Saturday, November 19, 2011

Digital Digest: Arrested Development to Netflix; Black Friday Digital Bargains; It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series DVD Review

Happy Thanksgiving (since we won't be back until Saturday, which is AFTER Thanksgiving!) and welcome to Digital Digest! Since Thanksgiving is coming up, we of course have a special Digital Bargains to give you a heads up on all of the Black Friday deals coming up this year. And of course, we have our regular news and a review of It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series, a great set containing every episode of the series starring the iconic Robert Wagner. Let's get going!


DIGITAL NEWS

Are you a fan of the cult-classic series Arrested Development? Many people are, and the series has been in the news lately with talks of a movie and new episodes. But given the success that the series showed on TV, where would those episodes air? Well, they have found a very fitting home where they will find success with their fanbase: on Netflix! There is no word on exactly when these episodes will debut (it'll be some time in 2013), but you can read more about it here.

DVD news has been slow this week, but hopefully we can bring you somewhat of a smile with some new upcoming releases from Warner Archive. No, it isn't new season sets of the series Growing Pains, but it is close: they are releasing both of the post-series reunion movies on DVD on December 6! You can pre-order The Growing Pains Movie and Growing Pains - Return of the Seavers now. We hope to have reviews of these sets soon.

The Donna Reed Show - Season Four is coming to DVD soon, as we all know, but as it turns out, it'll be a little sooner than we anticipated. Now scheduled for December 13, the five disc set will contain a ton of special features, a complete list of which can be seen here.


DIGITAL BARGAINS

It's the week before Thanksgiving, and of course, we couldn't let this week go without bringing you our infrequent (but hopefully very useful when we do bring it to you!) segment of Digital Digest, Digital Bargains! With Black Friday coming up, you will have a prime opportunity to own some of the DVD and Blu-ray Disc sets of all of your favorite series at a deeply discounted price. And the best part is, unlike the $200 laptops that people will be in line at midnight (yes, many stores are opening at midnight this year!) to buy, these will often (though not always) be available throughout the weekend and often be available to purchase online if you want to avoid the crowds. So let's get in to the deals!

Last year, the big giant Best Buy didn't really mention many of their deals in their ad, but this year, they've got plenty listed! At Best Buy, you'll find DVDs of every season (or volume in the case of Family Guy) that has been released to date of Boy Meets World, Family Guy, Friends, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Weeds for the low price of $8.99 each. But wait! That is hardly all that you can find for $8.99. The more impressive $8.99 deals are for DVDs of The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Fourth Season, Modern Family - Season Two, and perhaps the sweetest deal, you can even get the Blu-ray Disc OR Blu-ray sets of each of the first four seasons of Mad Men for $8.99 each! There are plenty of $12.99 titles as well, with each of the first seven seasons of Entourage, seasons five and six of The Office, and seasons six, seven, and eight of Two and a Half Men. And if you go up to $18.99, you can find another great steal with The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Fourth Season... on Blu-ray! And this is hardly an exhaustive list. The advertisement suggests that there will be more titles available in store. We can't wait to find out what those will be!

Meanwhile, over at Target, there will be some great deals as well, and some of the same items being offered at Best Buy are being offered at Target for a dollar less at $7.99! These titles include season sets of Mad Men, Weeds, Psych, and Gossip Girl. Coming in at $12.99, you can pick up any of the four seasons of The Big Bang Theory, as well each of the first two seasons of Modern Family on DVD. Of course, it is always possible (and likely) that more titles will be available in store.

Walmart isn't being too specific on what their Black Friday TV-on-DVD deals are, but an ad-scan does show some $10 titles, and it indicates that more titles will be available in stores. Among the titles seen in the advertisement are The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Glee, Bones, True Blood, and more. Of course, you'll have to wait until Friday and check online to see the complete availability of titles.

