Saturday, March 24, 2012

Digital Digest: South Park - The Complete Fifteenth Season Blu-ray Disc Review

Spring is officially here, but before you get out and take in all of the greatness that spring has to offer (or since it is still March, make the trek all the way to your living room to watch the non-stop NCAA men's basketball coverage), sit back and enjoy this week's edition of Digital Digest, your weekly source for all things digital! This week, we've got a review of the Blu-ray Disc version of South Park - The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD/Blu-ray). Let's get going!


DIGITAL NEWS

Last week, we updated you on the Canadian release of Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection, and now, that very same studio is bring yet another complete series to DVD. This time, Alliance Films Media is bringing ALF - The Complete Series to DVD. The 16 disc set is to be released on April 10. Of course, given the somewhat shoddy treatment that Lionsgate gave to the series with their releases, fans are certainly wondering whether or not these episodes will be unedited. The very same question was brought up in this article from TVShowsOnDVD.com. Nobody knows definitely what the answer to this question is, but the article on the website speculates that the episodes will be the syndicated versions of the episodes, and given the evidence, that looks very probable. First, according to the article, Alliance Films Media purchased the Canadian distribution rights of many series from Lionsgate last year. This would seemingly imply that they have access to the same copies of the episodes, and perhaps the DVDs will even be exactly the same disc-by-disc. But what is even more of a sign that we'll see similar (or identical releases) is the artwork on the two DVD cases included in the set. The artwork uses the exact same photos of ALF used for the cover art of Lionsgate releases. We certainly hope, though, that something better actually is in the works.

One important thing to mention, however, is that the unedited versions of the episodes are by no means in any worse condition than the episodes released by Lionsgate, as as been insinuated. Warner Home Video maintains the DVD distribution rights for the series outside of North America, and Warner has in fact released all four seasons of the series in a few countries with nearly every single episode unedited, and even when accounting for the PAL/NTSC conversion, the video and audio of the Warner Home Video releases is just as great if not superior to the releases from Lionsgate. You can read more about international DVDs and our review of ALF - Die Komplette Erste Staffel (Region 4 release of season 1) in our archives from our very first two weeks of Digital Digest. As if we haven't gone off on enough tangents here, you may that our first edition of Digital Digest was published on March 27, 2010. So we're almost two years old this week!

This week, ABC Studios made some announcements which some would call unprecedented, announcing June 12 DVD releases for three series. Two of the series haven't quite been on the air for a month, and the third one hasn't even made it to air yet. On June 12, you can own the first seasons of Missing, GCB, and the yet-to-air Scandal. It is certainly a major risk to announce DVD season sets of series this early, particularly for Scandal, which we really have no clue if it'll have any level of success at all. But perhaps the releases, particularly with the releases coming months before a potential second season of the series begins, will help boost interest of the series when (and if) they make it back to air in the fall.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (March 27) has very little to offer in regards to releases, but there is a new release of Comedy Central's animated series South Park, with South Park - The Complete Fifteenth Season (DVD/Blu-ray). Our review of the Blu-ray release is featured today in Digital Digest.

BLOG FEATURE REVIEW



Blog Blu-ray Review: South Park - The Complete Fifteenth Season (Comedy Central, $57.99)
by skees53

It's that time of the year to "head on down to South Park" for some more dysfunctional hilarity! The 16th season of the modern pop-culture classic series recently began just last week on Comedy Central, but they weren't about to leave fans waiting too long for the home media release of the 15th season. In the latest home media release, available on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc, fans can enjoy all fourteen of the episodes of the series from 2011, on a three disc DVD set or two disc Blu-ray set.

The series constantly pushes the limits of what is "acceptable" for TV, and this season does that yet again in typical South Park style. The season begins with the episode "HumancentiPad," where Kyle learns a valuable lesson about agreeing to Apple's 50+ page terms and conditions after he clicks agree without actually reading what he is agreeing to. Meanwhile, Cartman just wants an iPad, and even though his mom is about to cave in, his behavior leads to her telling him something that nobody has ever told Eric Cartman in his entire life: "no." Jimmy declares Germans to be unfunny and Tyler Perry is taken hostage in "Funnybot." Ike is off to save Canada's beautiful young princess on Canadian Royal Wedding Day in "Royal Pudding." In "T.M.I.," Cartman encounters some school height data, but chaos ensues when he accidentally believes that the measurements are actually for another body part. Cartman has a new protégé in "Crack Baby Athletic Association." A racial war breaks out in South Park between the city's only Chinese man and the city's only Japanese man in "City Sushi." Stan has a very unpleasant 10th birthday in the mid-season finale "You're Getting Old," which only gets worse when his parents announce they are splitting up.

