Saturday, July 28, 2012

Digital Digest: More Sony MOD Offerings; The Rookies - The Complete Second Season DVD Review; More Than Friends DVD Review; Kate's Secret DVD Review

Welcome to Digital Digest! We're back for all of your news and a look ahead at Tuesday's releases, and this week, we have multiple reviews, with our reviews of The Rookies - The Complete Second Season, and we've also got two reviews of movies (with sitcom connections) recently released on DVD: the 1978 movie More Than Friends (starring Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner), and the 1986 movie Kate's Secret (starring Meredith Baxter). Let's get started!


Manufacture-on-demand DVD products have been bringing some of our "lost favorites" to DVD lately, but Sony has been using them for some of their current series. This week, it was revealed that the Rules of Engagement - The Complete Sixth Season will be released as a MOD title on October 2. This is not the first time that the series has been released as a MOD title, as season five was released this way as well. Sony will also bring something much older to DVD (via MOD) on that date as well, with Iron Horse - The Complete First Season. And that isn't all. The same date will also bring two separate volumes of Hart to Hart reunion movies. Sadly, there is no word on actual season sets for Hart to Hart right now, but if that changes, we'll let you know.

Sony actually has a bit more coming up, though, that isn't exclusively MOD. One of their biggest announcements in years (believe it or not) for classic TV comes with their announcement of Charlie's Angels - The Complete Series. It comes September 25 at a $65.99 MSRP. It will contain all five seasons of the series, including the never-before-released fifth season. Rumors are already floating about that this will be one of those "black spindle" releases (for those who aren't sure what that means, these are the value priced complete series sets which Sony has been putting out over the past few years with all of the discs stacked up on a very cheap plastic spindle inside of a thin cardboard box), and at that MSRP, that certainly seems likely... but we don't know that for certain. When we know more, we'll let you know!

A more minor note from Sony is a repackaging of the season sets Seinfeld, also on September 25. Full details aren't really known about this, but new UPCs have appeared in Sony's upcoming slate of releases for every season of the series, and presumably, the sets will be packaged in smaller standard-sized packages which are more "retailer friendly," just in time for the holiday season (it may be a little early to be looking this far ahead, but I'm predicting we'll be seeing these repackaged versions dirt cheap on Black Friday). The MSRP for each set has already been reduced to $19.99, with prices much lower most places... so this is certainly a great value no matter what!

Lucille Ball fans will come a bit closer to completion of their collections on October 9 as CBS releases The Lucy Show - The Sixth and Final Season. With this release, the only things missing as far as TV series for the "queen of comedy" on DVD include the final season of Here's Lucy and the one and only season of Life with Lucy. As for the final season of Here's Lucy, MPI has not announced a release just yet, but they have indicated that they will, in fact, release all six seasons, so it is only a matter of time until we do hear of a release for this set (hopefully by the end of the year). Life with Lucy doesn't seem to be on the radar from any studio for the time being, but we certainly hope that it eventually pops up somewhere.

One of the most anticipated releases on DVD in 2011 was The Fugitive - The Complete Series: Most Wanted Edition, which ironically became "most wanted" itself as only a few copies managed to escape from CBS before the set was recalled, just a day before the scheduled release date. The release was supposed to not only include every episode, but also include a nice collection of special features and fix some of the issues that previous releases had where CBS spent a ton of money replacing the score in every episode to avoid paying music royalties, only to be met with frustrated and irate fans not appreciative of the destruction of the episodes. For reasons still unexplained, the set remained unreleased, and the few copies that did make it out there were shamelessly being sold online for hundreds of dollars over the MSRP. But now, there is good news: the release is back on the schedule, set for release on October 23 at a $239.98 MSRP. We don't know what, if anything, will be changed on this set from the previously cancelled release, and don't know if it will be better or worse than that set (although we're hoping for better). We'll let you know when we know!

October 23 also brings more Perry Mason to DVD, with Perry Mason - Season 7, Volume 2. Don't forget, though, before that, CBS has Perry Mason - Season 7, Volume 1 coming on August 21!


Tuesday (July 31) has hardly any releases of note, although CBS Home Entertainment does have their release of Melrose Place - The Final Season (Volume 1 and Volume 2).


Blog DVD Review: The Rookies - The Complete Second Season (Shout! Factory, $44.99)
by skees53

Aaron Spelling was one of the pioneers of television, and in his earliest days, he found most of his success in crime drama. In 1972, one of his earliest hits, The Mod Squad (co-produced with Danny Thomas), was entering the final season. At the beginning of that same season, though, Spelling paired with Leonard Goldberg to begin producing series. This became one of the most successful partnerships of producers in TV history, producing hit series such as Charlie's Angels, Starsky & Hutch, and Hart to Hart. But before all of those, they produced The Rookies, one of the earliest contenders in the '70s cop drama era.