Regional retailer Shopko (northwestern United States) has some $9.99 DVD deals that are worth looking in to. They are offering titles such as Reba, M*A*S*H, Friends, Breaking Bad, and Monk at this price. But which seasons? As is the case with Walmart, we aren't really sure, but we assume it will be multiple seasons at that price.

Hastings has a few DVD offerings, but the prices aren't quite as competitive as the ones at other retailers this year. You can, however, get titles such as American Dad!, The Boondocks, Firefly, and Burn Notice for $9.99. They are also offering the first seasons of series including The Office, Weeds, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, and more at various prices between $9.99 and $14.99, but all of these titles can be purchased cheaper at the other retailers mentioned, even without Black Friday sales.

Finally, there is our old standby Big Lots. They've been very quiet lately with TV-on-DVD deals, but their Thanksgiving Day ad includes a Thanksgiving Day ONLY sale on more season sets, priced at $6 per season! The advertisement shows many different CBS DVD series, and it is unclear as to whether these will be the same as last year's deals, but it is great to know that more are going to be in stock for this holiday season!

But if you really just don't want to get out to do shopping on the most insane shopping day of the year, alas, there are options for you as well! You can check out Amazon.com for deals all throughout the week! You have to check the link for the exact times for the deals as well as prices (not all are given, yet), but here, you'll find deals on series such as Boy Meets World, Friends, Weeds, Mad Men, and Family Guy (are you noticing a trend on some of the titles at each store by now?). But there will be more deals on the online retailing giant, for sure, and even though they aren't saying it, they have in the past price-matched just about every Black Friday deal, so check out Amazon.com this weekend if your favorite retailer runs out of stock on the item you want or if you just don't feel like getting out... because chances are, the lowest retailer price will be matched by them!

All in all, I think this is going to be a good Black Friday for DVD deals, and unlike last year where there were decent deals that I simply wasn't interested in, there actually are many that I'll be heading out to get, particularly at Best Buy and Target! Happy hunting, and don't get run over by any shopping carts. (FYI: I'm serious, this happens several times every year on Black Friday at many stores!)


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (November 22) brings one traditional sitcom to DVD with Meet the Browns - Season Three. But if you want something a little bit different, with a British accent, BBC Video has the US release of The Office (UK) - 10th Anniversary Special Edition, which every episode (all fourteen of them!) of the British series. This, of course, is the series that the American "modern classic" is based upon, and we will actually have a review of this set next week as one of our regular reviews (it will not be in the blog). And if you want legal drama, CBS DVD has Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 2. You can check out our review of this set from last week's Digital Digest.


Blog DVD Review - It Takes a Thief - The Complete Series (E1 Entertainment, $199.98)

Espionage was huge on television screens in the late 1960s, and one of the last ones to debut was a series that aired on ABC starring veteran actor Robert Wagner, It Takes a Thief. This one was unlike many other series before it, though. In the series, Wagner stars as Alexander Mundy, a master thief who begins the series in prison. He is one of the slyest thieves around, and his antics even carry over into prison, where he is still too hard to handle. But in the meantime, a federal government agency, the Secret Intelligence Agency, devises a program where they need a master thief to steal for the government, in order to intervene in matters of national security. So Noah Bain (Malachi Throne) offers to give Mundy a chance to be released from prison, in exchange for providing his mater thievery services to the government. The series only lasted for three seasons, but it left behind many loyal fans, and now, for the first time ever, the entire series can be found on DVD in a very nice set.

The series begins with the pilot, "Magnificent Thief," where Alex Mundy is paroled by Noah Bain to steal for the government. Al has to smuggle a British scientist out of the Iron Curtain in "When Boy Meets Girl." In "Totally By Design," Al has to steal a Swiss bank account passbook to prevent a dictator from financing a hostile takeover of a neighboring country. Al has to steal NATO defense plans before they fall in the wrong hands in "To Steal a Battleship." In "Turnabout," Al breaks his ankle and has to teach Noah how to be a thief. Al has to return a stolen jeweled globe in "A Matter of Royal Larceny," but there is a surprise inside that is explosive. The first season ends with "The Lay of the Land," where Al has to secretly microfilm the unpublished memoirs of a famous duchess to ensure they do not contain incriminating secrets.

