Saturday, January 29, 2011

Digital Digest: Airwolf - Season Four DVD Review

Welcome to Digital Digest, your weekly source for news and reviews of all things related to home media and your favorite vintage TV series! It has been an incredibly slow week in the world of home media, but nonetheless, we are here to bring you the news that we do have, in addition to a review of the upcoming DVD release Airwolf - Season Four. Let's get going!


DIGITAL NEWS

It's been a very slow news week, but we have a few updates on some series from Shout! Factory. We'll start with the bad news. According to some message board postings on the Shout! Factory Community, Shout! Factory is having trouble with getting some of their series from the 20th Century Fox library released on DVD. Shout! Factory only licensed the earlier seasons of certain series when they originally obtained the home video rights, and are having significant difficulties with negotiating the rights for additional seasons, particularly Mr. Belvedere and Rhoda. Now what exactly does this mean? It doesn't exactly mean that fans should give up all hope, because from the statements made by Brian Ward, it appears that some effort is being made by Shout! Factory to get obtain the rights and get the series back on track (they had a similar issue with Punky Brewster a few years ago that was later resolved). But for the time being, future releases are not in the horizon due to these difficulties. You can read more about it in Brian Ward's response in this thread.

There is good news to come from Shout! Factory this week, although it isn't exactly something that would amount to an official announcement... but it does suggest a high likelihood that a release is indeed on the horizon. Another thread regarding the series All in the Family includes a response from Brian Ward regarding Brian Blum's intention to include a retrospective episode from the ninth season on a future release of the series. Now, to be clear, this doesn't necessarily mean that such a release is on the immediate schedule, nor does it even mean that it will definitely happen... but what it does mean is that Shout! Factory is indeed looking ahead to this season, and it is very likely that we will hear something about a release in the near future, meaning that the series should finally be completed on DVD.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (February 1) is a very slow day of releases, with the only release of note being Universal's Airwolf - Season Four. We have a review of this set today in Digital Digest.


BLOG DVD REVIEW

The 1980s was full of action dramas such as The A-Team, Knight Rider, Street Hawk, and others, but among those was the series Airwolf, a series about a high-tech military helicopter team that took on various missions--often those involving espionage in a Cold War era. The series ran for three seasons on CBS, and was revived (and completely recast) for a fourth and final season that aired on the USA Network in 1987. Here is our review of that final season (sometimes referred to as Airwolf II), Airwolf - The Fourth Season.

DVD Review - Airwolf - Season Four
by skees53

Airwolf - Season Four (Universal, $39.98) is the final chapter in the classic action espionage series on DVD. The fourth season is practically a completely new series from the previous seasons, with all of the original characters either being assigned elsewhere or killed off, and the action taking place with a new cast of characters, led by Stringfellow Hawke's long-lost brother, Saint John (Barry Van Dyke), with his new crew, including Jo (Michelle Scarabelli), Major Mike Rivers (Geriant Wyn Davies), Jason Locke (Anthony Sherwood), and Newman (William B. Davis).

In the first episode of the season, "Blackjack," Stringfellow (played by Jan-Michael Vincent in his final appearance in the series) is reunited with his M.I.A. brother, St. John (Barry Van Dyke), who ends up taking over as the Airwolf commander after tragedy strikes. Jo is in trouble when her airliner is forced down behind the Iron Curtain in "Escape." A survival course for troubled teens becomes chaos when a crime boss kidnaps his grandson in "A Piece of Cake." In "Deathtrain," an assignment to supervise the dumping of stockpiles of nerve gas goes all wrong when the assignment is hijacked. A young American teacher and her students are lost in the jungle in the midst of a potential nuclear crisis in the two-part episode "Stovograd."
In "X Virus," a deadly virus is about to be unleashed, and St. John has to stop it before he succumbs to it himself. Jo and St. John are taken prisoner by a Japanese client who is seeking revenge against a World War II officer (who happens to be St. John's father) in "Ground Zero." A group of radical pacifists get ahold of the nuclear missiles in an effort to force total disarmament in "The Key." In "Storm Warning," a corrupt general in a small republic disappears with million dollar in aid funds, and it is up to the team to track him down. Jo is determined to go on a mission to search for an old boyfriend who is reported dead in a plane crash in a Middle Eastern desert--with or without her team--in "The Golden One." In "The Puppet Master," Locke is unwittingly controlled by enemies during a brain implant surgery that occurs against his will. The team is chasing an opium shipment around the world in "Poppy Chain." St. John is lured into illegal drug trafficking by a woman he once loved in the series finale, "Welcome to Paradise."

