Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mini-DVD Reviews: Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Animated Series (Dec. 5) and The Best of Match Game (Nov. 21)

Welcome to another edition of Saturday mini-DVD reviews! Today we take a look at BCI Eclipse's Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Animated Series and The Best of Match Game.

Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Animated Series

Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Animated Series (BCI Eclipse, $54.98)

An enchanted roller coaster delivers six youth into the magical realm of Dungeons & Dragons in this extraordinary animated series based on the popular TSR role-playing game. There, each of them gains magical talents and abilities, all the better to survive their time in the realm. The bow-shooting ranger, the acrobat, the thief, the cavalier, the boy wizard, and the barbarian are soon joined by a baby unicorn, and tutored by the mysterious and inscrutable dungeon master. Opposing them is the evil sorcerer Venger, as well as various ogres, demons, bounty hunters, dragons, lizard men, skeleton warriors, and more. All intent on keeping the kids from getting back home!

My Review: Although I was never really into playing the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game (my brother played it often), I watched the animated series religiously. The good thing about the animated series is that you didn't really have to be familiar with the game that seemed pretty complex to a 9-year-old kid. There was just a lot of action and adventure, and the characters and storylines were interesting. The animated series, which aired on CBS for 3 seasons from 1983-1986, featured the voices of sitcom actors Donny Most, Willie Aames and Adam Rich.

The packaging for this 5-disc set, which contains all 27 of the series, is beautiful. It comes in a box similiar to the old role-playing game. It has a red background and an embossed Dungeons & Dragons logo and glossy cast photo. On the back of the box, there is a drawing of Venger, a synopsis of the set and a listing of the many special features. When you lift up the top of the box, there are various booklets and sheets included and the main DVD box. "Dungeons & Dragons - Animated Series Handbook" is 32 pages full of character profiles, stats, magic items and a brand new adventure. The only problem with this is that my booklet came apart before I had opened the box. Hopefully that is just an isolated incident. Also, included is an excellent 8-page episode guide booklet that has the episode titles, writing credits, original airdates, very detailed summaries and a listing of the special features. One of the best episode guide booklets that I've seen for any set. The main box features the original 1983 promotional poster for the series on the front and the Dungeons & Dragons world map on the back. The discs are held in 3 separate holders that have Venger's castle in the background. They feature photos of the characters on each disc: Hank on #1, Diana #2, Eric on #3, Sheila and Bobby on #4, and Presto on #5.

Just like the rest of the packaging, the menus are well designed and easy to navigate. The main menus on each disc each feature a different pair of characters and have some intrumental music played in the background. There is a Play All or Episodes option. When you select Episodes, it takes you to another menu where the episodes are listed vertically. Episode titles, writing credits, original airdates and summaries are listed and there is a small video clip from the episode in the top left. There is also a Chapters section for each episode that has some trivia in the "Uni's Fun Facts" section. My only problem with the trivia is that it is in really small text and hard to read.

I was very impressed with the video and audio quality. They've clearly been remastered for the best possible picture. Audio is a Dolby Digital track that offers no major problems. These episodes feature the original opening and ending credit sequences. Some of the other alternate opening and ending credits can be found in the special features section. These episodes do not have the opening episode teasers that some (all?) of the episodes originally had when they were first broadcast on CBS, although again there are 2 of them in the special features area. Another issue is that they all run around 22 minutes. I think shows from the 1983-1986 era ran several minutes longer than that. These episodes might be from when they were syndicated for FoxKids several years ago. They have the FoxKids logo at the end of them.

There is an impressive amount and variety of special features included (mostly on disc 5). Here is the breakdown:

"The Night of No Tomorrow" Commentary by Producer Bob Richardson, Story Editor and Voice Director Hank Saryoyan, Writer Mark Evanier, and CBS Exectuves Ted Field II and Judy Price. Hosted by Special Features Andy Mangels. They discuss how it came to TV, the controversy over the show and the game, the writer's involvement with the show and the voice casting.

