Saturday, April 03, 2010

Digital Digest: Battlestar Galactica -- The Complete Series DVD Review; Comparing ALF -- Season One DVDs in Region 1 and Region 2

We're back once again for our second edition of Sitcoms Online Digital Digest! For those who didn't check us out last week, this is our new weekly blog feature where we talk about all things related to sitcoms (as well as some non-sitcoms) in the digital world, including DVD, Blu-ray, and even the internet (although we don't have any of those features planned just yet). The news is a little light this week, but we can only have news if it is being announced! We're also going to have a blog review this week of Battlestar Galactica – The Complete Series, as well as our very first look at a Region 2 DVD, ALF -- Die Komplette Erste Staffel, Warner Home Video's German release of the first season of ALF. It'll be a little different from our normal reviews since we're mostly comparing the set to the American version, but you'll want to read it for sure. We will be tweaking a few things on here as the weeks go on (this feature is still a work in development), so there will likely be a few changes in the upcoming weeks. We are still interested in your feedback about our new feature, and would love to hear from you on our message board or Tweet/Facebook!


DIGITAL NEWS

Starting off our news this week is a long list of DVDs that we all knew would be coming (as they do every year) from ABC Studios. Several hits from the current ABC lineup will be hitting stores later this summer, including Desperate Housewives - The Complete Sixth Season (September 21, $45.99 MSRP), Ugly Betty - The Complete Fourth and Final Season (August 17, $39.99 MSRP), Brothers and Sisters – The Complete Fourth Season (August 31, $45.99 MSRP), and one of ABC's newest sitcoms, Cougar Town – The Complete First Season (August 17, $39.99 MSRP). There is no word yet on any Blu-ray releases on any of these series, but I have a feeling that many of these will see Blu-ray releases at some point in time, if not on the same day as the DVD release. We will have more details on all of these in the coming weeks, as we find out all of the details.

It seems that no week would be complete without news from Shout! Factory. While there haven't been any official press releases or details about the releases we've found out about this week, we have learned through Shout! Factory's message boards that The Patty Duke Show – The Complete Third Season (the final one, by the way) will be released in August, and some special features are indeed planned for the set. It is always great to see a series wrapped up! Also, Brian Ward of Shout! Factory mentioned that the third season of California Dreams is currently in the works, but due to slow sales of the first two seasons, it will only be available from Shout! Factory's direct-to-consumer program. But we aren't quite done with Shout! Factory just yet! After announcing Dragnet 1968 – Season 2 just a few weeks ago, there is now word (once again, from Brian Ward) that Adam-12 – Season Five will be coming sometime in August. As always, it seems that Shout! Factory is hard at work to bring us, well, everything on DVD! As was the case with the ABC Studios announcements, we'll have more details on these as we get them.

Hopefully we will have more news than we had this week to share with you next week. But we can't have any news unless the studios plan to release things! There may be some announcements from Warner Home Video next week, as they are planning an online chat about their television series on DVD, so hopefully we will get some interesting news from that! If we have anything, we'll let you know next week.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

There aren't any sitcoms being released next week (April 6), but there are a few great TV series that we love (and you probably do too) that are coming up next week. Ally McBeal - The Complete Second Season is a great set that includes all 23 episodes of the second season of the legal drama. They did a great job with the first season, and although we haven't seen this set yet, we can imagine it is just as great. Ally McBeal - The Complete Series, of course, has already been released. Also coming up on Tuesday, from Shout! Factory, is Simon & Simon – Season Four! I will be reviewing this soon in Digital Digest, but I can say right now that I am really enjoying the episodes on this set. The set does mention on the menus that it contains one edited episode, but overall, it is a great set. Universal is releasing a repackaged version of Syfy's (or Sci Fi Channel as it was known when the series originally aired) Battlestar Galactica – The Complete Series on both DVD and Blu-ray, as well as a Blu-ray version of Battlestar Galactica – Season Two. We have a review of Battlestar Galactica – The Complete Series in today's Digital Digest. Finally, The Lucille Ball Specials – Lucy Calls the President is being released, and it is an excellent special that every Lucille Ball fan must own. MPI did a great job with this release, and you can read our review of it from last week's Digital Digest.


