Saturday, July 25, 2009
Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 (Universal, $49.98) concludes on DVD the run of what I genuinely consider to be one of the finest shows on TV this decade. Battlestar Galactica was an absolutely amazing retooling (otherwise called a "re-imagining") of a rather cheesy 1970s sci-fi series. This version of the show, however, is really closer in tone to 24 and West Wing than Star Trek or another similar show. At its core, it's really a military and political drama that happens to be set in space. That blending of qualities makes for an absolutely amazing show, a program I discovered early last year and stuck with right until the end.
From where I sit, the twenty episodes comprising the 4th season (divided into 4.0 and 4.5) are actually a little bit weaker than the earlier years of the show, but a great show having minor issues is still better than most anything else you'd find on air. Indeed, I can overlook the fact that episodes that should be building up for the grand finale instead grind to a halt, only to launch into full-blown information dump mode two episodes later. Really, you can become agitated quickly if you get yourself in a bunch over minor squabbles. The important part of this final half-season is that, though the ride occasionally gets slightly bumpy, you ultimately reach the destination still richer for the experience. It's like driving a trip from New York City to Los Angeles in a brand new Mercedes, only to have a problem with one of the shock absorbers in Nevada. You've still had a great ride, it just feels a little rough in the final stages.
If you've only been following the series through DVD, then where the show last left off the Fleet had finally found Earth...as a desolate post-nuclear fallout wasteland. The second half of the season starts off with an explanation of what happened on this Earth, plus the identity of the final Cylon is revealed. The series progresses onwards from there, alternating between action episodes and story episodes, through 10 great episodes. At one point there's even a mutiny forcing Adama, Tigh, etc. to fight their way back through the ship to retake command!
The series culminates with the episode "Daybreak," originally presented over two weeks and considered a total of 3 parts. You can choose to view it as-aired on the final disc, or choose to watch the complete two hour and thirty minute unedited version, with many cut scenes restored. Viewing this second version *does* help things make a bit more sense and makes the finale seem less rushed, but that won't change the fact that many fans just aren't going to like the ending. With regards to it, you either have -- or will -- fall into one of two camps. Either you'll think it's a brilliant twist to cap things off, or it'll simply leaving you scratching your head. I'll be the first to admit, I started off as the latter but after a couple of re-viewings I've come around and now love how the show ends.
Technically speaking, this DVD set is simply stunning. Universal is one of the few studios who still seem to shun those horrible clear plastic keepcase abominations, something I'm thrilled to see. You get simple, functional slimcases which showcase the well-designed package art quite nicely. The actual artwork itself is given the reflective color treatment, and when combined with the raised lettering of the show logo, provides for package art that commands your attention sitting on the store shelf.
The art for set itself features variations on the cast shots seen in the top third of the main box's art. Between the four cases, nearly the entirety of the main cast is featured, with only a few supporting players omitted. The finale is kept on its own disc, much as the miniseries was on season one's set. The remainder of the episodes are arranged in varying orders.
Menus are animated, and feature multiple layers of animation. Profile shots of various members of the primary cast dissolve in and out, clips play on the left side, and the great main theme plays in the background -- with the clips syncing fairly well to the music.
Audio and video quality are amazing, bounded only by the limits of the traditional DVD. This is one set I would have loved to be able to view in HD on Blu-Ray, however that wasn't a feasible review option largely due to my not owning a Blu-Ray player. The video looks as good as is possible given the resolution and quality limits of the format. The audio, having more room to play around even on a traditional DVD, sounds absolutely wonderful, and makes full use of the full 5.1 channels of sound available. The dialogue mixes in with the sound effects and composer Bear McCreary's wonderful scores and creates a true audio experience. Episode runtimes are all over the place, as running times vary wildly from episode to episode...44-49 minutes is the norm. Chapter stops occur with slightly greater frequency than commercial breaks, roughly coinciding with major scene changes. Some episodes feature scenes omitted from their original Sci-Fi Channel airings. Nothing is edited, the only changes are the occasional inclusions.
Greater still are the special features. Included as audio tracks are the podcast commentaries done along with each week's airing by show executive producer Ronald D. Moore. You also get piles and piles of deleted scenes. You get video blogs, you get extra-length episodes. This set, in terms of its bonus content is really quite good. I've seen sets with better, but this set is fairly high on the list. Galactica sets are great for that.