Most cop dramas of the era had something to make them stand out from the others, of course, and The Rookies was no exception. As the name suggests, the series was about rookies, the newest officers on the force. These weren't veteran cops who had been on the force for decades and just waiting for retirement... they were coming to the force straight out of college or Vietnam. These rookies were Terry Webster (Georg Stanford Brown), Mike Danko (Sam Melville), Willie Gillis (Michael Ontkean), all trained under veteran officer Eddie Ryker (Gerald S. O'Loughlin). We also got to see a bit of the home life of these officers, including Officer Danko's wife Jill (Kate Jackson). Together, the officers were out protecting the streets of their unidentified city as officers of the "Southern California Police Department."

The second season begins with "Cauldron," where an escaped convict takes Terry and Willie hostage in an effort to flee the country for cancer treatment. A cop blames Mike for the death of his partner in "Margin for Error." In "Deadly Cage," Terry ends up in state prison as an undercover assignment when he is injured in the line of duty. Willie and Terry arrest a teenage boy whose father is trying to protect him from being arrested in "Frozen Smoke." In "Get Ryker," Ryker's life is in danger from an ex-con he once put away. Terry and Willie investigate a costal burglary ring in "Cry Wolf." In "A Matter of Justice," Jill is shot during her wedding anniversary celebration, and Mike is determined to make sure the assailant doesn't get free. Terry's brother is in trouble after a jewelry store heist in "Blood Brother."

In "Code 261," a rapist who attacked a student nurse has his eyes on another nurse: Jill. The guys investigate the murder of a priest in "Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard." Terry and Willy protect a country music star whose life is at risk in "Down Home Boy." Jill must deal with a jealous ex-boyfriend in "Lots of Trees and a Running Stream." Willie is on the hunt for a suicidal 16-year-old diabetic who wants to end her life in "Sound of Silence." A veteran officer olds Willie responsible for the shooting of another officer in "Trial by Doubt." In "The Authentic Death of Billy Stomper," Terry falls for a Jamaican college student who witnessed the murder of a drug dealer.

Mike's efforts to help a widow of the unintended victim of a police shootout backfire, badly, in "The Late Mr. Brent." A teenager helps an armed robber escape in "The Teacher." In "Eyewitness," Ryker takes a murder witness under his wing, but the young man has a split personality... and one of those personalities is a cop killer. An aging security guard claims to have killed a local crime boss to gain his daughter's respect in "Something Less than a Man." In "Rolling Thunder," a liquor store bandit holds Terry and a young police cadet as hostages. A young felon holds Terry and three women hostage in a bank vault with the demand to free his partner from jail... and one of those women is pregnant. The season ends with "Death Watch," where a convict escapes from prison with a deadly vendetta... but what may be more deadly is the viral meningitis which he may be carrying.

Guest stars in the second season include John Travolta (in one of his first appearances on TV), James Sikking, Claude Akins, Johnny Brown (aka Bookman from Good Times), Marty Ingels, Jim Nabors, Charles Lane, Don Johnson (one of his earliest TV appearances), Nick Nolte, Tyne Daly, and more.

Most of the episodes on the set run around 51 minutes and appear to be unedited. There is one exception, unfortunately. The episode "Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard" runs about 4-5 minutes shorter than the rest, and appears to be a syndicated print. There is even a disclaimer at the beginning of the episode, saying that the episode was taken from the "best available source." Having never seen unedited versions of this series, I don't know what is missing here, but certainly something must be. Runtimes are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. "Cauldron" (51:07)
2. "Margin for Error" (50:55)
3. "Deadly Cage" (50:57)
4. "Frozen Smoke" (50:55)

Disc 2:
5. "Get Ryker" (50:53)
6. "Cry Wolf" (51:08)
7. "A Matter of Justice" (51:06)
8. "Blood Brother" (51:06)

Disc 3:
9. "Code 261" (50:38)
10. "Prayers Unanswered, Prayers Unheard" (46:21)
11. "Down Home Boy" (51:05)
12. "Lots of Trees and a Running Stream" (51:05)

Disc 4:
13. "Another Beginning for Ben Fuller" (51:08)
14. "Sound of Silence" (51:02)
15. "Trial by Doubt" (50:37)
16. "The Authentic Death of Billy Stomper" (51:02)

Disc 5:
17. "The Late Mr. Brent" (51:05)
18. "The Teacher" (51:06)
19. "Eyewitness" (51:04)
20. "Something Less than a Man" (51:08)

Disc 6:
21. "Rolling Thunder" (51:08)
22. "Time Lock" (50:33)
23. "Death Watch" (51:02)

The set comes packaged in a standard Viva-case, with a cast photo on the front cover. On the back, there is a very general description of the series, and a few more very small cast photos. Inside the case, you'll find the six discs, the first five which have photos of each of the stars of the series on each disc, and the sixth disc which has a photo of the three rookie officers. Each disc contains four episodes, except for Disc 6, which contains just three. There are episode titles and descriptions listed inside the case.

