Saturday, February 19, 2011

Digital Digest: Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series DVD Review; A Look Into the Public Domain

Welcome to this week's edition of Digital Digest! We've got a busy news week this week, plus we've got a review of the Warner Archive DVD set Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch and a blog feature article (yes, we've finally got one of these after many weeks of not having them!) about public domain DVDs. Let's get going!

DIGITAL NEWS

Shout! Factory has been very quiet when it comes to announcing new releases on DVD in recent weeks, but this week, the figurative dam has burst and several releases are flowing through! We'll start with the continuing releases from Shout! Factory. As you may remember, a few weeks ago, we mentioned some discussion regarding special features on a "potential" season eight release of All in the Family. Well, now, that release has gone from "potential" to announced. All in the Family - The Complete Eighth Season is scheduled for May 17 at a $29.93 MSRP.

What may be even more surprising, though, is Shout! Factory's quick turnaround on the series Webster. Webster - Season Two is on the calendar for May 10 at a $29.93 MSRP.

We've also mentioned in the past that Father Knows Best - Season Six would be coming sometime soon, and now we have a date for it! It will, of course, be a Shout! Select title, and is not available for pre-order yet, but it is set to be released on April 19.

Now, that concludes the news on the continuing stuff from Shout! Factory... so let's delve into the new stuff! First up is an announcement on a series that another studio has started, but Shout! is picking up... it is none other than Hazel! Sony released the first season a few years ago, but now Shout! Factory has picked up the rights to it and will be releasing the second season (and hopefully the rest). No details are known on this set just yet.

The other news from Shout! Factory is regarding a current series on ABC Family, the original sitcom Melissa & Joey. The original series, starring Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence, comes to DVD on May 24 in Melissa & Joey - Season One, Part One. It comes at a $29.97 MSRP.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (February 22) brings us a trio of releases from Lionsgate, including Weeds - Season Six (DVD and Blu-ray Disc), Nurse Jackie - Season Two (DVD and Blu-ray Disc), and House of Payne - Volume 6. We have a review of Weeds here and a review of Nurse Jackie here. Look for House of Payne in the upcoming days on our main review page.


BLOG FEATURE REVIEW

Many Hanna-Barbera series have come and gone over the years, and thanks to the folks at Warner Archive, we are finally seeing many of these rare and lost series on DVD. In the short-lived series Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, we get to see Wheelie, a stunt racing car, and his girlfriend Rota Ree outsmart the motorcycle gang. It's a quirky and weird premise for a series (like many cartoons of the early '70s), but now you can see all 13 episodes on DVD in Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series.

DVD Review: Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series
by Greg Brobeck

Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - The Complete Series (Warner Archive, $24.95) Charge!! All 13 episodes of Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch arrive on DVD from the Warner Archive in a new 3-disc set. Wheelie is a red Volkswagen Beetle who is also a professional racing car. He communicates via honks and words displayed on his windshield (despite the fact that all the other characters in the series can talk). His girlfriend, a yellow convertible, is Rota Ree (a pun on rotary engine and actress Ruta Lee).
Wheelie's nemeses are the Chopper Bunch, a gang of motorcycles including Chopper, Revs, Hi-Riser, and Scrambles. Episode plots usually involve the Chopper Bunch trying to cause some sort of trouble for Wheelie, typically trying to steal Rota Ree away from him. However, Wheelie always wins out and Rota's affections never waiver.

The series ran on NBC from 1974-1975 and the episodes are actually pretty cute. It's nice to see a Hanna-Barbera series from that time period that doesn't involve crime-fighting/mystery-solving teenagers and is instead just good old-fashioned fun. It's a shame the series only lasted 13 episodes, but it faced fierce competition from The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show on CBS and ultimately bombed in the ratings as a result. The set is from Warner Archive and is, therefore, a manufacture-on-demand set on DVD-R's. There's a small chance the discs won't play on certain DVD players or drives, but I had no problem with any of the discs.

