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 (January/February)
01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One / Review
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two / Review
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
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Wednesday, February 22
The Goldbergs - "So Swayze It's Crazy" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
After Adam sees his friend on television, he asks Beverly for her help to become an actor, so Beverly enlists his friend’s mom Edie, who is a kid talent agent in town. Unfortunately, Edie insists Adam can only get “nerd” roles, so Beverly goes on a quest to make Adam a teenage heartthrob. Meanwhile, Barry decides to embrace the punk lifestyle, and Murray attempts to become more involved in Erica’s life, but it backfires.
Speechless - "O-S-- OSCAR P-A-- PARTY" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When the Dimeos throw their annual Oscar party with other special-needs families, Maya feels threatened by new mom Becca, who seems a little too perfect. Meanwhile, Jimmy encourages the fathers at the party to let loose while Ray tries to impress a girl by pretending to be someone he is not.
Modern Family - "Heavy Is the Head" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Despite their lofty hopes, Phil and Jay’s property investment might turn out to be a bust, forcing Phil to rethink his original dream. Meanwhile, Cam lands in the hospital due to a head injury and refuses to have an MRI thanks to a traumatic incident with a well when he was a child. Determined to finally impress Claire and keep her from re-gifting her birthday present, Gloria surprises her with a day of luxury at the office. However, after Claire had to implement some rather harsh budget cuts at work, a massage at her desk may not be sending the right message.
black-ish - "One Angry Man" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Dre is forced to participate in jury duty after Junior responds to the summons that was thrown away. The case is supposed to be open and shut, but when Dre sees that the defendant is a young African American, he feels a civic responsibility to give him a fair trial. Meanwhile, Bow decides to let the kids swear in the house since they are more open with her that way, but she and Ruby soon regret the decision.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - "The Gang Tends Bar" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
It's Valentine's Day and Paddy's is packed with customers. Dennis implores the gang to do one day of actual work but everyone else is distracted by a mystery crate Cricket spotted in the alley. Eventually, the gang becomes convinced Dennis really wants them to work on their relationships and everyone shares their grievances without much resolution.
Man Seeking Woman - "Dolphin" (FXX, 10:30PM ET/PT)
When her mom becomes obsessed with Josh's wedding, Liz seeks out her estranged father (Peter Gallagher).
Schitt's Creek - "General Store" (Pop, 8:00PM ET/PT)
David comes up with a new business venture; Alexis adjusts to her first day of school.
Wednesday, February 22
- Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies) and George Clooney (The Facts of Life/Roseanne) - Tom and George are guests on a repeat of the 2012 Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars special at 11:35pm on ABC.
- Ariana Grande (Sam & Cat) - Ariana drops by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
- Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken/Community) - Ken visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
- Kelly Ripa (Hope & Faith) - Kelly is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
- Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)- Billy appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on the AOL Build Show at 11am.
- Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He also talks about Ultimate Beastmaster on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on the AOL Build Show at 2pm.
- Ron Funches (Powerless/Undateable) - Ron is a guest on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
- Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Demi appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
- NeNe Leakes (The New Normal) - NeNe guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
- Matt Shively (The Real O'Neals/True Jackson, VP) - Matt is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
- Justin Bartha (The New Normal) - Justin joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
- Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Wendi will be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
- Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth/The Cleveland Show) - Will talks about The Last Man on Earth on NBC's Today in the 10am hour. He will also be on Good Day New York on WNYW-Fox5 in New York sometime between 7-10am.
- Rosie Perez (Search Party) - Rosie is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
- Allison Williams (Girls) - Allison appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
- Yvette Nicole Brown (The Odd Couple/Community) - Yvette dishes about the new season of SuperMansion on Crackle on The Wendy Williams Show at 2am on BET or on your local stations.
- Mike Epps (Uncle Buck/Survivor's Remorse) - Mike is a guest on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
- Eva Longoria (Telenovela) - Eva chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
- Mark Consuelos (Hope & Faith) - Mark guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.