Saturday, October 08, 2011

Digital Digest: CSI: Miami - The Ninth Season DVD Review; The Greatest American Heroine/Return of Hunter/Jake Lassiter/The Great Pretender DVD Review

Welcome to Digital Digest, where you can get your weekly fill of all things digital in the world of sitcoms! It's a slow week and things are back to normal, but we have some DVD news and more Netflix news for you! Also this week, we have reviews of CSI: Miami - The Ninth Season and a collection of four movies from Stephen J. Cannell, The Greatest American Heroine/Return of Hunter/Jake Lassiter/The Great Pretender. Let's get going!

DIGITAL NEWS

Netflix has been busy lately with new content. Just last week, as we mentioned, they added The Wonder Years. Since we didn't get an opportunity to really check it out before last week's Digital Digest, we'll talk a little bit more about it now. The episodes have been somewhat edited with a cover version of the theme song (so it isn't the Joe Cocker original) and some music has been replaced, but almost every episode is there. There is one clip show that is missing, but for some reason, that episode IS available for Amazon.com Prime subscribers, which, by the way, added the series as well this week. Also new to Netflix are the series Malcolm in the Middle and Ally McBeal. Hopefully we'll see more Fox series on there in the coming months, particularly classic series!

We aren't done with Netflix, though. They also have made some more new deals this week, including extending a deal with NBC Universal, meaning that 30 Rock and The Office aren't going anywhere anytime soon on the service. It also brings, for the first time ever, the series Parenthood to the service. And a new deal with AMC Networks will bring series such as The Walking Dead and other AMC series to the service over the upcoming years.

In DVD news, Shout! Factory has been very steadily releasing the classic sitcom Dennis the Menace on DVD, and after less than a year, now comes the announcement of the final season already! On January 10, look for Dennis the Menace - The Final Season on DVD. It is great to have the series completed so quickly!

But that isn't all for Shout! Factory. They have another release of another classic series on January 31 with Leave it to Beaver - 20 Timeless Episodes. The two disc set will contain 20 classic episodes of the series.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

We've had a few busy weeks with releases over the past two months, but things are back to normal this week with only one sitcom release, that being Mill Creek's release of That '70s Show - Holiday Edition: 10 Festive Episodes. We hope to have a review of this DVD soon.



CSI: Miami - The Tenth Season

DVD Review: CSI: Miami - The Ninth Season (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Video, $62.99)
by Todd Fuller

In its ninth killer season, the Miami team loses one of its own and Horatio Caine has the ultimate showdown with the man who killed his wife. This edgy crime series stars Golden Globe winner David Caruso, Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez, Rex Linn, Jonathan Tigo, Eva La Rue and Omar Miller as the city's unstoppable force. A madman at large, a blind man as a sole witness to murder, humans being used as prey...every one-of-a-kind case tests the team commitment to justice, and each other. And proves that every day, this Emmy and People's Choice Award-winning series can take the heat.

This 6-disc set contains all 22 sizzling episodes from the tenth (2010-11) season of the widely popular crime drama. The episodes are presented in anamorphic widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs with English 5.1 Surround and Spanish Stereo audio available. It has a total running time of approximately 15 hours, 30 minutes. The attractive packaging has a photo of David Caruso in his trademark sunglasses holding a gun. Some palm trees and building are in the background. There is an embossed CSI: Miami logo in the center of the box. As with Season 8, they use a cardboard box that holds a clear plastic (Viva) snapcase. There are 11 small photos of the cast from the episodes on the back of the box and case. A short synopsis of the set, a listing of the special features and the DVD specs are provided. There is a clear plastic snapcase that slides out from th right of the outer cardboard box. The snapcase has the same cover art, photos and information as the cardboard box. Opening up the snapcase, there is a content locator which lists the episodes and the special features by disc on the inside cover. Some additional photos of the cast are at the bottom. Discs 1 and 6 are held in embedded holders in the front and back of the case, while Discs 2-5 are held in back-to-back in plastic trays. The discs have the CSI logo on them and just a plain silver background. Episode titles and the special features are listed on the discs.

The menus are stylish and easy to navigate. There are no previews on this release, so it jumps right to the main menus. The main menu opens with some views of Miami that lead to a montage of video clips from the show. A pulsating instrumenal cue plays in the background and then loops. Options for Episode Selection, Set Up and Special Features are available at the bottom of the screen. Episode titles are listed vertically in blue/teal boxes on the Episode Selection menu. The Set Up menu has a nice shot of Miami's beaches in the background. You can choose English 5.1 or EspaƱol audio. English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are available. Some options and special featuers are not rated any may not be subtitled. As you would expect from such a recent show, the video and audio quality is outstanding. CSI: Miami has always had the best look of any of the CSI franchise shows. All of the original music appears to be intact. Episodes are presented in their original broadcast order and numbered by the production number. The broadcast and production ordered differed for episodes 5-9 this season. Running times are between 40-44 minutes in length. Hopefully we'll see some seasons released on Blu-Ray in the U.S. at some point.

