Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blog DVD Review: Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 (July 28)

Welcome to our weekly Blog DVD Review. Today we take a look at Universal Home Video's Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5. Battlestar Galactica is a current remake of the '70s sci-fi series. See Seth's Blog DVD Review of Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 :

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 (Universal, $49.98) concludes on DVD the run of what I genuinely consider to be one of the finest shows on TV this decade. Battlestar Galactica was an absolutely amazing retooling (otherwise called a "re-imagining") of a rather cheesy 1970s sci-fi series. This version of the show, however, is really closer in tone to 24 and West Wing than Star Trek or another similar show. At its core, it's really a military and political drama that happens to be set in space. That blending of qualities makes for an absolutely amazing show, a program I discovered early last year and stuck with right until the end.

From where I sit, the twenty episodes comprising the 4th season (divided into 4.0 and 4.5) are actually a little bit weaker than the earlier years of the show, but a great show having minor issues is still better than most anything else you'd find on air. Indeed, I can overlook the fact that episodes that should be building up for the grand finale instead grind to a halt, only to launch into full-blown information dump mode two episodes later. Really, you can become agitated quickly if you get yourself in a bunch over minor squabbles. The important part of this final half-season is that, though the ride occasionally gets slightly bumpy, you ultimately reach the destination still richer for the experience. It's like driving a trip from New York City to Los Angeles in a brand new Mercedes, only to have a problem with one of the shock absorbers in Nevada. You've still had a great ride, it just feels a little rough in the final stages.

If you've only been following the series through DVD, then where the show last left off the Fleet had finally found Earth...as a desolate post-nuclear fallout wasteland. The second half of the season starts off with an explanation of what happened on this Earth, plus the identity of the final Cylon is revealed. The series progresses onwards from there, alternating between action episodes and story episodes, through 10 great episodes. At one point there's even a mutiny forcing Adama, Tigh, etc. to fight their way back through the ship to retake command!
The series culminates with the episode "Daybreak," originally presented over two weeks and considered a total of 3 parts. You can choose to view it as-aired on the final disc, or choose to watch the complete two hour and thirty minute unedited version, with many cut scenes restored. Viewing this second version *does* help things make a bit more sense and makes the finale seem less rushed, but that won't change the fact that many fans just aren't going to like the ending. With regards to it, you either have -- or will -- fall into one of two camps. Either you'll think it's a brilliant twist to cap things off, or it'll simply leaving you scratching your head. I'll be the first to admit, I started off as the latter but after a couple of re-viewings I've come around and now love how the show ends.

Technically speaking, this DVD set is simply stunning. Universal is one of the few studios who still seem to shun those horrible clear plastic keepcase abominations, something I'm thrilled to see. You get simple, functional slimcases which showcase the well-designed package art quite nicely. The actual artwork itself is given the reflective color treatment, and when combined with the raised lettering of the show logo, provides for package art that commands your attention sitting on the store shelf.
The art for set itself features variations on the cast shots seen in the top third of the main box's art. Between the four cases, nearly the entirety of the main cast is featured, with only a few supporting players omitted. The finale is kept on its own disc, much as the miniseries was on season one's set. The remainder of the episodes are arranged in varying orders.

Menus are animated, and feature multiple layers of animation. Profile shots of various members of the primary cast dissolve in and out, clips play on the left side, and the great main theme plays in the background -- with the clips syncing fairly well to the music.

Audio and video quality are amazing, bounded only by the limits of the traditional DVD. This is one set I would have loved to be able to view in HD on Blu-Ray, however that wasn't a feasible review option largely due to my not owning a Blu-Ray player. The video looks as good as is possible given the resolution and quality limits of the format. The audio, having more room to play around even on a traditional DVD, sounds absolutely wonderful, and makes full use of the full 5.1 channels of sound available. The dialogue mixes in with the sound effects and composer Bear McCreary's wonderful scores and creates a true audio experience. Episode runtimes are all over the place, as running times vary wildly from episode to episode...44-49 minutes is the norm. Chapter stops occur with slightly greater frequency than commercial breaks, roughly coinciding with major scene changes. Some episodes feature scenes omitted from their original Sci-Fi Channel airings. Nothing is edited, the only changes are the occasional inclusions.

