Saturday, December 25, 2010

Digital Digest: Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales DVD Review; The Dukes - The Complete Series DVD Review

Merry Christmas, everybody! We hope you are having a great one, and we hope to make it even better for you with this week's edition of Digital Digest! We have a light news week this week, but we have reviews of Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales and the animated The Dukes - The Complete Series. Plus, we have an edition of Digital Bargains this week, where we tell you about some great deals that you can find on DVDs. Let's get going!

DIGITAL NEWS

It's Christmas week so our news is very slow this week. But we do have two items of note, the first from MPI. We mentioned in the past that Here's Lucy - Season Four is forthcoming, but now, thanks to TVShowsOnDVD.com, we have a release date! Look for the fourth season of the series on DVD on March 29, if everything goes as planned.

Next, we go over to Warner Home Video. As we already know, they will be completing the series Dallas on DVD in just a few weeks with their release of Dallas - The Complete Final Season, but what about the Dallas movies? It turns out that Warner will be releasing those as well, at a later date. Look for Dallas - The Movie Collection on April 12. It will include Dallas: The Early Years, Dallas: J.R. Returns, Dallas: The War Of The Ewings, and Dallas Reunion: Return To Southfork.

Amazon.com has some new offerings available to watch on demand, including episodes of Growing Pains and Perfect Strangers! You can now watch season 2 and season 3 of Growing Pains, and a "best of" collection of episodes from Perfect Strangers! When you purchase these, you can view these in streaming form online, or you can download them to your PC. We will do your best to keep you updated on any new series that become available to view on demand.

UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (December 28) brings very little to DVD (as it is a holiday week), but there are two items of note, including Warner Home Video's A Charlie Brown Valentine, and Showtime's United States of Tara - The Second Season. We'll have a review of A Charlie Brown Valentine sometime in the upcoming weeks.

DIGITAL BARGAINS

Since it is a slow news week and because we know you are probably all dying to spend those gift cards that you will be receiving today, why not figure out where to get the best bang for your buck on your favorite series on DVD and Blu-ray? We have one big sale of note this week, but as always, we remind you that there is almost always something good going on at Big Lots! Big Lots still has at many stores nationwide a lot of CBS Home Entertainment titles of classic series, although they are now a little bit more, at $10.

We focus this week on one of the nation's leading big box general merchandise retailers, Target, as their ad for next week features many great deals on some more contemporary television hits. If you are headed for the "bulls eye store" next week, you'll find several TV series at great prices. The most expensive ones in tomorrow's ad (which is good all week) at $19.99 and include the latest seasons of Grey's Anatomy, Lost, and Modern Family, as well as the first season of True Blood. At $14.99, you can get most of the released seasons of hit series such as Castle, Glee, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, and True Blood - The Complete Second Season (kind of odd that season 2 is cheaper than season 1!). But the best deals are at $9.99, and include Entourage, Parenthood (cheapest I have ever seen this one), and Weeds! Check out a complete scan of the Target ad at DVD Talk. Of course, if you don't want to deal with the crowds, amazon.com usually price matches all of Target's prices, and in fact, as of now, they are already price matching many of the items.

BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

'Tis the season for the cheer and charm of the Peanuts kids - and this delight special offers five segments full of unforgettable moments. Snoopy works as a bell-ringer to raise money and tries making peace with the ferocious cat next door. Linus strives to strike the right tone in his letter to Santa - and his friendship with an indecisive girl at school. Sally's idea about gift giving and the identity of Santa may be unusual - but her strange notion about how to obtain a Christmas tree surprisingly does the job. Lucy tries awfully hard to be nice...and still coax everyone around her to buy her presents. Charlie Brown and Sally wait up for Santa (a surprisingly short man), who spreads Christmas gift cheer further than they had thought. Make merry! So, without further adieu read our DVD review of Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales.

DVD Review: Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales
by Pavan

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales (Warner, $14.98) brings us the 2002 ABC produced special on DVD for the first time. We also get a classic bonus special, Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? that is available on DVD for the first time as well. That is the 24th special and it aired on CBS in 1983.

In Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales, we get five short vignettes that was produced by ABC so they can air it with the half-hour classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. Every year since 2002, ABC airs the classic special in its original unedited form, followed by this 2002 produced product with five holiday vignettes. The vignettes are titled: "Happy Holidays from Snoopy," "Yuletide Greetings from Linus," Season's Greetings from Sally," "Peace on Earth from Lucy" and "Merry Christmas from Charlie Brown." Watch and see what they are about! I hinted at it in the review preview. In Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?, we have Charlie Brown and his friends facing a possible departure of Linus and Lucy as they must move because their father gets transferred to a job in another town. What will happen?

