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review added: 7/24/02



M*A*S*H: Season Two
Collector's Edition - 1973/74 (2002) - 20th Century Fox

review by Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

M*A*S*H: Season Two - Collector's Edition

Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/F

Specs and Features

612 min (22 episodes total), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 3 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch), triple-disc Alpha keep case packaging, laugh track free audio option, program-themed menu screens, scene access (10 chapters per episode), languages: English, French and Spanish (DD mono), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Fox's endless quest to bankrupt us with quality TV product on DVD continues with the second season of the timeless classic M*A*S*H. 24 episodes, spread across 3 discs, make for the perfect bite-size trip back to my childhood, when the show first hit syndication. M*A*S*H is really the first show to ever successfully make the transition from movie to television, besting its parent in every way, shape or form. Personally, I can't even watch the Altman film, as I can't connect to any of the characters except Radar. This set captures the period when the show started to generate a loyal following that would later turn it into legend, and contains such hilarious episodes as Five O'clock Charlie, For Want of a Boot and A Smattering of Intelligence.

Season Two of M*A*S*H shows marked improvement over the first season on DVD. Print damage is barely noticeable in the rare occasion it occurs, and colors have a richer, more textured feel than was exhibited in the first set. The image quality is definitely far superior to the tapes typically shown in syndication, which always demonstrate a slightly washed-out quality to the presentation. Blacks are slightly less pronounced than with Season One, but I feel that they fit into the overall color palette perfectly. These episodes were finished on film, and recently restored, so it's no surprise that the video quality bests some more recent material. M*A*S*H has never looked better and, as we get into the later seasons, I'm sure the quality will only improve.

Given the age of the show, and its mono nature, no one can expect perfection out of the soundtrack. While the sound is a bit thin and limited in dynamic range, it's perfectly clear and is once again the peer of broadcast sources. A separate, non-laugh track (DD 2.0) option is also included on the discs. It's a great little extra, but it does suffer a bit in the fidelity department, sounding noticeably thinner. I found an interesting contrast between the two dub tracks available on the disc. The first is the Spanish track, which sounds like the tapes were stuffed in a corner somewhere for years, while the French dub track is totally disconnected from the image being presented, and has been sweetened so much it sounds literally like a radio play.

For extras, well, unless you count the non-laugh sound, these discs are bare-bones, which is a shame. Series creator Larry Gelbart has said in an interview that he's got a ton of stuff he'd love to put on the DVDs. Oh well... there are still 9 seasons to go, so maybe there's time. And these discs are a quality presentation, available here and now and a VERY reasonable price. If you loved M*A*S*H as an adult or a child, or you're just wondering what all the fuss is about, these discs should already be on their way to your shelf.

Jeff Kleist
jeffkleist@thedigitalbits.com




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