The Jack Benny Program has had several DVD releases over the past decade, but all of those releases have been from low-budget studios and have included (exclusively) public domain material. But on September 11, it appears that Shout! Factory may be bringing us something a little bit better with The Jack Benny Program - The Lost Episodes! We haven't heard anything about this anywhere else, but according to another listing for the item on Movies Unlimited, the set will include 24 episodes of the classic series, not seen since their original airing, with guest stars including Milton Berle, George Burns, Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra, President Harry S. Truman, John Wayne, and others. The information also suggests that there will be a few special features as well. There is no word on the source for these episodes, but an article appeared in The New York Post in early 2010 indicating that CBS had discovered "roughly 25 episodes" of the classic series in their vault, but was being "stingy" (remember, The New York Post is a paper which likes to sensationalize news) and refusing to let them ever be seen again... but the real news in the article is that the real problem is likely costs for music clearance, something which CBS is not necessarily always eager to pay for on their DVD releases. So, is it possible that these episodes being released by Shout! Factory are indeed these episodes? Perhaps they are some other lost episodes? Or are they just more of the standard public domain releases we've seen in the past? We don't know just yet, although given Shout! Factory's history, it is unlikely that it would be more like the releases we've seen in the past. We'll let you know when we know more. Our appreciation goes to the poster of this message on the website Home Theater Forum for bringing the matter to the attention of others! By the way, if you're hungry for some of the standard public domain Jack Benny fare already out there, check out Mill Creek's 39 episode collection of The Best of Jack Benny... it may be public domain, but it is a much nicer public domain release of the series than the other collections out there.
CBS has been planning a MOD release of Becker - The Fourth Season for a few months now, but we hadn't heard much about it... until now! According to the listing on amazon.com, it will begin shipping this coming Tuesday. But that isn't all for CBS! Another listing popped up on amazon.com recently for Dave's World - The Third Season. No date is given for this yet, but we'll let you know more when we know more.
Speaking of CBS, some people out there may be aware that the studio keeps a syndication bible available online. It isn't really something that is really designed for the general public, but rather as information for TV stations which air series from their library. On the surface, this appears to have little (if anything) to do with DVDs... but it has a lot more to do with them than it sounds. This is because it keeps updated information on when the studio remasters series and individual episodes in high-definition, and over the years, many "DVD-philes" have come to discover that things only get remastered in preparation for DVD (although the database is sometimes not totally up to date, there is evidence to support this; the best example is for the series Dynasty, where CBS has transferred seasons two through five to HD, but skipped the first season, which was released by Fox). So, why are we bringing it up this week? In recent weeks, seasons three through five of The Streets of San Francisco have been added as being remastered or in-progress (and we know both the third and fourth seasons of that series are forth coming), and recently, HD versions of the remaining (unreleased) seasons of Perry Mason and The Lucy Show have been added to the website. So, although we can't draw any definitive conclusions from this, it seems to suggest that releases of these series may be on track for completion. We'll let you know more once we know more!
Finally, an unusual bit of news popped up on TVShowsOnDVD.com regarding Fantasy Island. It suggests that Sony will be releasing Fantasy Island - The Complete Second Season as a MOD title on September 4. This is unusual, though, because this set was already released just a few weeks ago by Shout! Factory as a standard pressed title. We have no clue what is going on with this release, and even Shout! Factory is confused by it as well, as indicated on Twitter by producer Brian Ward. So, is this release really coming? Or is this just some sort of error by Sony? We don't know, but hopefully things will become a bit clearer in the upcoming weeks, and we'll let you know what we find out!
The season stars Leslie Bibb as Amanda Vaughn, Kristin Chenoweth as Carlene Cockburn, Annie Potts as "Gigi" Stopper, Jennifer Aspen as Sharon Peacham, Miriam Shor as Cricket Caruth-Reilly, Marisol Nichols as Heather Cruz, David James Elliott as Ripp Cockburn, Mark Deklin as Blake Reilly and Brad Beyer as Zack Peacham. However, there are many recurring stars such as Tyler Jacob Moore as Pastor John Tudor, Eric Winter as Luke Lourd, and Bruce Boxleitner as Burl Lourd. Other guest stars include Tom Everett Scott as Andrew Remington, Kevin Alejandro as Danny, Grant Bowler as Mason Massey, Sheryl Crow as Herself, Sandra Bernhard as Debbie Horowitz and Donna Mills as Bitsy Lourd. The series aired for 10 episodes this past season and didn't deliver in the ratings as it could have. It was consistent though and everyone thought ABC would still bring it back for a second season. However, ABC canceled the series in May. I think ABC should have brought it back as a mid-season entry for another 10 episodes or even as a summer series. It is good fun and great looking stars, especially Leslie Bibb!
