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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Sitcoms Airing Tonight
Sunday, March 26
The Simpsons - "Dad Behavior" (Fox, 7:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Homer finds a new app that makes his life much easier and outsources his father-son bonding. Meanwhile, Grampa finds that he is about to be a father again.
Bob's Burgers - "Aquaticism" / "Ain't Miss Debatin'" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT)
When Tina learns that the aquarium is in danger of closing, the Belcher children devise a scheme to keep it running. Meanwhile, Bob realizes that he could learn a thing or two from Linda’s customer service skills. Then, when Tina is recruited by the debate team, she finds unexpected success and an even more unexpected relationship. Meanwhile, Louise and Gene convince their parents to help fund a stop-motion movie focusing on a surprising subject matter.
Making History - "Chadwick's Angels" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
In need of a victory, the trio heads back to the 1990s to give Dan another shot at his childhood dream: finishing the infamous “Bellybuster” ice cream sundae at a local parlor. As Deb bonds with the parlor’s owner, Chris is on a mission to save a life in honor of his late British friend. But all of their plans are derailed when Dan runs into the bully that tormented him.
Family Guy - "Peter's Lost Youth" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Peter gets jealous of Lois when she upstages him at a Red Sox fantasy baseball camp. Meanwhile, Stewie runs away from home when Meg is left to babysit him.
The Last Man on Earth - "Find This Thing We Need To" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Carol makes a big discovery, enlisting Tandy and Erica to help her track down some answers. Meanwhile, Todd has a major breakthrough with Melissa.
Sunday, March 26
- Sanaa Lathan (Family Guy/The Cleveland Show/LateLine) - Catch Sanaa on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
- Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) - Watch Chris on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
- Richard Dreyfuss (Your Family or Mine) - Richard appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
- Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie/Malibu Country) and Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie) - Lily and Jane are guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. They also chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
- Craig Ferguson (The Drew Carey Show) - Craig visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
- Rachel Dratch (Imaginary Mary) - Rachel is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
- Pete Holmes (Crashing) - Pete stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
- Jenna Elfman (Imaginary Mary/1600 Penn/Accidentally on Purpose/Courting Alex/Dharma & Greg) - Jenna appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
- Ron Funches (Powerless/Undateable) - Ron is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
- Kaitlin Olson (The Mick/It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) - Kaitlin drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
- Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs/Rules of Engagement/Reno 911!) - Wendi appears on a repeat of Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
- Lisa Kudrow (Friends/The Comeback) - Lisa is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Mark Consuelos (Alpha House/Hope & Faith) - Mark guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
- Tahj Mowry, Derek Theler and Jean-Luc Bilodeau (Baby Daddy) - Tahj, Derek and Jean-Luc are guests on Harry, so check your local listings.
- Tika Sumpter (The Game) - Tika appears on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
- Vanessa Bell Calloway (Rhythm & Blues) - Vanessa is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
- June Diane Raphael (Grace and Frankie) - June talks about Grace and Frankie on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
- Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly/Samantha Who?) and Ben Falcone (Joey) - Melissa and Ben talk TV Land's Nobodies on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
- Brooklyn Decker (Grace and Frankie/Friends with Better Lives) - Brookyln stops by People Now at 8:30am.
- Marcia Gay Harden (Trophy Wife) - Marcia opens up about her favorite part of being in the 50 Shades movies on People Now at 8:30am. \
- Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish/Girlfriends) - Tracee dishes about her Golden Globe win on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 2am on BET or on your local stations.