Friday, August 22, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: NCIS - The Fifth Season (Aug. 26)

Welcome to a special edition of mini-DVD reviews! Today we we take a look at CBS DVD's Fifth Season of Navy NCIS. See Seth Thrasher's mini-DVD review of NCIS - The Fifth Season and:

NCIS - The Fifth Season (CBS, $55.98) is now on DVD. This season is marked by mysterious secrets among the team, an explosive showdown with an elusive arms dealer, and a shocking final episode that shouldn't be missed. The series starts Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, David McCallum, Sean Murray, Cote de Pablo, and Lauren Holly. This set contains the 18 episodes of the 2008 Writers' Strike-shortened 5th season.
One thing I hope I'm made absolutely clear over the years is simply that I *love* this show. Judging by the ratings many others do to. What amazes me though is very rarely does a week go by where I don't hear someone throwing it under the bus and trying to group it in with shows like CSI, Law & Order, etc. Yes, there are elements of that to this series. But with NCIS especially there's so much more going on. This series is significantly more character driven, and seems far more willing to use recurring plot themes than many of those other shows. With the other series, you could insert just about any actor into the carefully crafted niches in the series framework, and tell the same stories. But in NCIS' first five series, this largely hasn't been true. Ziva is largely different from Kate, for example, in the show's one main cast replacement. Similarly, replacing any other character would have strong effects on the series. This makes me concerned about the plot twist at the end of this fifth season -- and I really hope they don't screw this up, as honestly anything more than a temporary tweak for story purposes might very well send me packing from the series.
What could be so big that it would even threaten to send me running--the 5th season finale. One cast member (Lauren Holly) made a permanent exit from the show, while three others (Michael Weatherly, Sean Murray, Cote de Pablo) all were "reassigned" as part of the ending of the episode. Whether this is a temporary change or a permanent one will be resolved in season six -- I think I've made clear my hope of the outcome (no, I haven't bothered to check for spoilers). Before that, though, you have a great season of episodes, including a great Gibbs-centric episode in "Requiem" that's kicked off when Gibbs is sought for help by the childhood friend of his deceased daughter.
In terms of the technical side of the set, the packaging is as always a box containing slimcases -- three cases holding five discs this season. The discs have taken on the silver standard look of Paramount/CBS releases. Menus are well-designed but static, with no music in the background. In regards to audio and video, a great thing about working with newer series is that the video quality and audio quality are great almost by default. This set is no exception -- the video looks flawless in its presentation. Color balance is nice and even, there are no compression artifacts, there are no problems in the transfer -- nothing. Audio is a crisp and clear 5.1 audio track. The usual CBS/Paramount disclaimer about edits appears on the bottom of the box, but the only missing footage I can find in the one episode I have for comparison, "About Face," is the Stay Tuned for Scenes from the Next NCIS tag at the end. In fact, excluding *it* the DVD version actually appears to have a longer runtime by a few seconds. More than likely, in an era of pre-negotiated DVD rights, that disclaimer is just for legal purposes. I highly doubt anything substantive is cut.
And since NCIS is a popular series currently airing on TV, that means more effort goes into the bonuses on a release. There are SIX special features, including cast and crew commentaries, a revisiting of the aforementioned episode Requiem, a featurette talking about NCIS Season 5 itself, a feature on the costumes and wardrobe for the series, plus a feature on what all goes into transforming Pauley Perrette into the Abby character, including all the wardrobe, makeup, hair, false tattoos, etc. All great stuff to sit through and watch/listen to. The commentaries in particular are a great addition to see. I always love seeing DVD releases with large numbers of special features.
I didn't want to devote too much time to it, but another positive of this DVD release is the lower MSRP. Whether due to an overall business strategy or the fact that this season has a couple fewer episodes, the MSRP is noticeably lower than with past releases. I've been a big opponent of overpricing DVD sets, so I applaud this change wholeheartedly.
For those of you reading this who are trying to decide whether to buy the set or not, I wholeheartedly encourage it. NCIS is a great character driven drama -- with comedic elements -- and would make a welcome addition to your TV on DVD library. And for fans of the series, while the presence of the Disclaimer of Doom is always troubling, I sincerely doubt you have anything to worry about. As such, this set is STRONGLY recommended.
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
(4.5/5 stars)

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Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, July 30

The Middle - "The 100th" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Marking the 100th episode milestone of "The Middle," the citizens of Orson, Indiana celebrate the Orsontennial - the town's 100th anniversary. During this momentous event, Frankie and Mike find themselves begrudgingly trying to drive a giant cow float in the parade; Axl, Sean and Darrin resurrect Boss Co. and attempt to make some big bucks by setting up a VIP area to view the festivities; Sue, still crushing on Darrin, tries to make him jealous by pretending to be dating Brad again; and Brick tries to earn himself a place in Orson history by entering a contest to come up with the town's new motto, which will be used for the next 100 years.

The Goldbergs - "Lame Gretzky" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Even though he is terrible, Adam tries his best at ice hockey and hopes to impress Murray. Likewise, Murray works hard to show he enjoys watching Adam make home movies. Later, after starting a fight on the ice during a game, Adam gets suspended from playing hockey and admits to Murray his real intentions. Meanwhile, Beverly drives Erica crazy about her S.A.T.s.

Modern Family - "The Feud" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Phil is upset to have lost his elected office of social chair to his nemesis Gil Thorpe, and when he finds out Luke is competing against Gil’s kid in a wrestling match, it becomes his own personal battle. Claire is nervous for a big client meeting but things get extra hairy when Mitch and Cam ask her to pick up Lily from school and conveniently leave out the fact that her class just had a lice scare. Elsewhere, Gloria chaperones Manny’s school field trip to the museum.

The Middle - "Sleepless in Orson" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Frankie and Mike become concerned about Brick when he starts expressing a host of irrational fears spawned by a constant stream of news alerts showing up on his refurbished iPad. Meanwhile, Sue is both disgusted and intrigued when Derrick Glossner continues to surprise her with spontaneous kisses, and when Darrin attempts his own spinoff of Boss Co, Axl and Sean successfully shut down the new operation but end up having to finish the difficult job that their competition had started.

Young & Hungry - "Young & Punchy" (ABC Family, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Sparks fly between Gabi and a computer genius; Josh's new bathtub interests Elliot and Yolanda.

Mystery Girls - "Sister Issues" (ABC Family, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Holly gets a visit from her overachieving younger sister; Nick plots to boost Holly's spirits.

Hot in Cleveland - "The Animated Episode" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Our ladies go 2-D in a fun-filled animated episode that involves questionable beauty treatments, zombies, and a look at Cleveland had LeBron never left.

Jennifer Falls - "Dads and Dogs" (TV Land, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Jennifer is surprised when Gretchen’s absentee father comes back to town with the news that he’s suddenly become a success.

Wilfred - "Responsibility" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Ryan helps his mother adjust to her new life as Wilfred deals with a new nemesis.

Love Thy Neighbor - "The Make-Up" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Philip moves on.; Will apologizes to Linda.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 28) (All times ET unless noted)

Wednesday, July 30

  • Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) - Watch Eric on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) - Chris visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and later on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Norm Macdonald (The Norm Show) - Norm appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Kelsey Grammer (Partners/Frasier/Cheers) - Kelsey is part of the guest panel on Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
  • Zach Braff (Scrubs) - Zach visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) - Aubrey chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry joins the Chew Crew on a repeat of ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Wendie Malick (Hot in Cleveland/Just Shoot Me!) - Wendie is a guest on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.