China Beach’s First Season A Welcome Re-Introduction For Series’ Original Fans

Courtesy:  Star Vista/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: Star Vista/Time Life Entertainment

China Beach is not one of the most well-known dramas to ever hit the airwaves.  As a matter of fact, this “little brother” to M.A.S.H. only ran for four years as compared to M.A.S.H.’s eleven year run.  Despite that, it still developed a very loyal following among its viewer base.  Now thanks to Star Vista and Time Life Entertainment, fans of the series can once again enjoy the first season of this cult favorite once again some twenty-five years after it first made its debut.  The DVD release of China Beach Season One is a good start to the series’ re-issue.  That is the case first and foremost because of its writing.  It is so easy to compare China Beach to its “big brother” in its setting and the fact that it started up only five years after M.A.S.H. ended.  But in looking at the show’s writing, there is a big difference between the two shows.    Equally important in this first season is the show’s all-star cast.  At the time of the show’s broadcast, the show’s cast members weren’t the stars that they are today.  But that’s what makes this so important.  And last but not least, the bonus features included in this season finish it off.  Fans of the show will appreciate the inclusion of both a look back at the show by the cast and crew, the commentary included on specific episodes, and the cast’s twenty-fifth anniversary reunion.  These additional features bring everything full circle and make this season’s collection all the more enjoyable for its original audience.

When China Beach made its original debut on TV, that debut came only about five years after its “big brother”, M.A.S.H., had ended.  That was not exactly a lot of time when one really thinks about it.  So it would make sense that audiences might naturally make a comparison between the two series.  Comparisons aside, China Beach was quite different from M.A.S.H. as is evident in its writing.  Whereas M.A.S.H. was more a dramedy, China Beach was a more pure drama.  It showed to even more extent just how horrible war was.  Audiences will also appreciate in watching Season One’s new DVD set that it was more centered on a female cast.  As audiences will learn in the bonus material, this was no accident, either.  It’s so subtle in terms of the writing.  But in noting it, it is something extremely important to note in hindsight.  The bonus interviews with Dana Delaney and Chloe Webb help to illustrate that female-centric attitude of sorts behind the show’s writing.  Of course, one can’t ignore the general storylines, either.  While the show centers on female leads, the writing in general makes each episode quite balanced to the point that both male and female audiences will enjoy it especially if they are new to the series.  The human drama not so much just of war, but of the characters’ personal growth throughout the conflict is key to it all.  It’s something that M.A.S.H. didn’t focus on nearly as much.  That’s not to say that M.A.S.H. didn’t focus on this aspect of story.  It’s just that China Beach took that story element to a deeper level.  And that depth works with every other factor of the writing to show what made this series so special in its time.

The writers behind China Beach are obviously to be applauded for their efforts.  Audiences will see both in the episodes themselves and in Season One’s bonus material just how much thought went into the show’s writing.  It’s the most important starting point in examining the first series of the series.  Just as important to note in Season One is the show’s cast.  The cast members assembled for the series were not the big names at that time that they are today.  Robert Picardo went on to rise to fame on Star Trek: Voyager.  Dana Delaney and Chloe Webb each have had their own success since the show’s end.  And this is no surprise, considering their chemistry both on and off screen.  Again, audiences will see that chemistry both in the episodes themselves and in the bonus features included in Season One.  Having noted the bonus material included in Season One so much, it only makes sense to delve into them even more.

China Beach Season One is chock full of deep and moving episodes.  And the cast did an extraordinary job of interpreting the writers’ work.  Audiences will get an even deeper appreciation for the work done by the writers and the cast in Season One’s bonus features.  Season One’s bonus features are anchored by a look behind the series’ creation.  Viewers will learn that because the series was set during the sexual revolution, it only made sense to have the series centered on a set of very strong female leads.  That discussion is taken to a deeper level in the interviews with both Dana Delaney and Chloe Webb.  Delaney explains about the job opportunities (or lack thereof) for women at the time, which apparently was why many women ended up nurses overseas. It’s all quite enlightening to say the least.  This is just the tip of the iceberg for audiences.  The bonus features included in Season One offer far more for viewers.  And viewers will find out just what other interesting facts are revealed when they order China Beach Season One online at http://timelife.com/products/china-beach-season-1.  More information China Beach and other releases from Star Vista and Time Life Entertainment is available online at http://timelife.com, http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS, and http://twitter.com/TimeLIfeUS.  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.

