Saturday, January 03, 2009
1st & Ten: Complete Collection (Tango, $26.98) contains all 80 episodes of one of the first premium cable TV series in history. Although the series underwent a great number of changes over the year, the series begins with wealthy housewife Diane Barrow (Delta Burke, of Designing Women fame) coming home to her mansion one day and finding her loving and adoring husband in bed. Except, her loving and adoring husband isn't in bed alone, and is in fact in bed with another person. And did we mention that this other person happens to be a guy? Diane, determined to get revenge on her husband in any way possible, decides to divorce her husband, and to take everything she can get from him, including his professional football team! Now, Diane (who knows nothing about football) is suddenly the owner of a football team and has to call all of the shots.
The series began in 1984 on HBO, which was just getting started at that time, and was one of the first series to truly take advantage of the fact that you can get away with literally anything on cable TV, including very controversial plot lines and even some nudity. It aired until 1991, and underwent many changes through the years, particularly cast changes. In fact, nearly the entire cast has been swapped out by the time the series was over, creating a totally different series where Shannon Tweed played the owner of the team. The series is also well-known for the fact that O.J. Simpson had a role on the series throughout most of the series run, playing (what else?) a former NFL star.
There are a lot of episodes on the set, and I did not watch all of them (mostly because some of them wouldn't even play, and you'll find out why later in this review), but many of the episodes have all of the themes that one would come to expect from a controversial series, such as extramarital affairs ("The Pilot"), near-death experiences ("You Are Who You Eat"), alcoholism ("Rona's Fling"), and other such themes. Sex is a big thing on the series, as is nudity, so don't be surprised to see some nudity (invariably in the form of bare breasts) in some of the episodes. The series isn't exactly full of guest stars, but you will find many "legendary" (in other words, ones that today's generation won't know) NFL players in the episodes. Classic TV fans will notice guest stars such as LaWanda Page (Sanford & Son), Roxie Roker (The Jeffersons), Norman Fell (Three's Company), Morey Amsterdam (Dick Van Dyke Show), and David Leisure (Empty Nest).
The video and audio quality of the episodes leaves quite a bit to be desired. I'm not sure what type of masters they used to create this set, but on some of the episodes, I watch them and think that they possibly used VHS tapes in EP/SLP mode as their masters. In other words, the episodes are all watchable, but the quality is (generally speaking) rather poor. You'll even notice obvious video defects as you are watching the episodes.
Unfortunately, this series didn't exactly receive one of the best DVD releases possible, as a majority of the episodes contained within it are edited episodes. And let me just say upfront, these are HORRIBLY edited episodes. To start off, these edited episodes have approximately five minutes of content cut out from them, but that is only the beginning of the problems. The real problem is that somebody decided to add this really bad (and VERY fake sounding) laugh track to these edited episodes. Obviously, to make the episodes suitable for broadcast television, these syndicated versions have all of the nudity and foul language removed from the episodes. Furthermore, the edited episodes have the original opening and closing credits replaced with a new version that had been created for syndication.
These DVDs aren't for fans that hate compressed episodes either. That is because they really do cram the episodes on the discs in this set. In fact, there are 80 episodes, but only six discs! How do they accomplish this? Basically, they use double-sided discs and put an entire season on one disc (seasons two and three share a disc, since those seasons only had 10 episodes combined). This means that some discs contain up to 16 episodes, with 8 episodes on each side! I certainly like a compact DVD set, but that is overdoing it. Add to all of this that the cheap packaging allows the discs to get scratched very easily (the hubs fail to completely secure the discs like they should), and there is a tendency for scratched double sided discs to go bad quickly... you have the fact that inevitably, some episodes won't even play at all. And there are quite a few that I couldn't get to play. Very frustrating! As for the packaging itself, they simply have three black cases that hold two discs each, and as previously mentioned, the packaging does not secure the discs very well, at all.
The set contains no special features at all, and I'm not really sure what could have been included. The series is really not something that any of the stars would ever put on their resume (for example, even though Delta Burke was the star of the series in the first few seasons, I highly doubt anybody would ever call her 1st & Ten's Delta Burke), and a lot of the actors probably look back at the series as a low-budget series from the dark ages of premium cable. Still, maybe some interviews with the creator of the series would have been nice, just to get some perspective into the series.
So the bottom line is that this DVD set is indeed a DVD collector's nightmare, but it is probably the only way anybody will ever be able to enjoy this show. Hopefully someone else will release this series in a better way. It is a pretty decent show, particularly in the earlier seasons, and I don't understand why it doesn't get more credit than it actually does. It isn't really a show about football, and is instead more of a series about a woman that is trying to make business decisions in a business where she is completely clueless. The set shouldn't set you back too much at an MSRP under $30 (that is very cheap for a complete series), but in reality, that MSRP is higher than what you'll actually pay for this set. If you look around at Amazon.com or even Wal-Mart (of all places), you will find this set for just a little bit more than you'd pay for a candy bar (literally). I purchased this set myself for under $2, a price which I was more than willing to pay even though I knew nothing at all about the series. Despite the many problems that plague the set, I also see it as a series that is worth splurging a few bucks on to get a few hours of entertainment from.
-- Reviewed by skees53
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