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 (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.