Magic may just save the day in "The Bill is in Committee." In "Get Me to the Revolution On Time," it is going to take six acts of thievery to stop a Communist revolution. Noah arranges for Al to be imprisoned in East Germany so that he can be exchanged for a Communist spy who is working for the US in the two-part episode "Hans Across the Border." In "Glass Riddle," Al has to break into a bank vault in plain view of a busy street to stop an international cartel. Al finds himself in trouble when his fingerprints match the wrong ones in "The Artist is for Framing." In the two-part episode "A Matter of Grey Matter," Al gets a big surprise while he is out to steal a solid missile fuel formula from the richest man in the world. Al could be in big trouble when he is the target of a hitman in "The Funeral is on Mundy." In "The Family," Al is quarantined in the home of an American industrialist who has some awful family secrets. The second season ends with "Mad in Japan," where Al contends with a rogue SIA agent while trying to bring a laser gun prototype back from Tokyo.

Al faces poisoning in "Saturday Night in Venice." In "Who'll Bid Two Million Dollars?," a case of mistaken identity could (once again) prove fatal to Al. Al goes behind the Iron Curtain once again in "The Blue, Blue Danube," but he may be forced to divulge state secrets. Fred Astaire appears as Al's father in "The Three Virgins of Rome," where the son has to protect three priceless painting from being stolen by his own father. Al's life is in danger (isn't this a common theme?) in "A Friend in Deed," where his past brings back more woes. In "The Second Time Around," Al and his father are targeted for execution (yes, again!) for having broken up a Soviet counterfeiting operation. In "Touch of Magic," Al organizes a caper to help an aging jewel thief recover her own mojo. Did Al commit treason? He is accused of it in "Beyond a Treasonable Doubt." The series ends with "Project X," where prominent scientists start dying aboard a plane en route to a conference, and Al must find out why.

Normally, I would mention guest stars with the episodes that they appeared in. But this series is LOADED with guest stars. Among them are Susan Saint James, Raymond Burr, Fernando Lamas, Tina Louise, Bill Bixby, Suzanne Pleshette, Yvonne Craig, Ricardo Montalban, George Takai, Julie Newmar, Barry Williams, Gavin MacLeod, Teri Garr, Bette Davis, and many others

The episodes are unedited... or so it seems. There are some runtime issues (64 minutes) with the pilot episode (which will be discussed a bit later in this review), BUT keen and cautious observers who are also huge fans of the series seem to indicate that this is not edited, but rather time compressed, likely because of using a foreign source for the episode. Honestly, I don't think it matters one bit anyway, because there is a 99 minute alternate feature-length version of this episode included as a bonus feature. Episode runtimes are as follows:

Season 1:

Disc 1:
1. "Magnificent Thief" (1:04:31)
2. "It Takes One To Know One" (50:49)
3. "When Boy Meets Girl" (50:58)
4. "A Very Warm Reception" (50:55)

Disc 2:
5. "One Illegal Angel" (50:52)
6. "Totally By Design" (50:55)
7. "When Thieves Fall In" (50:56)
8. "A Spot of Trouble" (50:47)

Disc 3:
9. "When Good Friends Get Together" (50:50)
10. "Birds of a Feather" (50:50)
11. "To Steal a Battleship" (50:55)
12. "Turnabout" (50:58)

Disc 4:
13. "The Radomir Miniature" (50:50)
14. "Locked in the Cradle of the Keep" (50:53)
15. "A Matter of Royal Larceny" (50:52)
16. "The Lay of the Land" (50:56)

Season 2:

Disc 1:
1. "One Night in Soledade" (51:23)
2. "A Sour Note" (50:55)
3. "The Bill is in Committee" (51:22)
4. "The Thingamabob Heist" (51:21)