Dean Martin Celebrity Roast Collection Is A Laugh Riot

Courtesy:  Time Life Entertainment/Star Vista/NBC Universal

Courtesy: Time Life Entertainment/Star Vista/NBC Universal

Groundbreaking and hilarious.  Those are the best two words that one can possibly come up with when one thinks of singer/actor Dean Martin’s celebrity roasts.  There was nothing else like this series on television when it was spun off from his equally entertaining Dean Martin’s Comedy Hour.  And even today, when one watches Comedy Central’s celebrity roasts, one can’t deny the influence of Martin’s show on today’s celebrity roasts.  Martin’s celebrity roasts were just as irreverent as anything broadcast on Comedy Central today.  Anyone that has any knowledge of classic movies and television will attest to that.  And that’s just one reason that audiences will appreciate the recent release of Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition.  Decades have passed since these shows aired.  Despite that, the jokes are still as biting today as they were back then.  While the celebrities and jokes featured in each of this set’s shows are the most important aspect to the set, they’re only part of what audiences will appreciate about this new laugh riot collection from Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista.  Viewers will also appreciate the bonus features included in each of the set’s six discs.  And last but definitely not least, Time Life and Star Vista are more than deserving of praise for the packaging of this set.  The manner in which each of the set’s discs was placed protects each disc, and is ergonomic for any DVD rack.  When one takes into consideration everything noted here, one will see just how important it is to the history of television and movies that Star Vista and Time Life Entertainment have released this set.  It’s a set that any fan of true, pure comedy must see at least once.

The celebrities and jokes that fill each episode of Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition are the most important aspect of the episodes culled for the set.  Audiences that are more familiar with classic television and movies will appreciate seeing big names such as Rich Little, Don Rickles, former President Ronald Reagan, Sammy Davis, Jr., and so many others.  Little’s impersonations of some of Hollywood’s biggest names are among the many highlights.  Audiences will roar with laughter as he impersonates Johnny Carson.  Carson does everything that he can to not do the mannerisms that Little lists off one at a time.  The funny thing is that he can’t help but do those same mannerisms.  It shows just how closely Little studied his subjects.  It’s just one of so many moments that will have audiences laughing so hard that they cry.  There’s actor Kirk Douglas’ joke comparing fellow actor Don Rickles to a weasel, Rev. Billy Graham’s golf joke about Bob Hope, and even Foster Brooks’ ever entertaining drunk act from one show to another.  Somehow that act never loses its shine, no matter how many times he does it.  There is plenty more material from which audiences will be able to call their favorite moments.  Everything listed here is just a small sampling of that to which audiences can look forward with this collection of hilarious roasts.

The celebrity lineups and jokes that fill each of Martin’s celebrity roasts easily make Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition make it an easy contender for the top spot on this year’s list of the best new box sets.  One can’t make such a statement without examining the set’s bonus material.  Bonus is a word that is bandied about far too often with DVDs and Blu-rays today.  But the additional content included in this set couldn’t be more properly labeled than bonus material.  Audiences are offered interviews with those that shared the stage throughout Martin’s Celebrity Roasts and bonus shows, too.  The interviews with the likes of Carol Burnett, Rich Little, and others show just how honored the chosen celebrities were to have been chosen both for the celebrity panel, and as the subject of the roasts.  The celebrity interviews included across this set are definitely worthy of being called bonus material.  Audiences will also appreciate the bonus segments of The Dean Martin Show, as well as a comparison between Martin’s celebrity roasts and what is offered today on the likes of Comedy Central.  It’s very interesting to note Carol Burnett’s own words, stating how today’s comedy is “mean” versus Martin’s roasts being just good clean fun.  She makes a valid argument.  One can really tell that Martin’s celebrity roasts were really meant all in good fun.  There were some off color material.  But even back then, the comedians on the panels didn’t have to work blue unlike today’s comedians.  It’s a telling statement.  And when they order this set, audiences will see that and more for themselves.

The bonus material included in Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts: Collector’s Edition puts this set way over the top.  Unlike the extra material crammed into other sets by other companies, the extra material included in this set is more than deserving of the title of “Bonus.”  When set next to the celebrity lineups and their jokes, it makes this set one that any classic TV and movie fan absolutely must add to their own home library.  Those same fans will notice in adding this set to their home DVD library that the packaging is another plus.  The box itself takes up a small amount of room on one’s rack.  That’s because of how the discs inside the box were themselves packaged.  The discs are placed on either side of a group of “inserts” inside the box.  They are given their very own space on either side of each insert.  This not only saves space, but also protects the discs from scratching one another at the same time.  This means being able to share the laughs again and again for years to come.  They are laughs that will be welcome with every watch.  And they can be enjoyed when audiences order the set from Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista online at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D2UMI9Q/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0JVYS83R0PH9M3VZQVZP&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1630083502&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on this and other releases from Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista is available online at http://timelife.com and http://www.facebook.com/TimeLIfeUs.  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.

