Saturday, October 01, 2011

Digital Digest: The Wonder Years on Netflix; Beavis and Butt-Head - Mike Judge's Most Wanted DVD Review; Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 1 DVD Review

Welcome to Digital Digest, your weekly source of news and reviews of all things digital in the world of sitcoms! The fall season is now in full swing, so we're somewhat back to normal this week... but still busier than normal! This week, we have reviews of Beavis and Butt-Head - Mike Judge's Most Wanted and Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 1. Let's get going!

DIGITAL NEWS

The world of view-on-demand is getting a bit larger with the latest announcement from Amazon.com. They have announced a new deal that will bring more content to Amazon Prime subscribers, coming from the Fox library. Among the TV series included in this deal are Arrested Development, Ally McBeal, The X-Files, and best of all, The Wonder Years. Rival Netflix announced a similar deal a few months ago (also including The Wonder Years), so this new deal will put the two rivals a bit closer to a level playing field.

While we are mentioning this, The Wonder Years has finally began to stream on Netflix as of today! If you are a Netflix subscriber, you can now watch the series with your Netflix account. We haven't had an opportunity to check this out yet, but it appears that every episode is now streaming live on there! This is great news, indeed.

However, the two rivals could soon be expanding to three, as recently announced by Dish Network. The company recently acquired Blockbuster, and plans to begin a new service that will provide online streaming soon. While the deal for now seems to focus on movies, including a deal providing movies from Starz, the plan is to eventually include a library of TV series rivaling Hulu, according to CEO Jeff Clayton. The service will initially only be available to Dish Network subscribers, but is expected to be rolled out to everybody by the end of the year.

In the DVD world, the early days of television have been in the limelight this week. We've been hearing about The Donna Reed Show - Season Four coming to DVD for a long time, but it appears now that a date has finally been set for this release. The five-disc set will be released on December 20, just in time for Christmas. Supposedly, MPI has the rights to release seasons 4 and 5, but the rights for seasons 6-8 remain with Sony. Hopefully we'll eventually see all of the seasons one way or another.

The really interesting news of the week, though, is this news of an effort to get every episode of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet on DVD. Sam Nelson, the grandson of Ozzie and Harriet, has recently inherited the master copies of every episode of the series following the death of his uncle, David Nelson, and he wants to get every episode released on DVD--all 435 of them! But there is a problem. The masters for many of the episodes are in terrible shape, and only deteriorating further as the years go on. So, Nelson has started an online fundraiser in an attempt to fund the restoration and digitization of the series. The cost to restore the entire series is nearly $60,000, and over $15,000 of that has already been raised. It would be great to see the entire series released on DVD, but if you want to see the series now, you should check out Mill Creek Entertainment's 2007 release of The Essential Ozzie & Harriet, which contains 100 episodes of the series--but be warned, these episodes are of very rough quality!

Last week, we had news about the short-lived series Mr. Sunshine coming to DVD, but now, that has been updated with more information. Mr. Sunshine - Season One will indeed by a manufacture-on-demand product, and will be released on November 1 (two weeks earlier than previously reported). The two disc set will contain every episode of the series, including four unaired episodes.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (October 4) marks the first "back to normal" week for DVDs with most of the 2010-2011 seasons of current shows having been released by now, but it is still a busy week for DVDs. From Lionsgate alone, we have According to Jim - The Complete Fifth Season, Boy Meets World - The Complete Seventh Season, and Meet the Browns - Season Two. Perhaps one of the best releases, though, is MPI's release of Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes (1951-1957) - The Complete Restored Series. We have received a review copy of this set and it is an amazing set. We'll have our review posted soon. Finally, for those looking for something a bit outside of the sitcom world, we have Beavis and Butt-Head - Mike Judge's Most Wanted and Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 1. We have reviews of both of these sets today in Digital Digest.


BLOG DVD REVIEW

In the 1980s, MTV was the official network for music videos, but they started to make some changes in the 1990s. One of these changes was a new animated series about two high school kids who were complete morons: Beavis and Butt-Head. The series never really had a main idea. It was just a series about two morons making it through life doing some of the stupidest and most idiotic things, with cut-ins of music videos that they made fun of. The series returns to MTV with new episodes in just a few weeks (after a hiatus of well over a decade), but until then, you can enjoy 20 of the classic cartoon shorts in Beavis and Butt-Head - Mike Judge's Most Wanted.