Ultimately, if you are a fan of this show you probably have the set on pre-order for Tuesday already. Good. If you haven't given the show a try before, go to your local video rental store, and rent the first two discs from the first season set. It's the miniseries that kicked off this amazing show's run. It sold me on the series, plus the amazing first episodes. Watch them, though check any preconceptions you have about space shows at the door. What you'll see is absolutely great dramatic television. Even the guys on The Big Bang Theory think so!
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
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New on DVD/Blu-ray (September)
09/06 - Coach - Season One (Mill Creek) / Season Two / Seasons One and Two
09/06 - South Park - The Complete Ninteenth Season (Blu-ray)
09/13 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Ninth Season (Blu-ray)
09/13 - Newhart - The Complete Sixth Season
09/20 - 2 Broke Girls - The Complete Fifth Season
09/20 - Family Matters - The Complete Eighth Season
09/20 - Modern Family - The Complete Season 7
09/20 - Veep - Season 5
09/27 - The Wonder Years - Season Six
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Sitcoms Airing Tonight
Wednesday, October 26
The Goldbergs - "Stefan King" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Adam’s love of Stephen King inspires him to try his hand at horror writing. After learning the monster in Adam’s story is based off Beverly, she forces Adam to stay in on Halloween and rewrite it, hoping he depicts her as a better mother. Meanwhile, Erica is desperate to find a date to the costume dance and forces Barry go with her.
Speechless - "H-A-L-- HALLOWEEN" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jimmy is upset the kids no longer want to participate in the family tradition of dressing up for Halloween. Maya tries to cheer up Jimmy by allowing him to do things he loves by taking things off the family “Dead to Me” list. Meanwhile, Ray recruits Dylan to help work the school’s haunted mansion while Kenneth is scared of losing his job when JJ gets drunk at a party. Even though Maya is furious, she is thrilled to see JJ having a “normal” life.
Modern Family - "Halloween 4: The Revenge of Rod Skyhook" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Luke’s Halloween party isn’t the monster bash he dreamed of and is at risk of having the worst party of the year. Sensing trouble, the rest of the Dunphy’s realize all his party needs is a visit from Rod Skyhook, a little promotion and some adult supervision to get it started. Meanwhile at the Tucker-Pritchett home, Cam faces off with his Halloween nemesis while Lily and Mitchell try to save the day and work to keep him from going to the darkside. Finally, when Jay finds out that Manny is going to a party at the home of an old enemy, he enlists him to deliver a trick he will never forget.
black-ish - "The Purge" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After Junior embarrasses Dre during a basketball game, Dre decides to remind Junior of his master pranking skills so he’ll never challenge him again. Meanwhile, the neighborhood participates in a “mischief night” during Halloween where petty crimes become legal, and Ruby takes it too far with the kids.
Younger - "P Is for Pancake" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Kelsey dates a seemingly perfect guy, but Liza and Lauren think it’s too soon. At a party of doctors, Josh puts his relationship with Liza under the microscope.
Impastor - "Sins of the Past-or Part 2" (TV Land, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Dora’s and Alexa’s lives are both in jeopardy and Buddy must choose which one to save. Russell and Dora have a falling out. Schmidt is robbed.
You're the Worst - "The Seventh Layer" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Vernon and Paul take a road trip.
Wednesday, October 26
- Joel McHale (The Great Indoors/Community) - Watch Joel on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
- Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) - Abbi visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. She will also be on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Colin Hanks (Life in Pieces) - Colin appears on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
- Colton Dunn (Superstore), Lauren Ash (Superstore/Super Fun Night and Nico Santos (Superstore) - Colton, Lauren and Nico are guests on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
- Elijah Wood (Wilfred) - Elijah stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
- Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) - Will is a guest on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
- Donald Glover (Atlanta/Community) - Donald appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
- Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken/Community) - See what happens when Dr. Oz visits the set of Dr. Ken on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.
- John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun/Twenty Good Years) - John talks about The Crown on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
- Boris Kodjoe (The Last Man on Earth/Second Time Around) - Boris joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
- Issa Rae (Insecure) - Issa is a guest on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
- Colin Hanks (Life in Pieces) - Colin talks about Life in Pieces on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
- Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Mayim is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
- Marisa Tomei (A Different World) - Marisa appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
- Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry is a guest on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
- Betsy Brandt (Life in Pieces/The Michael J. Fox Show) - Betsy talks about Life in PieceS on the AOL Build Show at 12pm.