Shout! Factory Resurrecting CBS Saturday Morning Classic Next Month

Shout! Factory is resurrecting one of the most talked about children’s shows of the 20th Century next month.

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/CBS

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/CBS

Shout! Factory will release Pee-Wees Playhouse: The Complete Series Tuesday, October 21st. The complete series box set will be released alongside another box set containing the first two seasons of the cult favorite Saturday morning series. The complete series box set will contain all forty-five episodes of the original series, which ran on CBS’ Saturday morning programming lineup from 1986 to 1990. The box set containing the series’ first two seasons also includes five exclusive featurettes that were taken from all-new interviews with twenty-five members of the series’ cast and crew. The full series box set will also feature its own share of bonus material along with the series’ full run.

Pee-Wees Playhouse: The Complete Series will retail for MSRP of $149.99. Pee-Wees Playhouse: Seasons 1 & 2 will retail for MSRP of $29.93. The full series set can be ordered online via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-comedy/pee-wee-s-playhouse-the-complete-series. The Season 1/Season 2 box set can be ordered online via the Shout! Factory store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-comedy/pee-wee-s-playhouse-seasons-one-two-special-edition.

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/CBS

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/CBS

Pee-Wees Playhouse earned a total of twenty-two Emmy awards over the course of its original five-season run on CBS.  More information on these and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at http://www.shoutfactory.com and http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Texas Native Slater Joins Longhorn Network’s On-Air Staff

ESPN has made another addition to the roster for the Longhorn Network.

Courtesy:  ESPN/Longhorn Network

Courtesy: ESPN/Longhorn Network

Officials with ESPN and the Longhorn Network announced over the weekend that Texas native Jane Slater has signed on with the Longhorn Network to serve as a studio host and reporter. Her reporting duties include reporting for reporting for Longhorn Network games and for Texas Game Day. Along with those duties, Slater will also host Longhorn Extra and will work on various stories for a number of LHN shows.

Slater is a graduate of the University of Texas. She holds a degree in both journalism and government. Her professional broadcast career started in news. She spent seven years as an anchor and reporter. Before coming on board with the Longhorn Network, she worked at her local CBS affiliate, where she covered the Dallas’ major sports teams. She also covered sports from SMU, TCU, and North Texas. Adding to her experience, Slater even hosted a one-hour pre and post-game show and pre and post-game shows for Dallas’ professional teams. Slater discussed the appointment, noting her happiness at returning home. “This really is a dream come true,” she said. “The idea of returning to Austin and working for Longhorn Network and ESPN—it doesn’t get any better than that. I have really enjoyed watching Sam (Ponder) and Kaylee (Hartung) excel in this position and hope I can keep that tradition going.”

Longhorn Network coordinating producer Tom McCollum was upbeat when discussing Slater’s addition to the LHN staff, citing her experience in broadcasting and in covering Texas sports as one reason for her appointment. “Jane’s sports and television expertise really stood out as we went through the interview and audition process,” he said. “We are excited to have her on the LHN team and expect she will make an immediate impact to our coverage.”

Jane Slater begins her duties with the Longhorn Network today.

More information on Slater and other members of the Longhorn Network staff is available online at:

Website: http://www.LonghornNetwork.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/longhornnetwork

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Born To Race Fast Track Keeps Pace With Universal’s Fast And The Furious Franchise

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

One part The Fast and the Furious, one part Need for Speed and one part Top Gun, the second installment of Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born to Race franchise is a movie the surprisingly enough holds its own against its bigger-named counterparts.  There’s no getting around the fact that the franchise, which started with Born to Race back in 2011, is not the first of its kind.  Universal beat Anchor Bay to that punch with its massively popular Fast and Furious franchise.  That aside, there is still plenty to enjoy in this latest installment in the Born to Race franchise.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script (I.E. its writing).  Unlike so many other movies backed by major studios out there, the script for this movie rips off neither its predecessor nor its bigger-named brethren.  Another reason that this movie works as well as it does is its pacing.  The movie moves fast.  But it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers struggling to keep up with the story.   And last but not least to consider is the movie’s casting.  The movie’s heads wiped the slate clean with this movie, casting a while new list of actors to fill its lead roles.  But those actors still get the job done well enough to keep the movie believable.  These three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that despite being an independent release, is a movie that any fan of its genre should see at least once.