Every Family Should Add Christmas With Carol To Their Holiday Viewing Tradition

Courtesy:  Time Life Entertainment/Star Vista

Courtesy: Time Life Entertainment/Star Vista

Traditiooooooon.  Tradition!  Sorry, folks.  This critic had a brief Fiddler on the Roof moment there.  Why?  That’s because this critic was thinking about the traditions in which people take part each year during the holiday season.  One tradition in which so many people take part during the holiday season is the watching of the annual holiday specials on TV’s major networks.  Those specials are wonderful in their own right.  But they aren’t the only specials out there.  Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista have released a new compilation from The Carol Burnett Show that more than deserves to be a part of any family’s annual holiday viewing tradition in The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol.  Those that watched the sketches included here will enjoy them just as much as those that are new to the comedienne’s talents.    Audiences will appreciate first and foremost that the episodes culled for this compilation are presented exactly as they were presented in their original broadcasts.  They will also appreciate that in comparison to so much of today’s comedy, it is actually quite family friendly.  Just as important to this compilation is the inclusion once more of a thorough episode guide included inside the box.  All three of these aspects make this latest compilation more than deserving to be part of any family’s holiday viewing tradition.

The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol includes two classic holiday themed episodes from the show’s original run.  While there are only two episodes, those two episodes are presented exactly as they were done in their original broadcasts.  Nearly thirty years has passed since the first of the pair originally aired.  And almost thirty-six years have passed since the latter of the pair originally aired.  Needless to say that in watching both episodes included in this set, the classic footage has stood the test of time quite well.  Of course, those charged with preserving it and restoring it where necessary have done their jobs expertly.  So they too deserve a round of applause.  The same can be said of the set’s bonus holiday sketches.  That the footage still looks as wonderful as it did in its original broadcast will instill in some viewers a sense of nostalgia.  For others, it will hopefully help to garner respect for one of television’s greatest programs.

The quality of the footage alone in the included shows and sketches goes a long way toward making this new holiday collection a joy for the whole family.  The material in the shows helps it to go just as far.  That’s because unlike so much of what’s out there today, the sketches included in the set are largely family friendly.  Given, there is some material that is slightly edgy at best.  But it’s nowhere near the level of the material in some of today’s sketch comedy shows.  No names will be used here.  A prime example would be Burnett’s sketch with Alan Alda (M.A.S.H.) , “Morton of the Movies.”  Alda’s Morton is a department store Santa that falls in love with Burnett’s character.  The catch is that Morton uses a bunch of movie quotes and character styles to make her fall for him.  Her reaction to discovering this is everything that makes physical comedy so great.  The way that her eyes bug out and her mouth drops open as she watches the lines that Morton just used being recited on television is classic in every sense.  It’s the type of comedy that viewers of every age will appreciate and enjoy.  ON the other end of the spectrum is a slightly edgier sketch with Burnett playing the beloved secretary, Mrs. Wiggins.  Mrs. Wiggins is celebrating the holidays with her boss, Mt. Tudball.  And the ditzy secretary ends up causing Mr. Tudball more trouble than he bargained for as a result.  This is a moment that older audiences will appreciate more.  It’s nowhere near the level of today’s comedy.  But it at least has substance.  That’s more than can be said for so much of what currently classifies as comedy.  There is much more comedy included in the material collected for than what is listed here.  Audiences will find their own favorite moments when they order the DVD for themselves as it is available now.  Of course, the material included on this DVD isn’t the last commendable portion of the presentation.  Audiences will also appreciate that Time Life and Star Vista have once again included a relatively thorough episode guide with the collection that is itself a bonus.

The episode guide included with this new DVD is its own bonus.  So often, DVD compilations (both single and multi-disc sets) lack guides for viewers.  This should be considered a cardinal sin.  Time Life and Star Vista have thus done very good.  Not only are the episodes outlined in the bonus guide, but thorough summaries of the set’s main sketches are included along with a handful of photo stills from different portions of the included episodes.  The inclusion of the sketch summaries helps to set expectations before viewers even put the DVD into their DVD players.  And the inclusion of photo stills helps to heighten those expectations.  In turn, these two elements make the overall presentation of the DVD that much more enjoyable.  These elements work together with the previously noted elements to make The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas with Carol a wonderful addition to any family’s holiday viewing tradition this and every holiday season.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from Time Life Entertainment online at http://timelife.com/products/christmas-with-carol.  More information on this and other releases from Time Life Entertainment and Star Vista is available online at http://timelife.com and http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS.  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.

