Saturday, October 06, 2012

Digital Digest - Big John, Little John - The Complete Series DVD Review; Van Dyke and Company - The Complete Series DVD Review


It's Saturday and you know what that means... so welcome to Digital Digest! We have an incredibly slow week for news this week (and that'll likely continue for a while, since pretty much all of the pre-holiday season releases have been set in stone by now), but nonetheless, we're here with reviews of two very short-lived series from NBC in 1976, with Big John, Little John - The Complete Series and Van Dyke and Company - The Complete Series. Let's get rolling!

DIGITAL NEWS

A few years ago, ABC ran a short-lived animated comedy from Mike Judge called The Goode Family, about a series sort of like King of the Hill, but from a completely different political mindset. Now, according to TVShowsOnDVD.com, it appears that Shout! Factory will be releasing the entire series on DVD on January 8. Not many details are known about this yet, but if we find out anything significant about it, we'll let you know.

Last week, we featured the Warner Archive Facebook page in our Follow Me segment, and this week, we have some insight on another rare series sitting in their library which they are seriously considering... provided that they can get through a few hurdles first. When a fan asked about the series Please Don't Eat the Daisies, this was the response provided:
"A wonderful, oft-requested series we certainly hope to bring to DVD. There are a few episodes in both seasons that have music issues, hopefully they will not be too problematic....and we will definitely need to remaster. Not likely to happen for a bit, as there are other series ahead of it in the clearance and remastering queues, but we hope to get to it sooner than later."
So, we don't exactly have a yes on the set yet, and it looks like we won't be getting one for quite a while... but at the very least, it looks like this series is at least getting consideration, and fans can still hold on to hope for now. Warner Archive also addressed the issue of the second (and final) season of the classic crime drama Harry O. We can report more affirmative news on this release... it actually IS already in the works!


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (October 9) has three releases of note to us. First, Universal has Whitney - Season One (review). CBS finishes up The Lucy Show with The Lucy Show - The Official Sixth and Final Season. We received a review copy of this today and will have a review posted very soon. Finally, Shout! has Webster - 20 Timeless Episodes, with 20 memorable episodes of the series.


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

Big John, Little John - The Complete Series

DVD Review: Big John, Little John - The Complete Series (VCI/Fabulous Films, $24.99)
by skees53

We've all heard of the "fountain of youth," but most of us don't really believe that there is any such thing. Unfortunately, when junior high school science teacher Big John (Herb Edelman) takes a vacation to Florida with his family, he happens to take a sip from that fountain of youth... and the consequences are that he unexpectedly, usually at the most inconvenient times, morphs into a younger version of himself, Little John (Robbie Rist). The children's comedy series created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz ran on NBC Saturday mornings from September 1976 through December 1976 (and interestingly enough, these were the exact same months that our other series that we are reviewing today, Van Dyke and Company, also ran on NBC in the primetime lineup). The series also features Joyce Bulifant as Marjorie, John's wife.

The series begins with "A Sizeable Problem," where we meet John and find out about his big (or little) problem. In "Peter Panic," Little John gets the role of Peter Pan in a school play... but Big John gets the role of Captain Hook! Marjorie panics when she thinks that Little John has morphed into a baby in "Very Little John." Sandra Gould guest stars. In "The Great Escape," Big John is arrested for not having his license, but big problems erupt when he turns into Little John while in the slammer! Little John tries to prove that there is no such thing as ghosts in "Big Scare, Little Scare," but how will he explain how he disappears and Big John appears while in a haunted house? A costume party at Miss Bottomly's goes all wrong in "Big Shot, Little Shot." Big John is convinced he has found a cure for the fountain of youth in "Time for Change."

Little John has been cursed with Big John's voice in "The Principal Who Came to Dinner." John takes on a bully in "Bully for You." In "Off the Wall," both Big John and Little John get blamed for the same thing at school... and neither one is responsible! John's secret may be up when Little John "runs away" in "The Missing John." John is dealing with a Thanksgiving dance at school in "Speak For Yourself, John." The series ends with "Abracadabra," where a magic trick for Harry turns out more magical than he expected.

The episodes appear to be unedited, with runtimes as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "A Sizeable Problem" (24:27)
2. "Peter Panic" (24:29)
3. "Very Little John" (24:29)
4. "The Great Escape" (24:30)
5. "Big Scare, Little Scare" (24:29)
6. "Big Shot, Little Shot" (24:30)
7. "Time for Change" (24:30)

Disc 2:
8. "The Principal Who Came to Dinner" (24:29)
9. "Bully for You" (24:29)
10. "Off the Wall" (24:28)
11. "The Missing John" (24:30)
12. "Speak for Yourself, John" (24:29)
13. "Abracadabra" (24:28)

The packaging for this set looks exactly as the packaging for the release of this set that was planned a few years ago, with the cover art showing the different faces of John as he morphs from Big John to Little John. We have more of these photos on the back, along with a brief series description. Inside the case, we have episode descriptions, along with airdates and guest stars. The episode descriptions are actually just transcripts from the episodes, as each episode has a narrative talking about what the episode is about at the beginning of the episode (as well as at the end of the previous episode).

