Saturday, February 19, 2011

Digital Digest: Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series DVD Review; A Look Into the Public Domain

Welcome to this week's edition of Digital Digest! We've got a busy news week this week, plus we've got a review of the Warner Archive DVD set Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch and a blog feature article (yes, we've finally got one of these after many weeks of not having them!) about public domain DVDs. Let's get going!

DIGITAL NEWS

Shout! Factory has been very quiet when it comes to announcing new releases on DVD in recent weeks, but this week, the figurative dam has burst and several releases are flowing through! We'll start with the continuing releases from Shout! Factory. As you may remember, a few weeks ago, we mentioned some discussion regarding special features on a "potential" season eight release of All in the Family. Well, now, that release has gone from "potential" to announced. All in the Family - The Complete Eighth Season is scheduled for May 17 at a $29.93 MSRP.

What may be even more surprising, though, is Shout! Factory's quick turnaround on the series Webster. Webster - Season Two is on the calendar for May 10 at a $29.93 MSRP.

We've also mentioned in the past that Father Knows Best - Season Six would be coming sometime soon, and now we have a date for it! It will, of course, be a Shout! Select title, and is not available for pre-order yet, but it is set to be released on April 19.

Now, that concludes the news on the continuing stuff from Shout! Factory... so let's delve into the new stuff! First up is an announcement on a series that another studio has started, but Shout! is picking up... it is none other than Hazel! Sony released the first season a few years ago, but now Shout! Factory has picked up the rights to it and will be releasing the second season (and hopefully the rest). No details are known on this set just yet.

The other news from Shout! Factory is regarding a current series on ABC Family, the original sitcom Melissa & Joey. The original series, starring Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence, comes to DVD on May 24 in Melissa & Joey - Season One, Part One. It comes at a $29.97 MSRP.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (February 22) brings us a trio of releases from Lionsgate, including Weeds - Season Six (DVD and Blu-ray Disc), Nurse Jackie - Season Two (DVD and Blu-ray Disc), and House of Payne - Volume 6. We have a review of Weeds here and a review of Nurse Jackie here. Look for House of Payne in the upcoming days on our main review page.


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

Many Hanna-Barbera series have come and gone over the years, and thanks to the folks at Warner Archive, we are finally seeing many of these rare and lost series on DVD. In the short-lived series Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, we get to see Wheelie, a stunt racing car, and his girlfriend Rota Ree outsmart the motorcycle gang. It's a quirky and weird premise for a series (like many cartoons of the early '70s), but now you can see all 13 episodes on DVD in Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series.

DVD Review: Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series
by Greg Brobeck

Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series (Warner Archive, $24.95) Charge!! All 13 episodes of Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch arrive on DVD from the Warner Archive in a new 3-disc set. Wheelie is a red Volkswagen Beetle who is also a professional racing car. He communicates via honks and words displayed on his windshield (despite the fact that all the other characters in the series can talk). His girlfriend, a yellow convertible, is Rota Ree (a pun on rotary engine and actress Ruta Lee).
Wheelie's nemeses are the Chopper Bunch, a gang of motorcycles including Chopper, Revs, Hi-Riser, and Scrambles. Episode plots usually involve the Chopper Bunch trying to cause some sort of trouble for Wheelie, typically trying to steal Rota Ree away from him. However, Wheelie always wins out and Rota's affections never waiver.

The series ran on NBC from 1974-1975 and the episodes are actually pretty cute. It's nice to see a Hanna-Barbera series from that time period that doesn't involve crime-fighting/mystery-solving teenagers and is instead just good old-fashioned fun. It's a shame the series only lasted 13 episodes, but it faced fierce competition from The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show on CBS and ultimately bombed in the ratings as a result. The set is from Warner Archive and is, therefore, a manufacture-on-demand set on DVD-R's. There's a small chance the discs won't play on certain DVD players or drives, but I had no problem with any of the discs.