Let's take a look at the runtimes and number of chapter stops for each special:

1. Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales (17:51, 5 chapters)
2. Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (24:15, 4 chapters)

Let's now move on to the packaging. It's the same as all the previous sets like these. We get a very thin keep case, that is movie style. The cover art is a snow blue type color and has a artwork of Snoopy ice skating in the snow. The title of the set is on top. The bottom says, we have a bonus Peanuts TV special and a Snoopy Peanuts logo is present. To the back we go, we get a nice shot of Charlie Brown with Snoopy, Linus and Lucy. The back also has details on the two specials and a list of bonus features (which is the bonus special). When we open the case, there is no artwork inside, so it is just plain black, like usual. The disc is on the right panel with artwork of Snoopy and a snowman. Once again the background color is a snow blue type color.

The menu screen has options of Features, Trailers, and Languages. We get that snow blue background again along with the same artwork as the cover art, with the theme song playing in the background. For Languages, we just have an option for English. For subtitles we have English or French. The Features section have the two specials listed by title, we can also select Play All to play them consecutively. Finally, Trailers has previews of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and Peanuts '70s Collection. There are also auto-trailers before the main menu for other Peanuts holiday sets.

The video and audio is tremendous once again, as it should be since this was produced in 2002. It looks HD even if this isn't Blu-ray. All of these specials are all so good ever since they started the Remastered Collection sets. They have never looked better or sounded better ever. I am very impressed yet again; what more can I continue to say about these digitally remastered sets? Warner continues to do a great job on this remastering of all these classic specials. And the main thing is that all of the specials are unedited! These sets are must buys for the video quality alone, as it is a major improvement over the VHS versions or anything you taped from TV in the last two decades.

As for special features, we get nothing here besides the bonus special. That is a disappointment since we usually get at least one featurette on a set.

I once again highly do recommend this set for any Charlie Brown-Peanuts fan and classic animation in general. Continue your collection, because we get two more specials that we never had on DVD before and all are remastered again. This is worth it! Though, I think Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales should have been on the A Charlie Brown Christmas set. The shorts are less than 18 minutes, so it really doesn't need its own DVD, I think. Oh well, at least we get a classic 1983 special for the first time. I'm still waiting for the '80s Peanuts collection, though. I hope they get those out soon. There are about 14 of those so it might need 2 volumes. Warner continues to do a wonderful job with the remastering (well 2002 one probably didn't need it). I just wish we had a behind the scenes extra for this set, like we had on the others. Let's hope they continue to release more Peanuts specials and eventually we get them all remastered in our personal libraries! Enjoy these 5 holiday shorts and the rarely seen Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown...but remember this is not going to be goodbye to Charlie Brown on DVD because I see more to come! Merry Christmas!

-- Reviewed by Pavan
(4/5 stars)

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Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
Charlie Brown TV.com Page


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

In this fondly remembered animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera Studios, Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke take their high-wheelin' country cruisin' around the world in a race against Boss Hogg for the family farm. No joshin' - the Dukes speed through France, Italy, Austria, Greece, England – you name it, the General Lee made tracks there! En route, Boss Hogg pulls the nastiest tricks ever, like blinding the boys with a fog machine, having them kidnapped and tricking them into a jewel heist. Why, that Hogg's as crooked as a dog's hind leg! But that won't stop the Dukes from fighting a fair fight and teaching that cheat a few tricks along the way. Y'all need to catch this 4-Disc, 20-Episode Complete Animated Series Collection from the time the pedal hits the metal all the way to the finish line! Here is our review of The Dukes - The Complete Series.

DVD Review: The Dukes - The Complete Series
by Greg Brobeck

The Dukes - The Complete Series (Warner Archive, $29.95) includes all 20 episodes of the animated spin-off of The Dukes of Hazzard on four discs. The series spanned two seasons in 1983 (it premiered mid-season in February on CBS, but was canceled by the end of the year, even though a second season of episodes premiered that fall). Animation was done by Hanna-Barbera.