Greater still are the special features. Included as audio tracks are the podcast commentaries done along with each week's airing by show executive producer Ronald D. Moore. You also get piles and piles of deleted scenes. You get video blogs, you get extra-length episodes. This set, in terms of its bonus content is really quite good. I've seen sets with better, but this set is fairly high on the list. Galactica sets are great for that.

Ultimately, if you are a fan of this show you probably have the set on pre-order for Tuesday already. Good. If you haven't given the show a try before, go to your local video rental store, and rent the first two discs from the first season set. It's the miniseries that kicked off this amazing show's run. It sold me on the series, plus the amazing first episodes. Watch them, though check any preconceptions you have about space shows at the door. What you'll see is absolutely great dramatic television. Even the guys on The Big Bang Theory think so!

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
(5/5 stars)

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Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
Battlestar Galactica TV.com Page


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, March 31

The Conners - "The Preemie Monologues" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Harris is forced to confront Darlene about her lifestyle, while Jackie involves herself in other people’s problems to avoid confronting her own. Meanwhile, Becky is overwhelmed by the costs of raising a baby, so her family steps in to help.

Bless This Mess - "The Letter of the Law" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Rio is bummed she can’t afford to go to Iceland for her best friend’s wedding, so the nuptials are moved and brought to the farm. Meanwhile, Rio is forced to take on Deb’s mail route after she quits, and Mike and Jacob help Rudy get over Constance.

mixed-ish - "Let Your Hair Down" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After a teacher tells Rainbow to make sure her hair is “neat” for picture day, she becomes self-conscious and begins a complicated relationship with her hair. Meanwhile, Johan and Santamonica struggle with their own hair identity.

black-ish - "Hair Day" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Bow takes Diane to get her hair done at the salon and wants to spend this time together as a bonding opportunity, but Diane isn’t having it. Diane is conflicted about relaxing her hair again and embarks on a hair journey with the help of Bow, Ruby and her hair stylist, Yaya (Jill Scott). Meanwhile, Dre and Junior compete to have the best barbecue.

Schitt's Creek - "Start Spreading the News" (Pop, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Moira receives some unexpected news, and David makes a tough decision about where he wants to live.

One Day at a Time - "Penny Pinching" (Pop, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After a disastrous evening, Penelope realizes she needs to change her relationship to money and do the unthinkable -- buy something new; Elena struggles to make it to an important e-sports match.

Miracle Workers: Dark Ages - "Dark Ages: Moving Out Part 2" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Al and Prince Chauncley face their biggest challenge yet.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 30)

Tuesday, March 31

  • Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Catch Demi on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC. She will also be on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Rob Lowe (The Grinder/Parks and Recreation) - Rob appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Sean Hayes (Will & Grace/The Millers/Sean Saves the World) - Sean is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) - Josh talks about Hunters on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Josh Gad (1600 Penn/Back to You) - Josh appears on a repeat of The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Ron Livingston (Loudermilk) - Ron talks about A Million Little Things on a repeat of Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Matt Fraser (Meet the Frasers) - Matt is a guest on The Doctors, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (January/February/March)

My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One Martin - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series

01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One
01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume Two
01/14 - Veep - The Final (Seventh) Season (Blu-ray)
01/14 - Veep - The Complete Series (DVD)
01/21 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Third Season (WBShop.com)
01/21 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Fifth and Final Season
01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Series
01/28 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (DVD)
02/04 - Martin - The Complete Series
02/11 - Step by Step - The Complete Sixth Season (WBShop.com)
02/18 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
02/25 - Better Things - The Complete Third Season
03/17 - Crashing - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
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