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW:

This week, we are going to take a look at Battlestar Galactica – The Complete Series, which is being released this coming Tuesday (April 6) on both DVD and Blu-ray.

DVD Review: Battlestar Galactica - The Complete Series

by Seth Thrasher

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (Universal, $199.98) is the second edition of a complete series set for one of the greatest TV shows this decade, and it's available to own on DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday! The version of the release received for review is the DVD version of the set, and all subsequent comments about the set should be taken with this in mind. The set contains the complete full four seasons of the show, including the original miniseries as well as the "Razor" TV movie that aired prior to the fourth season. Not included is the recently released DVD movie "The Plan," which fills in some details the first season and a half omitted initially; nor does it feature the pilot DVD to the spin-off series Caprica.
Battlestar Galactica (the modern edition) is a "re-imagining" (a reboot, if you will) of a cheesy but fun late 1970s TV series. The new series is really a sign of the times in which it aired, with varying points in the series being incredibly dramatic, whether as a military drama, a political drama, or a space drama. The series, in terms of what it offers fans, really does present something for everyone.

To understand what you're getting into with this series, it's time for a little Battlestar Galactica 101:
With regards to the setting of the series and how we arrive to the events in the series' beginning -- imagine a *slightly* alternate universe. Now imagine a galaxy far, far, away. Humanity lives on twelve different planets in close proximity to one another. They've got spaceships, but much of their other technology appears very retro for one VERY important reason: The Cylons. Cylons were robots created by this version of humanity to do their bidding and make their lives easier, and any other ret-conned reasons introduced in the spin-off series Caprica. Over time, the robots' grew sentient, and got tired of being treated as humanity's butlers. So, they rebelled. Being machines and all, they quickly made Swiss cheese of most advanced technology. Humans eventually won the war, after forty years...mostly because the Cylons quit and went off to another world. Humans and their old robots had more or less a truce...until one day the Cylons came back.

For the sixteen of you reading this review who aren't familiar with the show, I'll stop with the back-story now as I want you to be surprised when you pick up either this set or at least the first season's episodes. When I was introduced to this show in 2008, just prior to the beginning of the show's fourth season, I was completely in the dark and I think my enjoyment of the show is better for it. I want you to have the same experience. It's not nearly as fun if I ruin the surprise. A basic and obvious summary would only be to say that the Cylons inevitably cause mass carnage and humanity is sent on the run for a new home. What follows over the next four seasons is a great ride for one and all.

There are two distinct elements to the packaging to discuss. Unlike the first printing run of this complete series set, this version uses a standard large outer box, in which is housed all four season box sets. The big box is silver and in the course of a three panel wraparound features the majority of the principal cast in grayscale. The show's logo is featured at the top of each side in raised lettering, as well as on the top of the box, again with raised lettering. The inner boxes contained within are similar to what you'd find on store shelves, with one minor difference. Fans will recall that seasons two and four were split in two and aired and later sold as seasons "2.0/2.5" and "4.0/4.5." For this set, both half-seasons have been unified into a single season box. The box generally resembles the 2.0 and 4.0 boxes, with the only changes being minor substitutions of text and a couple of the smaller episode stills on the back. The slim cases in which the discs are housed, as well as the discs themselves, are identical to their previous individual-release counterparts, down to the "Season 2.5" and "Season 4.5" branding.

Menus are generally identical to their season set counterparts, and vary from season to season. The menus for the initial sets were released in the earlier days of TV on DVD and as such don't feature as advanced designs as later seasons.

Video quality is among the best standard-definition DVD releases I've had the privilege to review. The only instances of any sort of debris, grain, or flaws in the video is when the show is *deliberately* going for a slightly grittier look. No sane person would hold *intentional* debris against a producer, and as I consider myself relatively sane, I intend to bear no grudge. Audio is spectacular as well - you can't ask for more on a DVD than a quality 5.1 experience and the show delivers that in spades. Runtimes are all over the place, with the shortest episodes being the same lengths as their original broadcast counterparts. Several episodes are "extended" from original broadcast with material that was cut for time originally that the producers feel is important to the show. It is SO nice to get to watch a set where the changes from original broadcast are *addition* and not subtraction.

