Saturday, March 16, 2013

Digital Digest: Jack Benny Update; New Crackle Content; MADtv - The Complete Second Season DVD Review


Welcome to this (really not so special) St. Patrick's Day weekend edition of Digital Digest! This weekend, along with all of your regular features, we've got a review of MADtv - The Complete Second Season. Let's get rolling!


DIGITAL NEWS

We reported on a release of The Jack Benny Program from Shout! Factory last year, and not much has materialized... but now, there seems to be a bit more, courtesy of The International Jack Benny Fan Club website. According to the fan site, the release will be coming to stores on July 23... but if you can't wait that long, it'll be available to own on June 18 from the Shout! Factory website.

Crackle, the free online streaming service from Sony, announced plans to add the series The Shield to the service. The series will be rolled out in seasonal installments through 2014. Unlike many other comparable services, Crackle allows free ad-supported streaming on any device, including mobile devices. While this addition isn't huge news for sitcom fans, it does provide hope that they could do this with more sitcoms in the future. Right now, the service provides mostly sporadic episodes of series, so we can hope for more!


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (March 19) brings us another great Warner Archive release, as they bring us Alice - The Complete Third Season. Also, for fans of Carsey-Werner sitcoms, Mill Creek completes one (and comes close to completing another) with their releases of Roseanne - The Complete Seventh Season, Roseanne - The Complete Eighth Season, That '70s Show - Season Seven, and That '70s Show - Season Eight. Finally, Shout! Factory has Quincy, M.E. - Season Five.


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW


Blog DVD Review: MADtv - The Complete Second Season (Shout!, $29.93)
by skees53

In the '90s, one of Fox's most successful series was the sketch comedy series In Living Color. Unfortunately, a fallout with the Wayans family caused the show to be slowly dismantled, ultimately to the point of cancellation in 1994. But Fox wasn't going to give up on sketch comedy. In 1995, MADtv debuted on the network. It wasn't quite the same as In Living Color, but it did bring a return of the old format, and even some of the original writers from that series. Airing on Saturday nights, the series ended up lasting for fourteen seasons with 321 episodes. Several years ago, Warner Home Video released the first season, but sales weren't as good as hoped. Now, Shout! Factory has picked up the rights to release seasons 2-5.

It is hard to summarize all of the episodes of a sketch comedy series, so I'll just go through some of my favorite sketches of the season. One of the recurring themes, particularly early in the season, is the 1996 presidential election. David Herman plays the role of Bob Dole, and Bryan Callen plays the role of Bill Clinton as they go head-to-head in the election. The Vancome Lady (Nicole Sullivan) has jobs at both the Betty Ford Clinic and a casino in this season, neither of which goes very well. Nicole Sullivan and Debra Wilson both play Samantha in a hilarious spoof of the classic series Bewitched. Another one of my favorites is Young Alanis, where Debra Wilson plays the role of Alanis Morissette in elementary school, complete with a parody of her well-known song (which still receives considerable radio airplay today) "Ought to Know." With NBC's Thursday night lineup being a huge deal in this era, the series creates a parody of an ideal show to air between Seinfeld and ER, called Test Pattern. An episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that was "banned" gets a special airing on Nick at Nite in the episode that Adam Arkin hosts. Of course, there are a lot of other memorable recurring segments throughout the season, such as the UBS guy, the losers of the Lowered Expectations dating service, and one of my favorites X-News (which fit the whole "eXtreme" everything era of the 90s).

While the second season is very similar to the first in many regards, one key change in this season was to add a host to each episode of the series. The first of these hosts is Christina Applegate. Other hosts of interest to TV fans are Neve Campbell, Joe Rogan, French Stewart, Andrea Martin, Tommy Davidson, Mark Curry, Adam Arkin, and David Faustino.

The episodes on the set seem to be uncut, but I'm not sure what the source is for the episodes. At the beginning of each episode, there is a brief promo for the episode (like a syndication promo), and once the episode begins, there is a TV rating logo (i.e. TV-14) in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. In any event, I don't think there is anything wrong with these episodes. Runtimes of the episodes, listed by the name of the guest host, are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. Christina Applegate (42:54)
2. Ice-T (42:54)
3. Kim Coles (42:54)
4. Jack Wagner (42:54)
5. Neve Campbell (42:56)
6. Kevin McDonald (42:55)

Disc 2:
7. Joe Rogan (42:55)
8. French Stewart (42:54)
9. Harry Connick, Jr. (42:55)
10. Andrea Martin (42:58)
11. Superbowl Special (42:56)

Disc 3:
12. Rodney Dangerfield (42:55)
13. Queen Latifah (42:54)
14. Tommy Davidson (42:55)
15. Bobcat Goldthwait (42:56)
16. Pauly Shore (42:55)
17. Thomas Calabro (42:55)

Disc 4:
18. Mark Curry (42:55)
19. Adam Arkin (42:56)
20. Ryan Stiles (42:54)
21. David Faustino (42:53)
22. LL Cool J (42:55)

The set comes packaged in a Viva case, with some of the more memorable characters featured inside of "bubbles" on the cover and even more characters featured inside of "bubbles" on the back. There is also a description of the season on the back. Inside, you'll find the four discs, which contain 5-6 episodes per disc (more on the problems from that will come a bit later). Inside the case, a listing of hosts and airdates for the episodes is included.

The menus on the set are very basic... in fact, there is only one menu screen on each disc. On the menu, there is a Play All option, a listing of episodes, and a series of rapidly changing snapshots of Alfred E. Neuman. The theme song continuously loops in the background.

I'm not really overly impressed with the video and audio quality of this set, and I think that it likely has to do with the fact that so many episodes were crammed on each disc. Six episodes of a series that originally aired in a one hour time slot is overkill to some extent, and compression--something that hasn't been an issue on many DVDs recently--does seem to be a problem here. There are no subtitles or closed-captioning.