The menus on the set are very basic, with photos of the cast members on the main menu of each disc. The theme song plays in the background. The only options on the menu are Play All, as well as a list of episodes. Once you select an episode, it plays immediately. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.

The episodes on the set generally look pretty good. Despite the fact that this series rarely airs in syndication, Sony has done some remastering of the episodes of this series, and it appears that those "cleaned up" versions were used for this set. Of course, as mentioned earlier, there is one edited episode, and that one actually does look a little bit worse than the rest of the episodes on the set, but it still isn't that bad. The audio is loud and clear on each and every episode, with no real issues of note. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles or closed-captioning on the episodes.

Early reports on this release indicated that the pilot movie would be included as a special feature, but unfortunately, it was not included. In fact, there are no special features at all on this set.

Shout! has really been picking up a lot of the abandoned Sony police dramas lately, and I'm very glad that they chose to pick up this one. I haven't seen this series a whole lot outside of the airings it had on TV Land several years ago, and it was nice to actually see a little bit more of this series on this DVD set. The series really isn't all that close to the reality of a rookie cop (really, how common is it for the same group of four police officers to be held hostage or a target for a murder prevented at the last second every single week?), but that is perfectly OK, because it adds thrilling and exciting plots for the series. Hopefully, we'll see more seasons of this series in the future, as there are only two more needed to bring the series to completion. It would also be nice to see the pilot movie included on one of those sets, since it wasn't included on the first two (and despite claims it would be on this one). Generally speaking, though, I think fans of crime dramas, particularly those of Aaron Spelling, will enjoy this series. It is definitely a bit more dramatic and serious than, say, Charlie's Angels, but it is still very much enjoyable.

(4/5 stars)

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Blog DVD Review: More Than Friends (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $20.95)
by Todd

Childhood friends in the Bronx during the 1950s and '60s, Alan Corkus (Rob Reiner, TV's All in the Family) and Maddy Pearlman (Penny Marshall, TV's Laverne & Shirley) grew into awkward teenagers who attended their Senior Prom together. Despite their crossing paths again at City College, where a mutual initiation to sex helps their friendship grow into love, they never seem able to express their true feelings for each other. Years later, both have gone their separate ways, each finding frustration in love and career. When Maddy's love affair with a fellow actor ends disastrously, she surprises Alan with a visit, and the two decide to move in together. But the road to bliss is bumpy, and Maddy decides to move on again, leaving Alan unhappily trying to have relationships with other women, only to have Maddy return again... This charming comedy about their on-and-off relationship, and the bittersweet nature of love between friends -- directed by Jim Burrows and from a screenplay by Reiner and Phil Mishkin -- is a realistic take on the perils and pitfalls of modern romance.

More Than Friends aired on ABC on October 20, 1978. The movie was produced by Norman S. Powell, Rob Reiner and Phil Mishkin. It was a Reiner-Mishkin Production in association with Sony Pictures Television. The supporting cast includes Philip R. Allen as William Kane, Dabney Coleman as Joshua 'Josh' Harrington, Fawne Harriman as Beverly, Howard Hesseman as Avery Salminella, Michael McKean as Terry Christopher, Claudette Nevins as Frances Harrington, Joe Pantoliano as Ralph and special guest star Kay Medford as Gertie. Other appearances include Carl Gottlieb as Paul J. Micale, Cindy Fisher as Wind, Pamela Hayden as Sky, Kip King as Lily Pad Pal and Army Archerd as himself. Fred Karlin composed the music score.

The release is part of Sony's Choice Collection. This is a manufactured-on-demand DVD-R release. The disc is expected to play back in DVD Video "Play only" devices, and may not play in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives. It comes in a standard Amaray movie case. The cover art features a photo of Penny Marshall and Rob Reiner (with a mustache). The back cover has a senior prom photo of Marshall and Reiner (without a mustache) from when the movie is set in 1958. A short synopsis of the movie and the actor/production credits are listed. The DVD-R has has a white background, with Marshall's and Reiner's names and the title printed on it.