Each of the thirteen episodes is comprised of three shorts which last around 7 minutes each. Episodes are very cute and have easy to follow and easy to get involved in plots. Some of the funnier episodes: In "Get a Doctor" the Chopper Bunch tries to trick Wheelie into thinking he's sick—even going as far as tampering with his medical test results! In "Our Hero," Wheelie joins the volunteer rescue squad and goes in search of a little girl (a scooter) who is lost... but will Chopper show him up and get there first? In "Wheelie in Paris," Wheelie enters the Grand Prix race in Paris, but so does Chopper and tries to beat him to the finish line. And finally, in "Wheelie's Clean Sweep," Wheelie becomes a street sweeper in order to give Rota's father the day off. Here are all the episodes with the runtimes for each episode on the DVD-R's:

Disc 1:
1. Double Cross Country/The Infiltrator/The Stunt Show (22:05)
2. Get a Doctor/A Day at the Beach/Ghost Riders (22:18)
3. Razzle-Dazzle Paint Job/The Autolympics/The Delivery Service (22:18)
4. Big Bumper/Surprise Party/On the Town (22:16)

Disc 2:
5. Black Belt Fuji/Our Hero/Wheelie Goes Hawaiian (22:16)
6. Inspection/The Old Timer/The Copter Caper (22:08)
7. Dr. Crankenstein/Bulldozer Buddy/Happy Birthday Wheelie (22:13)
8. Wheelie, the Super Star/Down on the Farm/Roadeo (22:18)

Disc 3:
9. Carfucious Says/Mighty Wheelie/Camping With Go-Go (22:30)
10. Lennie Van Limosine/Snow Foolin'/Wheelie in Paris (22:16)
11. Dragster Net/Dragula/Boot Camp (22:11)
12. Dr. Cykll and Mr. Ryde/Johnny Crash/Wheelie, the Smoke Eater (22:15)
13. Friday the Thirteenth/Wings for Wheelie/Wheelie's Clean Sweep (22:08)

The set comes in a black multi-disc Amaray case with one moving page to store the disc. Previous sets from the Warner Archive have come in clear cases with much thinner plastic that is susceptible to breaking. I can gladly say the quality of the actual case has improved with this set. The case features a nice shot of all the characters in the series along with the show logo and "Hanna Barbera Classic Collection." The back has some more shots of the cast and some information on the series. The discs themselves have the show's logo and a picture of Wheelie.

As was not the case with other Hanna-Barbera sets from the Warner Archive, this one features an actual menu screen instead of a generic one. It's a simple one-screen menu with the same picture of the characters as on the DVD case, and options to choose an episode. Unfortunately, you can only choose an episode by number. Episode titles are not provided on the menu or anywhere in the set. There are no audio or subtitle options and there are no closed captions. Chapter marks are better placed in this set as well, with one after the main title, and one after each segment. This makes navigating through the episodes very easy.

The video and audio qualities are mostly good. As this is a MOD set, no remastering work was done. The video is a little on the soft side, but colors are still vibrant and the episodes are very watchable. Audio is clear, if not very dynamic. It is as good as it can be expected. There are no special features, unfortunately...but no one was expecting any, I'm sure.

In general, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch was a cute mid-70s Hanna-Barbera show about talking cars and motorcycles. As this show is rarely rerun on Cartoon Network or Boomerang, I had never actually seen the show prior to getting this set, and considering how bland some of H-B's product was at the time, my expectations weren't that high. However, I was impressed with the writing and the overall cute factor of the show. It's too bad it didn't last longer. I can wholeheartedly recommend the show to both families and animation enthusiasts. It's cute!

(4/5 stars)

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

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch TV.com page

BLOG FEATURE STORY:

A Look Into the Public Domain
by skees53

We've all seen them everywhere; if we go into virtually any store, such as a dollar store, bookstore, various websites, a grocery store, or even big box retailers like Best Buy or Target, we see cheap DVDs (sometimes as cheap as a buck), usually of series that are from the 1960s or earlier, that have been put out by some studio that we've never heard of. Commonly, we'll see series such as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, The Lucy Show, and many others among these "value selections." So why are these DVDs so cheap? It's because they are in the public domain. In other words, they are episodes of these series that have fallen out of copyright protection.

