Saturday, July 02, 2011

Digital Digest: Busy Summer for Mill Creek; Challenge of the Gobots - The Original Miniseries DVD Review

Happy Independence Day weekend and welcome to Digital Digest! We've done all of the complaining that we could possibly do over the past few weeks about how insanely slow the news has been on the home media front, but much to our surprise, we've actually got a busy week this week! We've also got a review of the Warner Archive DVD release of Challenge of the Gobots - The Original Miniseries. Let's get rolling!


DIGITAL NEWS

Mill Creek Entertainment has been on a steady path lately of releasing "best of" sets of Shout! Factory series as well as their own releases of various series from the Carsey-Werner library (which we'll have more on that in just a bit!) but August isn't being totally left out! August 23 brings many sitcom sets from Shout! Factory from the public domain territory (which means that we won't be reviewing them, but they may be of interest to some fans). First up is The Betty White Collection - America's Funny Lady, a 40 episode collection of episodes of the series Life With Elizabeth and A Date With the Angels. The Beverly Hillbillies - Meet the Clampetts is a 40 episode collection of that classic series. For Lucy fans, there is Lucy - A Legacy of Laughter, with 30 episodes of the series The Lucy Show. And if you just like classic TV in general, there is Family TV Classics - 45 Episode Collection, with 45 classic episodes of series including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Adventures Ozzie and Harriet, Petticoat Junction, and more. None of this stuff is new to DVD, but these are new collections for those who may not already own the series. I would expect the quality of these programs to be questionable and replaced theme music, as these are public domain sets. Each of these sets will come at a very low $9.98 MSRP, and I suspect that they will be easily found for even lower prices. All in all, it is a good value--considering what you are getting.

But we are hardly done with Mill Creek! They've got an even busier September coming up with their first batch of Carsey-Werner DVD releases! September 13 will see releases of the first two (separate) seasons of four different Carsey-Werner series, meaning eight DVD season sets total, in addition to one best-of set. And each of these sets will contain unedited episodes (although we are cautious about this, because although we believe they will be broadcast length episodes, we haven't heard whether original music will be restored on the episodes, and Mill Creek has typically fallen short in this area). Series in the first batch include Roseanne (season 1 and season 2), That '70s Show (season 1, season 2, and Biggest Hits), Grounded for Life(season 1 and season 2), and 3rd Rock from the Sun (season 1 and season 2). Roseanne and That '70s Show season sets will come at a $14.98 MSRP (the Biggest Hits set of That '70s Show will only be $5.98) and the sets of Grounded for Life and 3rd Rock from the Sun will come at a very low $9.98 MSRP. However, original press releases suggested that complete series sets of some or all of these series will come sometime in 2012, so if you are interested in that, you may be able to get an even better deal.

We knew that the series Modern Family would be coming to DVD for Modern Family - Season Two, it was only a question of when. Now, we know it'll be on September 10. But that isn't all! There will also be a Blu-ray Disc release of the set on the same day. Both are available to pre-order now.

Remember the short-lived CBS series Mad Love? Honestly, I don't, because I never even got a chance to see it before it was canceled. But if you liked it or want a chance to see what you missed, it is coming soon to DVD! August 30 will bring the complete series to DVD in Mad Love - The DVD Edition.
It's been a while since we've seen any Adam-12 releases from Shout! Factory, but apparently, it is NOT abandoned, which is great news for fans. In fact, according to this tidbit, caught by TVShowsOnDVD.com, Shout! Factory says to look for the sixth season early next year. We will hopefully have a review of this one when it is released.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (July 5) has several DVD releases on the plate, particularly from Lionsgate. According to Jim - The Complete Fourth Season, Boy Meets World - The Complete Sixth Season, and The PJ's - Season Two are all being released on Tuesday. CBS Home Entertainment has some classic dramas on tap for Tuesday, with Mannix - The Fifth Season and two releases of Dynasty, with Dynasty - The Fifth Season, Volume 1 and Dynasty - The Fifth Season, Volume 2.


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

We've seen a ton of DVDs come from the Warner Archive of series that fans hardly remember, but there is one that fans have wanted... and it is finally on the way, with Challenge of the Gobots - The Original Miniseries. The miniseries about robots that changed themselves into vehicles (sound a little familiar, Transformers fans?) kicked off a series and line of toys that became popular in the 1980s. Here is our review of Challenge of the Gobots - The Original Miniseries.

DVD Review: Challenge of the Gobots - The Original Miniseries

Challenge of the Gobots – The Original Miniseries (Warner Archive, $19.95) is the latest Hanna-Barbera entry from the Warner Archive program, one highly requested by fans… or at least a start to that request: the five episodes that kicked off the animated Challenge of the Gobots series in 1984. The Gobots were a popular toy line imported from Japan, produced here in America by Tonka (which has now been merged into Hasbro, the same company that owns Transformers). Many, however, saw both the toys and the series as a cheap ripoff of Transformers. Both featured robots that can change themselves into cars or other vehicles. Both had animated series that ran roughly the same amount of episodes, and both spawned 1980s animated feature films. However, Transformers is the one that’s beloved and remembered today with revival series and movies… while Gobots is largely either forgotten or made fun of. But is all that ribbing worthwhile?

The show’s plot is thus. There are two opposing forces of Gobots on the planet Gobotron: the Guardians (good guys) and the Renegades (bad guys). The Guardians’ leader was Leader-1 and the Renegades’ was Cy-Kill. Thousands of years ago, Gobotron was filled with a humanlike races called Gobings. Civil war erupted between the Guardians and Renegades, which climaxed with an asteroid crashing into the planet. One genius left among the population was able to save everyone else who had survived by building robot bodies and transferring the Gobings brains into them. That genius, known as the Last Engineer, then put himself into suspended animation as the war between the Guardians and Renegades raged on in the Gobot suits. Eventually, the Renegade leader decides to come to Earth to build some sort of secret weapon, and accidentally encounters three NASA astronauts who get wrapped up in the Gobots’ war.