According to the product description, the movie was newly remastered. It's generally a pretty clean transfer. There are only a few white specks and digital artifacts. It's presented in its original full frame 1.33:1 ratio. The film was shot in Los Angeles and New York City. There are a number of exterior shots in New York City. The audio is a standard English audio track. There is no closed captioning or subtitles. A number of 1950s era songs are used in the film. They mostly sound like cover songs, but they aren't idenified in the ending credits. There is no menu for this release. It just starts to play when you enter the disc. Chapters are placed within the movie, but they seem to be at random places and not where the commercials originally aired. The movie has a running time of 96 minutes. It's not rated, but it probably would rate as PG because of the sexual talk.

Before When Harry Met Sally (which Rob Reiner would direct 10 years later), there was this 1978 ABC made for television movie. This could be promoted as When Meathead Met Laverne. It's based on Reiner's and Marshall's real life courtship. They were married at the time this was filmed. Their chemistry here is very good. They seemed like a great team. Both were charming and endearing. Sadly, they separated the year after this was broadcast. They divorced a few years later.

This is a pretty solid and entertaining movie. The plot is simple. It's a little bit slow-paced at times, but it has a nice mix of comedy and drama. The budget for it probably wasn't very high, but it has nice production values. They did a good job portraying the era with the clothing, hairstyles, music and cars. It's initially set in 1958 when they attended their Senior Prom together, and it moves ahead every few years until 1971 when Reiner and Marshall married in real life. Most of the film's exterior scenes were shot in New York City, which was a big positive. I noticed Tom's Restaurant (Monk's Cafe exterior in Seinfeld) in the background of one scene. There's a nice collection of scenes in the Bronx where they play some childhood street games. The supporting cast is very good. There are many familiar faces like Dabney Coleman, Howard Hesseman (WKRP in Cincinnati) and Marshall's Laverne & Shirley co-star Michael McKean. McKean sings a folk song and has a couple of memorable scenes near the end of the movie. Joe Pantoliano (Joey Pants) plays the best friend of Reiner's character in one of his earliest sizable roles. This movie seems to have mostly disappeared from airing on cable networks in recent years, so it's nice to see it available in this format. If you are a fan of Annie Hall, When Harry Met Sally, or any similar romantic comedies, this would definitely be worth checking out.

(4/5 stars)

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Blog DVD Review: Kate's Secret (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $20.95)
by Todd

Meredith Baxter (TV's Family Ties and Bridget Loves Bernie) plays the wife who seems to have everything in this made-for-TV-movie, which illuminates the problem of bulimia. In fitness-obsessed Southern California, Kate Stark struggles to hide her eating disorder, characterized by a psychological need to binge eat and purge, from her husband (Ben Masters), best friend (Shari Belafonte), and everyone around her who could help her fight this life-threatening illness. When finally confronted by the seriousness of her situation, Kate encounters the caring Dr. Resnick (Ed Asner), and patients with similar issues (played by Tracy Nelson and Mackenzie Phillips), who help her to acknowledge and accept her problem... the first step to healing.

Kate's Secret was broadcast on NBC on November 17, 1986. The movie was produced by Robert A. Papazian, Stephanie Austin, Andrea Baynes and Susan Seeger. It was an Andrea Baynes Production in association with Sony Pictures Television. Susan Seeger and Denise DeGarmo wrote the teleplay. It was directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman. The supporting cast includes Georgann Johnson as Faith, Leslie Bevis as Monica Fields, Summer Phoenix as Betty Stark, Sharon Spelman as Liz Reed, Mindy Seeger as Markie, Isabel Grandin as Dot, Liz Torres as Laura, Gwynne Gilford as Lorna and Liz Sheridan as Evelyn. J. Peter Robinson was the music composer.

This is a manufactured-on-demand DVD-R release from Sony's Choice Collection. The disc is expected to play back in DVD Video "Play only" devices, and may not play in other DVD devices, including recorders and PC drives. It comes in a standard Amaray movie case. Meredith Baxter (holding a teddy bear) and Ben Masters are featured on the cover art. A photo of Shari Belafonte and Baxter is used on the back cover. A short synopsis of the movie and the actor/production credits are listed. The DVD-R has has a white background, with the movie title printed on it.

The video and audio quality is excellent. According to the product description, the movie was newly remastered. The movie was shot over 25 years ago, but it has held up well. They had some some very nice cinematography and lighting. It's presented in its original full frame 1.33:1 ratio. The audio is a standard English audio track. There is no closed captioning or subtitles. No menus are included on this release. It just starts to play when you enter the disc. Chapters are placed within the movie, but they seem to be at random places and not where the commercials originally aired. The movie has a running time of 96 minutes. It's not rated, but it probably would rate as PG because of the subject matter.

