reviews by Greg Brobeck of The Digital Bits
The Complete First Season
- 1988-1989 (2005) - Cosgrove Hall/Thames (Capital
Program Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B+
Killed by a wooden stake, Count Duckula was dead for many
years. However, he has been resurrected with a once-a-century
ritual that can only happen when the planets are aligned just
right. Unfortunately, the ritual called for blood and only
tomato ketchup was available... therefore producing the world's
only vegetarian vampire duck. His servants Igor and Nanny are
also along for the ride. A spin-off of the popular Danger
Mouse, this series is quite funny. I remember
enjoying it on cable channel Nickelodeon as a child. I never
thought it would ever be available on DVD, but here it is.
Count Duckula was a
co-production of Cosgrove-Hall and Thames Television in London
and it aired on Nickelodeon here in the States. Nick also
provided some financial backing. The 1988-1993 series was quite
popular both in America and in Britain. 65 episodes were
produced in all before its untimely cancellation.
full frame video quality on this DVD isn't bad, but in my opinion
isn't that great either. The image is very grainy and shows a lot of
film artifacts (dust, dirt, etc). Colors are vibrant and the image
remains very watchable, but the series isn't that old, so the
quality shouldn't have degraded as much as it has.
The Dolby Digital mono audio isn't bad either, but it lacks the
clarity heard on the Danger Mouse
set. The audio is clear and all dialogue is audible, but there's
more background noise here than there should be. Thankfully, it
doesn't detract from the enjoyability of the episodes. I had no
The third disc of this set features a few extras. Brian Cosgrove
(co-founder of Cosgrove Hall) and John Doyle (producer and artist)
give some very fascinating interviews about the series. There's a
feature on how to draw Count Duckula that's cute for anyone out
there with the artist bug who wants to learn how to draw cartoon
characters. A photo gallery includes some promotional stills and
shots of the model sheets for the characters. The final feature is
Restoring Count Duckula, which
is a split screen video showing the episodes before and after being
restored. Personally, I can't see much difference between the two.
Perhaps future seasons can be restored a little more clearly.
The packaging is somewhat annoying. The Digipak containing the
three discs slides in and out of a cardboard sleeve that's perhaps a
hair too small. It takes a little more effort than it should to
remove the Digipak from the sleeve, and it's even harder to get it
back on. The packaging is attractive, just not that functional.
Overall, this is a good set and I would recommend it to any
animation fan. Count Duckula
is surprisingly high class comedy and it's good for the whole
family. I enjoyed the show as a child and I still enjoy it today, so
I think that says something about its endurance through the years. I
can't wait to see future seasons on DVD.
Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Complete Second Season
- 1971-1972 (2005) - MTM/CBS (20th Century-Fox)
Program Rating: A-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A-
Small town girl Mary Richards (Moore) has come to Minneapolis
to try to make it on her own. She's renting a wonderful
apartment with wacky neighbors Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie
Harper) and Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman). She's landed a
job as an associate news producer at WJM-TV. Her gruff boss, Lou
Grant (Ed Asner), lovable writer Murray (Gavin MacLeod) and
bumbling newsman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) round out the ensemble
cast at the station.
The show's second season, which aired on CBS, proved to be even
more successful than the first. The already great writing was
just getting better, and the characters were developing more
fully. Mary really has made it after all.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
has always been one of my favorite comedy series and after
watching a few episodes on DVD recently it's easy to see why.
The show is hilarious not just because of the crazy situations,
but also because of characterization. Exploring these characters
makes for hilarious plots. I heartily recommend watching every
video quality on this set is simply stunning. I can't get over how
good the transfers look. The show definitely does not look over 30
years old. I can remember watching cable reruns years ago, when the
show had been off the air for less than 20 years, and recall how
faded and murky the show already looked. If you're buying this set
expecting video quality like that, forget it. This is just
beautiful. I don't know any other way to put it. Obviously, the set
is in full screen because of its age, but don't let that scare you
away from buying it.
The Dolby Digital mono audio is stunning as well. Music and voices
come out crystal clear and sound just great. I also remember from
those same cable reruns how murky audio the broadcast was. Again,
murkiness isn't an issue here. Clarity is the key word and that's
what you get. The audio is also available in Spanish, but unlike the
first season set, there is no French audio track.
In addition to highly interesting commentary on a few selected
episodes, the second side of the final disc (the only one that's
double sided) features a wealth of bonus materials. First up is a
new documentary, 8 Characters in Search
of a Sitcom, in which the characters themselves are
explored - their personalities, what made them work on the show,
etc. - along with the actors who played them. For a series that
really was character comedy, this is a fascinating bonus feature.
Next, there's the news feature show Moore
on Sunday produced for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. The
documentary goes into detail on the location shooting the MTM crew
did in Minneapolis for the opening titles for the fourth season.