The second half of the season picks up four months later with "Ass Burgers," where Stan's cynicism has turned him into a different person than we've ever seen in the past. Meanwhile, Cartman tries to convince the school nurse that he has Asperger's Syndrome, and thinks that he can fake it and get away with it if he just shoves some hamburgers in his... well, you know. Cartman joins the U.S. Border Patrol in "The Last of the Meheecans" after a regular game of Texans vs. Mexicans (only in South Park!). Lemmiwinks makes a return in "Bass to Mouth," where the boys need him to stop his evil brother WikiLeaks from spreading rumors about them. Randy becomes addicted to Broadway in "Broadway Bro Down." Cartman causes his class to receive the lowest score in the nation on the Presidential Fitness Test in "1%," and the 99% Club (spearheaded by Butters and Jimmy) decide to protest and "occupy the fourth grade." The boys turn to a History Channel documentary to help with a Thanksgiving report in "A History Channel Thanksgiving," which ends in a lot of REALLY bad information. The season ends with "The Poor Kid," where Kenny's parents are arrested and Kenny is forced into a foster home, which causes a serious problem for Cartman because now he isn't sure who the poorest kid in the school is.

The episodes all appear to be unedited, including the all-important scene from the end of the "You're Getting Old" episode featuring the montage to Stevie Nicks' "Landslide." The runtimes are all 22:25 for each episode in the first part of the season, and 22:22 for each episode in the second part, but by episode, they are as follows:

1. "HumancentiPad" (22:25)
2. "Funnybot" (22:25)
3. "Royal Pudding" (22:25)
4. "T.M.I." (22:25)
5. "Crack Baby Athletic Association" (22:25)
6. "City Sushi" (22:25)
7. "You're Getting Old" (22:25)
8. "Ass Burgers" (22:22)
9. "The Last of the Meheecans" (22:22)
10. "Bass to Mouth" (22:22)
11. "Broadway Bro Down" (22:22)
12. "1%" (22:22)
13. "A History Channel Thanksgiving" (22:22)
14. "The Poor Kid" (22:22)

The Blu-ray Disc set is packaged a standard digipak with a powder blue color scheme this time. On the cover, we have a picture of Cartman hugging all of his stuffed animals, with the other kids in the background. On the back, there is a picture of the "HumancentiPad" (it isn't a pleasant sight) along with a very short description of the season and a listing of special features. Inside, there is a four panel digipak (most likely it is five with the DVD set, but we didn't receive a copy of that), with the two outer panels listing all of the episodes, and the center panels containing the discs. Both discs have pictures of the boys from two different episodes contained on the set. The Blu-ray set contains seven episodes on each disc.

The Blu-ray release has very simple menus, but they do take full advantage of the Blu-ray technology and the "pop-up menu" abilities which Blu-ray possesses. The main menu gives options of Play All, Episode Selection, Special Features (Disc 1 only), and Set Up. While video clips from the episodes play in the background, the pop-up menu allows you to find your episode or your special features, or perform setup options. For whatever reason, Setup is actually where you'll find the commentaries, not under Special Features where it would, you know, actually make sense. There are no scene selection menus, but chapters are placed throughout each and every episode. Of course, we haven't seen the DVD version of this release, but the menus for the DVD releases of the series have been pretty much the same going all the way back to the very first season.

The video and audio quality of the Blu-ray release is absolutely spectacular, with really no issues at all. I often forget that Comedy Central's high-definition channel even exists (it is actually one of the highest numbered channel on my cable system, deep in the 990s range), so I'm used to watching these episodes in standard definition. But they actually make the high-definition technology work with this series, and it looks just plain amazing. The video and audio is not just "mostly" flawless, but I would go so far as to say it IS flawless. All of the episodes are presented in widescreen, with audio available in both English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital: English 5.1. We assume that the DVD release is just as nice, of course just not in high-definition.