The show features the original cast of the primetime series providing the voices, including Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse), Catherine Bach (Daisy), James Best (Roscoe P. Coltrane), and Sorrell Booke (Boss Hogg). This however proves to be a major drawback during the first season, as this was the year of Tom Wopat (Luke Duke) and John Schneider's (Bo Duke) contract dispute. The two were replaced by Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer as Coy and Vance Duke, and provide the voices of those same characters during the first season of the animated series. Fans disliked the "replacement Dukes," ratings dropped, and eventually Wopat and Schneider were brought back, both in primetime and Saturday morning. The primetime show's ratings never recovered, and neither did the Saturday morning series, which was canceled after a brief second season.

The plot involves the Duke brothers (either set depending on which season) and Daisy competing in a race around the world to win enough money to keep Boss Hogg from foreclosing on the family farm. Boss Hogg also entered the race to both win the prize money himself, and keeps the Dukes from keeping the farm. Each episode featured the cast in a different exotic locale (Australia, India, Italy, Scotland, etc.) with the Dukes trying to win the race, while Boss Hogg and Roscoe schemed to keep them from doing so. Though, one episode ("A Dickens of a Christmas") broke from the norm, and featured the Dukes taking a break from the race and playing part in a Hazzard County version of A Christmas Carol with Boss Hogg as Scrooge. Uncle Jesse bookended each episode by reading letters from the Dukes.

In the handful of episodes I viewed before writing this review, I was actually surprised at the quality of the episodes. The storylines were probably slightly above average for cartoon series of that time, and were actually somewhat compelling. The show is far from being among the best of Hanna-Barbera's catalog, or even the best of the series they had on at the time, but if you want to spend a half-hour with an entertaining show that will allow your brain cells to relax, this is a good choice. Being from Warner Archive, this is a manufacture-on-demand (MOD) set on DVD-R's. Initially the first several sets sold were autographed by James Best, but those have sold out. The discs may not play in certain DVD players, or DVD drives, but work fine in all of mine.

The following is a list of the episodes which aired on CBS Saturday mornings. Episodes generally run slightly longer than 22 minutes, which was the average running time of a daytime or Saturday morning series of the time. The show has rarely been rerun, so I'm not sure if edited versions even exist:

Disc 1:
1. "Put Up Your Dukes" - February 5, 1983 (22:19)
2. "Jungle Jitters" - February 12, 1983 (22:15)
3. "The Dukes of Venice" - February 19, 1983 (22:10)
4. "Morocco Bound" - February 26, 1983 (22:15)
5. "The Secret Satellite" - March 5, 1983 (22:18)

Disc 2:
6. "The Dukes of London" - March 12, 1983 (22:19)
7. "The Greece Fleece" - March 19, 1983 (22:16)
8. "The Dukes in India" - March 26, 1983 (22:12)
9. "The Dukes in Uzbekistan" - April 2, 1983 (22:15)
10. "The Dukes in Hong Kong" - April 9, 1983 (22:21)

Disc 3:
11. "The Dukes of Scotland" - April 16, 1983 (22:15)
12. "The Dukes Do Paris" - April 23, 1983 (22:13)
13. "The Dukes in Switzerland" - April 30, 1983 (22:16)
14. "Boss O'Hogg and the Little People" - September 17, 1983 (22:17)
15. "Tales of the Vienna Hoods" - September 24, 1983 (22:11)

Disc 4:
16. "The Kid From Madrid" - October 1, 1983 (22:17)
17. "A Dickens of a Christmas" - October 8, 1983 (22:12)
18. "The Canadian Caper" - October 15, 1983 (22:18)
19. "The Dukes in Hollywood" - October 22, 1983 (22:31)
20. "A Hogg in a Foggy Bog" - October 29, 1983 (22:15)

Packaging is simple. As with all other multi-disc Warner Archive sets, this one comes in a clear multi-disc Amaray case with two moving pages that the discs are stored on. The outer packaging has a nice stock drawing from the series with the Dukes crossing the finish line in the General Lee with Boss Hogg and Roscoe not far behind. The show's logo is at the top in large orange letters, along with "Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection." Each disc has a drawing of the Dukes brothers and Daisy walking arm in arm, along with the show logo and a list of which episodes are on the disc. I don't know if this is indicative of Warner Archive's typical packaging techniques, but my review copy arrived in a bubble mailer, with the case cracked in several places and the case will not close.