DVD Review - Beavis and Butt-Head - Mike Judge's Most Wanted

Beavis and Butt-Head - Mike Judge's Most Wanted (MTV, $14.98) collects 20 of the greatest (as judged by the judge, Mike Judge) cartoon shorts from one of TV's earliest raunchy cartoon comedy series in a single DVD. The series debuted in 1993 on MTV and was unlike anything else that had ever aired before. It is a show about two idiotic heavy metal loving teenagers from the fictional town of Highland, TX getting into schemes and adventures that often seem to have serious consequences for everybody--except for them.

The set includes twenty shorts from the series, with none of the music video interstitials from the original airings intact. In "Lightning Strikes," the boys try to imitate Benjamin Franklin's kite flying experiment, with somewhat serious (but comical) consequences. The boys try to kill a fly in "Die Fly, Die!" In "Stewart is Missing," the kid that the boys bully is missing, and nobody can seem to find him... except somebody knows where he is, if only they'd remember. In "Nose Bleed," Beavis gets a nose bleed, but the attempts to stop it are an even bigger disaster. Beavis and Butt-head want to get some, well, enhancements in "Plastic Surgin'". In "Animation Sucks," the boys have a class assignment to create a cartoon, but you can guess that the one that they create is very tasteless. In "Beaverly Buttbillies," watching an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies inspires Beavis and Butt-head to try to strike oil so they too can be rich, except they end up only striking a sewer line. Prank calls could have serious consequences for Beavis and Butt-head in "Prank Calls," but not necessarily so when they give the man that they are prank calling Stewart's address. A class field trip goes all wrong in "Bus Trip." The set ends with one of the most memorable of the series, "The Great Cornholio," where Beavis eats an insane amount of sugar and transforms into his prophet of doom alter-ego.

Shorts included are as follows:
"Lightning Strikes" (5:37)
"A Very Special Episode" (5:41)
"Die Fly, Die!" (5:41)
"Stewart is Missing" (5:46)
"Close Encounters" (5:23)
"Nose Bleed" (5:26)
"Plastic Surgin'" (4:54)
"Tired" (5:18)
"Candy Sale" (5:40)
"Date Bait" (4:52)
"Animation Sucks" (6:11)
"Impotence" (5:23)
"Beaverly Buttbillies" (5:07)
"Sexual Harassment" (5:20)
"Prank Call" (5:51)
"Substitute" (5:31)
"Follow Me" (5:11)
"Bus Trip" (5:42)
"Safe House" (5:02)
"The Great Cornholio" (7:58)

There is nothing fancy about the packaging here. We just have a standard DVD case (one of those eco-cases, which is in theory a good idea, but makes for an incredibly flimsy package) with a black and white "mug shot" of Beavis and Butt-head on the cover, and a picture of them in a police lineup on the back of the case. There is also a listing of all of the episodes on the back of the case.

The main menu on the set begins with the theme song, along with a series of clips (mostly, well, pretty much all, violent) from the episodes featured on the set. The options on the main menu include Play All, Cartoons, and Special Features.

The menus on the set are just like the previous sets, with the main menu having the same artwork seen on the cover, a Play All option, and a list of all of the episodes on the disc--that is, on the discs that don't have any special features. The discs containing special features have an Episode Selection option and an option for the bonus feature. In the background of the main menu, we have the theme song playing. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.

The video and audio quality of the episodes is about the same as what we are used to seeing. When the series was created, animation was much more crude than it is today, so while you can't expect great picture quality, it is about as good as it can possibly get for the series. Of course, the original unaired pilot looks even worse, and that should be no surprise. I'm hoping that the new series will look and sound much better with the new animation technology out there today. The scenes from the new season featured as a bonus feature looked better than I've ever seen the series, and the animation looks a lot like one of the more recent episodes of Mike Judge's other series that he is well-known for, King of the Hill. Each episode is closed-captioned.