"Six Days to Air: The Making of South Park" (42:05) is certainly not a unique feature which was created just for this home media release, but it was actually a special which aired last year on Comedy Central, essentially following the production crew through their six day period of going from an "idea for an episode" to "airing the episode," giving the series one of the fastest turnarounds in all of scripted television. This is a great behind-the-scenes feature which fans, even if they watched it, will be happy to own on home media. "Six Days to Air: Behind the Scenes of City Sushi" (3:27) is a very short clip which appears to have been something that was cut from the 42 minute special, likely due to airtime constraints. It is still enjoyable to watch. "Deleted Scenes" (5:08) is exactly what it sounds like: a series of deleted scenes from all of the episodes on the release. And finally, like all of the other releases, every episode has those ridiculous "mini-commentaries" where Trey Parker and Matt Stone provide us with about two minutes of commentary before abandoning the viewers. I wish they would at least do full commentaries for a few episodes each season, perhaps some of their favorites, but at least we're getting something... even if it is practically nothing.

There isn't much to really add to the comments on these South Park releases at this point. With this release of the fifteenth season, we've been able to get (for the most part, anyway) excellent releases throughout the series. The first two seasons, which were originally released by Warner Home Video, indeed created some disappointment for fans, but ever since Paramount has taken over, there haven't been any problems with the season sets. I certainly do wish that they'd put more special features on these sets, but the episodes are the important part, and this is one of the rare series which seems to achieve perfection on home media. If you own a Blu-ray player, it is definitely worth going with that version of the release, as this series really does show a nice difference between the two formats, but if you only have a DVD player, I'm sure that release is more than sufficient. Now, to just sit back and relax and watch these episodes from season 16--and I have a feeling that in about twelve months, I'll be back to provide fans with a review of those episodes once they are inevitably released!

(4/5 stars)

To purchase South Park - The Complete Fifteenth Season on Blu-ray (as featured in the review), click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

To purchase South Park - The Complete Fifteenth Season on DVD (not featured in the review, but very similar), click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com DVD Reviews Page
South Park TV.com Page
South Park Studios


CLICK OF THE WEEK

South Park Studios - Honestly, we're cheating a little bit this week, because we just provided a link to this website at the end of the review of the South Park Blu-ray that appeared right above this. But I'm honestly not sure why it took us so long to use this website as our Click of the Week, something that it should have been included in a long time ago. South Park Studios is exactly what it sounds like: a website about the series South Park. But it is much more than just that. It is the official website for the series, and unlike just about any other official website that most of us have ever seen out there, this website is simply amazing.

The website is a very modern, sleek, and constantly updated website dedicated to the fans of the series, directly from the creators and producers of the iconic series. One of the best features on this website, a feature which has been available on the site since 2008, is the feature where fans can watch every (well, all except the season 14 episodes "200" and "201," which fans know why we'll never see those episodes again except for on the season 14 home media releases) episode from the series at any time for free. It isn't like most other websites where episodes appear online for a certain amount of time, then require a premium subscription to watch them after a certain amount of time. There is a very thorough episode guide for each episode as well, along with answers to frequently asked questions, many clips from the episodes (if you don't necessarily need to see the whole episode), and more. But that isn't all you'll find on the website. You'll also find news about the series, very active message boards (don't even try to read everything on there, it'll never happen!), free games, a store with all of the merchandise that you could ever want, and the ever popular South Park Avatar Creator. It is a great website for a great series, and fans will certainly appreciate the website.

That's it for this week. Until next time, keep it digital!
Sitcoms Airing Tonight (Thursday, April 24)

The Big Bang Theory - "The Anything Can Happen Recurrence" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Sheldon tries to be spontaneous, it leads to unexpected friction between Penny, Amy and Bernadette. Meanwhile, Raj seeks Howard’s help in preparing for a date with Emily.

The Millers - "Tomlandia" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Nathan pitches a children’s show to his boss, Ed Dolan, based on Tom’s imaginary comic book, Tom has an adverse reaction to the tweaks made to his cherished world. Jeffrey Tambor returns as Ed Dolan, Nathan’s boss.

Two and a Half Men - "Lotta Delis in Little Armenia" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Alan stumbles upon an opportunity to make money. Meanwhile, Walden has to address his co-dependency issues.

