Batman: The Complete First Season Is A Good, Not Great Debut For Fans Of ABC’s Classic Series

Courtesy:  Warner Home Video/FOX

Courtesy: Warner Home Video/FOX

ABC’s live action series Batman was anything but a hit when it originally aired on CBS from 1966 to 1968.  The series, which starred Adam West in the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman lasted all of three seasons in its original run. Since its cancellation, it has become a cult hit with audiences of all ages.  It has run on syndication on a number of networks and is currently running on Me-TV every Saturday night at 7pm ET.  Throughout all the years that it has been on television since its cancellation, it has not received a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  That is until this year.  Warner Home Video and FOX released the first season of the cult favorite last month alongside the show’s full series box set.  The complete box set is rather pricy both on DVD and Blu-ray.  That means that most fans of this hit series will be more interested in picking up the complete first season box set.  Batman: The Complete First Season boasts plenty of positives.  But it also has its own hare of negatives that can’t be ignored, either.  On the positive end, audiences will appreciate the fact that every Season One episode is presented here.  So audiences weren’t short-changed there.  What’s more, every one of the episodes is presented exactly as they originally aired on ABC so many years ago.  And rather than make each half of each episode a separate episode, they are each presented as one full episode.  Of course for every positive, there is a negative.  This recent release is no exception to that rule.  The people at WHV got the issue of the episodes one hundred percent right.  In terms of the bonus material though, both companies struck out swinging.  Batman: The Complete First Season comes with no bonus material to compliment the episodes.  The bonus material has all been saved for the full-series box sets.  WHV and FOX try to entice audiences into buying one of the two boxes by including a coupon for ten dollars off of either the Blu-ray or DVD series set.  That is not a positive by any means and will be discussed at more length later.  As glaring as the noted negative in question proves to be, audiences can at least be happy about the presentation of the episodes.  The footage looks wonderful in its transfer to DVD.  And each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 in which most classic series were presented.  It is one more way in which Batman: The Complete First Season impresses with this its debut DVD release.  It’s just too bad that it wasn’t released on Blu-ray.   Maybe audiences would have had the option of at least some bonuses in a Blu-ray box set. A fan can dream, right?  Right.  That aside, the end result of these positives and negatives is a box set that while anything but perfect, is still a good addition to any Batman fan’s home library.

There is a lot to like and just as much to not like in the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season as should be clear by now.  Luckily for fans, the positives far outweigh the negatives, beginning with the episodes themselves.  Audiences that are familiar with Batman will recall that within the context of this series, each episode was split into two parts.  While the series only ran for three seasons, this made the show really last.  It was a formula that made audiences want to tune in from week to week.  The people at WHV and FOX have paid proper tribute to that formula–and the fans of the show that lived week to week by the formula–by combining both halves of every Season One episode into one complete episode.  It would have been just as easy to spread out each half of each episode and call them “episodes.”  That would have been purely deceptive marketing as it would have meant both companies trying to fool audiences into thinking there was more than really was there.  Luckily they didn’t go that route.  And for that reason alone, WHV and FOX are deserving of at least some credit.  It’s at least one reason to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.

The presentation of Season One’s episodes is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to applaud the debut release of Batman: The Complete First Season.  But as anyone knows, for every positive there is a negative; a yang for every yin so to speak.  And this box set is no exception.  Audiences will be displeased to discover that while WHV and FOX have included every episode from Batman’s first season in this box, they have clearly omitted any bonus material at all.  All of the bonus material has been saved for both the Blu-ray and DVD presentation of the show’s complete series boxes.  In turn, WHV and FOX have included in Batman: The Complete First Season a coupon for ten dollars off the purchase of either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set.  This is hardly a positive.  And here is the reason why:  Audiences that actually would use the coupon would still pay nearly $150 for the DVD box set.  They would still be paying well over $200 for the Blu-ray set.  Keep in mind that 20th Century Fox was able to release its complete series run of Futurama in a single box for under $100 on DVD.  There is no Blu-ray option there.  That is about seven or eight seasons.  So how can 20th Century Fox do that, yet WHV and FOX expect people to shell out exorbitant amounts of money for a three-season box set by comparison?  This is a losing situation for fans who have waited decades for Batman to finally receive a proper release on DVD or Blu-ray.  It is an insult to those same fans.  WHV and FOX should be ashamed of themselves for this.  Keeping that in mind, it knocks off major points for Batman: The Complete First Season and for both of the full series sets.

Still not enough to consider?  How about the fact that WHV is looking to split up the second season of Batman into two separate volumes beginning in February 2015?  That’s right.  What this means is the possibility of WHV doing the same thing with Season 3.  That means that Season One could be the only one that audiences and long-time fans see in a single set. It’s probably the only factor that would even begin to make purchasing either the Blu-ray or DVD full series set more worth the purchase than Season One.  It doesn’t make such practice any more ethical, regardless. Obviously, WHV isn’t the only company guilty of this practice.  20th Century Fox has done this with its home releases of Family Guy’s various seasons over the years.  It’s a way to stretch things out and for WHV to make more money from audiences.  That goes without saying.  But the people at WHV know that people such as this critic will still shell out the money for it.  It’s just a shameful practice regardless of the company releasing the box set.  And it is something that had to be noted here if only or context.