New Carol Burnett Set One Of 2012′s Best Box Sets

Courtesy: Timelife/Star Vista

Television today is at a critical point.  Regardless of one’s server, a single trip through the channels shows the dominance of very specific styles of shows.  It shows increasingly that the last bastion of family friendly programming is indeed PBS and its digital sister stations.  Politics aside, that speaks volumes.  So what’s a person to do in the search for something family friendly other than just PBS?  The answer:  The Carol Burnett Show.  Thanks to Timelife and Star Vista, this classic family friendly variety show is available once more for the entire family.

The Carol Burnett show and its namesake were groundbreakers in every sense of the word.  Burnett herself was the first female to host a variety show.  And the show itself can and should be credited as an influence for Saturday Night Live, which didn’t even air until years after The Carol Burnett Show was well into its prime.  And in comparison to shows such as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour—both of which ran around the same time as The Carol Burnett Show–, it was a groundbreaker in that it went in a somewhat different direction than those shows.  Ironically, as audiences will see, Burnett actually had the Smothers Brothers on her show during its run.  And that episode is one of many highlights of the complete twenty-two disc retrospective box set released by Timelife and Star Vista.

The Smothers Brothers’ appearance is only one of so many highlights from The Carol Burnett Show.  What really makes The Carol Burnett Show stand out is its skits.  It’s obvious the influence that these skits had on Lorne Michaels and all involved with Saturday Night Live.  And the way that Burnett’s show mixed its musical performances and skits is a near identical mirror to the format that SNL has used ever since its inception years after The Carol Burnett Show hit the airwaves.  There was more influence there than from say, The Smothers Brothers or even Sonny and Cher.  Audiences will see that throughout The Carol Burnett Show:  The Ultimate Collection.  Staying on the topic of the whole box set, audiences will be pleased to go through each separate box included in this new complete set.  The first noticeable factor of each set is that within each box, the discs each get their own spot on an inserted “leaf.”  Placing the discs in this fashion not only is ergonomically smart, but it also protects the discs from scratching, thus increasing their longevity.  This is a very smart packaging manner.  This is just the beginning of the packaging’s positives.  Another positive to the packaging is the inclusion of a booklet in each box.  The booklet in question includes outlines of each episode along with some added history specific to each history.  This adds even more enjoyment to the overall viewing experience.  On top of the boxes is an even larger commemorative collector’s booklet that includes even more history behind the show, and even quotes from the cast.  One of the most interesting pieces of extra history is centered on Burnett’s co-stars, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway.  It is noted in the extra booklet that Korman couldn’t look at Conway without breaking out in total laughter once Conway did certain things.  Audiences will see that for themselves throughout certain episodes of the show, too.

The laughs provided by Korman, Conway, and the rest of the cast are again just another tiny piece of the overall puzzle that makes The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection a must have for any classic television fan.  Bringing things full guest spots from the likes of The Smothers Brothers, Betty White, Joan Rivers, Telley Savalas, and so many more make for so many more laughs.  They’re included in their own skits, as well as episodes of the show’s most beloved and longest running skit, “The Family.”  Speaking of “The Family”, how many variety shows have managed to take its skits and turn them into such a success as that.  Sure, Saturday Night Live has taken its skits and tried to make them into movies.  But save perhaps for Wayne’s World, none of its other skits have ever really had any true success.  Mama’s Family by comparison was a huge hit throughout its run on television.

The guest stars and the overall set packaging of The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection are impressive to say the least.  The quality of the footage is just as impressive.  Timelife and Star Vista make note on each disc that the footage may contain some discrepancies.  But the reality, it’s amazing how well the footage has stood the test of time.  And that it looks as good as it does so many years after the show’s end will create that same sense of nostalgia that an old jazz vinyl will create.  It will take anyone who remembers the show back to another time; a better time.  And it will show newer audiences everything that was at one time right with television.  It’s something which so many of today’s television execs should revisit as it shows that television can be funny and family friendly, even in the twenty-first century.

So much more could be said of The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection.  Doing so would take up far more space than is possible.  Audiences will see for themselves everything that this set has in store when they pick it up for themselves.  Fans of this legendary show can purchase it online now via Timelife’s online store, http://timelife.com/products/the-carol-burnett-show-the-ultimate-collection

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.