Bad Teacher - "Pilot" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Former trophy wife Meredith Davis seeks a return to a life of leisure and luxury by posing as a teacher at an upscale elementary school to meet the students’ rich, single fathers and land one to marry. However, her plan hits a major snag and she faces exposure when her unconventional – and mostly unsuitable – teaching methods raise the suspicions of a fellow faculty member. Read our review.

Surviving Jack - "Something to Talk About" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
During an evening of inopportune timing, Frankie introduces his new girlfriend, Heather (guest star Lili Reinhart), to Joanne, who has just gotten her tubes tied and is still on pain medication. Instead of taking care of Joanne post-surgery, Jack has his hands full policing Frankie and Rachel. Meanwhile, George and Mikey try to retrieve a porn video they disguised in a "Casablanca" VHS case that has been placed into the wrong hands at the Dunlevy house.

Parks and Recreation - "Moving Up" (NBC, 8:00-9:00PM ET/PT)
Leslie (Amy Poehler), Ben (Adam Scott), and Andy (Chris Pratt) head to San Francisco for a National Parks Conference. Tom (Aziz Ansari) opens his restaurant, Ron (Nick Offerman) has another run-in with his ex-wife Tammy 2 (Special Guest Megan Mullally), Andy lives a rock and roll fantasy, and Leslie makes a huge decision about her future.

Saint George - "Hot Blooded" (FX, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Alma sets George up on a date with a Latina doctor, and George discovers the woman is crazy.

Anger Management - "Charlie Spends the Night with Lacey" (FX, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Charlie spends the night with Lacey to keep her from killing her ex-boyfriend.

Sirens - "There's No "I" in Ice Cream" (USA Network, 10:00PM ET/PT)
The crew remembers a day that followed the full spectrum of excitement; Johnny tries to find out who ate the last doughnut.

Instant Mom
- "Distant Mom" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
The kids return from a vacation to Mozambique with their mom, Kim, only to learn the trip was actually a job interview at the embassy. They soon find out they are moving to Africa and away from Stephanie and Charlie. Guest Star: Holly Robinson Peete.

See Dad Run - "See Dad Run Into Marcus' Nephew" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Emily takes Amy's car to a party with Marcus' nephew after she was forbidden from driving at night, and must race back to beat David home. Joe wants more responsibility so asks to babysit Janie. Guest Star: Larramie "Doc" Shaw.

The Rickey Smiley Show - "Roll Pounce" (TV One, 10:00PM ET/PT)
The annual skate off has a surprise entry.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 21) (All times Eastern unless noted)

Thursday, April 24

  • Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother/Doogie Howser, M.D.) - Catch Neil on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) - Sarah appears on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Julie Bowen (Modern Family) - Jim is a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • James Van Der Beek (Friends with Lives/Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - James stops by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He will also be on Big Morning Buzz Live on VH1 at 10am.
  • Zoe Lister-Jones (Friends with Better Lives/Whitney) - Zoe visits The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Tom Lennon (Sean Saves the World/Reno 911!) - Tom is a guest on @midnight at midnight on Comedy Central.
  • Mary McCormack (Welcome to the Family) - Mary guest co-hosts Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
  • Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell) - Mario appears on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Brandy Norwood (The Game/Moesha) - Tune in to see Brandy on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • The Cast of Bad Teacher - Sara Gilbert, Ari Graynor, David Alan Grier and Ryan Hansen are guests on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Candace Cameron-Bure (Full House) - Candace guest co-hosts The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Molly Ephraim (Last Man Standing) - Molly shares behind-the-scenes stories from her show on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Max Greenfield (New Girl/Modern Men) - Max shares his passion for teaching kids the love of reading and the value of giving back on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • William Shatner ($#*! My Dad Says) - William chats and performs on The Queen Latifah Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Timothy Simons (Veep) - Timothy will be on HuffPost Live.
  • Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory/Blossom) - Mayim is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Christine Lakin Step by Step) - Christine will be on Big Morning Buzz Live on VH1 at 10am all this week.
  • B.J. Novak (The Office) - B.J. is a guest on NBC's Today between 7-9am.
  • Jamie Foxx (The Jamie Foxx Show and Sally Field (Gidget/The Flying Nun) - Jamie, Sally and the rest of the cast The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be on ABC's Good Morning America between 7-9am.