The plot is a little too contrived, and not very believable. The toy line didn’t sell that well either. But the show does have its core fan base, and it is one of several shining examples of the 1980s fad of turning toys into TV shows created solely for selling said toys.The miniseries aired in syndication in the fall of 1984 and was apparently popular enough to generate a regular series the next year. The shows appear to be completely uncut, and even include the commercial bumpers (“Challenge of the Gobots will return after these messages.”) The fifth episode is about 30 seconds shorter, but I suspect that was so it could include an extra commercial or promo for the toys or for the coming series. Here are the episode runtimes.

1. The Battle for Gobotron (21:59)
2. Target Earth (21:58)
3. Conquest of Earth (21:57)
4. Earthbound (21:57)
5. The Final Conflict (21:28)

The single disc comes in a Viva Eco-box, a thinner plastic with certain sections punched out to make it more recyclable. The outer box features the “Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection” banner, along with the show’s logos and some of the characters in an action pose beneath. The back cover has more of the characters and s description of the show’s plot. The packaging matches all the other Hanna-Barbera Warner Archive titles well. The disc itself has a blue background with the show’s logo and one of the Gobots from the front cover. The packaging is attractive, considering it’s coming from the Warner Archive.

This is another of the Hanna Barbera sets with a main menu. The menu features the same picture featured on the outer box, with options of Play All and selecting episodes 1 through 5. The episode titles aren’t included anywhere, but they are listed on the outer box. I’ll let that slide for this five-episode set, but if there are any future ones with episodes from the regular series, that could become a problem of not easily being able to figure out which episode you are watching. There are no closed captions or subtitles. Chapter stops are placed at commercial breaks, a major improvement from past archive sets that either had no chapter stops or were placed randomly.

I’m very impressed with the video and audio quality. One note that’s mentioned all throughout the disc artwork is that these five episodes have been remastered from the original film elements—something no other Hanna-Barbera Warner Archive title can claim. As a result, the picture quality is quite clear, and colors are very vibrant. There is some film grain from time to time, occasionally heavy, but as the show was mastered to film (a tad unusual for the 1980s,) that is to be expected and is actually a bit endearing. The audio, while mono, is also very crisp and clear. I hope similar efforts can be given to future sets from the Warner Archive.

There are no special features whatsoever. While this is common with Warner Archive sets, some sort of featurette on the show’s creation or on how the toys were imported from Japan would have been very helpful, especially to someone like me who isn’t familiar with the show.

Overall, Challenge of the Gobots isn’t a completely terrible show, but the plots are a little contrived and corny. The animation, being 1980s Hanna-Barbera, isn’t always the best either. But I think people who remember watching this show back in the day will enjoy this disc. Transformers fans, too, I think may enjoy it, if for nothing else to make fun of it. The show is definitely a throwback to a different time. Nostalgia fans are probably the only ones who will get a huge kick out of it. Despite all that, and despite the lack of special features, Warner did do a good job of presenting this miniseries on DVD and the episodes look marvelous. Now the question remains if any of the remaining 60 episodes will be released as well. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
(3/5 stars)

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We'll be back next week with more Digital Digest, and we have plenty of reviews in the upcoming weeks... in fact, we have so many coming up that we may even do two reviews some weeks. Look for reviews of Mannix - The Fifth Season as well as Dynasty - The Fifth Season, Volume 1 and Dynasty - The Fifth Season, Volume 2 in the upcoming weeks. Until then, keep it digital!


New on DVD/Blu-ray (June/July/August)

Father Knows Best - Season Six Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season Alice - The Complete Fifth Season Rhoda - Season Four Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four

06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
07/04 - Superstore - Season Two
07/18 - Father Knows Best - Season Six
07/25 - Diff'ernt Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season
07/25 - Girls - The Final (Sixth) Season (Blu-ray)
08/01 - Alice - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
08/01 - Crashing - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
08/15 - Rhoda - Season Four
08/22 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four
08/29 - Will & Grace - Season One (Universal)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, August 20

Family Guy - "Ain't Miss Debatin" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
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.

The Simpsons - "Havana Wild Weekend" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When the Retirement Castle and the V.A. Hospital can’t solve Grampa’s health issues, the Simpsons decide to take a family trip to Cuba to get him cheap medical care.

Family Guy - "The Peter Principal" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Peter becomes the temporary principal at the high school, and Meg uses his new power to get even with her bullies. Meanwhile, Brian and Stewie open a bed & breakfast that quickly turns into a brothel.

The Simpsons - "Dad Behavior" (Fox, 9:00PM 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.

Family Guy - "Dearly Deported" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Chris’ Mexican girlfriend, Isabella, gets deported, he volunteers to take care of her twin babies. After learning that Isabella can’t come back to the U.S., the Griffins go to Mexico to return her children.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 14)

Friday, August 18

  • T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley/The Goodwin Games/Carpoolers) - Watch T.J. on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Billy Eichner (Difficult People) - Billy is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/30 Rock) - Jane appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jeff Garlin (The Goldbergs/Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Jeff visits LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Jussie Smollett (On Our Own) - Jussie is a guest on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 2am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) - Randall appears on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Kristen Bell (The Good Place) - Kristen is a guest on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Jason Jones (The Detour) - Jason appears on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Brandy (Moesha/The Game/Thea) - Brandy talks about Broadway's Chicago on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Demi performs on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Nat Wolff (The Naked Brothers Band) - Nat talks about Leap and Home Again on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Geena Davis (Buffalo Bill/The Geena Davis Show) - Geena talks about Marjorie Prime on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.