"The Dragon's Graveyard" Commentary by Writer Michael Reaves and Special Features Producer Andy Mangels. This commentary is more scene specific than the other. They talk about various topics including his involvement with the show, the music, Frank Welker and other details.

Entering The Realm of Dungeons & Dragons (33:04) - This all-new documentary features interviews with Former CBS Director of Children's Programming Ted Field II, Story Editor & Voice Director Hank Saroyan, Producer Bob Richardson, Writer & Development Mark Evanier, Writer Buzz Dixon, Writer Michael Reeves, Designer & Storyboard Artist Bob Kline and Storyboard Artists Michael Swannigan. Some of the details were given in the commentaries, but there is a lot of new details as well. They talk about how the show was created and the characters developed, the voice casting, the Dekion character, the changes from seasons 1-3, why the show was canceled, and the fans of the series. It closes with a funny story about Willie Aames and some Dungeon Master quotes.

"Requiem" Radio Show (35:24) - This is a radio show-style presentation of the never produced final episode, "Requiem." It features the voices or original cast member Katie Leigh (Sheila, The Thief) and her daughter Laura Leigh as Diana, Daniel Roebuck, Buster Roebuck, Neil Kaplan and Wally Wingert. This section includes the original script of the episode that you can follow along as you listen. Many fans would probably have loved to see the finale as an actual episode, but that would probably be too expensive to produce. This seems like the next best thing.

Character Profiles - There are 50 detailed profiles of various characters (30), creatures (10) and artifacts (10). There is a photo and text information for each profile, along with a sample video clip.

Alternate Openings / Credits & Rare Footage - This footage was recovered from various sources, so it is not the high quality of the remastered episodes. They are fun to watch.

Remastered Introduction (1:00); Introduction #01 (1:00), Introduction #02 (1:00), Introduction #03 (:57), Remastered End Credits (:28), End Credits #01 (:28), End Credits #02 (:27), End Credits #03 (:27), The Lost Children Episode Teaser (:28), The Hall of Bones Episode Teaser (:25)

Animated Storyboard for episode #14 "The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow" - This animated storyboard contains three different viewing angles which compare the original storyboard to to the finished episode. You can choose Storyboard, Episode or Side by Side.

Dungeons & Dragon's Interactive Adventure: "Kelek's Crystal" - A "Choose Your Own Adventure" style game with text and various video clips.

Live-Action Dungeons & Dragons Fan Film (4:27) - A short film by Sean Kennedy. This sort of reminded me of the Dungeons & Dragons movie from a few years ago, which was largely forgettable except for some decent special effects and a great score. This short also had some nice special effects and music for a fan film.

Galleries - You can scroll through 64 model sheets and 22 memorabilia photos with your DVD remote arrow buttons.

DVD-Rom Features include scripts, storyboards and the series' development bible (PC/MAC Readable)

Easter Eggs - The press releases list that there are some, but I didn't have a chance to find any of them yet.

Ink & Paint Trailers - This section brought back lots of memories. It has tons of trailers (and opening credit sequences) for series like He-Man and the Masters of The Universe, She-ra Princess of Power, Flash Gordon, Groovie Goolies and many more.

Final Comments: I was really excited to hear about this set being released several months ago. I grew up watching it as a kid but really hadn't seen it a number of years. Overall, this is a beautifully produced set. The packaging, menus and artwork are outstanding and the special features are sure to be entertaining to any fan of the series. All of the episodes have excellent remastered video and audio. My only concern is that these episodes appear not to be the complete episodes as originally broadcast on CBS. The loss of the opening episode teasers (or the season 2-3 credits which are included as a bonus) is not a major concern, but these episodes look to have the same running times as the episodes shown on FoxKids and JETIX/Toon Disney in recent years. This is what they were provided, so I guess there is not much they could do about it. I would recommend this set for the special features and booklets alone, but I won't be tossing my VHS copies from the original broadcasts.