Speaking of material removed from episodes, there is an absolute plethora of deleted scenes available as a bonus feature, along with just about anything else you can imagine. A breakdown of features by season brings us the following features each season:

Season One
*Feature Commentary by Director Michael Rymer and Executive Producers David Eick and Ronald D. Moore.
*Sketches and Art
*Deleted Scenes
*Battlestar Galactica: The Series Lowdown
*8 Behind-the-Scenes featurettes

Season Two:
*Extended version of mid-season cliffhanger "Pegasus"
*Deleted Scenes
*Podcasts
*Producers Video Blogs

Season Three:
*Extended version of episode "Unfinished Business"
*Deleted Scenes
*Podcasts
*Episode Commentary
*Producer's Video Blogs*
*Webisodes

Season Four:
*Extended versions of "A Disquiet Follows My Soul," "Islanded in a Stream of Stars," and "Daybreak"
*Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
*Sneak Peek at Battlestar Galactica: The Plan
*Episode Commentaries
*Ronald D. Moore's Podcast Commentaries
*David Eick's Video Blogs
*Deleted Scenes

An amazing amount of content, and I'd have to spent a week on the blog dissecting it all. What you really want to know is: "Should I buy this set?" I have two questions in response:

1. Do you already own all of the season sets?
2. Do you have an interest in quality dramas OR (notice: NOT and) anything to do with space?

If you can answer NO to 1, or YES to EITHER part of 2, then I think it's well worth your money to buy this set. It's a tremendous show. The first two-and-change seasons are among the best television I've ever watched, and the remaining less-than-two seasons, while a bit weaker, are still GREAT television. If you already own ALL of the season sets, or you already own the FIRST printing run of the complete series set, there's ZERO reason to buy this. It's solely for people like me who hadn't cashed in on the full run of DVDs yet for whatever reason.

Those of you who aren't yet fans of this great show, and don't want to plop down anywhere from $100 to $200 for a complete series set, at least do me this favor: Go to your video renter of choice and depending on their rental policies either rent season one, or more specifically get a hold of the first two discs of season one. Set aside two three hour blocks, and watch the miniseries and first few episodes. If you're not hooked after that, there's nothing I can do for you. But hopefully, in watching these episodes you come to the same conclusion I, and an army of other BSG fans, have all reach in that this was one of the best TV series of our time.

(5/5 stars)

To purchase this on DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

To purchase this on Blu-ray, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com DVD Reviews Page
Battlestar Galactica on TV.com


BLOG FEATURE STORY:

ALF - Region 1 vs. Region 2 (Including a Look at German Season One Release)
by skees53

Back in 2004, in the infancy of our DVD reviews, we had a review of Lionsgate's release of ALF – Season One. It is funny to look back at our old reviews now and how much we've evolved since then, but one thing hasn't changed, and that is the practice of some shows appearing on DVDs in their edited or syndicated versions. At the time, we foolishly assumed that anything on DVD would be unedited, but boy, were we wrong.

ALF – Season One was heavily butchered on DVD, with tons of cuts made both for the sake of time for airing on TV as well as cuts made to avoid copyright issues with music contained within the episodes. But last week, we talked about international DVDs Warner Home Video's release of ALF – Die Komplette Erste Staffel in Region 2 (specifically in Germany). Despite the $45 price tag on it (that included shipping), I went ahead and purchased it from Germany's version of Amazon, Amazon.de to check it out after I heard that it contained much better episodes than the Region 1 version.

Before you go any further, you should check out my blog feature from last week where I talked about purchasing international DVDs and playing them on DVD players purchased in the United States. You may need to modify your DVD player (this is at your own risk, I would suggest doing it with an older one as well, because the modifications can and will void any warranties that you have on the DVD player) or purchase a DVD player that is region-free out of the box. Upon purchasing this set, I was successfully able to modify an eight-year-old Oritron brand (that is basically about as close to the bottom of the barrel that you can get without buying an Apex brand DVD player) DVD player that I had sitting in storage for years to play the DVD set.

