the flood wiped out many of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Both the DVD and Blu-ray versions offer special features on the making of the series, a history of the Treme neighborhood and the music of New Orleans, as well as five audio commentaries and 10 commentaries about the music. The Blu-ray edition adds even more background material on the music and culture of the city.
*"Mad Men: Season Four" ($49.98/$49.99 Blu-ray; Lionsgate): In its fourth season, set in 1964, creator Matthew Weiner reinvented his terrific AMC series about a Madison Avenue advertising agency. Its main character, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), grapples with the ramifications of divorce and building a new agency.
The DVD box set comes with audio commentaries for every episode by Weiner and various cast and crew members, a three-part documentary on divorce and divorce laws in the 1960s, and short features on Draper's business style, the marketing of the Ford Mustang and the 1964 presidential campaign.
This may be the last we'll see of "Mad Men" for a while. As the New York Times recently reported, AMC has not signed a contract for a fifth season with Lionsgate, the studio that produces the series, and talks between Lionsgate and "Mad Men" creator Weiner stalled earlier this week. Although all sides expect agreements to be reached, it appears that Season Five won't air until 2012.
*"Black Swan" ($29.98/$39.99 Blu-ray, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment: Darren Aronofsky's striking and somewhat creepy tale about a young ballet dancer (Oscar winner Natalie Portman) who is the surprise choice to perform the lead role in "Swan Lake" is reminiscent at times of another famous ballet movie, Michael Powell's "The Red Shoes."
As in Powell's film, a ballet company's autocratic artistic director (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace his former prima ballerina with a relative unknown, whom he also seeks to dominate and mold. But in this case, Aronofsky dwells on the psychological and physical demands placed upon Portman's Nina by her new role, and the complicated friendship and rivalry she develops with another dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis).
Both editions include "Metamorphosis," a three-part making-of documentary, with the Blu-ray version adding more background material on Portman and Aronofsky's relationship, the design of the movie and profiles of the cast.