While this feature really should have been held for the fourth
season set, it's still nice to see it here. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Also available on the disc are clips of Ed Asner and Valerie Harper
accepting their Emmy awards for their performances that season. This
is fascinating, as Emmy broadcasts are never rerun and many
broadcasts have no existing record on tape. The DVD includes a
karaoke segment for both versions of the theme song. You can choose
the first season version or the season 2-7 version (with the season
4-7 opening titles). The opening sequence plays while words appear
on the screen that you can sing along with. It's a little cheesy, if
you ask me. There's a fake news story here as well, in which a
reporter shows different sites around Minneapolis that were featured
on the show. This gets very annoying and I honestly couldn't finish
it. Watch the real documentaries instead. Also on the disc is a
photo gallery, mostly of actual script pages, and the entire Mad
Magazine comic The Mary
Tailor-Made show. I've always loved Mad's
parodies and this one is quite good. The only problem is that at
times the dialogue is hard to read. Finally, there's a fun trivia
game featuring the cast of the show.
Overall, this is a great set. It's just too bad we had to wait for
three years between the first and second seasons. The
Mary Tyler Moore Show is perfect for every DVD library
and is a prime example of what situation comedy really should be. I
can't wait for the third season set and hope the rest of the series
(as well as its spin-offs) gets released soon too.
Season 1 - 1967
(2005) - NBC/Universal (Universal)
Program Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B-
"The story you're about to see is true. The names have
been changed to protect the innocent." How often is a
series revival more memorable than the original? This is
definitely the case here. The original radio and television Dragnet
of the 1950s was created by Jack Webb, and was simply a
straightforward detective show. Each week's episode would be
based on a real case from the files of the Los Angeles Police
Department. Webb (as Joe Friday) and his partner would solve a
crime. Flash forward to 1967: Friday's partner is Bill Gannon
(played by M*A*S*H's Harry
Morgan). No longer are murders and robberies the only focus. Now
the problems of the 60s - drugs, war protests and the like - are
the main crimes.
1967, which premiered mid-season on NBC, was an instant
success. A pilot movie was produced in 1966 (not included on this
set) and NBC loved it so much they decided to go ahead with the
series and save the movie for later broadcast. I love watching this
show, and while it can be viewed as a period piece, it often has a
message that still holds up as true today. The stories are gripping
and are interesting no matter how many times you see them.
I was very impressed by the video quality on Universal's DVD
release. The image is full frame, of course, and looks it awesome.
The colors are bright and vibrant, and the film prints are without
flaw. I was used to seeing faded versions on cable television, so
this is a welcome change. The episodes appear to be uncut, which is
also a good thing. While the audio is only mono (what do you expect
for a 1967 television show?), it still sounds as good as anyone
could possibly want - perfectly clear with no distortion. Universal
has been doing a great job restoring their television titles and
this is just another fine example.
There is only one bonus feature with this set, but it's a really
nice one. Universal was able to get with Radio Spirits to release an
episode of the original radio Dragnet
from 1954. Personally, I found it fascinating to listen to. Old
radio programming has always been interesting to me and this was no
exception. Radio really forces you to use your imagination to get
into the story. What you can't see, you have to make up for yourself
and it's a lot of fun.
Overall, this is really a decent release. I hope Universal doesn't
wait long to issue future seasons. Jack Webb shows have always been
great television and this is the granddaddy of them all. Don't miss
Season One -
1982-1983 (2005) - MTM/NBC (20th Century Fox)
Program Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B
Work for a female private investigator is scarce. No matter
what Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) tries, she just can't find
any work... that is until she invents a fictitious boss named
Remington Steele. Clients respond to a man's name, so now
Laura's got more work than she could ever want. Everything is
going great... until a con man (a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan)
shows up claiming to be the real Remington Steele! While Laura
does all the work, "Remington" takes all the credit.
But things are still going alone fine, so the situation works.
There's drama, action... why not a little romance too?
Produced by Mary Tyler Moore's MTM Productions, Remington
Steele was a success for a struggling NBC and made
stars out of Zimbalist and Brosnan. I found the show to be
interesting... a great mix of romance, intrigue and comedy. Not
only do you try to solve the mystery along with the duo, you're
pulling for them to fall in love, and laughing at the great
blend of comedy as well.
The DVD contains the entire first season including the pilot
episode, which I actually found to be one of the best of the
season. But then again, I have a thing for pilot episodes.
quality of the full frame video is nothing short of outstanding.
Admittedly the series is only a little over 20 years old, but it's
been well preserved and restored. The episodes appear to be uncut.
Colors are vibrant and the prints are very clean looking. If I
didn't know better, I'd say these were filmed recently. It's very
good. The same goes for the audio. It's a solid mono mix that serves
the picture well. Admittedly, later seasons were broadcast in
stereo, but the original mono is the right choice for this season.
Fortunately, there are some decent special features on this set
too. The first is an interesting audio commentary on the pilot
episode, License to Steele. On
Disc One, there's a brief featurette on the development of the
series. Brosnan appears in a new interview, but Zimbalist is nowhere
to be found. Disc Two features some character profiles, which are
interesting, including profiles of Bernice and Murphy (who were let
go at the end of the season). Finally, Disc Three offers a
featurette on the comedy in the series. All in all, Fox did a good
job on the bonus features. It's just too bad they couldn't get
Stephanie Zimbalist to participate.
If you enjoy this DVD release, Remington
Steele: Season Two has already been announced for
November. As far as detective shows go, Remington
Steele is definitely near the top of my favorites list.