Disc 2:
5. "Get Me to the Revolution on Time" (51:19)
6. "The Packager" (51:19)
7. "Hans Across the Border (Part 1)" (51:20)
8. "Hans Across the Border (Part 2)" (50:49)

Disc 3:
9. "A Case of Red Turnips" (51:19)
10. "The Galloping Skin Game" (51:20)
11. "Glass Riddle" (51:18)
12. "To Catch a Roaring Lion" (51:21)

Disc 4:
13. "Guess Who's Coming to Rio" (51:20)
14. "The Artist is for Framing" (51:22)
15. "The Naked Billionaire" (51:12)
16. "A Matter of Grey Matter (Part 1)" (51:04)

Disc 5:
17. "A Matter of Grey Matter (Part 2)" (51:03)
18. "Catspaw" (50:02)
19. "Boom at the Top" (50:58)
20. "The Funeral is on Mundy" (51:03)

Disc 6:
21. "The Baranoff Timetable" (51:01)
22. "Rock-Bye, Bye Baby" (51:02)
23. "The Family" (50:23)
24. "38-23-36" (51:01)

Disc 7:
25. "The Great Chess Gambit" (50:02)
26. "Mad in Japan" (50:59)

Season 3:

Disc 1:
1. "Saturday Night in Venice" (51:22)
2. "Who'll Bid Two Million Dollars?" (51:21)
3. "The Beautiful People" (50:36)
4. "The Great Casino Caper" (51:02)

Disc 2:
5. "Flowers From Alexander" (51:08)
6. "The Blue, Blue Danube" (51:40)
7. "The Three Virgins of Rome" (51:35)
8. "Payoff in the Piazza" (51:35)

Disc 3:
9. "The King of Thieves" (51:31)
10. "A Friend in Deed" (51:45)
11. "The Second Time Around" (51:45)
12. "The Old Who Came In From the Spy" (51:14)

Disc 4:
13. "To Lure a Man" (51:32)
14. "The Scorpio Drop" (50:35)
15. "Nice Girls Marry Stockbrokers" (51:40)
16. "The Steal-Driving Man" (51:23)

Disc 5:
17. "Touch of Magic" (51:22)
18. "Fortune City" (51:20)
19. "Situation Red" (51:19)
20. "To Sing a Song of Murder" (51:24)

Disc 6:
21. "The Suzie Simone Caper" (50:15)
22. "An Evening With Alister Mundy" (50:24)
23. "Beyond a Treasonable Doubt" (51:25)
24. "Project X" (51:28)

The packaging for this set seems to be very divisive among those who have already picked it up. Some people (like me) absolutely love the packaging, but there have also been some people who just don't like the packaging. It is not a standard style of packaging at all. Basically, the set comes in an almost cubical shaped red box with black and white portraits of Wagner on the front and back, and silhouettes of characters on both sides. On the top, there is a yellow lid with the series title in red. When you remove the lid, you'll find the cases for the DVDs, and some extras. I suppose the real complaint is the cases. Much like recent DVD sets of The Simpsons, these cases are folding cardboard cases where you can slide the discs out from the case. These are small CD-sized cases, and there is a case for each individual season--a yellow one for the first season, a red one for the second season, and a black one for the third season. When the case is folded, there is a listing of all of the episodes on the back of the case, but when you unfold the case, there is a description of all of the episodes along with the original airdates for the episodes. You'll also find several photos on the case. The disc artwork has a silhouette of Wagner on each disc (same one as seen on the cover art), with background colors corresponding to the color of the cases for each season. The episode titles are also printed on each disc. Each disc contains four episodes (except for Disc 7 in Season 2, which only has two episodes), and the only bonus disc in the set is included with the season one episodes.

