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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits
page added: 10/26/05



Doogan's Views - Main Page


Now, I don't usually do "network" television. I generally TiVo everything and watch it or not depending on how much time I have to dedicate to my favorite TV shows, which is sometime minimal considering the amount of movies on DVD I watch.

However, since my surgery last year, I've had nothing better to do that lay sprawled out in front of the junk box and have it hand feed me "my shows," which sadly have grown to epic proportions considering. I've tried to narrow the number down to three over time. Lost is my number one favorite. I don't have that on DVD. But number two was...



Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season

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Veronica Mars
The Complete First Season - 2004-2005 (2005) - UPN (Warner Bros.)

Kristen Bell, God bless her. Without her this show would suck. I mean it. The Nancy Drew in The OC angle only goes so far. The who killed Lily Kane mystery subplot only brings that a bit farther. But Ms. Bell sells the show every minute she's on the screen, to the point that even jaded me will find the time to watch this show each and every week it's on.

Being a smart, sarcastic person brings me into shows like this and my number three favorite show that debuted last year, which I'll talk about next. But with all its parts in full play, Veronica Mars is a good show with smart writing, a whip smart cast and a youthful, but accessible feel. I'm getting old, so these youth-oriented shows are hard for me to get into 'cause I don't understand where these kids of today are coming from. But Veronica Mars breaks it down in a hip kids kinda way, while also keeping it real for us 30-somethings.

Season One focuses on Veronica Mars, the daughter of the town's shamed ex-sheriff, whose best friend forever was murdered over the summer vacation. As town sheriff, Veronica's father didn't believe the facts of the case and figured the family was involved somehow. The murdered girl's father, who is basically Bill Gates, ran Veronica's old man out of town on a rail which more that raises an eyebrow towards making this belief probable. Veronica's dad wouldn't leave town though and has simply set up shop as a private investigator, a skill set Veronica herself excels at and now serves as his right-hand "man."

Over the course of the school year, Veronica will help her school friends figure out things in their own lives, while solving some of her own mysteries and, through it all, begin to unravel clues that will bring her to the conclusion that her father is right; someone killed her best friend and it isn't the guy sitting in prison for the crime. But who?

The great thing about this show is, we really do find out at the end. And Season Two is off to a great start with a new mystery that may or may not tie up into the conclusions of this DVD set.

The video and audio is also pretty good for a TV show on DVD. It's presented in anamorphic widescreen, and it looks very good (I previously mentioned that it was NOT anamorphic, which was a mistake in my notes left over for my blind upsetedness over House which I watched first. Sorry about that. But I am glad to see so many fans of this show have the set and are willing to chastise me. I love you. And you can stop now). The audio is a standard Dolby 2.0, but also sounds pretty good for what it is. Extras are light, with some additional scenes edited into the shows and an unaired opening tacked onto the pilot episode. There're no behind the scenes, fun stuff or commentaries... which is surprising considering the extensive website the show had supporting it. You'd figure some of that could have been used. Oh, well. For simply packaging the show on 6 discs and giving it to us, it's a very good effort.

I give the show an A and the disc a B+


House M.D.: Season One

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House M.D.
Season One - 2004-2005 (2005) - FOX (Universal)

House was my third favorite new show of the season. Yeah, the main character is a prick and the format of the show is waaaaaaay predictable (someone falls down, the doctors try something, it works, but wait... there's something else wrong, the patient almost dies, the doctors figure it out and heal the sick person... meanwhile Dr. House downs pain pills and treats everyone like crap). But, like Veronica would fall without Kristen Bell, House would crumble if it weren't for Hugh Laurie. Who would have known Stuart Little's dad would be one of the most engaging people on TV? Not me.

The show is all about Dr. House and his trying to work with patients and their problem. But his problem is he's a doctor without patience. He's a loveable prick that hardly anyone can work with. There are things that work with the show: its predictability, the supporting cast. There are things that don't: the second half of the season's development of the rich benefactor taking over the hospital and hating on House. But Laurie's timing and the show's writing helped fix that in the end. All in all, House M.D. is a great little show with a smart edge, but a nice escapist set-up that helps make it fun.

The show is presented on three dual-sided discs with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and letterboxed widescreen video. Again, this show is not anamorphic, which pisses me off given that it's broadcast in HD at 1.78:1. The extras are a bit nicer, if fluffier than Veronica. It's all behind-the-scenes fluff, but it's easily watched and doesn't suck in the end.

Both of these shows are worth your time. I'm not a big TV shill, so coming from me, that means something. If you haven't checked these shows out, you should and these DVDs are suitable to do so.

I give House an A- and the DVD presentation a B+

But wait, there's more. I should cram some more TV on DVD into this predictably late column, shouldn't I? Why not?


Kingdom Hospital

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Kingdom Hospital
2004 (2005) - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Stephen King's mini-series, maxi-series, aborted series, whatever it is, is just okay. It's King through and through and that's both a good and a bad thing. I honestly enjoyed the show while it was on and looked forward to the DVDs. It took a while, but the show finally made it on disc recently.

Presented over three separately released DVDs: The Beginning which has one disc and two episodes, Making the Rounds which has two discs and 6 episodes and the capper Postmortem that also has two discs but 5 episodes. There are no extras of any kind on any of these, except a lame essay by King repeated inside each of the discs liner note tip-in.

The show is about a hospital that is built upon another hospital which was destroyed, and that hospital was buried over a burned down sweatshop that, when it burned down, killed a bunch of kids. Based, or better yet, inspired by Lars Von Trier's own TV series Riget (aka The Kingdom), this version has its problems, but they're the same forgivable problems all Stephen King TV product have. There are Pop Culture references that make no sense, dialogue that only King would use himself, yet he puts it into every one's mouth (like, everyone using "nut" to describe a person's head. And yes, I know most of these doctors are brain surgeons, but still...)

Like I said, I like the show. It's not super great, but it's creepy, effective and worth at least a rental or a drop into the Netflix queue.

It's also a good looking set on DVD, sound and video-wise, by the way. The video is anamorphic widescreen and the sound is only Dolby Digital 2.0 but gets the job done.

Kingdom Hospital gets a C+ as a show and a B- as a DVD. It would have gotten a B+ if it were one set instead of spread over three releases.

*Doogan’s Note: It has come to my attention that this show HAS been previously released as the “entire series” and it’s actually a pretty bad ass set with behind-the-scenes material and commentaries from Stephen King. We’re using that as the link to Amazon above, and if you’re interested in getting the show on DVD, we suggest going for that set. Sorry for my confusion. See? There was a reason I stayed away from the site as long as I did. I’m flakey.


The Office: Season One

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The Office
Season One - 2005 (2005) - Universal

Remaking a British show for American TV is not always a good idea. Sometimes it works (Three's Company) and sometimes it doesn't (Coupling anyone?). But the idea of taking one of the best British shows that actually WORKS and has been seen in the US had to be a bad idea. Taking The Office and remaking it was ill-advised at best. Surprise of all surprises, it works. And not just because of Steve Carell. The rest of the cast, in fact, every cast member, even the ones not featured, works. The Office in its first season is a very fun and funny little show. The second season is shaping up to be even better and now that they have their own beats, it's really firing on all cylinders.

All the action takes place in a paper supply company's sales department and follows the characters around like a reality show, with interviews with the characters giving insight, but enough comedy happening in the "real life" parts. Spearheaded by Greg Daniels of The Simpsons and King of the Hill fame, The Office is a very funny show that gets funnier each and every episode.

This DVD brings us all of season one, each with a commentary and a lot of deleted scenes making this a must own for fans of the show. And guess what? The show is presented in anamorphic widescreen and looks really good. Sound is in Dolby Digital 2.0.

The Office is an A comedy, and an A DVD as well. Pick it up.


Tilt: The Complete First Season

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Tilt
The Complete First Season - 2005 (2005) - ESPN (Buena Vista)

Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the guys behind Rounders, take on poker once again, this time in a FX-styled drama that came out on ESPN at the beginning of this year. The first few episodes are all about the poker and a team of four people (three and a mentor) who go after one of the greatest Texas Hold 'em poker players in the world: Don "The Matador" Everest played by Michael Madsen. But they're not just going after him to take his title; they want to take him out of commission. See, each of the four have been screwed over in a big way by The Matador, who as it turns out, it a big bad wolf who will kill, steal, cheat and destroy just for kicks.

Tilt is an okay show. It's not great. It's good enough to watch in one shot on DVD, but I don't know if owning it is recommended. Unless you loved the show or are someone who TiVos the word "poker."

The DVD from Buena Vista is a good one. You get anamorphic widescreen video, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and a lot of extras like a commentary on episode one with Koppelman and Levien as they discuss casting and studio support. There's also deleted scenes, audition tapes, footage from a World Series of Poker match and a tour of the fabricated casino set made just for the show. If you liked the show, you'll love the DVD. But, if you know nothing about it, you may just want to rent this to see if you like it.

I give Tilt a C+ as a show and an A as a DVD.


I know I didn't go into too much detail about these shows. But that's for good reason: you shouldn't know too much going in. The fun is in exploring these shows yourself. And for those that seen of love these shows, getting the DVD is a foregone conclusion. Each of the shows listed in this column are worth your time. A handful are worth owning as far as I'm concerned. But go ahead and see for yourself. And watch the second seasons if they're out there. They're shaping up to be really good sophomore seasons.

I'll be back next week (I promise) with a look at some great movie discs including some great horror flicks that came out recently in time for Halloween.

Keep spinning those discs!

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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