So let's talk about what was different when I first received the set. The packaging was definitely different from the Region 1 version. Of course, that is to be expected since a different studio released it on DVD. The cover art had a picture of ALF on it with a planet logo that had "Die Komplette 1 Staffel" (which is German for "The Complete First Season") on it, and the back had a lot of writing in German. But it did mention on the back that it had audio tracks AND subtitles in "Deutsch" (German), "Französisch" (French), "Englisch" (English), and "Spanisch" (Spanish). Just like the Region 1 release, it contained a standard DVD case inside of a cardboard sleeve, and the DVD case inside was exactly the same. Inside the DVD case, there were four discs, with Disc 1 having a picture of ALF, Disc 2 having a picture of Brian, Disc 3 having a picture of Lynn, and Disc 4 having a picture of Willie. There was also a very nice episode booklet that resembled a typical Warner episode booklet like the ones that we have in the United States, except it was all in German. Even the episode titles were translated into German.

I could only hope that the DVD would work in my DVD player when I put it in. I was actually a little concerned that it might not, and maybe there was a detail that I missed in playing Region 2 DVDs. Fortunately, it really was as simple as I thought it would be, and the only thing necessary was to modify the DVD player. When the menus popped up on the screen, I was surprised to discover that, despite the packaging all being in German, the main menu was actually in English. Unlike the Region 1 DVDs where ALF greeted you and interacted with you on the menus, the main menu on here just had the theme song playing with a still photo of ALF (the same one as seen on the cover art) and options of Play, Episodes, and Languages.



The Play option went to a menu that had no words at all, but instead just numbers for each episode. I suppose that this is designed to make the set more accessible to a wider variety of languages. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-7, Disc 2 contains episodes 8-14, Disc 3 contains episodes 15-20, and Disc 4 contains episodes 21-25. There was one difference from the American version, though. The episodes on this set are presented in their original airdate order. The Region 1 set episodes were presented in the production order. For fans of the series, the airdate order makes much more sense to the continuity of the series.



What is most important, though, is the content of the episodes themselves. As was indicated last week, the episodes are almost all unedited. There was one minor edit on the episode "For Your Eyes Only" to remove a Chipmunks song, and it is actually a pretty abrupt and noticeable cut, but it doesn't remove any continuity to the episode. What is unusual, however, is that the Region 1 version actually has the song removed as well, but is edited differently to include a few seconds of dialog that are NOT found in the Region 2 version. An interesting editing practice that I found on the Region 1 DVDs is that some of the episodes were modified to create fake opening teasers for episodes that did not originally have them. As for the unedited episodes on the Region 2 DVD set, these "fake opening teasers" appear after the opening credits as they were intended to appear. At some point in the future, we will revisit this set (as well as other seasons of ALF) to talk about some specific edits. The runtimes for each episode are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "Pilot" (24:12)
2. "Strangers in the Night" (24:43)
3. "Looking for Lucky" (23:43)
4. "Pennsylvania 6-5000" (24:41)
5. "Keepin' the Faith" (24:42)
6. "For Your Eyes Only" (23:30)
7. "Help Me Rhonda" (24:42)

Disc 2:
8. "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue?" (24:36)
9. "Jump" (24:44)
10. "Baby, You Can Drive My Car" (24:43)
11. "On the Road Again" (23:42)
12. "Oh, Tannerbaum" (24:43)
13. "Mother and Child Reunion" (24:41)
14. "A Little Bit of Soap" (24:43)

Disc 3:
15. "I've Got a New Attitude" (24:42)
16. "Try to Remember (Parts 1 and 2)" (48:10)
17. "Border Song" (24:44)
18. "Wild Thing" (24:43)
19. "Going Out of My Head Over You" (24:24)
20. "Looking Through the Windows" (24:44)

Disc 4:
21. "It Isn't Easy Bein' Green" (24:42)
22. "The Gambler" (24:33)
23. "Weird Science" (24:33)
24. "La Cucaracha" (24:26)
25. "Come Fly With Me" (24:34)

We all get a little annoyed by having to wait on FBI warnings on a disc, but we should be lucky that we only have one in the United States. This set, on the other hand, has over THIRTY (maybe closer to 40 or 50, I lost count) warnings about copyright infringement at the end of the last episode on each disc, for each and every country that the set is sold in (and it is a long list). Luckily, you aren't forced to watch these, but it takes forever. And of course, the one that applies to the United States is, well, not there, since this set is not intended to be sold in the United States.