Here is the episode breakdown by disc, including the runtimes:

Disc 1
Episode 901 "Fallen" (42:55)
Episode 902 "Sudden Death" (41:03)
Episode 903 "See No Evil" (42:04)
Episode 904 "Manhunt" (41:52)

Disc 2
Episode 906 "Sleepless in Miami" (43:51)
Episode 905 "Reality Kills" (42:45)
Episode 908 "On the Hook" (43:01)

Disc 3
Episode 909 "Happy Birthday" (42:25)
Episode 907 "Blood Sugar" (41:17)
Episode 910 "Match Made in Hell" (41:56)
Episode 911 "F-T-F" (42:15)

Disc 4
Episode 912 "Wheels Up" (42:35)
Episode 913 "Last Stand" (43:22)
Episode 914 "Stoned Cold" (43:08)
Episode 915 "Blood Lust" (41:29)

Disc 5
Episode 916 "Hunting Ground" (41:56)
Episode 917 "Special Delivery" (43:49)
Episode 918 "About Face" (41:21)
Episode 919 "Caged" (41:35)

Disc 6
Episode 920 "Paint it Black" (43:49)
Episode 921 "G.O." (40:25)
Episode 922 "Mayday" (43:56)

A nice amount and mixture of special features are spread out over the 6 discs. Four featurettes and deleted scenes for seven episodes are included. Once again, there are only two audio commentaries on this set. This has been the norm with all of the CSI franchise releases recently. Here is the breakdown by disc:

Disc 1
Deleted Scene for "Fallen" (1:11) - A somber scene from the season premiere. The video effects are missing.

Deleted Scene for "See No Evil" (:27) - A short scene at the lab with Calleigh and Walter.

Disc 2
Audio Commentary by Jonathan Tigo, Rex Linn, Writer Brian Davidson, Director Sam Hill and Visual Effects Supervisor Larry Detwiler on "Sleepless in Miami"

Deleted Scene for "On the Hook" (1:39) - A scene with Horatio, Brad Webb and a civil process server at the lab.

A Miami Milestone: The 200th Episode (8:08) - The cast and crew celebrate the 200th episode of the series. They talk briefly about the storyline of this gritty episode. Some footage of the 200th episode cake and celebration at CBS is shown. Interviews include Adam Rodriguez, Emily Procter, Producer Don Tardino, Jonathan Tigo, Producer/Director Sam Hill, Eva La Rue, Omar Miller, Rex Linn, Claudia Yarmy, Executive Producer Barry O'Brien, President of CBS Nina Tassler President of CBS Paramount of Television David Stapf, and Executive Producer Ann Donahue.

Disc 3
Audio Commentary by Rex Linn, Director Sam Hill, Co-Writer Barry O'Brien and Producer Don Tardino on "Happy Birthday"

Deleted Scene for "Blood Sugar" (:47) - A scene with Roger Cavanaugh, Christie Cavanaugh and Luis.

Deleted Scene for "Made in Hell" (2:48) - An extended deleted scene with Kate and Horatio.

Disc 4
Deleted Scene for "Stoned Cold" (1:19) - A scene at the lab with Calleigh and Benton. The video effects and inserts are missing.

Deleted Scene for "Blood Lust" (5:21) - A series of deleted scenes at the lab with Frank, Delko, Horatio, Natalia and Michelle.

Disc 5
Behind the Scenes with Adam Rodriguez (17:59) - This featurette is on the episode ("Hunting Humans") that Adam Rodriguez wrote and directed. He was a first time director and did an excellent job with the episode. Behind the scenes footage of the production meeting and shooting of the episode is shown. Interviews include Adam Rodriguez, Jonathan Tigo, Producer/Director Sam Hill, Executive Producer Barry O'Brien, Executive Producer Marc Dube, Producer Don Tardino, Eva La Rue, Omar Miller, Script Supervisor Claudia Yarmy, Rex Linn, and Editor James D. Wilcox.

Disc 6
The Whole Nine Years (25:21) - This featurette focuses on the volatile ninth season. Season nine featured more action and often put the main characters in peril. The intensity and amount of running and foot chases was increased. They discuss the major storylines and their favorite episodes of the season. Interviews include Executive Producer Barry O'Brien, Executive Producer Marc Dube, Producer Don Tardino, Adam Rodriguez, Jonathan Tigo, Rex Linn, Eva La Rue, Omar Miller, Producer/Director Sam Hill and Emily Procter.

