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TV Review: AMC's 'Mad Men' Season 3

A round-up of TV critics’ takes on the third-season premiere of AMC drama Mad Men, airing Aug. 16 at 10 p.m. ET.VIDEO: Click here to watch a recap of Season 2.

Season three of AMC’s Mad Men begins Sunday at 10 p.m. ET — and once again, it throws you into a 1960s world that’s fascinating for both its retro contrasts to today, and for its unsettling similarities. It’s one of the very best shows on television, and returns this weekend without missing a step… (David Bianculli, TV Worth Watching)

Beyond being the finest series on television, “Mad Men” is both ambitious and exquisite, two of the ultimate rarities in the business. The Season 3 premiere on Sunday begins and ends with two wonderfully conceived and executed scenes and, when the hour closes, it leaves no doubt about its lofty goals. “Mad Men” wants to be indelibly brilliant. And after two seasons of accomplishing just that, there’s no reason given in the premiere to have any doubts about the third. (Tim Goodman, San Francisco Chronicle)

Its beauty lies in the way it re-creates a now-lost world, then twists that world so it reflects our own. That may never be more true than in Sunday’s superb season premiere, written by creator Matthew Weiner, because we all know the late-stage Camelot universe the characters occupy is about to shatter. For now, they still move through a cultural fog that obscures the sexual and racial tensions lurking around each corner. (Robert Bianco, USA Today)

In the early going, there’s little evidence of a major mystery like season one (Don’s true identity) or season two (what happened to Peggy’s baby). But by now, the characters are so fascinating, as are the rapidly-changing social mores of the period, that an added narrative hook feels unnecessary. There are episodes of “Mad Men” where precious little seems to happen, yet it doesn’t matter because of the pleasure that comes from spending time with the likes of Don, or Roger, or copywriter Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), whose adjustment to her new professional stature is one of the more intriguing subplots of the new season. (Alan Sepinwall, The Star-Ledger (N.J.))

This is a moral drama, a show about deciding who you are and who you want to be, of character as the sum of small choices. There are no heroes or villains here, only people working out or being carried toward their individual destinies. And in who we root for and in what we root for them to choose, we also define ourselves. (Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times)

Even more than in the first two years, this new season, which begins on Sunday on AMC, stresses the less amusing side of that innocence, leading viewers to look back, aghast at, and enthralled by, a world so familiar and so primitive. Characters on “Mad Men” struggle in shame and secrecy with the very things that today are openly, incessantly boasted and blogged about: humble roots, broken homes, homosexuality, unwed motherhood, caring for senile parents. (Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times)

“[T]he take-away from this review should hopefully resemble one of the show’s signature ad campaigns — conveying a general feeling about the program but, beyond the broadest of strokes, really telling you nothing at all. You know, sort of like a relationship with Don Draper.” (Brian Lowry, Variety)