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!


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.


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.


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
Warner Archive

Related links: Full DVD Reviews Page
Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch page


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.


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 (September)

The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Ninth Season Newhart - The Complete Sixth Season 2 Broke Girls - The Complete Fifth Season Family Matters - The Complete Eighth Season Modern Family - The Complete Season 7

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
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, October 25

The Middle - "Halloween VIII: The Heckoning" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
As Halloween approaches, Frankie is taken aback when she discovers that, if the circumstances ever arose where she and Mike got divorced, the kids would all choose to live with Mike. Meanwhile, Sue tries everything in her power to get her room back from Brick, and having to be so nice around girlfriend April all of the time leads Axl to lash out at his family.

American Housewife - "Westport Zombies" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Katie, jealous of Taylor’s friendship with neighbor Viv (Leslie Bibb), reluctantly competes in the Westport Halloween “Zombie Run” after she finds out they’ll both be running. Meanwhile, Greg and Anna-Kat get a little too much in character for the “zombie” part of the run’s obstacle course.

Fresh Off the Boat - "Louisween" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
It’s Louis’ favorite holiday, and he makes every attempt to scare Jessica into the Halloween spirit, but she is buried in her word processor, drafting her first horror novel. Meanwhile, Emery and Evan debate costume choices, and Eddie and his crew are excited to party with high schoolers at Nicole’s house.

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Halloween" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Halloween arrives, or what Kenny refers to as “the gay Super Bowl,” he plans to go to Boystown to watch the festive costume parade. In an effort to prevent Kenny from attending, Eileen agrees to let him throw his own Halloween party at home. Eileen’s tolerance is ultimately tested when Kenny recruits Stuart and his gay friends to join the big party, and he makes a BIG costume change. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Shannon plan to pull off an epic Halloween prank.

Atlanta - "Junteenth" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Why my Auntie trying to make me go to one of these bougie Junteenth parties again? I don't like them sadity people and I'm gonna miss my shows. Le sigh.

Family Time - "Head of House" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When the Stallworths have an unexpected visitor, they learn of a vicious crime that took place in their home years ago.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 24)

Tuesday, October 25

  • Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) - Catch Will on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. He also chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Matt LeBlanc (Man with a Plan/Episodes/Friends) - Matt is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) - Cobie appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Skylar Astin (Ground Floor) - Skylar is a guest on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Ron Howard (Happy Days/The Andy Griffith Show) - Ron drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub (How to Be a Gentleman/Veronica's Closet/The Larry Sanders Show) and David Koechner (Another Period/Hank/The Office) - Mary and David are guests on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun/Twenty Good Years) - John appears on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens/Anything But Love) - Jamie Lee is a guest on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Erinn Hayes (Kevin Can Wait/Guys with Kids/Worst Week) - Erinn plays a celeb guessing game with Rach, who’s serving up no-fail make-your-own takeout, on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Mary Steenburgen (The Last Man on Earth/Ink) - Mary joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Ana Gasteyer (People of Earth/Lady Dynamite/Suburgatory) - Ana will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET. She will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Cheryl Hines (Son of Zorn/Suburgatory/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Cheryl is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) - Abbi will be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. She will also be on the AOL Build Show 4pm.
  • Don Rickles (C.P.O. Sharkey/Daddy Dearest) - Don is a guest on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Nico Tortorella (Younger) - Nico appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.