The menus on the set are nicely designed with photos from the episodes rotating in the middle of the screen and options of Play All, Episode Selection, and Extras below the photos. The closing theme song plays in the background. The Episode Selection menu lists all of the episodes on the disc in a text format. Once you select an episode, it plays immediately. There are no chapters within the episodes.

The packaging claims that the episodes have been "fully restored," but it really isn't that impressive. The video picture looks dated, and the colors are faded very badly. But it doesn't really make the series unwatchable. I'd say that it looks fine for a series which hasn't been restored (I somewhat dispute that claim...). The audio quality is fine, without any real problems. The episodes are neither closed-captioned nor subtitled.

On the back of the packaging, you'll find an impressive list of special features... but it is really pretty deceptive. The first "special feature" listed is "all 13 episodes," which is a bit of a recursive nightmare if you think of the episodes as being a special feature. Other ones mentioned are episode synopsis (the same ones printed inside the case), series synopsis (same one on the back of the case), and motion menus (should I say anymore about that?). The only real special feature is a stills gallery, which is a gallery of about 10 snapshots from episodes... but other than that, there really aren't any special features here.

It took a long time to see this get released after the previous studio decided to abandon the release, but we're finally getting it now and it is great to see it. Honestly, I kind of liked this series. It is quirky, but it has the typical fun characteristics of other Sherwood Schwartz sitcoms, all the way down to the "series synopsis in the theme song." This was certainly intended to be a children's series, and it is clear that it is just that, but it is also a fun series for people of any age to watch, sort of like the series Small Wonder was in the '80s. If you just want to check out a fun series to watch that is a little different from what you're used to, take a sip from the fountain of youth and join John... both of them!

(4/5 stars)

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Main Reviews Page
Big John, Little John TV.com Page


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW


Van Dyke and Company - The Complete Series

DVD Review: Van Dyke and Company - The Complete Series (MPI, $29.98)
by skees53

Dick Van Dyke has been entertaining us for decades in both film and television, and much of his work is well known, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Diagnosis Murder, Mary Poppins, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But some of his less-known work includes a variety series which aired for only eleven episodes (plus one special which aired a year earlier) on NBC during a time where they had very few memorable seasons: 1976. Van Dyke and Company was a less-than-successful attempt by the successful actor to bring the type of series that Carol Burnett turned into magic for CBS, a variety show full of special guest stars including actors, dancers, comedians, and musicians (including some of the big name disco acts of the era)... all surrounded by the legendary actor who brought us Rob Petrie just a little over a decade earlier.

The DVD set contain every episode of the rare series (including the special pilot which aired a year earlier) in one set. Rather than talking about each individual episode, though, we'll just talk about the series as a whole, and those who appeared on it. Unlike other variety series of the era, there wasn't really much of a regular cast for the series... it was just Dick Van Dyke and his guests for the week. However, one other person did appear on nearly all of the episodes as a "special guest star" who is certainly worth considering as a series regular: Andy Kaufman (as Dick says to Hal Linden in the fifth episode of the series, "he thinks he's a regular on my show!"). Each episode had guest stars, which included an incredibly diverse guest cast spanning from the early days of television up through today, such as Lucille Ball, Chevy Chase (fresh off of his first season of SNL), Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson, Harvey Korman, Hal Linden, Gabe Kaplan, and even former co-stars Mary Tyler Moore and Carl Reiner. And the musical guests--and yes, this set does include the original performances--included the hottest performers of the era, such as John Denver, K.C. & The Sunshine Band, Sha Na Na, The Spinners, Bobbie Gentry, Lola Falana, and even Ike and Tina Turner.

Most of the sketches on the series involve a lot of random slapstick comedy with Van Dyke at the center of attention, although there was one regularly appearing "series" of sketches called "The Bright Family," about a family who, well, isn't too bright. Another common feature of the series is sudden interruptions, often fake NBC Sports special reports about the most useless happening in the sports world as soon as something which sounded worth waiting for was about to begin.