To Be Continued... The Season Finale (7:19) - This featurette focuses on the ninth season finale and the major cliffhanger. In the episode "Mayday," killer Jack Toller escapes and becomes a fugitive. Natalia deals with Randy North (Ethan Embry). Interviews include Executive Producer Barry O'Brien, Executive Producer Marc Dube, Jonathan Tigo, Rex Linn, and Eva La Rue.

CSI: Miami's ninth season was action-packed and gritty. They really ramped up the amount of running and explosions this season. It's great that they have kept the show fresh and exciting. Memorable ninth season episodes included "See No Evil," "Sleepless in Miami," "Happy Birthday," "Hunting Ground," "About Face" and "Mayday." They celebrated their 200th episode this season. Only about 75 shows have reached that milestone, so that's quite an ccomplishment these days. CSI reached that number in April 2009. CSI: New York will reach 200 next season if they are renewed.

This is another solid release. It has all of the detailed special features and interviews that you've come to expect. Unfortunately, David Caruso rarely participates in the interviews and special features. It just seems odd that the major star of the show doesn't discuss the episodes and season. Although they've taken a bit of a ratings hit because of the move to Sunday nights, it seems like they have enough gas in the tank for at least a few more seasons.

(4/5 stars)

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Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
CSI: Miami CBS.com Official Site
CSI: Miami TV.com Page

The Greatest American Heroine/Return of Hunter/Jake Lassiter/The Great Pretender

DVD Review: The Greatest American Heroine/Return of Hunter/Jake Lassiter/The Great Pretender (Mill Creek, $9.98)

We never really review movies here, because they are often out of the scope of our focus on television. But this week, we make an exception for Mill Creek's release of four movies from the 80s and 90s from Stephen J. Cannell productions. The iconic producer was the creative force behind many popular action drama series of the 80s, including The A-Team, Hunter, 21 Jump Street, and more. In this latest release from Mill Creek, we get to see four movies (well, technically three movies and one failed spinoff pilot) from the iconic producer. We will mainly focus on The Greatest American Heroine and The Return of Hunter in this review. However, the set also includes two other made-for-TV movies produced in the 90s.

As mentioned, the first "movie" in this collection is not really a movie, but actually a failed spinoff of The Greatest American Hero. The Greatest American Heroine was actually an episode of the original series that provides a conclusion to the original series along with setting up a new series. In this episode, Ralph (William Katt) is visited by aliens who gave him the suit that gave him the powers that he has, and they want the suit back. The only way to maintain the powers is to hand the suit over to another person. Enter Holly Hathaway (Mary Ellen Stewart), who is poised to become The Greatest American Heroine.

The second movie included is The Return of Hunter. In this movie, the iconic series of the 80s is back, with Hunter (Fred Dryer) returning to Los Angeles just after the murder of his fiancee. But remember, this is Hunter, and he'll stop at nothing to get justice, even when it means going up against a media-hungry serial killer. This movie features also Brian Keith in one of his final roles before his death.

The other two movies on the set aren't exactly TV series related, but we'll briefly mention them. The first is Jake Lassiter, a story about an ex-football player (Gerald McRaney) turned top defense attorney who is hired to defend a surgeon (James B. Sikking) charged with malpractice. But in finding the facts, the case quickly turns into a sordid tale of illicit activity on the bayou in New Orleans. In The Great Pretender, Earl Brattigan (Bruce Greenwold) wins a court battle to get reinstated at his old job at a newspaper, but the new assignment turns out to not be as exciting as the old one... or is it?

The runtimes for the movies are as follows:
The Greatest American Heroine (46:12)
The Return of Hunter (1:28:31)
Jake Lassiter (1:32:01)
The Great Pretender (1:32:56)

The packaging is just a standard DVD case with two trays (no paper sleeves, fortunately!). There are only two discs in the set, with each one containing a single double-sided disc. There is a movie on each side of each disc. On the cover, there are four "covers" from each of the movies, and on the back, there is a brief description of each movie included on the set.

The menus on the set are very plain, and when I say very plain, I mean that literally. Unlike most Mill Creek sets, which usually contain very nice menus, these almost look like they were created with a very basic computer program, and the menus just contain the movie title in a very plain font and options of Play Movie and Select Scene. There are chapters placed throughout each movie.

The video and audio quality on the set is basically fine. To me, some of it looked a bit better than what we usually see on Mill Creek releases, perhaps because there weren't quite so many episodes compressed on each disc. Unfortunately, there is no closed-captioning or subtitles on the episodes.

There are no special features on the set at all.