The central point of success in Born to Race: Fast Track is its script (I.E. its writing).  There’s no getting around the fact that it is not the first movie of its kind within the race-based action subgenre.  That aside, it actually holds its own surprisingly well against Need for Speed and Universal Studios’ Fast & Furious franchise.  Unlike so many bigger-named movies out there across the genres, Born to Race: Fast Track doesn’t attempt to rip itself off.  Nor does it try to be just another of the aforementioned bigger-named movies in its genre.  The only movie that one could even begin to say it does copy is Tom Cruise’s hit 1986 fighter jet flick Top Gun.  It goes so far as to put lead actor Brett Davern in a pair of aviator sunglasses alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff late in the movie, in a scene that almost directly mirrors one well-known scene from Top Gun.  Even with that blatant lifting, it doesn’t take away from the movie’s overall enjoyment.  As a matter of fact, one could even go so far as to argue that paying such homage to such a classic film without any sense of hamming it up only gives this movie even more credibility.  It would have been so easy for that moment to go overboard.  But it didn’t.  That combined with the fact that the movie’s writers opted to develop a story that didn’t blatantly rip off the Fast & Furious movies makes the movie’s script all the more enjoyable.

The script behind Born to Race’s latest installment is the central point of the movie’s overall enjoyment.  While it obviously does bear quite the semblance to Top Gun in terms of its plot, it doesn’t go so far as to try and be just another Fast & Furious or Need for Speed.  It does at least try to be its own story to a point.  Adding to the movie’s enjoyment is its pacing.  The writing team behind the movie wastes no time setting up the movie’s plot.  And once the plot is established, the writers keep the story moving.  They do so without missing a beat, too.  Most impressive of all is that as fast as the story progresses, it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers in its own proverbial dust (bad pun fully intended), wondering what they experienced by the end of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute run time.  It switches gears at all of the right points and never finds itself idling, either.  And yes, both of those bad puns were fully intended, too.  The end result of that smart pacing is a story that movies fast, but not as fast as the cars that take center stage throughout the movie.  Alongside the movie’s solid script, the pacing helps to make Born to Race: Fast Track that much more enjoyable for any fan of all of the racing movies out there.

The pacing of Born to Race: Fast Track’s story and the story itself work together to make the movie one that fans of fast cars will enjoy even with just one watch.  Both elements are important to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment.  There is still one more factor to consider in the movie’s enjoyment.  That factor is the movie’s casting.  The production’s heads wiped the slate clean with this second installment of the franchise.  None of the actors from the franchise’s first movie returned for this installment.  The reason for this happening is anyone’s guess.  It could have been the movie’s heads.  It could have also been that the cast didn’t want to return for a second movie or simply couldn’t due to other commitments.  Regardless, the cast tapped for this movie does its own part to make the movie work.  The new cast members are all quite young.  And most of the cast members are quite well-known in their own right, too.  Lead actor Brett Davern is best known for his time on MTV’s hit series Awkward alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff.  He also has dramatic experience, having acted in bit parts in CSI: Miami, In Plain Sight, and Cold Case.  Mirchoff has also filled roles on CSI: Miami and CBS’ other hit crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  Younger viewers might also recognize him from his work on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place TV movie The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.  The movie’s other cast members have their own extensive resumes, too.  That collective experience shows through quite well here.  They are actually quite believable in their roles.  That the cast would take its roles with such seriousness even on a flick from an indie studio shows a great deal of respect both for the studio and for audiences.  It also makes suspension of disbelief that much easier for viewers. And in turn, it makes the movie even more worth at least one watch.

The casting of a group of up-and-coming stars for Born to Race: Fast Track and the cast’s seriousness with its roles goes a long way toward making the movie worth at least one watch.  The movie’s script and by connection its pacing add even more value to the overall presentation.  All three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that while being an indie release, is one that any fan of movies with fast cars and young stars will enjoy even with just one watch.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s online store at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=d3c94bf6-38e7-e311-877b-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at

Website: http://www.anchorbayent.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

I Love Lucy Season 1 BD Re-Issue A Whole New Reason To Love Lucy

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 is one of the best new re-issues of 2014.  The latest re-issue of the series’ debut season is everything that audiences had hoped for in the original DVD release of Season 1.  Not only does it boast all of the original Season 1 episodes carried in the original DVD box set, but it also boasts far more.  That is the primary factor that makes this set such a surprise.  The quality of the footage looks exceptionally clean, too.  Just as with Paramount’s recent release of The Andy Griffith Show: Season 1 on Blu-ray, the original grainy quality of the footage is there.  But, it has been cleaned up at the same time without losing any of that vintage look.  And last but not least of all, the new re-issue’s packaging rounds out the whole thing, making this set complete.  Each of the factors noted here by themselves presents its own positive.  Combined, they make I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 quite the aptly titled set.

