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TV Programs on DVD Guide

Number 1 - November, 2002

Stacey Spears

 

Introduction

TV shows have become a hot selling item on DVD. There is a lot of high quality content, and for some people, DVD is the only way to get it. If you do not subscribe to HBO, you will pretty much depend on DVD to watch some highly rated shows, including "Sex and the City", "The Sopranos", "Oz", and "Band of Brothers".

For some reason, TVs shows have been slower to catch on in the US than overseas. Let’s use "Friends" as an example. I have every season of Friends on DVD, yet only two are available here in the US. I received mine from the UK. Up until recently, you could not even get the first two seasons for Friends here because Warner had only released a couple of “best of” sets. Shortly we will also have the complete first season of "South Park". This is another Warner series that has been released in bits and pieces.

I enjoy Friends because one episode is a short 23-minute commitment. If I need to kill time, I can get in and out quickly. Of course I find that I cannot watch just one episode. Movies usually run at least 90 minutes, and we don’t always have the time available to commit, so the 23 minute show is a nice break for reality. Other shows are in the 40-minute range but can still be a nice break without a long commitment.

TV shows also just offer more. You get much greater character development because the actors playing the parts get to spend a lot more time in the roles and the writers get to write a lot more. During a movie, the entire story must be told in 90-minutes. With TV, the story can evolve and grow. Take last years hit "24". This story is told with 24 40+ minute episodes.

Many of the studios are now releasing their TV shows on DVD, and I will cover some of them in this report. I have included five different TV shows from three different studios, here in Report Number 1.

Divider

The Dead Zone Felicity: Season One
Mad About You: Season One Once and Again: Season One
South Park: The Complete First Season Sports Night: Complete Series

Divider

Lion's Gate

2002, Color, Not Rated

1 Hr 27 Min

 

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (16:9 Enh.)

English Dolby Digital 5.1

 

Directed by Various

 

Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Nicole de Boer David Ogden Stiers, John L. Adams, Chris Bruno, and Kristen Dalton.

 

Release Date: 11/05/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Mild

Sex

Suggestive

Language

No

"The Dead Zone"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story begins 26 years earlier than the present day when John Smith is a young child. He and Sarah are watching a hockey game, and this is when he has a fall, which causes him to hit his head. At this point, he has what we are led to believe is his first vision. He sees someone trapped under the frozen lake. Within a few minutes, this event really takes place.

We next fast forward 20 years with a now-grown-up John Smith sitting in a tree with his students as he teaches them. Things are going well for John and Sarah until one night when John gets into an accident.

John wakes up 6 years later in the hospital and learns that he has been in a coma. Upon waking up, he has another vision about the nurse. It turns out that his vision is correct, so obviously, there is something special about John.

John soon learns that his mother has long passed and that Sarah moved on and married. John is trying to put the pieces of his life back together, and he gets help from his physical therapist.

Commentary

This first episode gives us the back story and also covers a case about a serial killer. This aired on the USA Network as two episodes, but is presented on the DVD as one complete show.

There are some changes to the original Stephen King story, so some die hard fans might be upset, but I say, "Get over it."

Paramount had previously released a film based on the story which starred Christopher Walken as John Smith. The film is a bit darker than the TV series. By the end of the first season, we have not even covered the entire story. More of this main story should be covered, if not concluded, with season 2, which begins January 5th, 2003 on the USA network.

Lion's Gate has released the first two episodes of the new TV series Dead Zone, based on the Steven King Novel. There were 12 episodes in the first season, which ended with a nice cliffhanger. The TV series normally airs on USA. Twelve episodes are half of what you usually have during a season, but two other shows on USA also had 11-12 episodes, and that was Season 6 of "Stargate" and Season 2 of "Witch Blade", so it must be normal for non-network shows.

I suspect they are releasing the first two episodes on DVD so soon because they are trying to gain some new fans for the show. For the longest time I had no idea that Anthony Michael Hall was the lead actor. I could never tell from all the teaser commercials.

I do hope that Lion's Gate will release the rest of the first season because there is nothing worse than getting into a show and having to wait. When I first saw the press release that they were planning to release Dead Zone on DVD, I knew I had better watch the series so I am not left waiting. USA had a Dead Zone marathon on the day the season finale was to air. My TiVo was kind enough to record every episode, and I watched all of them back to back.