Each of the thirteen episodes is comprised of three shorts which last around 7 minutes each. Episodes are very cute and have easy to follow and easy to get involved in plots. Some of the funnier episodes: In "Get a Doctor" the Chopper Bunch tries to trick Wheelie into thinking he's sick—even going as far as tampering with his medical test results! In "Our Hero," Wheelie joins the volunteer rescue squad and goes in search of a little girl (a scooter) who is lost... but will Chopper show him up and get there first? In "Wheelie in Paris," Wheelie enters the Grand Prix race in Paris, but so does Chopper and tries to beat him to the finish line. And finally, in "Wheelie's Clean Sweep," Wheelie becomes a street sweeper in order to give Rota's father the day off. Here are all the episodes with the runtimes for each episode on the DVD-R's:

Disc 1:
1. Double Cross Country/The Infiltrator/The Stunt Show (22:05)
2. Get a Doctor/A Day at the Beach/Ghost Riders (22:18)
3. Razzle-Dazzle Paint Job/The Autolympics/The Delivery Service (22:18)
4. Big Bumper/Surprise Party/On the Town (22:16)

Disc 2:
5. Black Belt Fuji/Our Hero/Wheelie Goes Hawaiian (22:16)
6. Inspection/The Old Timer/The Copter Caper (22:08)
7. Dr. Crankenstein/Bulldozer Buddy/Happy Birthday Wheelie (22:13)
8. Wheelie, the Super Star/Down on the Farm/Roadeo (22:18)

Disc 3:
9. Carfucious Says/Mighty Wheelie/Camping With Go-Go (22:30)
10. Lennie Van Limosine/Snow Foolin'/Wheelie in Paris (22:16)
11. Dragster Net/Dragula/Boot Camp (22:11)
12. Dr. Cykll and Mr. Ryde/Johnny Crash/Wheelie, the Smoke Eater (22:15)
13. Friday the Thirteenth/Wings for Wheelie/Wheelie's Clean Sweep (22:08)

The set comes in a black multi-disc Amaray case with one moving page to store the disc. Previous sets from the Warner Archive have come in clear cases with much thinner plastic that is susceptible to breaking. I can gladly say the quality of the actual case has improved with this set. The case features a nice shot of all the characters in the series along with the show logo and "Hanna Barbera Classic Collection." The back has some more shots of the cast and some information on the series. The discs themselves have the show's logo and a picture of Wheelie.

As was not the case with other Hanna-Barbera sets from the Warner Archive, this one features an actual menu screen instead of a generic one. It's a simple one-screen menu with the same picture of the characters as on the DVD case, and options to choose an episode. Unfortunately, you can only choose an episode by number. Episode titles are not provided on the menu or anywhere in the set. There are no audio or subtitle options and there are no closed captions. Chapter marks are better placed in this set as well, with one after the main title, and one after each segment. This makes navigating through the episodes very easy.

The video and audio qualities are mostly good. As this is a MOD set, no remastering work was done. The video is a little on the soft side, but colors are still vibrant and the episodes are very watchable. Audio is clear, if not very dynamic. It is as good as it can be expected. There are no special features, unfortunately...but no one was expecting any, I'm sure.

In general, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch was a cute mid-70s Hanna-Barbera show about talking cars and motorcycles. As this show is rarely rerun on Cartoon Network or Boomerang, I had never actually seen the show prior to getting this set, and considering how bland some of H-B's product was at the time, my expectations weren't that high. However, I was impressed with the writing and the overall cute factor of the show. It's too bad it didn't last longer. I can wholeheartedly recommend the show to both families and animation enthusiasts. It's cute!

(4/5 stars)

To purchase this DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Warner Archive

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch TV.com page

BLOG FEATURE STORY:

A Look Into the Public Domain
by skees53

We've all seen them everywhere; if we go into virtually any store, such as a dollar store, bookstore, various websites, a grocery store, or even big box retailers like Best Buy or Target, we see cheap DVDs (sometimes as cheap as a buck), usually of series that are from the 1960s or earlier, that have been put out by some studio that we've never heard of. Commonly, we'll see series such as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Lucy Show, and many others among these "value selections." So why are these DVDs so cheap? It's because they are in the public domain. In other words, they are episodes of these series that have fallen out of copyright protection.

We rarely review such series here (although we have on occasion). One major problem is that there are an infinite amount of these releases out there released by studios that seemingly pop up every day (and often vanish after the release), and we can't even keep track of what is coming out because public domain DVDs are rarely released with any publicity. Another problem is that so many of these DVDs contain material that has already available from several other studios releasing the same public domain set. And quality is another issue--many of these sets are among the worst looking DVDs that you'll see out there. So why are we doing a story about this? Because sometimes you can find treasures among these DVD sets that you can not find elsewhere.

One great example of these "treasures" would be the classic series from the 1950s that Betty White starred in, Life With Elizabeth and Date With the Angels. No studio has ever released any "official" set of either series, so for these series, our only option is to go with a public domain release. None of the offerings out there are stellar quality, but they do provide us with a rare opportunity to see the series. We've even reviewed two of these sets, which you can see our reviews for here and here. Neither were great sets, but nonetheless offered a rare opportunity to see the series.