More often than not, box sets whether they be for movies, TV shows or even CDs, rarely live up to the hype.  That’s because in so many cases, said entertainment platforms get multiple box sets with much the same material in each release.  So at first glance, one might think that this would apply with the newly re-issued first season of I Love Lucy on Blu-ray.  One couldn’t be more wrong in this case.  I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 is one of those extremely rare re-issues that deserves of its title.  I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 deserves its title first and foremost because of the sheer volume of material included in this set as compared to the previously released Season 1 DVD box set.  The new Season 1 Blu-ray box set includes all of the original episodes of I Love Lucy’s first season, naturally.  It also contains the relatively rare pilot episode in which audiences are offered bonus commentary explaining the series’ roots.  Those roots go back apparently to Lucy’s radio show, My Favorite Husband in which Richard Denning (The Black Scorpion, An Affair to Remember, Mr. & Mrs. North), not Desi Arnaz, played her husband.  And instead of the main characters being Lucy and Ricky, it was Liz and George Cooper who took center stage so to speak.  On a related note, Paramount and CBS have made available as part of this set’s extensive bonus material, two episodes of that radio series for fan enjoyment and to hear the role that My Favorite Husband played in the creation of I Love Lucy.

The addition of the two bonus episodes of My Favorite Husband alongside the rarely seen pilot episode of I Love Lucy and its commentary are but a mere portion of the immensity of the material included in this set.  Audiences are also treated to profiles of the figures featured in the original ads that accompanied the series.  What’s more, the original ads for Philip Morris cigarettes are there, too whereas today, there’s no way ads for tobacco products would dare be shown on television.  This is one more important part of the vast amount of material included in what is justifiably titled “Ultimate.”  Just as impressive is the inclusion of the series’ original stick figure openings along with the more well-known heart-on-satin openings.  As if all of this isn’t enough, there are also episode specific commentaries that add even more depth and value to this set.  All that, along with gag reels, makeup tests and other extras, are enough by themselves to make this box set even more worthy of the title “Ultimate.” Of course one would be remiss to ignore the quality of the footage in the set’s re-issue. It too plays a role in the success and enjoyment of I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1.

Paramount has made a habit of setting the bar in terms of the look of those movies and TV shows that it has released and re-issued to Blu-ray. Anyone that has seen the studio’s 2011 BD re-issue of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures or the recently re-issued Andy Griffith Show: Season One will agree to that. A single look at I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 reveals that the look of this re-issue is no different. The original grainy quality of the show is still there. It’s just been cleaned up a little bit. But it hasn’t been cleaned to the point that it has lost that vintage charm, either. Those charged with re-mastering the footage or its presentation here are to be commended for the painstaking efforts taken in order to balance the original look with something cleaner, essentially paying homage to the work put in by those that originally filmed the series. To that extent, the balance of the old with the new, alongside the magnitude of material included in this BD set makes this set even more a potential candidate to be one of the year’s best new box sets for adults or even for families. Both factors are equally important in the grand scheme of this set by themselves and collectively. There is still one last factor to consider in the set’s success. That factor is the set’s packaging.

Anyone that recalls the original DVD box set presentations of I Love Lucy’s six seasons will recall the size of those boxes. The boxes in question were anything but ergonomic. They took up a lot of space. The people at Paramount and CBS realized this and has sincere-issued all six seasons in smaller cases for their DVD presentations. The BD set is around the same size as those re-issued DVD box sets if not smaller. It is roughly the same size or smaller because Blu-ray discs can hold more information on each disc. This means reduced need for resources and in turn, reduced box size. So not only do audiences get even more material in this new re-issue of I Love Lucy’s first season, but they also get a box that takes up less space. That is the proverbial cherry on the top of this classic TV treat. Together with the set’s content and the solidly balanced footage quality, the packaging completes the whole package and makes it a definite contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s top new box sets both for families and adults.