Extras

There are some very short extras on this disc. There is a short feature, and just be under two minutes in length, I must emphasize the word short. It is really just a quick promo of the show with a few words from some of the cast members.

There are a couple of TV spots from the USA network. There is also a preview of season 2. Of course it is really just one of the show's creators talking about where season 2 will go. If you have not watched all of season 1, you may wish to hold out on this because of a few possible spoilers.

A commentary track is also included.

Technical

Of all the TV shows in this article, this one is offers the highest quality. It has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio soundtrack and is also widescreen and enhanced for 16:9 displays. The bitrate is pretty much pegged out during the show as well.

I did notice some aliasing artifacts, which suggest that this is really shot on video, but it is hard to tell. If you look at the beginning of chapter 15, John is standing in front of a house. The wood trim around the window sill has aliasing. As John approaches the mail box, you can also see some artifacts around the mail box. It was clear to me that the deinterlacing algorithm in my progressive scan DVD player was in video mode.

This is one of just two TV shows in the bunch that actually is not encoded as 100% video. This has the toggling progressive frame flag, but there are also some big drops to straight video here and there.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

The chapter break did not cause the drops to video.

Video (2-2)

Progressive_frame toggle on  and off with each frame.

Film (3-3)

There are 0 changes to 3-3.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There are 0 changes to 2-2 / 30p.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review

Divider

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

1998, Color, Not Rated

46 Min each episode

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Various

 

Starring Keri Russell, Scott Speedman, Scott Foley, Amy Jo Johnson, and Tangi Miller.

 

Release Date: 11/05/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Mild

Sex

Suggestive

Language

No

"Felicity: The Complete First Season"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

The first season covers Felicity's freshman year in college. The series opens at her high school graduation. She is all set to go onto Stanford until a brief encounter with Ben, and she has had a crush on for some time. This one small moment in time changes her life forever.

Her parents are unhappy with her decision to go to NY, so they follow her off to school and try to convince her to change her mind. When she arrives at school she meets Noel, the resident advisor (RA) of her dorm.

Felicity also meets Julie, who becomes her best friend. Julie notices that Felicity is unhappy about something and makes a successful attempt to cheer her up, which leads to their new friendship.

Commentary

The show was created by J.J. Abrams.

I was excited when I saw the press release that Buena Vista was going to release the complete first season of "Felicity". I followed the series for the first two seasons up until Keri Russell cut her hair. I have not watched it since, but if Buena Vista will continue to release the other seasons, I look forward to watching the entire series.

I was a bit disappointed with the Halloween episode. Julie dresses up as Cat Woman for the costume party. Why is this a big deal? Because the actress who plays Julie also played the Pink Power Ranger and at the costume party someone was dressed up as the Pink Power Ranger. I thought it would have made a great inside joke. Perhaps she did not want to be the Ranger.

Several topics are covered during the first season. It looks like they tried to cover every base. We get a robbery, gambling problems, date rape, plagiarism, long distance relationships, financial aid issues, new jobs, new friends, and so much more. Don't worry, for every bad thing mentioned above, many good things happen too.

There were 84 episodes total with the TV series.

Extras

While not an extra on the disc, there is an insert that promotes another J.J. Abrams show, "Alias", and on the flip side it promotes one of this season's best new shows, "Push, Nevada", which has already been cancelled. What brainiac at ABC decided to put a new show up against a couple of big hitters like "Friends" and "Survivor"?

A commentary track is included for both the first and last episode.

Technical

The DVDs appear to have come from a composite master. You can often find cross color in Keri's curly hair.

There are no chapter stops encoded within an episode, so you can’t skip ahead without using fast-forward. There is a play all option on the main menu.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

N/A

Video (2-2)

The entire episode is encoded as video.

Film (3-3)

N/A

Film (2-2 / 30p)

N/A

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review

Divider

Columbia Tristar

1992, Color, Not Rated

23 Min each episode

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Various

 

Starring Paul Riser, Helen Hunt, Anne Ramsey, Tommy Hinkley, Leila Kenzle, Richard Kind, and John Pankow.