I haven't seen any of these episodes before, so I can't say if they are unedited or not. Most run aorund 50 minutes, and I don't doubt that those are unedited, but there are a few which run a few minutes shorter... I honestly couldn't say whether or not those are unedited, but in general, it seems that most of the content is here. The guests, airdates, and runtimes of the episodes are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Gabe Kaplan, Ike & Tina Turner - 10/30/75 (50:15)
2. Chevy Chase, Flip Wilson, Andy Kaufman - 09/20/76 (50:27)
3. John Denver, Ile Nastase, Super Dave Osborne, Andy Kaufman - 10/07/96 (50:26)

Disc 2:
4. Carl Reiner, Andy Kaufman - 10/14/76 (50:26)
5. Hal Linden, The Sylvers, Andy Kaufman - 10/28/76 (46:31)
6. Carol Burnett, K.C. & The Sunshine and, Andy Kaufman - 11/11/76 (48:56)

Disc 3:
7. Harvey Korman, Lola Falana - 11/18/76 (49:45)
8. Freddie Prinze, The Spinners, George Foreman, Andy Kaufman - 11/25/76 (49:49)
9. Sid Caesar, Donna Fargo, Andy Kaufman - 12/02/76 (49:49)

Disc 4:
10. Lucille Ball, The Lockers, Andy Kaufman 12/09/76 (46:33)
11. John Byner, Bobbie Gentry, Andy Kaufman - 12/16/76 (49:56)
12. Tommy Smothers, Jim McKay, Sha Na Na, Andy Kaufman - 12/30/76 (48:54)

The set comes packaged in a standard Viva case with nicely designed, but simple packaging. The cover has a photo of a happy and sad Dick Van Dyke with a blue border around him, with the series title above his faces. On the back, we have a brief description of the series, along with a list of guest stars, bonus features, and photos of Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, and "series regular, but not really" Andy Kaufman. Inside the case, you'll find a listing of all of the episodes, along with guest stars and airdates, and several black and white snapshots from the episodes. The disc artwork is very similar to the cover art, with one of the faces of Van Dyke on each disc... the happy one on Discs 1 and 3, and the sad one on Discs 2 and 4.

The menus are very nice and elegant, but also very simple. The main menu has a photo of Dick Van Dyke standing in front of a blue background while the closing theme song plays in the background. Options on the main menu include Play All, a list of episodes, and bonus features on the disc (if any). There is also an option to turn on subtitles here. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.

The video quality on this set is not spectacular, and it is one of the few MPI sets which I've seen released actually having a disclaimer mentioning that it is "as good as it gets." But it really is no surprise, because this was a videotaped series from the mid-'70s that has largely just sat in the vaults since it originally aired. The resolution of the video seems to be the biggest problem, and there are some of the typical video defects, but really it isn't as bad as the disclaimer would make you believe. The audio is a pretty dull sounding mono track, so the musical performances really don't sound that great... but what else would you expect from a musical performance on a TV series from the era? After all, it wasn't until the '80s that we were able to get really decent sounding music tracks on TV series. MPI is always very good about including English subtitles, and we have them here for each episode.

There aren't a whole lot of special features on here, but there are a few. Of course, since this is an MPI release and since Dick Van Dyke was a big star in the '60s, it should come as no surprise that there are more segments from the Let's Talk to Lucy radio series where Lucy talks to Dick Van Dyke, from March 3, 1965 (10:06) and March 4, 1965 (9:30). "Dick Van Dyke Special Highlights" (13:28) gives us a few highlights from a special somewhat similar to the idea of this series that he did almost a decade earlier in 1968. His guests on here include two people very close to him: Carl Reiner and Jerry Van Dyke

I think it is fair to say that this was certainly not Dick Van Dyke's most memorable work, and is a bizarre blending of the comedy sketches of The Carol Burnett Show (albeit in much shorter form) and all of the latest disco acts of the era, many of which (though not all) have faded from the memories of everybody. It seems like they didn't know where to really go with this series, as it began in an era where the variety shows like The Carol Burnett Show were really ending (which, ironically, Van Dyke would briefly go on to become a cast member of a few months after this series ended). And I can't say that it is a particularly great series, but it is certainly a piece of television history worth taking a look into, and on top of that, MPI (as always) bundled it in to a nice DVD release.

(4/5 stars)

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
Amazon.com

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Main Reviews Page
Van Dyke and Company TV.com Page



FOLLOW ME

Who to Follow: Zach Braff (Twitter), "Twitter friend to over 744,000 of the sexiest mofos on Earth."
Claim to Fame: John "J.D." Dorian from the sitcom Scrubs
Why You Should Follow Him: These days, if you are a celebrity at any level, you use Facebook or Twitter to some extent to promote your current projects. It is just something that every actor does. But long before it became the "cool thing" to do, Zach Braff was out there on Facebook (you can see that page here, though a recent posting explains why he posts less on there now) and became one of the pioneers of using social networking to not only communicate to his fans, but at times communicate with his fans. You'll also notice in his Tweets that he is, in real life, a lot like his character from Scrubs, and his Tweets are certainly fun to read. And in the days when Scrubs was still on the air, he was always there keeping us updated on the fate of the series in those final few seasons, where every season we were left wondering if the final episode had just aired.
Pick of the Tweets: "Most "laugh track" shows are shot in front of a Live Audience. There are exceptions: "ALF" For hopefully obvious reasons." (August 12, 2012)

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


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, June 25

The Conners - "There Won't Be Blood" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
It’s Halloween, the favorite time of year for the Conners, but an email from the school banning certain costumes, including Mark’s, sets off an argument between Dan and Darlene. Jackie introduces someone new to the family at the Halloween party and insists that Dan vet him, only to immediately wish that she hadn’t.