Recently, I stumbled upon a DVD called Lucy's Really Lost Moments for just $2 at Big Lots. I picked it up totally on a whim, but I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found on the set. Essentially, it was a single disc collection of material that could be considered "special features" on an I Love Lucy set (although much of it actually is on the officially released DVD sets). But this DVD stood out, because it contained both black and white AND colorized versions of all of the material on it. This truly was one of the best public domain releases that I ever found.

Another great public domain set is one that I've seen time and time again at the bricks and mortar retailer Half Price Books. It is Mill Creek's collection of one hundred (yes, one 1 and two 0's) episodes of the series The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. Now, it isn't exactly the prettiest looking set out there, but when I was able to pick up a used copy from the clearance rack for $10 (although the new price is still a very reasonable $20), I had to take advantage of that opportunity. This set is about the only way that you can see most of the episodes on DVD, as many releases of the series are scattered and only contain a handful of episodes.

With all that being said, before buying any public domain DVD, remember the phrase "let the buyer beware." For the most part, none of these are perfect and will have technical flaws, and are almost always missing original music or other elements. But for just a few bucks, it is money that you can often afford to burn.


LOOKING AHEAD

We'll be back next week with more news and reviews, and hopefully we'll have more feature articles in the weeks ahead.We have a review of Jabberjaw, another classic Hanna-Barbera series from the Warner Archive collection in the upcoming weeks, as well as a review of an upcoming release of the classic Canadian comedy series (which has aired on PBS in the United States), The Red Green Show. Until then, 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

Sunday, December 4

The Simpsons - "The Last Traction Hero" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
A workplace accident leaves Homer in a cast, and in a position to sue Mr. Burns. This leaves Marge unfulfilled, so she turns to an unexpected source for romance. Meanwhile, Lisa is made “Bus Monitor” and tries to keep the peace.

Son of Zorn - "Return of the Drinking Buddy" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Zorn’s old friend Headbutt Man (guest voice Rob Riggle) is coming to town. Unfortunately for Zorn, Headbutt Man is now sober. Meanwhile, Alan is invited to a party where his crush, Nancy (guest star Emily Wong), will be. Unfortunately, he has to take Headbutt man’s daughter with him.

Family Guy - "Carter and Tricia" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Carter buys the Pawtucket Patriot brewery and decides to cut some corners to save a few bucks. Peter overhears the plan and runs and tells investigative journalist Tricia Takanawa about Carter’s plan to use toxic chemicals in the beer cans. Meanwhile, Brian’s drivers’ license has expired and he enlists Stewie as an instructor.

The Last Man on Earth - "Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After finding a mysterious note left by Melissa that says “Goodbye,” the gang sets off to go look for her. Meanwhile, Gail gets stuck on a solo adventure of her own.

K.C. Undercover - "Holly Holly Not So Jolly" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Christmas time arrives and K.C. tells everyone she has to go pick up a last-minute gift, but instead goes to The Organization's therapist, Dr. Levinstein.

Mech X-4 - "Let's Survive in the Woods!" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Principal Grey sets a trap for Ryan, Harris and Spyder while they're on a camping trip, which leaves MECH-X4 and Mark in danger.

Best Friends Whenever - "The Christmas Curse" (Disney Channel, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Shelby and Cyd encourage a homesick Daisy to incorporate a festive 16th-century tradition into their annual Christmas party.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 5)

Monday, December 5

  • Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Watch Will on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Steve Harvey (The Steve Harvey Show) - Steve visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. He chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/The Hogan Family/It's Your Move) - Jason visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He will also be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle) - Gael is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program) - Steve appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • The Cast of Fuller House - The cast of Fuller House are guests on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Patricia Heaton (The Middle/Back to You/Everybody Loves Raymond) - Patricia stops by Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Miss Piggy (The Muppets) - Miss Piggy and Harry perform Deck the Halls on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Meredith Hagner (Search Party/Men at Work) - Meredith is a guest on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Lauren Graham (The Odd Couple/Conrad Bloom/Townies) - Lauren appears on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - T.J. talks about Office Christmas Party on the AOL Build Show at 3pm. He will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET. He can also be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 9:50am.
  • Bradley Whitford (Happyish/Trophy Wife) - Bradley is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Josh McDermitt (Retired at 35) - Josh can be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 10:45am.
  • Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait/Guys with Kids/Worst Week) - Erinn talks about Kevin Can Wait on the AOL Build Show at 4pm.