 

Release Date: 10/29/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

No

Sex

Suggestive

Language

No

"Mad About You: The Complete First Season"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

"Mad About You" is about a young married couple name Jamie and Paul Buchman. Jamie is an executive at a PR firm, and Paul is an aspiring film maker. Jamie's sister Lisa and Paul's friend Selby are two of the more common characters in the early episodes. There is less Selby as time goes on (he is only in the series from 1992 to 1993), and he seems to have been replaced by Ira, Paul's cousin. Mark and Fran are long time friends of Jamie and are the "married couple" that they often hang out with.

The show opens with them close to one year in their marriage.

Commentary

The best line in the first season came in the last episode. Mark asks Paul if he had seen any of the Alien films and Paul responds, "Just the first one." I found this funny because Paul was in "Aliens" and because of his character; I never wanted to watch Mad About You. I don't recall the day that I finally sat down to watch, but I am glad I did. The show had some extremely funny and well written dialog. Paul always delivered his lines with aplomb.

There were 22 episodes in season one, and I had only seen a few of them up until now. I watched all 22 episodes over three days. Like the TV show Friends, I could not stop watching, I would play one after another. There were a total of 164 episodes through the lifetime of the TV series, which means we should expect to see many more seasons released on DVD, at least I hope so.

Extras

There are no extras on the disc. You have to select one episode at a time. I really wish there was a play all feature. There are also no chapter breaks during an episode, so you have to manually fast forward if you want to go to a specific scene.

Technical

The disc appears to be from a composite master. There is visible cross color on the opening credits and throughout the film. The show itself is a bit soft, with a lot of MPEG noise in the background. It looks fine on my 20” TV, but the artifacts begin to distract a bit on my 32” display.

The DVD is MPEG encoded at video, but appears to have been shot on film, as I could see it going into and out of film mode during the show. If you plan to watch this with progressive scan, I highly recommend something that uses the Sage or Silicon Image deinterlacing chips.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

N/A

Video (2-2)

The entire episode is encoded as video.

Film (3-3)

N/A. 

Film (2-2 / 30p)

N/A.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review

Divider

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

1999, Color, Not Rated

46 Min each episode

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Various

 

Starring Sela Ward, Billy Campbell, Shane West and Evan Rachel Wood.

 

Release Date: 11/05/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

No

Sex

Yes

Language

No

"Once and Again: The Complete First Season"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

"Once and Again" was promoted as being from the creators who brought you "My So Called Life" and "Thirty Something".

The story revolves around the life of two single parents and their families. Sela Ward plays Lily, the mother of two young daughters, whose soon to be ex-husband cheated on her with a younger woman. Bill Campbell plays Rick, the father of a son and daughter, with the son happening to go to the same school as Lily’s oldest daughter. In fact, this is how they meet.

Susanna Thompson plays Karen, Rick’s ex-wife. Jeffrey Nordling plays Lily’s ex-husband. Both have active roles throughout the show. The third episode has Karen and Lily working together in a school function.

Commentary

I am a huge fan of My So Called Life and may one day get the DVD collection that I was double billed for, but until then, I will make my way through Once and Again.

I will be honest, I had never heard of Once and Again. I watch a lot of TV and had previously seen everything else that I have included in this first report, except for this one.

Throughout the show, we get commentary from various characters. This commentary is done in black and white and tells us what they were feeling in the moments that surround a scene. This really adds to the overall character development.

The show feels very honest in the way it is presented. These are real people with real lives who are just looking to be happy. The second episode show some very brief nudity, which is surprising for a prime time TV show that is more family oriented.

There were a total of 63 episodes, and this set includes the entire first season.

Extras

There are no extras with this set.

Technical

I was not able to tell if this set was transferred from a composite master or not. I have not made it through every episode yet, but I will keep an eye out for dot crawl and cross-color.

The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 2.0 and greatly benefits from Pro Logic II decoding. This is one of the better looking TV shows from Buena Vista. The majority of the audio does come from the center channel.

The DVD is MPEG encoded as video.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

N/A

Video (2-2)

The entire episode is encoded as video.

Film (3-3)

N/A

Film (2-2 / 30p)

N/A

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review

Divider

Warner Brothers

1997, Color, Not Rated

23 Min an Episode

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Various

 

Starring the voice talents of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes, Mary Kay Bergman, Jesse Howell, and Jennifer Howell.