Meredith Baxter was one of the queens of television movies in the 1980s through the early 2000s. I've always thought that she was one of the most beautiful and talented actresses of the 1980s. She gives an outstanding performance here that won her much critical acclaim. I usually think of bulimia involving teens, but many adults also struggle with the eating disorder. This is a very good educational movie on the topic.

Kate's Secret is an entertaining, powerful and riveting movie. It may be a little dated and scream 80s because of the fashion, hairstyles and music, but the story still resonates to this day. Baxter's portrayal of the disorder is very realistic. The scenes of her stuffing her face with food at the grocery store and in her kitchen are shocking and alarming. They are made even more dramatic by the music score. The supporting cast is excellent and features many familiar actors. Ed Asner is great as the supportive Dr. Resnick. Fellow television actors Tracy Nelson (Square Pegs and Father Dowling Mysteries), Mackenzie Phillips (One Day at a Time), and Liz Torres (The John Larroquette Show) have good roles as clinic patients. Although the movie has been aired many times on Lifetime over the years, this is the first time it's available been available on home video. If you are a Meredith Baxter fan, this is definitely one of her best roles to check out.

(4/5 stars)

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We're going to take a slightly different approach to our Click of the Week this week, which is also somewhat a preview of changes coming soon in this section of Digital Digest (we'll be retooling and renaming this section to reflect the more "interactive" side of the web, but we haven't quite nailed down the details just yet). We're concluding our game show theme this week, but instead of presenting you with a website where you can get all of the information that you want about games, we're going to show you how you can play some of these games at home on your computer. You won't win the big prize like the real contestants do when they win on TV, but you can still have fun playing some of these games.

Facebook, of course, is a good place to not only find some of these games, but to also to play these games with some of your own friends. From your home, you can play home versions of popular games such as Pyramid, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, The Price is Right, Press Your Luck, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and more. If you don't use Facebook, you can play many of these games (and others) on the GSN website. Not all of these games are played exactly like the real games, of course, since there have to be certain modifications made to the games to make them more web friendly, but many of them closely resemble the games as seen on TV. For the most part, these are decent boredom busters to play when you just have a little downtime, and worth playing once in a while just for fun.

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

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Friday, September 29

The Villains of Valley View - "The Haunted Jukebox" (Disney Channel, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When a haunted jukebox sends Amy and Hartley to an alternate dimension of Valley View, they must figure out how to get home before they are trapped in Monster Town forever.

Bunk'd: Learning the Ropes - "The Glitching Hour" (Disney Channel, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Noah and Megan watch a strange VHS tape that leads them to believe Jake isn't really who he seems; Lou thinks her life is a television show, and Bill and Winnie are just actors.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 25)

Friday, September 29

  • Amy Poehler (Duncanville/Parks and Recreation) - Watch Amy on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Lea Michele (The Mayor) - Lea is a guest on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Nathan Lane (Only Murders in the Building/Modern Family/Charlie Lawrence/Encore! Encore!/One of the Boys) - Nathan appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Margaret Cho (All-American Girl) and Maria Bamford (Lady Dynamite) - Margaret and Maria are guests on repeats of Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen on CBS between 12:37-1:37am.
  • Patton Oswalt (A.P. Bio/The Goldbergs/The King of Queens) - Patton will be on CBS Mornings sometime between 7-9am.

New on DVD/Blu-ray (June-October)

Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete Series Night Court (1984-1992) - The Complete Series Family Matters - The Complete Series Step by Step - The Complete Series ALF - The Complete Series (Deluxe Edition)

06/13 - Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete Series
06/13 - Night Court (1984-1992) - The Complete Series
07/18 - South Park - Seasons 21-25 (Blu-ray) (DVD)
07/25 - The Neighborhood - Season Five
07/25 - Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin - Season One
07/25 - Superstore - The Complete Series
08/22 - Back to Life - Season 1 / Season 2
08/29 - Smiling Friends - Season 1 (Blu-ray) (DVD)
09/05 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Sixth Season
09/12 - Abbott Elementary - The Complete Second Season
09/12 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-6 (Blu-ray) (DVD)
09/26 - Family Matters - The Complete Series
09/26 - Step by Step - The Complete Series
10/10 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Thirteen / The Complete Season Fourteen
10/17 - ALF - The Complete Series (Deluxe Edition) (Shout! Factory Special Offers)
10/17 - Night Court (2023) - The Complete First Season
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