I went into The Gilded Age:The Complete First Season DVD set completely blind. I had seen the advertisements for the show months ago when it was debuting on HBO MAX, but I paid very little attention to the buzz. I was expecting it to be a bore. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The show is from Emmy and Academy Award Winning writer Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park). It takes place in New York City in the late 1800s during a period of immense economic change, of huge fortunes made and lost, and the rise of disparity between old money and new. A wide-eyed young scion of a conservative family, Marian, embarks on a mission to infiltrate the wealthy neighboring clan of her aunts Agnes Van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon), dominated by ruthless railroad tycoon George Russell (Morgan Spector) and his ambitious wife Bertha (Carrie Coon), meeting people like aspiring writer Peggy Scott (Denée Benton) along the way. In this exciting new world that is on the brink of the modern age, the series asks will Marian follow the established rules of society, or forge her own path?
The cast is phenomenal, but Spector and Coon steal the show here. Their characters are so simultaneously charming yet ruthless, they are a joy to watch. This is a period version of Succession.
VIDEO:The Gilded Age: The Complete First Season comes to DVD in a rather middling video encode with 3 episodes per disc. The actual encoding is decent, with bright primary colors but the image is plagued with tons of blocking, very soft textures, and text and lettering on screen are distorted. I wish that there was a Blu-ray or 4K release as the image looks much better on streaming than it does here.
AUDIO: This is a very solid mix. The dialogue is clear and crisp and focused mainly on the center channels, with the score and ambient noises nicely filling out the surround channels.
BONUS FEATURES: This is where the set shines. There are many bonus features.
All That Glitters:Creating the Gilded Age: A 15-minute featurette on the production of the show focusing on the fantastic sets and costumes and production aspects.
Old Money vs New:The Heart of the Matter: a 14 minute featurette on the historical time period in which the show takes place, told by the writers, producers, and cast.
Character Featurettes: a series of 2-minute featurettes where the cast members explain who their characters are and how they fit in the story.
The Russell House Set Tour with Carrie Coon: A 7 minute behind the scenes look at the incredible sets for the show.
The Gilded Age: The Black Elite of New York: A 6 minute featurette focusing on Peggy Scott, her family, and how the black elite fit into history
Inside the Episodes: 5-minute featurettes for each episode where the cast and creative team discuss what the events in each episode imply for the characters and the story.
Together, these featurettes total an hour or so of behind the scenes looks. They are well produced and fun to watch.
SHOW QUALITY: 4.5 out of 5 stars
VIDEO QUALITY: 3 out of 5 stars
AUDIO QUALITY: 4 out of 5 stars
BONUS FEATURES: 4 out of 5 stars
OVERALL VALUE: 4 out of 5 stars