 

Release Date: 11/12/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

Yes

Sex

Suggestive

Language

Yes

"South Park: The Complete First Season"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

In the off chance that you have not heard of "South Park", the show revolves around four 3rd grade children named Eric, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny. Eric is the fat one that is kind of bossy but is the funniest character on the show. Stan and Kyle are the best friends, and Kenny is the poor one with incredibly bad luck. The show takes place in the small town of South Park, Colorado.

The show has several supporting characters from the school. Chef, voiced by Isaac Hayes, often teaches the children things he should not, to their 3rd grade teacher. There is also Mr. Garrison and his companion Mr. Hat. The show continually pushes the boundaries.

There is no one too big or too small to make fun of on the show. I just wonder what Barbara Streisand really thinks of episode 112 in which she is the Evil Monster.

Commentary

I remember the first time I was introduced to South Park. Of course at the time I knew it simply as Jesus vs. Santa. The short video was emailed to me back in 1997. It was a low quality video that starred four children cursing up a storm, and it had the mighty battle between Jesus and Santa.

At this time I had no idea there was a TV series that was actually airing on Comedy Central. A few weeks later, while we were all having dinner at work, someone had brought in a tape for us to watch. Dinners at work were always served up with a movie. The tape turned out to be the TV show version and we came to know it as South Park. The episode was Pinkeye. The next day we all began to scour the Internet and find all of the previous episodes and download them to watch.

Back then, things were a bit different. It appeared that both Trey Parker and Matt Stone liked the fact that their TV show was being sent around in digital form all around the net. Comedy Central was not as happy and began to block sites from carrying the episodes. I think the net really put the word out on the show and because of it made the show became more popular.

There are 13 episodes that make up the first season:

101 - Cartman Get’s an Anal Probe 108 - Damien
102 - Volcano 109 - Starvin’ Marvin
103 - Weight Gain 4000 110 - Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo
104 - Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride 111 - Tom’s Rhinoplasty
105 - An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig 112 - Mecha-Streisand
106 - Death 114 - Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut
107 - Pinkeye  

I don’t know if it is because it was the first episode that I had ever seen or not, but Pinkeye is my favorite episode in the first season. Cartman’s costume was so politically incorrect and yet so funny. The last episode is actually a cliffhanger, and you will have to wait for the second season or pick up the original volume 4 disc if you would like to know who Cartman's father really is.

I stopped watching South Park just after the film was released. Not because I disliked the film, in fact, I watch the film at least once a month. I no longer had Comedy Central because I got tired of paying for DirecTV. Some point during the last year year I decided to re-subscribe to DirecTV, and I set up my TiVo to record South Park. Instead of getting old, the show has only grown funnier. In fact, tonight is the season premier of the 6th Season of South Park at 10PM/9C. (11/06/2002) The new episode is entitled Ladder to Heaven.

While this is just the first season, the most recent episodes continue to remain fresh. They stay pretty current on recent events. If something is big in the news last week, it may very well be on South Park this week. I hope that Warner Brothers and Comedy Central will continue to release the rest of the series as complete seasons, and I hope they do it quickly!

Extras

Each disc contains a promo spot, but the promo is the same on all three discs. It starts off with four Comedy Central teaser spots that mention each character. After that, there are four longer promos for four Comedy Central shows: The Daily Show, the Man Show, Insomniac, and South Park. I particularly enjoy the Man Show clips myself, but then again who does not appreciate scantly clad women jumping on trampolines?

Disc 3 contains the actual real extras. We get a short Thanksgiving segment that features Jay Leno where the kids really pick on his chin. Next up is when Carman sings “O Holy Night” and gets the cattle prod each time he forgets the lyrics. After that is Ned singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and finally is my favorite extra, the boys present the award during the CableACE Awards.

They had originally planned to also include audio commentary from Trey and Matt, but Warner decided to remove it. If you order directly from the Comedy Central Website, you can get the bonus CD with the commentary or with proof of purchase; you can get from Comedy Central. There is more information about this on the Comedy Central Website.

There is a little intro from Tray and Matt before each episode starts. Again, this is the same stuff that is on the previous DVDs. The intro on Mr. Hankey is a lot funnier than the intro on some of the earlier episodes.