The video and audio quality is generally fine, although it isn't perfect and there is a good reason for this. These episodes are presented in PAL format, which is slightly different from the NTSC format that we use in the United States. The DVD player can translate the formats just fine for us, but since PAL uses a different frame rate than NTSC, there is some minor loss of video quality on this set. There aren't really any video defects of note, however. The audio on the set sounds fine. As mentioned already, there are subtitles and audio tracks in English, German, Spanish, and French. It is actually interesting to listen to ALF's voice in the alternate languages, even if you can't understand what he is saying.

The set has no special features at all. On the Region 1 release, we had some bloopers, the original pilot episode, and some trivia facts. Also, the Region 1 DVDs had the very nicely produced menus. The Region 2 set has none of that, as is a common practice on foreign DVDs.

If you can afford to buy the set and/or you are a diehard ALF fan and want the unedited episodes, this set is definitely worth owning. You can purchase it on Amazon.de (a link to the product page can be found below), but be careful about ordering on there, specifically make sure that you are able to translate the German on the website (Yahoo! Babelfish is a great resource for that). You don't have to create a new account; your Amazon.com account information works on all of their international websites. Also, make sure that you have equipment that is capable of playing the DVDs. Season Two is also available (there is a link for that as well), and Season Three is supposed to be released sometime in the near future. There are, of course, some minor tradeoffs as mentioned with owning the Region 2 set vs. the Region 1 set, but personally, I like the Region 2 set a lot more than the Region 1 set.

(4/5 stars)

To purchase the Region 2 ALF - Season One DVD, click below:
Amazon.de

To purchase the Region 2 ALF - Season Two DVD, click below:
Amazon.de

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com DVD Reviews Page
SitcomsOnline.com ALF - Season One DVD Review (Region 1)
ALF on TV.com


LOOKING AHEAD

We'll have some more news and reviews for you next week! We have many reviews coming up in the upcoming weeks, including Ally McBeal – The Complete Second Season, Simon & Simon – Season Four, and even the incredibly rare early 80s detective drama from Stephen J. Cannell Productions, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe! We also have many feature stories in the works, including one about a current practice going on in new pressings of older DVDs that is creating challenges for serious DVD collectors. Remember to tell us what you think about our new feature on our message board or Tweet/Facebook us to tell us what you think! Until next week, keep it digital!


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November)

Dr. Ken - Season One Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season The Lucy Show - The Complete Series The Mindy Project - Season Four

10/04 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Christmas Special (Colorized)
10/04 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #1 (Colorized)
10/11 - Dr. Ken - Season One
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Sixth and Final Season
10/11 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Series
10/11 - Nurse Jackie - Seasons One and Two
10/11 - Weeds - Seasons One and Two
11/01 - Schitt's Creek - Seasons One and Two
11/08 - Family Matters - The Complete Ninth Season
11/08 - Your Family or Mine - Season One
11/15 - Community - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Lucy Show - The Complete Series
11/15 - The Mindy Project - Season Four
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Friday, December 9

Last Man Standing - "Help Wanted" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Since losing her teaching job, Vanessa has been spending her time hovering over the family, and it’s driving everyone nuts. Over at Kristin and Ryan’s house, Ryan and Kyle are wrapped-up in a zombie face-off to determine who knows the most about zombies and how to survive an apocalypse. Unable to land a new gig, Vanessa becomes discouraged, but Mike does everything he can to get her back doing what she loves.

Dr. Ken - "Ken's Apology" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Ken wants to apologize to a patient for missing an important medical detail, Pat advises against it, and the situation gets out of hand. Meanwhile, D.K. shakes things up at Dave’s parent/teacher conference.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 5)

Friday, December 9

  • Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples) - Watch Olivia on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. She will also be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Tom Papa (Come to Papa) - Tom is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Kevin Nealon (Man with a Plan/Weeds/Hiller and Diller/Champs) - Kevin appears on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Bella Thorne (Shake It Up) - Bella is a guest on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Crazy Ones) - Sarah whips up a delicious treat on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Richard Kind (Spin City/Mad About You) - Richard is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Jennifer Aniston (Friends) - Jennifer appears on Chelsea on Netflix.