Anyway, as for this set, there are many memorable episodes in this comedic and Texan series. All ten episodes have to be seen in pretty much order as they are all connected but it is less serialized than most shows. The series starts off with the episode "Pilot," where Amanda, the mean girl in high school, returns home after a divorce scandal and death and Amanda has to turn to her mother, Gigi, for help, but the thing is that Amanda is not anymore the girl she was 20 years ago and wants a new start, but soon finds out that its not easy to escape your past. In "A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing," when Carlene's Uncle Burl returns with his wife, Gigi throws them a homecoming party, while Blake recruits Amanda to consult for Cricket and Blake's denim line, while Pastor Tudor counsels Sharon and Zack, and Heather is after Burl's 500 acres of land for her client, Andrew. In "Forbidden Fruit," with a little help from her new love interest, Heather is able to get Sheryl Crow to perform at the annual church fundraiser, while Amanda and Carlene find a new reason not to get along. In "Pride Comes Before a Fall," Amanda helps Pastor Tudor set up the annual musical, however things don't go as planned when old high school behavior comes out to play. On the very fun season finale "Revelation," Carlene and the rest of the ladies run into danger when they go to Juarez for a groundbreaking ceremony, while Amanda's suspicions about Luke lead to a discovery about Ripp.
Episodes are usually around 43 minutes and unedited, as they should be. Runtimes are below:
The menu design is heavenly! We start off with the church doors openings with a ray of sunlight then we are zoomed to the colored windows of the church where there are different images. We also have church background music from the show playing. Before the main menu, we have auto trailers. On disc one we have trailers for Castle Season 4, ABC TV DVDs coming this summer, and the theatrical movie Odd Life of Timothy Green. Disc three has trailers for more ABC TV on DVD. Back to the main menu, the options are: Play All, Episode Selection, Bonus Features, Set Up and Sneak Peeks. Sneak Peeks is only on disc three and has the same trailers as the auto trailer on disc three. Set Up gives us the option for subtitles in English, French, Espanol, and Portuguese. You can also register your DVD here. Bonus Features lists what is available on that particular disc, while Episode Selection gives us an episode number and title. All this is sort of similar to other recent ABC TV DVDs like Scandal.
Video and audio quality are both outstanding, similar to other recent ABC TV DVDs we have reviewed like Missing. We have Digital Dolby 5.1 surround sound and it is perfect. For the video, we are in widescreen (1.78:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. It is excellent quality but that is expected for newer/current series. As I keep saying, if anything goes wrong with audio/video for current series, then there is a major problem. Each episode has anywhere between 6-9 chapter stops, so it is easy to jump through an episode if you are looking for something in particular. Not sure why there is such a different amount of chapter stops per episode, but anything to find sexy scenes with Leslie Bibb! In general, nothing out of the ordinary here but it is all perfectly done.
There are some special features on this set as well and I think the best set so far for the ABC TV DVDs this summer! We have features on every disc. Discs one and two only have deleted scenes and audio commentaries, but this is great! Disc one has five deleted scenes for about 5 1/2 minutes worth: (episode 101: 0:25, 0:36, and 2:42; episode 102: 1:35; and episode 103: 0:20). Also on disc one we have audio commentary for the "Pilot" from Robert Harling (creator/executive producer/writer), Leslie Bibb and Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts (executive producers), as we get cool facts and insight. Leslie Bibb sounds so fun! Moving on to disc two, we have three deleted scenes for about 2:45: (episode 105: 0:42, episode 106: 1:30, and episode 107: 0:29). Then we have audio commentary for "Sex Is Divine" from Leslie Bibb, Brad Beyer and Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts.