Technical

Season 1 has been previously available on DVD spread over four single discs known as volumes 1 – 4. Volume 4 contained the last episode of season 1 and the first three episodes from season 2. The new complete first season set uses the very same transfers from the previous discs. They all appear to have come from a composite master because dot crawl is visible on all edge transitions. I am not sure what they used to transfer to DVD, but it had a poor quality comb filter because dot crawl like that is easy to eliminate.

Along with the dot crawl is a lot of mosquito noise. I realize the animation is not state of the art, and I might be a bit critical on the image quality, but I love the show and want to see it in the best possible way. There is one DVD player on the market now that actually has a feature that reduces dot crawl by post processing the video, and that is the Panasonic H2000 DVD player, but I don't own one. If you have a Sage DVD player and the cross-color suppressor is turned off, the dot crawl seems to be greatly reduced when the image is static.

The chapter next button has been disabled, so you can't skip ahead in the show or to the next show. If you want to fast forward through an episode, you must use the FF button. I found this to be inconvenient.

The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 2.0. It sounds identical to the previously released discs. Most of the dialog appears to come from the center channel.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

N/A

Video (2-2)

The entire episode is encoded as video.

Film (3-3)

N/A

Film (2-2 / 30p)

N/A

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

Buena Vista Home Entertainment

1998, Color, Not Rated

23 Min an Episode

 

Aspect Ratio: 4:3

English Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Directed by Various

 

Starring Josh Charles, Peter Kraus, Felicity Huffman, Joshua Malina, Sabrina Llyod, and Robert Guillauma.

 

Release Date: 11/05/2002

 

 

0

5

Entertainment

*

Video

*

Audio

*

Extras

MPEG Flags

Violence

No

Sex

No

Language

No

"Sports Night: The Complete Series"

Synopsis

Plot Overview

Dan Rydell and Casey McCall are the sports anchors for the number 3-rated news show on sports, "Sports Night". Dana produces the show with help from her assistant Natalie and their statistical expert Jeremy.

Their job is to cover both the good and bad news in sports. The pilot opens with Casey getting divorced and taking it out on the rest of the cast. Dana is getting pressure from above to do something about Casey and his attitude. The divorce has caused Casey to rethink his life; he is tired of talking about rich athletes getting away with murder because of their social status.

Commentary

I had a hard time with the first episode because of the number of characters involved. We jump right into it, and we don’t get time to know everyone. It was not until the third episode that I actually knew who every character was. Perhaps I am just a bit slow.

Most of the show is spent planning for their next broadcast. It is not so much what they broadcast, but how they get there. Dan and Casey are long time friends and help each other out. Dana and Casey have a history together, and they seem to be on again, off again.

The network is always coming down on someone at the show. If it is not Casey’s attitude, it is Dan’s comments on drug use.

I remember when Sports Night first aired, because this is where Sabrina Llord went after she left the TV series "Sliders". Sabrina plays Dana’s assistant Natalie, a highly motivated assistant who is a bit naive. Her character has a crush on Jeremy, the stats expert on the show. Jeremy, having a degree in applied mathematics, approaches everything methodically. He was a bit spastic and annoying in the first episode, but he had me in stitches in the third episode.

Of the most recent TV shows on DVD, this is my least favorite. The entire series, which consist of two full seasons, is included in this box set.

Extras

There are no extras on the disc

Technical

Sports Night appears to have come from a composite master. I noticed a small amount of dot crawl in the backdrop that is behind the news caster desk.

The disc uses chapter stops to mark each episode, which means you can't skip ahead within an episode using chapter next, you must fast forward. There is a play all option on the main menu.

This disc is mainly encoded as film but has numerous drops to video throughout. I was actually surprised that is was not encoded as 100% video, which seems to be a common theme among TV show DVDs.

Error Type

Comments

Chapter Break

No chapter break had a drop to video per sé, though at several the flags had already dropped to video.

Video (2-2)

There are 330 drops to video and this is in a 23 minute show.

Film (3-3)

There are 5 changes to 3-3.

Film (2-2 / 30p)

There are 334 changes to 2-2 / 30p.

To have a better understanding of what the flags above mean, please refer to our "A Beautiful Mind" review

- Stacey Spears -

Divider

© Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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