This is definitely a very plain and no-frills set, but it is a very reasonable priced collection of movies, and worth the cost even for just one of the movies (the one I was most interested in was The Return of Hunter). Perhaps it would have been better for Mill Creek to package the TV movies with their respective TV series, but in any event, you can now see them. As a side note, I did watch Jake Lassiter as well, and it was a great movie too, and had all of the elements of a classic Cannell crime drama series... even if it doesn't fit within the scope of our site. In short, I'd say that if you are interested in even one of the features on here, pick this up... and you might even enjoy some (or even all) of the other ones as well.

(4/5 stars)

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CLICK OF THE WEEK

DVD Talk (www.dvdtalk.com) - We like to think that we are a great site for DVD reviews and news, as well as our message boards, and we are. But our main focus is on sitcoms, and not just DVD releases. Plus, we're only here for Digital Digest one lonely day of the week. So where can you turn to the other six days of the week for extensive coverage of DVDs? DVD Talk is one of the best websites out there for DVDs. You'll find just about anything you are looking for when it comes to DVDs here, from news to reviews to giveaways, and the best part, the active forums where DVD aficionados post and discuss every issue related to DVDs and DVD sets.

These aren't the only features, though. The website is among the most thorough when it comes to reviews (although we attempt and often do cover more TV series, but in all fairness, they aren't JUST a TV on DVD website), interviews, regular columns, a database of Easter Eggs (which we don't cover too often here), and more. It is hard to really summarize the website in a few words, as it is a very broad and far-reaching site that attempts to cover every angle of DVDs, but the strong focus on DVDs along with a great staff of writers and a very friendly group of posters on the message boards make this site worthy of Click of the Week.

That's all for this week. Until next time, keep it digital!

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, July 23

The Middle - "Change in the Air" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The first day of school is upon the Heck family, and Sue finds herself feeling a sense of freedom she’s never felt before with Axl not around to make her campus life miserable. But Brick, who is beginning middle school and afraid of getting a swirlie, avoids the bathroom at all costs. Meanwhile, Frankie becomes jealous of Mike when she discovers that Axl calls and returns his texts but won’t do the same for her; and Sue’s feelings for Darrin surface once again when Mike calls him over to help fix the air conditioner.

The Goldbergs - "Kara-Te" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Barry decides to sign up for the school’s holiday talent show but is bummed when the school doesn’t approve karate as a talent. Beverly is livid and brow beats the teacher in charge to change his mind. After the family watches Barry’s routine, everyone wonders whether he will be able to pull off the performance… or crack under pressure. Meanwhile, Erica gets coerced from Pops to also perform in the talent show, but will she?

Modern Family - "iSpy" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Claire and Phil decide to spy on Luke and Manny as they’re hanging out with one of their more questionable friends. Meanwhile, Gloria is furious with Jay because she thinks he had a dream about another woman, but Jay misinterprets her anger for another offense he committed. And, Cam secretly uses Mitch as a scapegoat to get out of attending a party, while Haley tries to keep her photography exhibit a secret from her family.

The Middle - "The Potato" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After Frankie and Mike are forced to return the church van when it’s discovered that their car has been repaired, Sue – who has been driving the other car – begins to freak out because she’ll have to start taking the bus again. But when her parents tell her that she could get her own car if she got a job, Sue ends up working as a potato girl at a local mall eatery. Meanwhile, Frankie and Mike are called into Brick’s principal’s (Rachel Dratch) office and are informed that he has not attended any of his classes – and much to the family’s dismay, Axl begins to spend his nights back home when he becomes fed up with having to deal with his horrible college roommate.

Young & Hungry - "Pilot" (ABC Family, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Sofia encourages Gabi to start dating again; Josh discovers surprising news about Cam.

Mystery Girls - "Death Becomes Her" (ABC Family, 8:30PM ET/PT)
The girls go under cover at Holly's old high school in order to prevent a senior prank.

Hot in Cleveland - "Straight Outta Cleveland" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Victoria gets a visit from the son she always forgets (Chris Colfer) and Joy and Mitch (Tim Daly) debate their compatibility.

Jennifer Falls - "Three Dates With My Mother" (TV Land, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Jennifer starts seeing a psychiatrist to help her deal with her mother, but even he might not be enough to break through to Maggie.

Wilfred - "Patterns" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Ryan gets sucked into the "End Game."

Love Thy Neighbor - "Lucky Socks" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Danny, Floyd, Sam and Drew have been temporarily evicted; Danny asks Hattie if they can crash with her.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 21) (All times ET unless noted)

Wednesday, July 23

  • Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) - Watch Eric on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS. He chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. He will be on SI Now at 1pm. He stops by PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York at 8:35am.
  • Josh Charles (Sports Night) - Josh appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Kumail is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Hank Azaria (The Simpsons/Free Agents/Herman's Head) - Hank talks about the Showtime series Ray Donovan on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show/Cosby) - Phylicia appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.