Curious George: The Complete First Season Is Complete In Name Only

Courtesy:  Universal Studios Home Entertainment/PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Universal Studios Home Entertainment/PBS/PBS Kids

Curious George is one of America’s most beloved literary figures. For generations everybody’s favorite curious little monkey has been entertaining readers and viewers of all ages with his adventures. From an extensive series of literary adventures to a classic animated series of sorts in the 1980s to his most recent series, which debuted in 2006, George’s adventures have been teaching important lessons and putting smiles on families’ faces for ages. And this past May fans of George’s most recent animated series were finally rewarded for their loyalty to the series as Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE) finally released the series’ first season in its entirety on DVD. Its release marks the first time that this series’ first season has seen the light of day in whole on DVD. And as entertaining as it is, it has to be said that it isn’t a perfect release. On the good side, audiences get the entire sixty episode (yes, sixty episodes) run from Season One on just four discs. That equals to roughly ten hours of entertainment and education for audiences of all ages. This is especially important for a number of reasons and will be discussed shortly. Sixty episodes is a lot of episodes. So one would naturally think that an episode guide of some sort would have been included in this set. Sadly the exact opposite proved to be the case. There is no episode guide. And that’s just one of a handful of cons that weigh down the set. For all of the cons that weigh it down, there is at least one more positive to consider. that positive is in fact the writing that went into each of the set’s episodes. More simply put, the mix of entertainment and education incorporated into each episode offers its own value to the whole of Season One. That value set alongside the set’s cons and its one major positive, Curious George: The Complete First Season isn’t a total loss for audiences. It is one of the year’s best new box sets for children and families. Though, sadly it can’t be said that it is the year’s best.

Curious George: The Complete First Season has been a long time coming. Ever since the series made its debut nine years ago, audiences have waited patiently for its release. Yet for some reason the people at USHE instead started with the series’ sixth and seventh seasons and only now released its first season. Why USHE would take that route is anyone’s guess. Getting back on track, audiences will appreciate that while it is complete in name only, Curious George: The Complete First Season is complete at least in terms of its episode listing. Season One boasts a total of sixty (yes, sixty) episodes. Those episodes are spread across a total of four discs that are packaged wisely inside a standard DVD case. The inclusion of all sixty original Season One episodes here is a positive in that it replaces a number of USHE’s previously released standalone Curious George compilation discs. This critic alone owns no fewer than a dozen of those standalone DVD compilations. That means that no less than half of those DVDs can now be eliminated. In other words, that means less DVDs cluttering up the house. Any parent will welcome less clutter. What’s more, owning sixty episodes in one set means that much less worry about missing George when it comes on TV regardless of whether it be on PBS or a family’s local PBS Kids affiliate. Keeping all of this in mind, the inclusion of all sixty Season One episodes in a wisely packaged four-disc set definitely makes Curious George Season:  The Complete First Season worth the addition to any family’s home DVD library.

The presentation of all sixty episodes from Curious George’s first season is within tiself plenty of reason for families to add this box set to their home DVD library. It potentially eliminates clutter from families’ homes. And it means that much less worry about missing Curious George when it comes on TV. Those are all great aspects of Season One. For every positive there is always at least one negative, though. Sadly, Curious George: The Complete First Season has its share of cons. The most glaring of those cons is linked directly to the season’s sixty-episode run. It is the lack of an episode guide of any kind. Considering that Season One boasts so many episodes, one would have thought it common sense that some thing as simple as an episode guide outlining which episodes are on which disc would be included in the set. Apparently someone at USHE thought otherwise. So audiences essentially have to either memorize the episode listing or write up an episode listing themselves and add it into the box. It’s sad that that was apparently an afterthought for the people at USHE. It is just one of a number of cons that weigh down this set, too. Along with that con, audiences will also note that there are no bonus features to speak of anywhere in the set.