But there is much more to the packaging with the extras that are included in the set. Inside the box, you'll find a nice booklet that gives a history of the series, along with several rare photos. You'll also find a limited edition senitype, which is a single film frame excised from the series that was digitally scanned and reproduced to look exactly like a film frame from the series. These even come with a unique identification number for each set; mine was #3050. But we still aren't done with the extras! They even included a set of four It Takes a Thief coasters in the set! I won't be using them (it would destroy the harmony of the set for my collection, naturally), but these are high quality coasters that contain images of the series logo and (again) silhouettes of Wagner on them. This is certainly one impressive set for these bonuses!

The menus are very nicely designed, with some animated transitional effects at the beginning. The theme song plays in the background, with artwork (same as what is seen on the box for the set) and options of Play All and Episodes. Selecting Episodes will take you to a menu that lists the episodes on the disc, along with a small snapshot from the episode. Once you select an episode, it plays immediately. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.

For the most part, the video and audio quality of the episodes looks rather decent. The episodes have a nice clean and crisp picture, although more restoration work COULD have been done. Still, I don't believe fans have a valid reason to gripe about the quality. There are some minor black level issues and a TINY bit of grain and debris, but I've seen much worse on shows that were filmed using newer and better technology. One complaint that I have been reading about online is claims that the first episode (as presented on Season 1, Disc 1) has some PAL/NTSC conversion issues, which supposedly accounts for the runtime that is shorter than one would expect for it. At 64 minutes for an episode that aired in a 90 minute timeslot, it certainly sounds as if there may very well be some issues there, particularly as nobody has complained about anything being missing in this episode. But honestly, it isn't that big of a deal, because that same episode is presented as a 99 minute version on the bonus features disc. The audio is mostly nice and clear, though it isn't completely perfect. Naturally, it is presented in mono. Unfortunately, the episodes are not closed-captioned or subtitled, which is surprising given how nice of a set this is.

I expected this set to be full of special features, but I ended up actually being a tad bit disappointed here... although what we do have is good. All of the special features can be found on the Bonus Disc included in the case for the first season. First, we have the extended feature-length version of the pilot episode (1:39:23). Why is this a big deal? Well, the pilot episode of the series ran in a ninety minute timeslot when it originally aired, and the lack of considerations for syndication made it difficult to air the episode in syndication. The result was that the pilot was not included in domestic syndication packages, but upon exporting it to Europe, the extended length pilot, with added footage, was put together. Eventually, this was distributed in the United States and even released on VHS by MCA Universal Home Video (that logo is actually still at the beginning, by the way!). So now, you can see that full-length episode here. Perhaps the nicest special feature, though, is "The King of Thieves" (29:45), which is a brand new in-depth interview with Robert Wagner, produced especially for this DVD set. Finally, there is "A Matter of Larceny" (28:27), which is an interview with producer Glen A. Larson, who of course also went on to bigger projects of his own in the 1980s with Knight Rider and Magnum, P.I. This feature, though, was not created exclusively for this set, but was in fact created for the 2010 release of the series in Australia by another studio.

I only recently began to watch this series on Antenna TV, and I was intrigued by the press that the DVD set was getting leading in to the release date. This set is by no means a disappointment, although it certainly would have been nice to have had a FEW more special features on it. Fans have been waiting for years for this set, and I think that what we have here will not disappoint the fans. The only drawback of the set is the nearly $200 MSRP, but then again, I'm not seeing it being offered that expensively from retailers, as most seem to be marking it at about half that price (which is much more reasonable). E1 has truly taken a great series and given it the proper treatment that it deserves on DVD. This set is a great addition to any DVD collection, particularly for fans of the spy genre of television of the 1960s.

(4/5 stars)

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CLICK OF THE WEEK

Surf the Channel (www.surfthechannel.com) - Normally, for our Click of the Week, we bring you sites that give you unique content that can't be found anywhere else. But this week, we have something a little bit different. More and more people (including many people who read this blog) frequently visit the various websites online to watch our favorite TV shows, but there are clearly so many of these websites out there. So why not have a one-stop location for all of this? Well, Surf the Channel is a website that gives you that one-stop location.