I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 1 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered via the official I Love Lucy Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/I.Love.Lucy. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

VSC Announces Release Date, Product Info For Portlandia Season Four

Courtesy:  Video Services Corporation

Courtesy: Video Services Corporation

Video Services Corporation (VSC) will release the fourth season of IFC’s hit comedy series Portlandia this summer.

Portlandia: Season 4 will be released on DVD Tuesday, August 26th. Armisen’s beloved characters Dave and Kath are back in Portlandia’s fourth season, as are Spike and his uptight girlfriend, Iris. Spike and Iris have to deal with a difficult situation at a Thai restaurant while Dave and Kath actually give relaxation a try. And then there is the couple, Nina and Lance. Nina and Lance have to recover from the trauma of losing a pet this season.

Season Four sees a who’s who of celebrity guests across its ten episodes. Among some of the more well-known guests that appear on the show this season are: k.d. lang, Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman 1 – 3), Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Mark Proksch (The Office), and many others. Also returning from Portlandia’s previous seasons is an equally high profile list of stars including: Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park 1 &2, Independence Day), Ed Begley, Jr. (Arrested Development, Pineapple Express), Jason Sudeikis (How I Met Your Mother), and director Gus Van Sant (Promised Land, Milk) and just as many other big names.

Portlandia: Season Four was shot entirely in Portland, Oregon. It is co-created and co-written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and Jonathan Krisel. Krisel is also the series’ director. The series is executive prodiced by Lorne Michaels (SNL) and produced by Broadway Video. Portlandia: Season Four is comprised of ten episodes on two discs. It will retail for SRP of $19.98. Portlandia has earned a Peabody © award and has been nominated for an Emmy ® award as well, and has run for four seasons exclusively on Independent Film Channel.

More information on this and other releases from Video Services Corporation is available online at http://www.facebook.com/videoservicescorp, http://www.videoservicescorp.com, and http://twitter.com/vidserv. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Broadchurch Outshines Almost All Other Crime Dramas In Its First Season

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Crime dramas are all the rage on American television. Each one of the “Big 4” has more than its fair share of gritty crime dramas. Even the cable networks are becoming overloaded with their own crime dramas. Even PBS has its own crime drama series in the forms of Endeavour and the newly resurrected series Inspector Lewis. Considering all of this, it goes without saying that fans of the crime drama genre have more than their share of shows from which to choose. The problem is that save for perhaps PBS’ Inspector Lewis and Endeavour, the majority of the crime dramas that fill the broadcast spectrum today are relatively formulaic. Now thankfully, eOne has offered American audiences a series unlike any other crime drama out there today, including those on PBS. And that is saying something. The series in question is Broadchurch. The series’ first season is available now on DVD. And this debut season of the British import is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it is a serial. But the show’s writing more than makes up for that. That’s just the beginning of what makes this first season a hit. The use of original music at the right moments will keep viewers’ just as much on the edge of their seats from episode to episode. The same can be said of the acting on the part of the cast. This includes not just lead actors David Tennant (Dr. Who) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady, Hot Fuzz, Locke), but to the cast in whole. Their acting, along with the wisely used music and even smarter writing together make Broadchurch: The Complete First Season a truly surprising first impression from this British import. And it gives quite a bit of hope for the series in its second season. Audiences that give this season a chance will largely agree with that sentiment when they purchase or order the box set for themselves.

Broadchurch is not the first imported drama or even crime drama to make its way to America’s shores. The series, as a matter of fact, has been adapted for broadcast on the Fox network this fall. Before audiences even begin to watch that Americanized ripoff, they would do well to check out Season One of Broadchurch if only for the show’s writing. That is the most important factor to the success of this season. Any viewer that is the parent of a small child will agree that this season’s story hits hard because of its reality. It’s a sad reality that children die in this country (and other nations) every single day at the hands of rather sick individuals. That reality gives so much depth and believability to this season’s story. Fair warning, it’s difficult to watch and will make any parent want to hold their child even closer by the season’s final minutes. Even more so, any viewer that is left dry-eyed after watching this season’s story simply isn’t human. Even this critic will admit to tearing up quite a bit by that time.