American Housewife - "Highs and Lows" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
As Oliver and Taylor stumble through their love lives, Katie begins to miss the spontaneity and unpredictability of being young and in love. Meanwhile, Kathryn’s (Wendie Malick) plan to soothe Oliver’s heartbreak backfires when she tracks down an old boyfriend, Dan (Gregory Harrison), and he is not as she remembers. At the same time, Anna-Kat makes strides at school when Franklin is stuck at home with the chickenpox, forcing her to make a new friend.

Modern Family - "A Sketchy Area" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Phil stumbles into an exciting new career after dropping by Luke’s college; while Claire deals with her dad, Jay, and the merger of Pritchett’s Closets with a tech-savvy, hipper company. Meanwhile, Mitch’s new high-profile case as an assistant district attorney is marred by an unflattering courtroom sketch by the resident artist (Dan Levy).

The Goldbergs - "My Valentine Boy" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
With Geoff’s help, Erica and Valley Erica find a new band member to replace Lainey, but Barry convinces Geoff the new band member is trying to steal Erica from him. Meanwhile, Adam and Murray try to out-gift each other so that neither of them has to go to Valentine’s Day dinner with Beverly.

Modern Family - "Torn Between Two Lovers" (ABC, 10:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Haley can’t seem to choose between her past and present relationships and is forced to make a decision. Meanwhile, Manny returns to college and dorm life while his girlfriend, Sherry, continues to stay at Jay and Gloria’s, and might be overstaying her welcome.

black-ish - "Son of a Pitch" (ABC, 10:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Junior is working at Stevens & Lido as an intern and takes some time to find his footing; but when he offers an idea during a pitch meeting, Dre immediately puts him in his place. Meanwhile, Bow has a meeting with one of Kyra’s teachers and learns that she has an aptitude for chemistry, but Kyra doesn’t want to transfer to a magnet school.

The Detour - "The Return" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Following a breakthrough, the Parkers return to their hometown to find their daughter.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 24)

Tuesday, June 25

  • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Catch Kumail on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Zendaya (K.C. Undercover/Shake It Up) - Zendaya stops by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jenny Slate (Married/Parks and Recreation/Bob's Burgers) - Jenny visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Bill Hader (Barry) - Bill appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Anna Chlumsky (Veep) - Anna is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Stephanie appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld (High Maintenance) - Ben and Katja are guests on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples) - Olivia drops by Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm.
  • Kathy Bates (Disjointed) - Kathy appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Michael Rapaport (Atypical/White Famous/The War at Home) - Michael visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy/American Dad!/The Cleveland Show) - Seth chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Sherri Shepherd (Mr. Iglesias/Trial & Error/Sherri/Less Than Pefect) and Gabriel Iglesias (Mr. Iglesias/Cristela) - Sherri and Gabriel talk about Mr. Iglesias on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Brie Larson (United States of Tara/Raising Dad) - Brie stops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Robin Givens (Head of the Class) - Robin is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Nina Dobrev (Fam) - Nina drops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Ariana Grande (Sam & Cat/Victorious) - The Ellen DeGeneres Show has the biggest music stars from Season 16, including Ariana, so check your local listings.
  • Kate Walsh (Bad Judge/The Drew Carey Show) - Kate cooks up a meat sauce made with bacon on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Justina Machado (One Day at a Time) - Justina talks about Family Pictures on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry talks about America's Got Talent on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (April/May/June)

Evening Shade - The Complete Collection Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est TV & Movie Collection Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two

04/02 - Archer: Danger Island - The Complete Season Nine
04/09 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fifth Season
04/12 - Evening Shade - The Complete Collection
04/16 - The Big C - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
05/07 - Baskets - The Complete Season Three
05/13 - I'm Dying Up Here - Season 2
05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume One
05/13 - My Three Sons - The Third Season - Volume Two
05/14 - The Donna Reed Show - Seasons 1-5
05/14 - Petticoat Junction - Seasons 1-3
05/28 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Seventh and Eighth Seasons (WBShop.com)
05/28 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Second Season (Blu-ray)
06/04 - The Brady Bunch - 50th Anniversary The Brady-est Brady Bunch TV & Movie Collection
06/18 - Will & Grace (The Revival) - Season Two (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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