The set has one special feature... sort of. At the beginning of each episode, a promo plays for the episode, which I'm guessing was used for syndication. Other than that, we have nothing else. This set seems like a great set to include interviews. What else are the actors really doing now?

I'm glad that Shout! decided to pick up this series and continue it on DVD, but I certainly hope that they go beyond the fifth season. I enjoyed this series on Fox (up until the last season or two), and in watching this season, I've come to realize that the series really had not quite warmed up just yet. Some of the best actors and actresses of the series have yet to come, including Alex Borstein (now better known for her Family Guy voice work), Will Sasso, Mo Collins, Aries Spears, Stephnie Wier, and of course Michael McDonald. The only people truly memorable from this season are Nicole Sullivan and Debra Wilson. That doesn't mean the rest were bad, it is just that they didn't have the opportunity to play the characters that many fans truly loved on the series. In any event, I'm glad that we've at least got a chance to see this series on DVD, and can't wait to see more.

(4/5 stars)

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

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com DVD Reviews Page
MADtv on TV.com


FOLLOW ME 


Who to Follow: Rob Lowe (Twitter), "Love: family, dogs, espresso from an IV, politics, story telling, sobriety, acting, music, glassy overhead conditions. Hate: decaf"
Claim to Fame: We'll admit: we're taking a slightly different approach to our Follow Me for this week. Of course, we all know that Lowe's claim to fame primarily comes from movies, such as St. Elmo's Fire. But in recent years, Lowe has become more of a TV actor, appearing in regular roles in The West Wing and Brothers & Sisters. Despite all of that success, many critics have proclaimed that one of his greatest roles has actually been his current sitcom role, where he plays Chris Traeger on the NBC series Parks & Recreation.
Why You Should Follow Him: I'll be the first to admit that I never would have imagined Lowe being such a great sitcom actor, but I actually have come to enjoy him and his role in Parks & Recreation. In a sense, it helped me discover (and want to know) more about him. While he doesn't Tweet every detail of his life, nor does he interact directly with fans all that much (we know some celebs who are very actively interacting with fans), he does seem to be a very interesting and dynamical person, and many of his Tweets are fun to read.
Pick of the Tweets: "Hmmm, I wonder why Netflix just posted a surprise profit report? #WestWing ???" (January 24, 2013)

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


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, October 16

The Conners - "Keep on Truckin'" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
A sudden turn of events forces the Conners to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before.

The Kids Are Alright - "Pilot" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Lawrence, the prodigal eldest Cleary son, returns home from the seminary and breaks the news to his family that he’s dropping out for good, leaving Mike and Peggy upset and wondering why. Meanwhile, Timmy decides he wants to audition for a children’s theatre production but when Peggy finds out where it’s being held she forbids him from participating. Elsewhere, Eddie tries to keep his girlfriend a secret after Frank finds out and tries to blackmail him.

black-ish - "Gap Year" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
After dropping Junior off at college, Dre and Bow are beside themselves when they find him back at home announcing his decision to take a gap year. Meanwhile, Jack and Diane begin to question whether they should still be sharing a room.

Splitting Up Together - "Sign Language" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
The morning after Lena and Martin sleep together, Lena searches for signs that they are or aren’t meant to be a couple. Their relationship is put to the test after she organizes a romantic beach getaway and it becomes apparent what’s meant to be. Meanwhile, Arthur and Camille trail Lisa Apple, hoping to determine if she is pregnant with Martin’s baby. Elsewhere, Maya struggles to decide if she should tell her new boyfriend, Frank, about her pregnancy.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 15)

Tuesday, October 16

  • John Krasinski (The Office) - Catch John on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin appears on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) - Eric is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Kathryn Hahn (I Love Dick/Happyish/Transparent/Free Agents) - Kathryn stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. She will also be on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) - Jameela appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly/Samantha Who?) - Melissa drops by Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm. She also talks about Can You Ever Forgive Me? on the BUILD Series at 12pm.
  • Jane Curtin (3rd Rock from the Sun/Kate & Allie) - Jane visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Laurence Fishburne (black-ish) - Laurence chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Nathan Fillion (Two Guys and a Girl) - Nathan talks about The Rookie on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Katy Mixon (American Housewife/Mike & Molly) - Katy is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Sara Gilbert (The Conners/Roseanne/Bad Teacher/The Big Bang Theory and John Goodman (The Connners/Roseanne/The Trouble in Normal, Ohio) - Sara and John are guests on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • John Leguizamo (The Brothers Garcia) - John appears on ABC's GMA Day at 1pm.
  • Heather Dubrow (Stark Raving Mad) - Heather is a guest on People Now at 12pm.
  • Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace visits NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Fran Drescher (Happily Divorced/The Nanny/Living with Fran) - Fran talks about hosting Cancer Scchmancer's Master Class Health Summit on E!'s Daily Pop at 12pm.
  • Analeigh Tipton (Manhattan Love Story) - Analeigh talks about her movie Better Start Running on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September/October)

The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season Step by Step - The Complete Second Season Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season

09/04 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Season 12
09/04 - Mom - The Complete Fifth Season
09/04 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Fifth Season
09/04 - Superstore - Season Three
09/04 - Young Sheldon - The Complete First Season
09/11 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season (Blu-ray)
09/11 - The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season
09/11 - Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season
09/11 - People of Earth - The Complete Second Season
09/18 - Community - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
09/18 - Step by Step - The Complete Second Season
09/18 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fourth Season
09/25 - Blondie - The Complete 1957 Television Series
09/25 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season
10/02 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season
10/02 - The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One / Volume Two
10/02 - Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection
10/16 - Police Squad! - TV and Movie Collection
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest