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The Spin Sheet

DVD reviews by Greg Brobeck of The Digital Bits


Adam-12: Season One

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Adam-12
Season One - 1968-1969 (2005) - NBC (Universal)

Program Rating: B+

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


From Jack Webb, the talented producer and creator of Dragnet, comes the exciting police drama Adam-12. Officer Pete Malloy, (Martin Milner) whose former partner was killed in the line of duty, is now teamed with rookie cop Officer John Reed (Kent McCord). The two serve and protect in the city of Los Angeles. Adam-12 is their unit's radio call number. The show revolutionized how police drama is depicted on television and has set the standard.

I saw a few episodes in cable reruns, but I never really sat down through episodes in full until owning this set. I must say I really enjoyed it. The human side of the officers shines through in how they have to balance professional and personal lives - and that's not an easy task when you're a cop. The characters come across as real live people and I could easily identify with them. The set contains all 26 episodes of season one as originally broadcast on NBC - uncut and in beautiful condition. Standout episodes include the premiere episode entitled Log 1, and Log 22, the series' first Christmas episode - the officers try to find a stolen car containing Christmas toys for the needy.


The full frame video looks quite good for its age. It seems Universal did quite a remastering job on these episodes. I remember cable reruns looking rather grainy and occasionally murky - that is not the case here. The magic of DVD may in itself make video quality look better, but I don't think that is the case here. It looks to me that real care was put into these.

The Dolby Mono (English or Spanish) audio is also quite nice. I was unable to find any trace of scratches, hiss, or anything of the sort. I've always loved the opening sequence to this show and the music just comes though great through the remastered audio. I would be glad to give anyone at Universal a pat on the back.

The two issues I am not happy about are the double-sided discs, which can, in some cases, cause problems with playback, and the lack of bonus features. There must have been some sort of bonus features they could have included, even though ideas of what they could possibly be elude me now.

All in all, this is a very nice set that is not at a bad price (only $39... although I'm sure some outlets are selling it for less). Adam-12 has now become one of my favorite police dramas and it deserves a place on anyone's shelf who is a fan of the genre.




Emergency!: Season One

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Emergency!
Season One - 1972 (2005) - NBC (Universal)

Program Rating: A

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


Whoever decided that following firefighters, paramedics, and emergency room doctors and nurses would make for exciting television was a genius. Emergency!, created by Dragnet and Adam-12 genius Jack Webb along with R.A. Cinader, was the first show to actually depict what these wonderful and brave individuals have to actually go through to save lives. It paved the way for such shows as ER and Third Watch, of which I am also a fan.

Fireman John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) is an ordinary fireman at Station 10, responding to calls at all hours of the evening. However, his captain suggests that he join a new paramedic-training course that is being conducted by Fireman Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe). After a call, which resulted in a man dying, he realizes he could have saved him. He is convinced to join the course and through such becomes Desoto's partner. Soon, Gage and Desoto are assigned to the new station 51, however they cannot practice medicine until the Wedsworth-Townsend Act is passed. A California state senator who is seeking to pass this bill solicits the testimony of Doctor Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller), who along with his colleagues Doctor Joe Early (Bobby Troup) and Nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London), work in the emergency room of Rampart General Hospital. Thanks to Dr. Brackett's testimony, the act is passed and the paramedic program is born.


The set features all 12 episodes from season one, including the 2-hour pilot episode (The Wedsworth-Townsend Act), which is rarely seen in its unedited form. Typically in syndication it is broken into two parts. I watched the pilot movie, not expecting to really enjoy the series. I had tried to watch it a few years ago but could not seem to get into the story. This time, however, I was drawn into the episode. I enjoyed it quite a lot and couldn't wait to see more. The show has turned out to be a great blend of gripping drama with lighthearted comedy. Other standout episodes include Botulism in which the poisonous disease breaks out on a movie set, and Crash which guest stars Cicely Tyson.

The set is presented in full screen 4:3 and looks just great. I remember seeing reruns on cable a few years ago that looked simply awful. These episodes on the other hand have been apparently carefully restored by Universal. While there is grain once in a great while, color is vibrant and jumps off the screen.

The audio is in English or Spanish Dolby Mono, but still sounds great. Everything comes in clearly and sharply. It seems Universal cleaned up the sound greatly. It really isn't necessary for Emergency! to be in stereo since stereo television wasn't around in 1972.

The main issue I have with this set is the fact that the two discs are double sided. While I understand that this is probably a cost saving measure, I have seen reports of glitchy playback on some episodes on some players that required a trip back to the store to swap out the discs. The disc freezes and skips on certain episodes and it is really quite annoying when trying to view. There also are no special features at all on this set. Upon doing some research online at the excellent fan resource site www.emergencyfans.com, I did find that there was a blooper reel for each season. Most of the cast is also still alive, so interviews would have been a possibility as well.

The set is, in general, a very good set that I would recommend heartily. I enjoyed watching the episodes more than I ever thought I would and I think anyone who likes medical drama of any sort will get a kick out of seeing this great vintage show. The $39.99 price is not bad either... especially for a Universal set which are typically overpriced.




Cheers: The Complete Sixth Season

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Cheers
The Complete Sixth Season - 1987-1988 (2005) - Paramount

Program Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/F


One cannot make enough trips to the place where everybody knows your name. The popular series ran for 11 years on NBC - one of its very first "Must-See" shows. I always enjoyed Cheers. The major draw to this show is that it depends not on pratfalls and one-liners, but on hilarious characterizations. Each character has his or her own quirk that makes you roll on the floor laughing. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, the premise is simple. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Sam Malone (played by Ted Danson) is now the owner of a local pub, where not only are the customers crazy, but so are the employees. The ensemble supporting cast of Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, John Ratzenburger, George Wendt, and Rhea Perlman add to the hilarity


Some major changes take place in season 6. Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) has left for good and a very upset Sam has sold the bar and taken to his boat. A conglomeration purchased the bar and put newcomer Rebecca Howe (played excellently by Kirstie Alley) in charge. Needless to say she has made lots of changes. Sam returns and hates the changes, but can't afford to buy the bar back. So, he is forced to become simply a bartender-the first time he's ever worked under anyone at Cheers. Tom Skerritt and Jay Thomas also have regular appearances this season. While there is constant sexual tension between Sam and Rebecca, it's nowhere near what was between Sam and Diane and the series, which has been gradually moving from romantic comedy, moves to all-out ensemble comedy. Understandably, it lost a few fans with this season, but I find that it is still just as funny and enjoyable. There will always be fans of the "Diane Years" and the "Rebecca Years."

This set contains all 25 episodes almost as originally broadcast on NBC, digitally remastered. I used to watch this show in syndication and I must say that the quality increase is breathtaking. I remember being appalled at how washed out the picture was and how murky the audio was. Instead, on this set, we're treated to episodes that look like they might have been filmed last week rather than 18 years ago. The video is in its original 4:3 aspect ratio.

The audio is presented in (English only) Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound. Stereo television was still somewhat new in 1987, and it is a situation comedy series, so there isn't much stereo to listen to besides music and audience effects, but it still sounds marvelous. I am quite pleased. A disclaimer on the box art indicates that some music changes have been made, however I don't have access to original broadcasts, so I do not know what was changed.

Normally I am not that particular about box art, but I must make an exception here. The first five seasons were packaged in quite lovely brown and maroon boxes that resembled the bar itself. However with season 6, the packaging is simply white and blue. The bar-colors are gone and the set doesn't match the others on the shelf. It appears season seven will be packaged similarly. I really wish they had continued the pattern they set with the first five volumes, but in the end, I guess I should be glad that season 6 was released at all.

There are no bonus features of any kind on this set (unless you count the trailers for other Paramount DVD releases) and I am not surprised. They haven't included any bonus materials since season three. Overall, I am very glad to own this season of Cheers and I think you will be too. It was a remarkably funny show that deserves royal treatment and while there are a few issues with this set, it's nonetheless well worth owning. Season 7 is supposed to be released later this year, so let's all anticipate that.




Frasier: The Complete Sixth Season

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Frasier
The Complete Sixth Season - 1998-1999 (2005) - NBC (Paramount)

Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/F


Commonly discarded as too sophisticated, Frasier is one of the best ensemble comedies in recent history. A spinoff from the wildly successful Cheers, the show ran for 11 years on NBC. Psychologist Frasier Crane has moved from Beantown to the home of the Space Needle - Seattle - to be a radio psychologist. Also in the mix are Frasier's father Martin (John Mahoney) who has moved in with him, his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce), physical therapist Daphne (Jane Leeves,) and radio station personnel Roz (Peri Gilpin) and Bulldog (Dan Butler.)


This season, things are really in upheaval. The radio station has changed from all-talk to all-salsa, which means Frasier, Roz, and Bulldog are all out of work. Roz and Bulldog start dating (a match definitely not made in heaven,) and Daphne has a new beau - Roz's ex-boyfriend Donny. Will Niles confess his love for Daphne before it's too late? One of the highlights of this season is a hilarious special guest appearance by Woody Harrelson as his Woody Boyd character from Cheers.

The set is much like all the other Frasier sets. As far as I can tell, these episodes are presented in their original uncut form, as originally broadcast on NBC (minus split-screen credits.) The hour-long season finale is even presented in hour-long form. The episodes are in their original full screen presentation, and considering they're only 7 years old, the quality is very good; in fact, the prints are far superior than those in syndication which have already begun to fade. The show was recorded on film and it looks good after just that short time.

The audio is also quite good, presented in (English only) Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound. Considering that it's a situation comedy, there aren't many stereo effects, but what are there sounds great. I heartily recommend listening with a surround sound system.

Like with the Cheers sets, bonus features stopped after season 3. The episodes are in their full glory here, but it might have been nice to have had some of the interviews and such that were on those first three seasons. Even the compilation of celebrity guest voices would have been a nice touch. Nevertheless, it's nice just to have the episodes and not be forced to watch them edited in syndication.

Overall, it is a good set of a funny series. I would not recommend starting with this season, but all the same, I do recommend the set. It makes a great companion to the Cheers sets. Even with its lack of bonus features, it's still a worthy purchase for a good laugh. I enjoy laughing with and at the Cranes and the way they never fail to make themselves look like buffoons. Bring on season 7!

Greg Brobeck
gregbrobeck@thedigitalbits.com


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