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 (Friday, April 18)

Last Man Standing - "April, Come She Will" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Vanessa’s mooching sister April comes to visit, Mike suspects it’s because she needs money. Sure enough, April explains that she’s decided to have a baby but doesn’t have the funds for a donor egg. While Vanessa and Mike aren’t on board, Mandy comes up with a solution. Meanwhile at Outdoor Man, Mike tries pulling a prank on Chuck Larabee that gives him some new perspective.

Last Man Standing - "Tasers" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
A large bouquet of roses is delivered anonymously to the Baxter’s house on Valentine’s Day. Vanessa knows they’re not for her because Mike doesn’t believe in the frivolity of flowers on a Hallmark holiday. As an expression of his love though, Mike buys Vanessa a Taser, which only adds to her disappointment. Meanwhile, Kristin suspects her boss, John Baker (guest star Jonathan Taylor Thomas), may be the secret admirer, while Mandy assumes the flowers are from Kyle.

The Rickey Smiley Show - "The Bachelor" (TV One, 9:00PM ET/PT)
A Bachelor type promotion on the radio station.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 14) (All times Eastern unless noted)

Friday, April 18

  • Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) - Watch Bryan on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) - Melissa appears on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • William Shatner ($#*! My Dad Says) - William visits The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jaime Pressly (My Name Is Earl/I Hate My Teenage Daughter) - Jaime is a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Kenan Thompson (Kenan & Kel) - Kenan stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Tichina Arnold (Martin/Everybody Hates Chris/Happily Divorced) - Tichina and the cast of the new Lifetime movie A Day Late and a Dollar Short chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. She also appears on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Margo Martindale (The Millers) - Margo chats about the new film Heaven is for Real on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings. She will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Tony Hale (Veep/Arrested Development) - Tony appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Tracy Morgan (30 Rock/The Tracy Morgan Show) - Tracy is a guest on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC. He also talks getting animated for Rio 2 on 106 & Park at 6pm on BET.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Kristin) - Kristin is challenged to a hilarious round of charades on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love) - Holly is a guest on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
  • George Lopez (Saint George/George Lopez) - George appears on a repeat of The Arsenio Hall Show, so check your local listings.
  • Albert Tsai (Trophy Wife) - Albert is a guest on The Arsenio Hall Show, so check your local listings.
  • Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) - Chris will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Valerie Harper (Rhoda/The Mary Tyler Moore Show/Valerie) - Valerie talks about Signed, Sealed, Delivered on Good Day New York on WNYW-Fox5 in New York at 9:40am. She can also be heard on WGN Radio in Chicago with host Dean Richards on Sunday.
  • Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) - Sofia is a guest on Pop Sugar Now on TV Guide Network at 6pm and on the next day on their website at noon.