The emotional depth and believability of the writing is just the starting point of what makes the first season of Broadchurch such a surprise of a series. Audiences will appreciate just as much the twists and turns that are included over the course of this season. They are just enough that they will keep viewers watching on the proverbial edge of their seats right to the season’s end. The twists don’t just include the characters, either. There are minute details on which the camera focuses at random points that keep viewers thrown off the track right up to the shocking season finale. The finale won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see Season One. But it is most definitely unexpected, though sadly very much a reflection of life. To that extent, it makes this season’s story all the more gripping and worth the watch.

On an even deeper level, the writers responsible for bringing Broadchurch to life are to be applauded for the manner in which the series’ first season was constructed. Rather than have eight separate episodes, the writers used the model from Fox’s 24 in establishing each episode. Whereas each episode of 24 is one hour, each episode of Broadchurch’s first season is a continuation of the previous episode. So, all eight episodes of this season comprise just one storyline. And each episode has been written so well (unlike 24), that audiences won’t be left feeling like they need a program to figure out what’s going on. It’s the final touch to the series’ writing that makes the writing the cornerstone of this first season.

The writers behind Broadchurch are to be highly commended for the painstaking efforts put into making this series’ first season the gripping first impression that it proves to be in the end. Just as worthy of applause in Season One are those responsible for the show’s music. Yes, the music in this series plays just as important a role in its success as the writing. This is hardly common in most American television series. Audiences will note in the series’ first season that unlike so many other shows out there, it doesn’t rely on popular songs or music put in just to be there. The music incorporated in Broadchurch: Season One plays directly in to the series’ writing. The smart use of dynamics and overall placement from scene to scene within each episode heightens each episode’s emotional depth. Whether it be the season’s more pained moments as when Danny’s mother saw him lying dead on the beach, or even the more tense moments of the search for the killer, those charged with music placement went above and beyond the call of duty. It’s one more factor that makes the debut season of this gripping British crime drama worlds better than its countless American counterparts.

The music and the writing behind the first season of Broadchurch are by themselves integral parts of the season’s overall success. Together they make Broadchurch a fully gripping and engrossing series in only its first season. There is still one more aspect of this first season that proves Broadchurch to be the standard by which so many other dramas should model themselves. That final factor is the acting on the part of the cast. That applies not just to lead actors David Tennant and Olivia Colman but to the entire cast. Each member of the show’s cast expertly interprets the show’s script, making it even more difficult to figure out who is the killer until said person is revealed in the season finale. On the other hand that expert acting also pulls in viewers on a deeply emotional level, too. That expert acting on both sides of the coin adds one more level of depth, thus making this season of Broadchurch even more gripping. That final factor, set alongside the season’s writing and music, makes the presentation whole and wholly of the best first impressions from any new series in recent history. It makes the first season of Broadchurch one that any fan of dramas must see at least once this year.

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Broadchurch-Season-1-David-Tennant/dp/B00HGE90Z4/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1403311459&sr=1-1&keywords=broadchurch+the+complete+first+season. More information on this and other releases from Entertainment One is available online at entertainmentone.com/home. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

CBS, Paramount Surprise With New Andy Griffith Show Season One BD Re-Issue

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

The Andy Griffith Show is one of the single greatest sitcoms to ever grace television sets across the nation. There is not a sliver of doubt about that. It first made its debut on CBS nearly fifty-four years ago on CBS. It aired its final episode on April 1, 1968. That was over forty-six years ago. In the years since it ended its initial run on CBS, The Andy Griffith Show has remained a family favorite regardless of the network that has carried the series. All eight of its seasons have been released on separate DVD box sets, too. And last month, the series was given a new beginning once again thanks to the release of the series’ first season on blu-ray. The newly re-issued first season is a joy for viewers of any age, especially for those that have yet to start adding the series’ seasons to their own library. The main reason for this is that this re-issue contains every episode from the first season in its entirety. This actually is something important believe it or not. Just as important to the re-issue of the series’ first season is the clarity of the picture. The bonus material included in The Andy Griffith Show Season One is the final piece of the puzzle so to speak. Included among the bonus material in this newly re-issued season set are: An episode of The Danny Thomas Show, a vintage interview between Andy Griffith and Edward R. Murrow from his famed series Person to Person, and the hard to find movie Return To Mayberry among even more bonuses. The bonus material alone makes this set well worth the addition to any fan’s home library. The bonus features in conjunction with the re-mastered picture and the inclusion of every episode from Season One collectively make The Andy Griffith Show: Season One a wonderful re-birth for one of the greatest sitcoms in the history of television.