Menus are very simple, as with other Archive releases, the Main Menu features a blue background with the words "Archive Collection" at the top. Your choices are Play All or Episode Selection. The latter choice lets you choose from a list of episodes displayed on your screen. Each is represented by a screen capture of that episode's title card. There are no options for audio or subtitles. Neither subtitles nor closed captions are on the set. Each episode includes one chapter mark, at about the halfway point. This is not very useful, and even if chapter marks at commercial breaks weren't possible, one every five minutes would be an improvement.

Video and audio are in good quality. Despite the fact that these are DVD-R's which have a smaller storage capacity than normal DVD's, colors are vibrant and the overall picture is clear. I have a small nitpick with the mono audio, however. Sound mixing seems to be a bit off--that is, in many episodes, the music and sound effect are louder than the dialogue and sometimes drown it out. I don't know if this is a problem with the original masters or with the DVD mastering. For closing logo enthusiasts, each episode maintains the H-B "swirling star" logo of the period, along with a period Warner Bros. logo.

There are no special features on this set of any kind. While I understand that MOD releases rarely have bonus features to keep costs down, perhaps interviews with the cast or animation crew members would have been a nice touch, perhaps even mentioning the major cast change between seasons. However, that topic was covered a great deal on the corresponding DVD sets of the primetime series, so maybe it wasn't necessary here.

Overall, I can recommend this series for fans of The Dukes of Hazzard and die-hard fans of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but I really don't think I could recommend this set to casual animation fans, or those buying DVD sets for their kids. The series is a bit dated and a bit corny, but, for me at least, was fun to watch anyway. I can't help but feel that there are other shows in the Hanna-Barbera library that deserved release before this one, but it seems the folks at Warner Archive are trying to cash in on fans of The Dukes of Hazzard. Though I believe a release of the live-action spinoff Enos might have been a better route to go with that.

(3.5/5 stars)

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SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
The Dukes TV.com page

LOOKING AHEAD

This is our last Digital Digest of 2010 (our first year), and it'll be 2011 by the next time we see you... and the ringing in of 2011 means one thing that it has meant for years on the blog! Next week, we'll have our annual Sitcoms on DVD Preview! Since this is the first time we've done this since starting Digital Digest, we'll be incorporating it into Digital Digest this year for the first time. But we'll still have our regular news as well, and perhaps more. Also, in the upcoming weeks, look for reviews of upcoming and recent releases of series such as Mannix, Dragnet, and more. Until next year, keep it digital!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, October 20

The Simpsons - "Treehouse of Horror XXX" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Milhouse is trapped in another dimension; dead Homer's spirit tries some new bodies on for size; Selma finds love in an unlikely place.

Bless the Harts - "Cremains of the Day" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Violet, David and Leonard take Wayne on a ghost hunt to cure his fear of ghosts; Jenny and Betty honor Jenny's late father on his favorite holiday.

Bob's Burgers - "Big Trouble in Little Tina" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Things get spooky when Tina dissects a pig in science class; Bob and Linda battle a giant ball of ear wax.

Family Guy - "Disney's The Reboot" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After the network decides it is time to reboot the series, three versions of the reboot are shown to a focus group, which produces some surprising feedback.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 14)

Sunday, October 20

  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) - Catch Alec on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 12:05am on NBC.


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

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Six Young Sheldon - The Complete Second Season My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season Life with Lucy - The Complete Series

08/06 - Caroline in the City - The Third Season
08/06 - Caroline in the City - The Fourth Season
08/13 - I Love Lucy - Colorized Collection
08/13 - Leave it to Beaver - Seasons One and Two
08/20 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Six
08/27 - Baskets - The Complete Season Four
08/27 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Thirteenth Season
09/03 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 9th Season
09/03 - Fresh Off the Boat - The Complete Fifth Season
09/03 - The Goldbergs - The Complete Sixth Season
09/03 - Single Parents - The Complete Season One
09/03 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Second Season
09/04 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete First Season
09/10 - American Dad! - Volume 14
09/10 - The Jetsons - The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray) (WBShop.com)
09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One
09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume Two
09/17 - Friends - The Complete Series (25th Anniversary)
09/17 - Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season
09/19 - Angel from Hell - The DVD Edition
10/08 - Leave it to Beaver - The Complete Series
10/08 - Life with Lucy - The Complete Series
10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 1
10/16 - Our Miss Brooks - Season 1 - Volume 2
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09/23 - CBS Fall Pilot Review: Bob Hearts Abishola - Premieres Monday (Sept. 23); ABC Fall Pilot Review: mixed-ish - Premieres Tuesday (Sept. 24)
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