The “mid-show” segments that feature kids doing what George did in the corresponding episode are nowhere to be found, either. The “mid-show” segments are commonplace with each broadcast on television. They are even there on the series’ standalone sets. So why not here? It’s doubtful having them in each episode would force an extra disc or even more to the set. So why not have them here? It seems a trivial aspect. But in reality those segments help to drive home the concepts being taught in each episode. They drive home the presented concepts because they present children doing the things that George did in the corresponding episodes. This makes them that much more relatable for young viewers and in turn more capable of reaching them. So not having them included here yet again weighs down the set even more. It means that parents and teachers have to find ways to keep those audiences engaged after the episodes are over and figuring out how to drive the lessons home themselves. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it would have been nice to have that starting point regardless. Because it isn’t there audiences are actually losing out by not having them included here. The same can be said of the lack of bonus features.

The bonus features that are so commonplace in the series’ standalone compilations also help to drive home the concepts being taught in the presented episode. They, too are starting points for bigger lessons that can be taught on the presented topics. A prime example is the rocket building game that corresponds with “Curious George’s Rocket Ride.” That game is included in the standalone DVD which features said episode as its focal point. That game in nowhere to be found anywhere on this set. It keeps children interested in rockets and space all while teaching a basic lesson about shapes. It’s just one of so many games and other activities not included in this set that could have been included. Because it and the others from other Curious George DVDs aren’t here, it means teachers and parents having to figure out how to come up with a cost-effective way to present the same games on their own. Yet again, that’s not a total loss. But still it would have been nice to have at least something there. Not having any bonus games, “mid-show” segments, or episode guide to go by, so much enjoyment and even education that could have been had is potentially lost from this set. Considering this, Curious George: The Complete First Season loses a lot of points and shows even more to be in reality complete in name only.

Curious George: The Complete First Season is sadly complete in name only. That is because despite having its full complement of sixty episodes, it is lacking in a number of other areas, as has been pointed out. For all of its cons, there is at least one more important pro that should be noted here that is directly related to the cons. That pro is the actual writing that went into this season’s episodes. The writers expertly balanced the series’ entertainment value with its educational content in every episode without fail. From one episode to the next there are various lessons that teach problem-solving skills, basic math and science skills, and so much more. For example, in “From Scratch,” George teaches viewers about using deductive reasoning by trying to solve what made scratches on the furniture at Chef Pisghetti’s restaurant and clear Gnocci’s name. Young viewers won’t even realize that they are being taught thanks to the fact that the series’ writers made the episode a whodunit sort of story with George playing the detective. “Zero To Donuts” teaches viewers basic math skills as George accidentally orders one hundred dozen donuts when he should have only ordered one dozen. So he has to learn about the values of certain numbers. And in “The All Animal Recycled Band” kids learn both about music and conservation as George wants to make a band of his own. The problem is that he has to figure out how to make his instruments and who will play them. His decision on who will play makes for plenty of laughs for the whole family. The lesson about conservation taught through George’s development of his instruments is just as important to the episode. It’s another example of the writers’ ability to balance important educational content with entertainment throughout Season One. There are plenty of other episodes that could be used as examples of how the writers’ ability to balance educational and entertainment content make Season One’s episodes makes them so enjoyable. There just is neither enough time nor space for a discussion on each one. Needless to say, the talent of the writers to balance both elements set along with the fact that all sixty episodes are finally presented in one complete set makes Curious George: The Complete First Season a welcome addition to any family’s home DVD library. This is the case even with all of its negatives. Those negatives make this season enjoyable but sadly complete in name only.

Curious George: The Complete First Season is a welcome addition to any family’s home DVD library. The fact that al slixty of its episodes have been presented together here for the first time is just one reason that it is such a welcome addition. The balance of educational and entertaining content within each episode makes for even more reason for families to add this box set to their home DVD library. Sadly there are some glaring issues with the set including the lack of something as basic as an episode guide, the “mid-show” segments that are commonplace in the series’ TV broadcasts and its standalone DVDs, and any bonus features that are common on those same standalone DVDs. Even with those cons noted, they don’t make Curious George: The Complete First Season a total loss. They only make it complete in name only. All things considered, Curious George: The Complete First Season is one of the year’s best new box sets for children and families. But it is hardly the best. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other available Curious George DVDs is available online along with the latest Curious George news at:

Website: http://www.curiousgeorge.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/curiousgeorge

Audiences can also get more information on Curious George, print out coloring pages, and play Curious George games at http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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