The DVD contains three special features, two of which were previously featured on the previous volume sets. "Scenes from the New Season" (4:49) is the only new feature for this DVD, and it is exactly what it sounds like: scenes from the first episode of the new season. The series will be a little different in that it will make fun of things in pop-culture aside from music videos this time, including making fun of series such as Jersey Shore. "Taint of Greatness: The Journey of Beavis and Butt-Head" (1:04:09) gives a very thorough view of the journey of creating the series, from the creation to the end of the original series, with interviews from the cast and crew. Ironically, in this featurette, Mike Judge talks about how he knew it was time to move on when the show was getting stale... yet he is coming back to do it anyway! Of course, I think the fans are satisfied that it is coming back. The featurette has a 2011 copyright date on it, but it didn't seem that anything was added to it from the previous release of the featurette. Finally, "The Original, Uncut Frog Baseball" (2:39) is just an unedited version of the original pilot cartoon for the series. The animation here is very crude, but it really captures the charm of the early years of the series.

If you just want a taste of the older episodes, then this DVD may be for you, but fans of the older episodes of the series would probably be better off getting the previous volume releases of the series. Every episode and two of the special features (the only one missing is the preview of the new season) contained on this DVD can be found on those sets. I only wish that Mike Judge would recognize that the "other 1/3" of the episodes that have not been released are worthy of a release on DVD, and get those out, but it doesn't look like it'll be happening. I do have hopes for the new series, though. It'll probably be one of the best series to air on MTV since, well, the series left MTV.

(4/5 stars)

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BLOG DVD REVIEW

It's time for more court room drama with one of the greatest (fictional) defense attorneys of all time, Perry Mason! The 1960s series starring Raymond Burr was literally the trendsetter for all future courtroom dramas, and has continued to serve as the standard for which many courtroom dramas to this day are based upon. Here is our review of Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 1.

DVD Review: Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 1

Perry Mason - Season 6, Volume 1 (CBS DVD, $49.99) is the first installment of the 1962-1963 season of one of the first courtroom dramas to hit TV. Perry Mason is the man who takes on the cases of those defendants who have no hope of being found not guilty, because all of the evidence points their way, and turns things all the way around and makes the case that his client is indeed not guilty and (usually) always wins the case.

The season begins with "The Case of the Bogus Books," where book forgery leads to murder. In "The Case of the Playboy Pugilist," a boxer's complicated love life puts him on trial for murder. A cop becomes entangled in a murder/embezzlement conspiracy when his partner is killed in "The Case of the Hateful Hero." It is a case of bathtub electrocution in "The Case of the Dodging Domino." An uncle draws up a will that includes his shipmate and niece in "The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle," and of course, ends up murdered. A young high school teacher is accused of inappropriate advances towards male students in "The Case of the Lurid Letter," but you know that things will get even more out of control in this show. A woman is accused of murdering her ex-fiance in "The Case of the Fickle Filly." In "The Case of the Shoplifter's Shoe," a chronic shoplifter is accused of murder. The set ends with "The Case of the Bluffing Blast," where a woman's search for her long-lost father manages to put her on trial for murder.The episodes all appear to be unedited, with runtimes as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "The Case of the Bogus Books" (50:47)
2. "The Case of the Capricious Corpse" (50:48)
3. "The Case of the Playboy Pugilist" (50:48)
4. "The Case of the Hateful Hero" (50:46)

Disc 2:
5. "The Case of the Dodging Domino" (50:46)
6. "The Case of the Double Entry Mind" (50:44)
7. "The Case of the Unsuitable Uncle" (50:48)
8. "The Case of the Stand-In Sister" (50:47)

Disc 3:
9. "The Case of the Weary Watchdog" (50:44)
10. "The Case of the Lurid Letter" (50:42)
11. "The Case of the Fickle Filly" (50:46)

Disc 4:
12. "The Case of the Polka Dot Pony" (50:44)
13. "The Case of the Shoplifter's Shoe" (50:57)
14. "The Case of the Bluffing Blast" (50:43)

The packaging for the set is the fairly standard Viva pack, with a photo of Perry Mason on the front. On the back, we get a brief description of the series, along with a few episode snapshots. Inside the case, you'll find the four discs, all of which have the basic gray artwork with the series logo imprinted on them, along with a listing of all of the episodes on the disc. There is also, as usual, a listing of all of the episodes, along with a brief description, inside the case. Discs 1 and 2 contain four episodes each, while Discs 3 and 4 contain three episodes each.