We rarely review such series here (although we have on occasion). One major problem is that there are an infinite amount of these releases out there released by studios that seemingly pop up every day (and often vanish after the release), and we can't even keep track of what is coming out because public domain DVDs are rarely released with any publicity. Another problem is that so many of these DVDs contain material that has already available from several other studios releasing the same public domain set. And quality is another issue--many of these sets are among the worst looking DVDs that you'll see out there. So why are we doing a story about this? Because sometimes you can find treasures among these DVD sets that you can not find elsewhere.

One great example of these "treasures" would be the classic series from the 1950s that Betty White starred in, Life With Elizabeth and Date With the Angels. No studio has ever released any "official" set of either series, so for these series, our only option is to go with a public domain release. None of the offerings out there are stellar quality, but they do provide us with a rare opportunity to see the series. We've even reviewed two of these sets, which you can see our reviews for here and here. Neither were great sets, but nonetheless offered a rare opportunity to see the series.

Recently, I stumbled upon a DVD called Lucy's Really Lost Moments for just $2 at Big Lots. I picked it up totally on a whim, but I was very pleasantly surprised with what I found on the set. Essentially, it was a single disc collection of material that could be considered "special features" on an I Love Lucy set (although much of it actually is on the officially released DVD sets). But this DVD stood out, because it contained both black and white AND colorized versions of all of the material on it. This truly was one of the best public domain releases that I ever found.

Another great public domain set is one that I've seen time and time again at the bricks and mortar retailer Half Price Books. It is Mill Creek's collection of one hundred (yes, one 1 and two 0's) episodes of the series The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. Now, it isn't exactly the prettiest looking set out there, but when I was able to pick up a used copy from the clearance rack for $10 (although the new price is still a very reasonable $20), I had to take advantage of that opportunity. This set is about the only way that you can see most of the episodes on DVD, as many releases of the series are scattered and only contain a handful of episodes.

With all that being said, before buying any public domain DVD, remember the phrase "let the buyer beware." For the most part, none of these are perfect and will have technical flaws, and are almost always missing original music or other elements. But for just a few bucks, it is money that you can often afford to burn.


LOOKING AHEAD

We'll be back next week with more news and reviews, and hopefully we'll have more feature articles in the weeks ahead.We have a review of Jabberjaw, another classic Hanna-Barbera series from the Warner Archive collection in the upcoming weeks, as well as a review of an upcoming release of the classic Canadian comedy series (which has aired on PBS in the United States), The Red Green Show. Until then, keep it digital!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, December 7

The Conners - "The Dog Days of Christmas" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
The holidays are approaching and Dan meets his mother-in-law for the first time. Elsewhere, Darlene helps Becky with a parenting problem.

The Golbergs - "Worst Grinch Ever" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Sleigh bells are ringing! When Erica buys a festive baby toy, Beverly goes full on Grinch in an attempt to steal Christmas. Meanwhile, Adam discovers some surprising information about Brea, and the JTP host their first holiday party.

Abbott Elementary - "Holiday Hookah" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
On the last day of school before winter break, Janine is convinced by her friend to go to a popular Hookah Club where she runs into unexpected colleagues. Elsewhere, Jacob crashes Barbara and Melissa’s traditional holiday dinner and in the process begins to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

Home Economics - "Santa Suit Rental, $25 Per Day" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
The most wonderful time of the year brings some unforeseen financial troubles for one member of the Hayworth family. With the help of the entire brood and some holiday magic, the Hayworths are reminded that there’s nothing better than being home for the holidays.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Mr. Bills" (BET, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Curtis throws a fit about all the money he and Ella are spending, he implements drastic cost-cutting measures; things backfire when Ella follows his direction and begins cutting back on the things he enjoys.

Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "Fight the Power" (BET, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Phillip has been very responsible and begs to drive Jeremy's new car; Jeremy gives him the opportunity to drive, Philip wrecks Jeremy's new car after a night out with his friends.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 5)

Wednesday, December 7

  • Will Ferrell (The Office/The Oblongs) - Watch Will on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Lil Rel Howery (Rel/The Carmichael Show) - Lil Rel appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Kumail Nanjiani (Bless the Harts/Silicon Valley) - Kumail is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Lisa Ann Walter (Abbott Elementary/Emeril/Life's Work/My Wildest Dreams) - Lisa will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Zoey Deutch (The Suite Life on Deck) - Zoey gives details on the new movie Something from Tiffany's on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project/The Office) - Mindy dishes on how she's gearing up for the holidays with her two young children, her new book studio and more on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Don Cheadle (The Wonder Years/Black Monday/House of Lies/The Golden Palace) - Don will be on The Jennifer Hudson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Whoopi sits down with Sherri to discuss her new holiday movie, A New Orleans Noel, book, Two Old Broads and her LEGENDARY Christmas sweater line on Sherri, so check your local listings.
  • Judy Greer (Reboot/Kidding/Married/Mad Love/Miss Guided) - Judy talks about Reboot on E! News on E! at 11:30pm.
  • Liza Lapira (9JKL/Cooper Barrett's Guide to Surviving Life/Super Fun Night/Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23/Traffic Light) - Liza is a guest on PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York at 9:40am.


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

Abbott Elementary - The Complete First Season Frasier - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Ghosts - Season One The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - 70th Anniversary Ultimate Christmas Collection Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

09/06 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray) (DVD)
09/20 - Kim's Convenience - The Complete Series
09/27 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Five / The Complete Season Six
10/04 - Mr. Mayor - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) (DVD)
10/04 - The Munsters - Marineland Carnival with The Munsters TV Cast
10/18 - Abbott Elementary - The Complete First Season
11/08 - Frasier - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
11/08 - Young Rock - Season Two (Blu-ray) (DVD)
11/15 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Seven / The Complete Season Eight
11/22 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
11/29 - Ghosts - Season One (Blu-ray) (DVD)
12/06 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - 70th Anniversary Ultimate Christmas Collection
12/13 - And Just Like That... - The Complete First Season
12/13 - Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
More Recent and Upcoming TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

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12/06 - Remembering Kirstie Alley of Cheers and More; Final Season of The Flash in February on The CW
12/05 - NBC Orders Full Season of Lopez vs. Lopez; Apple TV+ Christmas Collection
12/04 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of December 5, 2022)
12/03 - SitcomsOnline Digest: First Look at That '90s Show; Warner Bros. Discovery Makes More Changes, Including Ending Live News at HLN
12/02 - Classic Holiday Game Show Block on GSN; Zooey Deschanel Gets Discovery+ Series
12/01 - Apple TV+ Announces Premiere Date for Shrinking; Disney Producing Animated Sitcom
11/30 - That '90s Show Premieres Jan. 19; The CW Midseason 2023 Schedule
11/29 - Master Minds Returns Jan. 9 on Game Show Network; Remembering Sons & Daughters Co-Creator Nick Holly, Clarence Gilyard Jr., Ron Masak and Others We Recently Lost
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11/13 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 14, 2022)
11/12 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Midseason Premiere Dates Set for Reboots of 80s Classics; Abbott Elementary Still Strong in Ratings
11/11 - Chris Rock Live Comedy Special Set for Netflix; Hulu Renews This Fool for Season 2
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11/09 - NBC Midseason 2023 Schedule; Apple TV+ Renews Bad Sisters for Season 2
11/08 - ABC Midseason 2023 Schedule; Fox 2023 Midseason Schedule
11/07 - Showtime and Paramount Network Set Simultaneous Premiere; Jeff Dunham's New Comedy Central Special