You probably won't find anything on here that you can't find by going to a lot of different websites, but what makes this site so good is that it aggregates the content from all of the major (and legal) providers of online TV series viewing. You can put in a series title in the search box (or go to the list of series), then get a list of episodes and find links to watch the episodes on the major sites such as Hulu or the respective networks. This makes it a lot easier for those times when you ask yourself where you could possibly watch the shows, but have no clue where to start. Of course, you'll find that very often links do go to Hulu, but you'll also find other links that you may not have been aware of, as well as links to watch programs that are on other TV viewing websites on the internet.

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

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Thursday, July 24

The Big Bang Theory - "The Discovery Dissipation" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Leonard and Amy help Sheldon cope with the shame he’s feeling after his accidental contribution to science is disproved. Meanwhile, Raj must stay with Howard and Bernadette for a week.

The Millers - "Driving Miss Crazy" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Nathan gets frustrated after he’s forced to drive Carol around town for errands once again, he demands that she either learn how to drive or find another chauffeur. But when Debbie volunteers Adam to drive Carol, everyone’s surprised when they form an unexpected bond.

Welcome to Sweden - "Proving Love/Lagenhet" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bruce (Greg Poehler) and Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) move into an apartment in Stockholm and Bruce tries his best to introduce himself to the neighbors. Meanwhile, the couple is forced to prove their relationship at the immigration office, but the interviews don’t go quite as planned. Elsewhere, Emma suspects one of Bruce’s former clients, Aubrey Plaza (guest starring as herself), may be stalking him, while another, Amy Poehler (guest starring as herself), is in desperate need of his professional assistance.

Working the Engels - "Jenna's Friend" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Jimmy (Benjamin Arthur) gives their grandmother’s ring to a stripper, Jenna (Kacey Rohl) is forced to intervene to get it back – and makes an unlikely friend in the process. Meanwhile, Sandy (Azura Skye) wins free mother/daughter hip-hop classes and brings Ceil (Andrea Martin) along, but they quickly realize the class isn't meant for them. Ceil is ready to get out of there, until a former friend makes fun of Sandy, and then Ceil is determined not only that they stay, but that they win the dance competition. Rachel Wilson, Rebecca Dalton and Shawn Byfield guest star.

Married - "The Shower" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
A.J. and Jess hijack Russ and Lina's night out.

You're the Worst - "Insouciance" (FX, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Jimmy attempts to take Gretchen on a date.

Love That Girl - "The Hot Seat" (TV One, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Imunique agrees to throw a bachelorette party for DeMiracle's fiance.

Complete TV Listings


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

Thursday, July 24

  • David Duchovny (Californication) - Catch David on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub (How to Be a Gentleman) - Mary Lynn stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Mo'Nique (The Parkers) - Mo'Nique appears on a repeat of The Arsenio Hall Show, so check your local listings.
  • Wanda Sykes (The New Adventures of Old Christine/Wanda at Large) - Wanda is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Kristin) - Tune in to see Kristin on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Judy Greer (Married/Mad Love/Miss Guided) and Nat Faxon (Married/Ben and Kate) - Judy and Nat talk about their new FX series Married on NBC's Today in the 9am hour. They will also be on HuffPost Live.
  • Adrienne Barbeau (Maude) - Adrienne discusses her role in the Hallmark Movie Channel original movie The Memory Book on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Greg Poehler (Welcome to Sweden) - Greg is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Leah Remini (The King of Queens/Family Tools) - Leah appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.
  • Craig Ferguson (The Drew Carey Show) - Craig will be on Larry King Now at 2/5pm PT/ET on Ora.tv and Hulu.
  • Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling (Mystery Girls) - Jennie and Tori are guests on Fox & Friends on Fox News Channel at 7:45am. Jennie will also be on HuffPost Live.