The menus on the set are very basic and leave something to be desired, but they are perfectly functional. There is basically just the main menu on the set, and that is pretty much it. The main menu has a snapshot of Perry and a listing of all of the episodes on the disc, as well as a Play All option. There is also a Set Up option to turn on the English subtitles. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.

The video and audio quality on the set is, once again, spectacular. Sure, there is some grain and debris on the episodes, but CBS has been remastering these episodes, and I honestly feel like they look the best that they possibly could. I think that this is one of the rare older series that could really shine on Blu-ray, but I'd be happy if they'd just get the series finished on DVD. The audio is loud and clear, being presented in Dolby Digital mono. And every episode on the set contains English subtitles, for those who require them.

As usual, the set contains no special features. It is a shame that a series as popular as this one continues to be neglected in this area on DVD.

I'm not really sure that there is anything more that can be said about these Perry Mason sets that hasn't been said before. They've all been very consistent on the quality (in other words, perfect quality episodes), yet all lacking on special features. At this point, I'm really not expecting to see any special features for the seven (yes, still that many to go!) remaining releases of the series, but it would still be nice to see something. In any event, I'm glad that we're getting all of the episodes on DVD unedited, and that they are looking spectacular. I think that is enough evidence to dismiss the charges of lacking special features!

(4/5 stars)

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CLICK OF THE WEEK

The Who's the Boss? Resource - We've been bringing you more "general" TV series websites in the past few weeks, but this week, we've decided to go back to a show-specific website, and this week's website is about the TV series Who's the Boss? The series hasn't been seen on TV since it recently left Hallmark, but there are definitely dedicated fans out there as this eleven year old fan site indicates. Like most websites that we feature here as a "Click of the Week," the site does more than just give you the basics of the series--it goes in-depth and looks back at some of the history of the series.

Like any good TV website, there is a very thorough episode guide for the series. But that is only the beginning. For many episodes, you'll find complete episode transcripts as well as photo snapshots from the individual episodes. The site contains a ton of fan fiction for those interested in that, and although admittedly some of it is just plain awful (hey, that's the nature of fan fiction), a lot of it is very interesting to read, and some would have made good episodes. My favorite features, though, are the articles and bloopers sections. In the articles section, you'll find tons of articles going all the way back from the 80s to today from mainstream media sources about the series, to kind of get a feel for how things developed over the years. In the bloopers section, you'll find a ton of bloopers and inconsistencies from all of the episodes, complete with photographs from the episodes.

That's all for this week. Until next time, keep it digital!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, May 15

Side Hustle - "Bot Club" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Lex, Presley and Munchy discover that Fisher is a big-time player in the underground robot fight club scene in Altoonisburg; having not lost a robot fight yet, the kids decide to bet their KidDING money on a Fisher win.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 10)

Friday, May 14

  • Fred Armisen (Los Espookys/Forever/Big Mouth) - Watch Fred on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Billy Crystal (The Comedians/Soap) and Tiffany Haddish (The Last O.G./The Carmichael Show) - Billy and Tiffany are guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Richard Kind (Mad About You/Spin City) - Richard appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Jerry O'Connell (We Are Men/Carpoolers/My Secret Identity) - Jerry guest co-hosts The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Denise Richards (Blue Mountain State) - Denise discusses the movie The Treasure of Pirates Cove and the show The Bold and The Beautiful on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/The Office) - Ellie is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (In the House/The Fresh of Prince of Bel-Air/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso appears on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Denis Leary (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll/The Job) - Denis and Rachael share the work they did together on International Firefighters' Day on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Jean Smart (Samantha Who?/Center of the Universe/The In-Laws/Designing Women) - Jean talks about HBO Max's Hacks on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (January-May)

Corporate - Season 2 Fam - The Complete Series Betty White's Pet Set - The Complete Series Happy Together - The Complete Series Til Death - The Complete Series

01/22 - Corporate - Season 2
01/22 - Corporate - Season 3
02/02 - Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - The Complete Series (2021 Retail Release)
02/16 - Fam - The Complete Series
02/23 - Betty White's Pet Set - The Complete Series
03/02 - Blue Mountain State - The Complete Series
03/02 - Happy Together - The Complete Series
03/02 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-4 (DVD) (Blu-ray)
04/20 - 'Til Death - The Complete Series
05/11 - Dead to Me - Season Two

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