The Andy Griffith Show: Season One is a joy for every family first and foremost because it includes every episode of the series’ first season in a single box. From helping local Mayberry guitarist Jim Lindsey get his shot at stardom in “Guitar Player” to helping out his deputy and best friend Barney Fife in “Andy Saves Barney’s Morale” to the special holiday episode “Christmas Story” and more, there is so much to enjoy throughout the first season of The Andy Griffith Show. It just goes to show once more that television can be entertaining and family friendly at the same time. It’s too bad that such quality programming doesn’t exist anymore in any of the sitcoms that currently run on both broadcast and cable networks. Thankfully, audiences have this latest re-issue to make up for that. And especially being that TV Land either runs The Andy Griffith Show late at night now or doesn’t even run it at all—and apparently, neither do Me-TV, Antenna TV or the other retro networks—it becomes all the more important and valuable for any fan of truly worthwhile programming.

The people at Paramount and CBS Blu-ray have scored in a big way by including every original episode from the first season of The Andy Griffith Show on this newly re-issued box set. The inclusion of so many fun episodes is in itself a just the tip of the iceberg in the set’s success. On a deeper level, the very fact that every episode from Season One was included in a single set instead of split into multiple sets makes the set even more of a success. Far too often, people take such a factor for granted in purchasing box sets of their favorite television series. As many have seen though, there are some studios that have made a habit over the years of splitting certain shows up into multiple box sets. This causes viewers to have to spend more money over time. And such practice is anything but ergonomic. So to have every single episode of the series’ first season in one Blu-ray box set is a huge positive. Making it even more of a positive is the fact that each disc is placed on its own plastic “insert” within the box. This protects the discs from scratching one another and in turn allows for them to be enjoyed for many years as long as they are properly cared for. On another level, the new Blu-ray re-issue of Season One takes up far less space on DVD racks than its DVD counterpart.

Having examined the inclusion of the complete first season of the Andy Griffith Show, the next logical step is to examine the presentation of the episodes themselves. The automatic assumption of presenting a classic black and white television show in HD wouldn’t make that much difference in the look of the show. The surprise reality of the episodes in Season One is that there is a noticeable difference in the quality of the picture. While the original grainy quality of the show is still there, it is quite obvious that those charged with re-mastering these episodes did quite the job of cleaning them up. And they did so without losing any of the charm of the show’s original look. In short, it could be compared to transferring a classic vinyl record to CD. It is much cleaner, but it still maintains that vintage presentation at the same time. That that balance is present here only serves to make The Andy Griffith Show Season One all the more impressive of a re-introduction for audiences.

The inclusion of The Andy Griffith Show’s entire first season in a single box set and the laughs provided are both central to the success of this recently released Blu-ray box set. That those charged with re-mastering the episodes were able to enhance the picture without losing too much of the series’ original vintage look makes the set all the more of a success. Looking at these positives, there is only one positive left to examine in this set. That last remaining factor is the collective bonus features included with the episodes. Paramount and CBS Blu-ray have given audiences quite the impressive list of bonus features to finish off the viewing experience. The bonus material starts off small with the inclusion of a full episode of The Danny Thomas Show. Audiences will find the episode in question interesting as there are some slight changes to Mayberry here. Aunt Bea goes by a different name. And Otis the town drunk has been replaced. What’s more, Barney isn’t there, either. However, it is still Mayberry interestingly enough. Things step up a little bit more from here with the inclusion of an interview between legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow and Andy Griffith on Murrow’s famed interview series Person to Person. The pair discusses Griffith’s sitcom and more. And finishing off the whole presentation is the inclusion of the hard to find Andy Griffith Show spinoff movie, Return To Mayberry. This movie came nearly two decades after the original series ended. According to the movie, Sheriff Taylor was no longer the head lawman in Mayberry. His former deputy, the beloved bumbling Barney Fife was making a run for the town’s head officer. And Andy’s son Opie is now all grown up and about to become a father himself. Needless to say, it’s a happy reunion for all involved. Of course it isn’t without some bumps along the way. It is the final piece to the puzzle that is The Andy Griffith Show Season One a surprisingly impressive and welcome re-issue.

The Andy Griffith Show Season One is available now in stores and online. More information on this and upcoming seasons of The Andy Griffith Show on Blu-ray is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TheAndyGriffithShowTV and http://www.facebook.com/cbshomeentertainment. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.