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller
(4.5/5 stars)

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Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
The Realm of Dungeons & Dragons - The Animated Series
Dungeons & Dragons TV.com Page


The Best of Match Game

The Best of Match Game (BCI Eclipse, $34.98)

The Best of Match Game (BCI, $34.98) is such an DVD set that you will love so much that you might just (BLANK) it! The DVD set is a four disc set that contains 30 unedited (though reportedly time-compressed) episodes that were selected as the "best episodes" from the version of the show that was hosted by Gene Rayburn and aired from 1973 until 1982 on CBS (though in later seasons in syndication), including the primetime version Match Game PM. The episodes feature many great celebrity panelists that sitcom fans should recognize, including Jack Klugman, Vicki Lawrence, Betty White, McLean Stevenson, Eva Gabor, Marcia Wallace, Nancy Kulp, Ed Asner, Robert Donner, Bill Macy, Richard Gautier, Bill Daily, Jimmie Walker, and many more! And there are even a few episodes on the set featuring an interior decorator from Kansas named Kirstie Alley... before she was a celebrity! And of course, the show wouldn't be complete without the regulars, including Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Richard Dawson (in the earlier years). For those unfamiliar with the game, it is simple really. Two contestants face off against each other and are given a question that has no right or wrong answer where they must fill in the blank. The idea is to come up with an answer that will be the same as the six celebrity panelists. Whichever contestant wins gets to go on to a bonus round where they can win anywhere from $5000 to $20,000 (depending upon which version of the rules are in play for the particular season).

If the episodes aren't enough, there are also special features on the set, including many interviews with Brett Somers. Each disc has a "Best Moments of Match Game" featurette, hosted by Somers, where she talks about the best clips from the episodes on that disc. Additionally, Disc 4 has "A Tribute to Gene Rayburn" (where Somers talks about the Rayburn), "Photo Gallery," "Exclusive Interview With Brett Somers" (which is just a general interview with Somers about the show), and even the original 1962 pilot of the original NBC version of "The Match Game" that ran in the 1960s (also hosted by Gene Rayburn). But just so fans that have never seen this version of the show know, that version is nothing like the 1970s version, and is honestly pretty boring compared to the 1970s version!

There is one thing that is slightly annoying about this set. There are many Match Game episodes in which the game is not completed by the end of the episode and the contestants would need to come back on the next episode to complete it... but with only 30 episodes selected from several years worth of episodes, it makes it rather difficult (if not impossible) to keep the whole episode together. Also, it isn't clear why these episodes were selected as the "best" episodes, but that is understandable because there are too many episodes to truly go through each and every episode and select the truly best episodes. Besides that, the episodes on the set are good anyway, except for some of the earlier ones with the bland and boring questions. Regardless, for somebody that is a Match Game fanatic or for somebody that is a game show fanatic that does not have GSN (like me), this is a great DVD set to have in your collection! It would be nice to see more Match Game DVD sets or perhaps sets for other classic game shows, particularly the Goodson-Todman game shows!

-- Reviewed by skees53
(5/5 stars)

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Match Game TV.com Page


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, June 1

The Neighborhood - "Welcome to the Commercial" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Calvin decides to film a local TV commercial for his business, he enlists Dave, Tina and Marty to help, but it doesn’t take long for creative differences to arise. Also, Malcolm considers making a grand gesture when his girlfriend, Sofia (Edy Ganem), is offered her dream job abroad.

Bob Hearts Abishola - "A Bird May Love a Fish" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Bob attempts to learn more about Nigerian customs while Abishola has to contend with gossip spreading about her relationship with Bob.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 1)

Monday, June 1

  • Keegan-Michael Key (Friends from College/Playing House/Gary Unmarried) - Watch Keegan-Michael on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Lisa Kudrow (Space Force/The Comeback/Web Therapy/Friends) - Lisa appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun) - Joseph is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Trial & Error/Kristin) - Kristin will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Amanda Peet (Brockmire/Togetherness/Bent) - Amanda appears on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace is a guest on Access Daily, so check your local listings.


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