Now, having finished on the soap box, it’s time to turn back to the positive side of Batman: The Complete First Season.  There is at least one more positive worth noting about this box set for fansto consider.  That factor is the look of the episodes themselves.  The footage looks surprisingly clean even on DVD.  It shows that those charged with transferring the masters from tape to DVD and Blu-ray went to painstaking measures to insure the footage looked its best for fans.  For that alone, WHV and FOX are to be applauded.  Even more interesting about the episodes’ presentation is that each episode is presented in full 16:9 format rather than the 4:3 format in which so many shows of its era were presented.  In sizing the resolution up to 16:9 none of the episodes’ quality was sacrificed.  So it looks just as good as it did in its original broadcast format.  Together with the fact that every one of Season One’s episodes are presented here in their entirety, it is one more positive that helps to perhaps not outweigh the negatives of the set but at least equal their weight.  And in equalling the weight of the set’s negatives, it serves to make Batman: The Complete First Season a welcome addition to the library of of long-time Batman fan.  It is hardly the best that WHV and FOX could have offered fans.  But for those that can’t afford the unethically exorbitant cost of the full series sets, it is still a good piece to have.

Batman: The Complete First Season is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Warner Home Video is available online at:

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Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle Is A SUper Documentary

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Comic books are big business today.  One look across the TV spectrum and through theaters in recent years shows just how massive a money maker it has become.  The problem is that so many people today still think that comic books past and present are just that.  Thankfully, PBS recently released a new documentary centered on comic books that proves that commonly held belief is completely wrong.  It reveals just how closely comic books and everyday life have been ever since the first comic heroes hit the printed page way back in the 1930s.  Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle follows the history of not just superheroes, but the comic industry from its earliest days in newspapers to its current era.  It splits the history of the business into three separate segments beginning with its earliest days in 1938 to the present.  Each of the three segments clearly explains how the comics industry and American society affected one another.  Interviews with those that created some of the greatest superheroes to those charged with bringing those characters to life help to illustrate these stories, as does the inclusion of vintage video and audio showing the impact of the pair on each other.  The interview segments included with the main feature are collectively a real bonus to the presentation.  That is because audiences get to hear from great names such as Stan Lee, Linda Carter, and even Adam West as they expand on the topics raised in the main feature.  Their thoughts are quite enlightening and make the documentary’s overall presentation all the more worth watching whether one is a comic book fan or not.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is quite the documentary.  Whether or not one is a comic book fan, audiences will appreciate it as it shows one more way in which art and real life can and do affect one another.  It dispels the beliefs about the comics industry that have been held for far too long by those that are less knowledgeable about the industry.  The entire documentary comes in at a total run time of roughly three hours.  Those three hours are split in three separate roughly hour-long presentations.  The first takes audiences from 1938 – 1958.  The second takes viewers through some of America’s most turbulent years from 1959 – 1977.  And the last of the three segments runs from 1978 up to the present.  Over the course of each segment, viewers get an in-depth look at just how closely world culture and the comics industry are connected.  One of the most interesting facts that audiences will learn is the uphill battle the comics industry has faced against the government from early on.  Even as late as the late 1970s, the comics industry remained under fire from government bodies.  Just as interesting is the seeming up and down trend that the comics industry has experienced from its earliest days.  There is much more that audiences will be able to take away from each of the documentary’s three segments.  Each viewer will find something for himself or herself when they order the DVD direct from PBS’ online store.

The information shared through each of the documentary’s three segments is in-depth and at times eye opening.  But it would be nothing with the vintage video and photos to help illustrate the many subjects discussed within the course of each segment.  Audiences actually get to see and hear former President Jimmy Carter voicing his negative opinion of the comic book industry.  There is also footage of the classic Batman TV series starring none other than Adam West and Burt Ward as part of a discussion on its connection to the era in which it aired.  There’s even a discussion on the most beloved of the Superman movies complete with footage from said movie, and footage of soldiers reading comic books during World War II.  It shows collectively just how important the comic industry has been to America throughout the ages even in its lower points.    It’s one more aspect of this documentary that viewers will appreciate regardless of whether or not they are comic book aficionados.

From the information shared throughout the whole of Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle to the accompanying video and audio footage, this documentary is another success from PBS.  But no documentary would be complete without at least some bonus content.  And this DVD more than offers that.  It offers as bonus content, interviews with the likes of Adam West, Stan Lee, Linda Carter and others within the comics industry.  Stan Lee shares his thoughts on how his characters came to be.  One of the funniest moments is his anecdote about how students in a college level course were discussing the Silver Surfer at a deep philosophical level.  Carter discusses the role of Wonder Woman in feminism.  And West discusses the role that his Batman played in the country’s nuclear age and how that led to its campiness.  As with the in-depth information shared throughout each of the documentary’s three segments, there is even more to discover from the bonus interviews.  There is even a remembrance of sorts for animation legend Jack Kirby.  That and so much more is contained on one disc that audiences can order now online from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=23148226&cp=&sr=1&kw=superheroes&origkw=Superheroes&parentPage=search.  More information on this and other releases from PBS is available online at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and http://www.pbs.org.  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.