The episodes appear to be unedited, although the episodes "Salvage" and "On the Double" do seem to be a bit short. Those two episodes are also missing the "preview" at the beginning of the episode, so that likely accounts for some (hopefully all) of the missing footage. Runtimes are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "Blackjack" (46:53)
2. "Escape" (46:42)
3. "A Town for Hire" (46:55)
4. "Salvage" (44:57)

Disc 2:
5. "Windows" (46:55)
6. "A Piece of Cake" (46:54)
7. "Deathtrain" (47:04)
8. "A Code of Silence" (47:02)
9. "Stavograd, Part 1" (46:01)

Disc 3:
10. "Stavograd, Part 2" (46:03)
11. "Mine Troupe" (47:05)
12. "X Virus" (46:21)
13. "Rogue Warrior" (46:54)
14. "Ground Zero" (46:38)

Disc 4:
15. "Flowers of the Mountains" (46:01)
16. "The Key" (46:31)
17. "On the Double" (44:55)
18. "Storm Warning" (46:30)
19. "The Golden One" (46:32)

Disc 5:
20. "The Puppet Master" (46:32)
21. "Malduke" (46:25)
22. "Poppy Chain" (46:38)
23. "Flying Home" (46:54)
24. "Welcome to Paradise" (46:55)

The packaging on the set is fairly standard, but there is one very positive note about it. Universal is still continuing to use slimcases, which (in my opinion) is one of the best packaging designs out there. The cover art for the set has a series of cast photos, along with a picture of the helicopter underneath them, with a purple color scheme. There are several episode snapshots on the back, along with a description of the season. Inside, there are three slimcases, with the first two slimcases containing two discs each and the third one only containing one disc. These have the same artwork as the cover art on the front, and a listing of all episodes with descriptions on the back. Disc 1 contains four episodes, while all of the rest of the discs contain five episodes each.

The menus on the set are basic, with a series of cast photos (the same ones seen on the cover art) on the main menu of each disc, with options of Play All, Episode Index, and Setup. The theme song plays in the background of the main menu. Selecting Episode Index takes you to a menu that lists the episodes, along with a small screen shot from the episode. Upon selecting an episode, it plays right away. There are chapters placed throughout each episode.

The video and audio quality on the set is OK, but definitely leaves quite a bit to be desired. It is clear that the budget for this season was lower than the previous seasons as the series moved from CBS to USA Network, and there is a lot of rough looking stock footage rehashed from previous seasons used in the episodes. Additionally, production was moved to Canada, another surefire sign of cutting production costs. The episodes really do look like a cheap non-network production of the 80s, with a not-so-sharp picture and less-than-stellar audio quality. Still, the episodes are perfectly watchable, and look about like they did at the time. English subtitles are available.

There are no special features on this set at all, perhaps what would have been nice would have been some featurette discussing the changes the occurred on this season. This season is so much different from the previous three, and new fans to the show are likely to be very confused about all of the changes.

I've seen this series many times, and have slowly gained a bit of interest in the series, though this is my first time ever seeing this season. It doesn't exactly have the charm or greatness of the previous seasons (and from what I've gathered, even the most diehard fans of the series feel that way), but it is interesting to watch as a "continuation" of the previous three seasons of the series. If you've never seen the series, this is definitely not the season to begin with. Any of the first three seasons are much better, and if you find yourself liking those, then perhaps you'll want to try out this season. That isn't to say that this season was a major disaster, as the existence of it was vital to ensure that the rest of the series could make it in to syndication, and there are even some great episodes in this season. But it is a major step down from the previous seasons.

(4/5 stars)

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


LOOKING AHEAD

We hate these slow news weeks, so we hope that we'll have some more exciting news in the upcoming weeks. We have reviews coming up for The Fugitive, Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends, and more in the upcoming weeks. We also hope to have some Blu-ray Disc reviews for you in the upcoming weeks. Until then, keep it digital!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight / Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows

Wednesday, May 22

Abbott Elementary - "Party" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
It’s the last day of school! Ahead of summer vacation, Janine throws the perfect end-of-year party for her colleagues and friends, taking all their interests into consideration.

The Conners - "Less Money, More Problems" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Mark takes on odd jobs, determined to find a way to pay for school. Meanwhile, Darlene grapples with her emotions when she discovers her household is about to change dramatically.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 20)

Wednesday, May 22

  • Amy Poehler (Duncanville/Parks and Recreation) - Watch Amy on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Patton Oswalt (A.P. Bio/The Goldbergs/The King of Queens) - Patton is a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Jay Pharoah (White Famous/Champaign ILL) - Jay appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Busy Philipps (Girls5eva/Vice Principals/Cougar Town/Love, Inc.) - Busy is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Andy Richter (Andy Barker, P.I./Quintuplets/Andy Richter Controls the Universe) and Aasif Mandvi (The Brink) - Andy and Aasif are guests on After Midnight at 12:37am on CBS.
  • JB Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm/Blockbuster/The Millers/Bent/'Til Death) - JB appears on Comedy Central's The Daily Show at 11pm.
  • Quinta Brunson (Abbott Elementary) - Quinta is joining Drew for the whole show and we're celebrating her with all things Philadelphia on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings. She's also telling Drew about earning an honorary degree from Temple University, watching sitcoms growing up, and what kind of project she would like to write next.
  • Keke Palmer (Scream Queens/True Jackson, VP) - Keke (Master of Me out in November) and her sister, Loreal Palmer (Keep Living), tell Sherri all about their new books on Sherri, so check your local listings.
  • Boris Kodjoe (The Last Man on Earth/Second Time Around) - Boris talks about Station 19 on ABC's GMA 3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.
  • Casey Wilson (The Righteous Gemstones/Black Monday/The Hotwives/Marry Me/Happy Endings) and Jessica St. Clair (Space Force/Playing House/Best Friends Forever) - Casey and Jessica are guests on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.


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