Moving on to disc three, that is where the bulk of the special features are. First, we have two more deleted scenes for about 2:00: (episode 109: 1:25 and episode 110: 0:35). So in all, we had eight of the ten episodes with deleted scenes...pretty good! We have one final audio commentary here, too, this time for "Pride Comes Before A Fall" from Robert Harling, Leslie Bibb, Mark Deklin and Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts. Bibb, Berg and Harberts did all three! On to the featurettes, we have "Living Large" (9:24). Stars along with production designer Denny Dugally, take viewers along for an exclusive tour of the world of GCB, showcasing how the Texas spirit is vividly. Interviewed are Annie Potts, Miriam Shor, Marisol Nichols, Leslie Bibb, Robert Harling, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts, Denny Dugally, Jennifer Aspen, and Kristin Chenoweth. The next featurette is "Bigger in Texas" (9:48), where fans can watch the transformations the actresses go through from hair to makeup, and more. Also, costume designer Robert Blackman describes each of the GCB's Dallas style with a show-and-tell that highlights each character's unique look. Interviewed are Robert Harling, Kristin Chenoweth, Marisol Nichols, Jennifer Aspen, Miriam Shor, Leslie Bibb, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts, Annie Potts, Lauran Irion, Michael Reitz (department head, hair), Victor Nelli, Jr. (executive producer), Mark Deklin, Brad Beyer, David James Elliott, and Aaron Kaplan (executive producer). Then it is time to go to church with "Preaching to the Choir" (6:46) where fans will enjoy a visit to the set and a conversation with Kristin Chenoweth, Miriam Shor and the rest of the cast as they sing and share insight as to why music is so important to the series. Along with Chenoweth and Shor, interviewed are Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts, Robert Harling, Marisol Nichols, Tyler Jacob Moore, Victor Nelli Jr., and Mark Deklin. And we're still not done! Next we have "GCB Most Likely To..." (5:52) as this piece offers fans the opportunity to get to know the cast in this irreverent collection of thoughts from the team behind the show...from "Best Dressed" to "Class Clown," fans will see what the cast really thinks of one another. Interviewed are Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Aspen, Leslie Bibb, Marisol Nichols, Brad Beyer, Robert Harling, Tyler Jacob Moore, Miriam Shor, David James Elliott, Lauran Irion and Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts. And finally we have Bloopers (3:34) where we see all the flubs and also some quotes from scriptures! Fitting!
This is a nicely done set for a series that surprisingly ended. It's a quick turnaround like for other ABC TV DVDs that came out in May and June! The series just aired its series finale on May 6 and this DVD was released on June 12! Unfortunately ABC canceled it at their upfront in May, so it will not be returning and I was kind of shocked. As for the DVD, it is well done and similar to previous ABC TV DVDs this summer but I think it has the best special features. We get great audio/video, menus, packaging and special features. I think the special features are above average for something with only 10 episodes. We essentially have everything...featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries and bloopers! ABC Studios knows how to make good DVDs, especially for their current series. Even though this show is done, you should still watch it and see all the zany antics. It's not offending at all, as some think it is without even watching. It's all in fun and they do a great job of it. This show was just good fun and had an attractive cast. Chenoweth could have been nominated for an Emmy eventually and Leslie Bibb is must-see and I hope ABC puts her on an existing show this coming season. I really recommend you order this DVD. It is very well done! I'm sure girls will want it to see Mark Deklin or Eric Winter and the guys for Leslie Bibb. And remember, you can always go back home!
We start with The Price is Right. The website has a very thorough directory, with photos and rules of game play, of all (well, updated through late 2010 at least) pricing games on the series, even the ones which were retired almost immediately. You can also get a glimpse into other variations of the series around the world. The Wheel of Fortune section is a bit less extensive, but it includes a timeline of the series along with plenty of video clips. The strongest feature of the website, though, is the section dedicated to Press Your Luck. The section looks back at all variations of the series, gives a complete history of the series, and gives us a look into some of the memorable contestants of the series (something which the series had quite a few of), including Michael Larson, the unemployed ice cream truck driver who really won big bucks by memorizing the lighting pattern on the show... only to have his winnings stolen (he wisely decided to store the money in his own home in one dollar bills) once he went home. It would be nice to see this website revived a bit, and updated more often, but what stands here is still an excellent website, our Click of the Week.