The Midnight Special’s Re-Issues Will Have Audiences Singing, Dancing Well Past Midnight

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment have made quite the name for themselves over the course of recent years.  Releases of classic series such as The Carol Burnett Show, Mama’s Family, The Dean Martin Show, China Beach, and most recently The Wonder Years have taken a company that for years was the butt of many people’s jokes to a place in the upper echelons of home entertainment companies.  For years, Time Life was known mainly for the not-so-well-known products that it pushed through extended advertisements on television.  Now it has carved out even more of a comfortable place in that upper echelon with the release of The Midnight Special on DVD.  The classic late night live concert series was released in a number of formats last month, resurrecting one more important piece of television and music history.  The show’s six-disc collector’s edition is one of the best of the sets that any fan of classic television and music can add to their own home library.  That is because it is one of the best examples of what made this series so great during its nine-year run on NBC.  It presents ninety-six total performances from bands, artists and groups across the music industry’s spectrum.  The acts that make appearances throughout the set’s six discs are the center of this box set’s enjoyment and success.  Just as important to note is the quality of the footage.  More than four decades have passed since the Midnight Special first debuted in 1972.  In that time, the footage presented in these performances has stood the test of time quite well.  And last but not least worth noting in the set’s success is its companion booklet.  The booklet serves as an episode guide for viewers.  That is the central point of its importance.  It also features personal insight from the series’ creator Burt Sugarman. Sugarman’s retrospection on the series and its importance adds one more layer of appreciation for this series.  Together with the acts that appear on each set and the quality of the footage, all three factors together make The Midnight Train another wonderful release from Time  Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment.

The Midnight Special was one of the most famed and beloved series on television during its day.  Unlike so many other series of the time, acts that came on the series in its heydey actually sang instead of lip synching.  What’s more, unlike American Bandstand, The Midnight Special focused on more than just the big pop acts of its day.  The acts that came to perform on NBC’s live overnight concert series spanned the music world’s ranks.  That is the most important aspect of this recently released classic series.  The acts that performed on The Midnight Special included the likes of John Denver performing alongside Linda Rondstadt and Aerosmith performing alongside Barry White, The Stylistics, and ELO.  It also featured acts the likes of: B.B. King, Frankie Vallie, Sammy Hagar, The O’Jays, BeeGees, and so many other greats that are still remembered today.  Even the show’s host himself, radio host Wolfman Jack was a celebrity in his own right.  Even today, he and those acts noted here are just as beloved as they were decades ago.  In an era when so many musical acts are little more than flash-in-the-pan pop acts and rarely radio worthy rock bands, musicaians and audiences alike need to be reminded of what once made music great and could again–originality and real talent.  That in mind, it makes sense that the list of performers that came on The Midnight Special is the central point of this series’ success whether in its six-disc box set or its other formats.

The list of artists, bands, and groups that graced The Midnight Special’s stage during its nine-year run on NBC is the most important aspect of this series’ recent re-issue.  More than four decades have passed since it first debuted on NBC in 1972.  That makes for plenty of reason to be concerned about the quality of the show’s footage in its transfer from tape to disc.  Luckily for audiences of all ages, painstaking efforts were taken to present the performances as they appeared in their original broadcasts. Those efforts paid off in spades as both the audio and video of each performance have been well-balanced.  Any impurities in the quality of the footage whether in the audio or video are so minute that they are unnoticable.  The end result is a product that for the show’s original audiences will generate a much-welcomed sense of nostalgia.  Both for those same audiences and the show’s much younger audiences, it also serves to show just how far music has come (both in a good and bad way) and how far recording technology has come, too.  So in the end, the quality of the footage in these performances makes Time Life and StarVista’s new re-issue of The Midnight Special even more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The efforts taken to transfter The Midnight Special’s master tapes to disc have definitely not been for nothing.  The show looks and sounds just as good as it did in its original run all those years ago in its rencet re-issue.  The acts that appeared on the show (and that are featured on the new six-disc compilation) are just as important to the overall presentation.  Both aspects together more than make the series worth a watch or two in any of its three re-issue formats.  The last aspect of the series’ re-issue (at least in its six-disc compilation format) that makes it a success and so enjoyable is the set’s companion booklet.  The booklet serves primarily as an episode guide, pointing out disc-by-disc and episode-by-episode each artist, band, and group that appears.  That listing even includes the songs performed by said acts.  By itself, the episode listing more than helps the enjoyment of the series’ re-issue.  The added insight from series creator Burt Sugarman adds one more layer of enjoyment to the series’ various presentations.  In terms of the six-disc box set, Sugarman recalls how so few people had faith in the show and how great it felt to prove those naysayers wrong.  That insight along with other comments from Sugarman make for even more interest and enjoyment in watching the performances culled for the show’s different re-issues.  While being the last of the noteworthy factors that make The MIdnight Special so…well…special, it is hardly the least important of the factors that make the series’ sets such a joy.  This aspect, along with the quality production values and the performances culled for the releases, makes The Midnight Special a truly special experience for viewers of all ages.

The Midnight Special is available online now.  Its eleven-disc and sixteen disc sets can be ordered online direct from Time Life’s online store at http://timelife.com/products/the-midnight-special-collector-s-edition.  The six-disc collector’s edition can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Special-6DVD-Amaray/dp/B00L9OPJ5C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1414009549&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Midnight+Special.  More information on this and other releases from Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.timelife.com

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

Twitter: 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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China Beach Even Better In Its Second Season

Courtesy:  StarVista/Time Life/Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: StarVista/Time Life/Warner Brothers Home Video

ABC’s China Beach only lasted four seasons in its original broadcasts.  But in that short span of time, the military medical drama became a favorite among viewers, critics, and even Vietnam veterans alike.  The series’ second season proves even more than its debut season just why it was (and still is today) a favorite among its audiences.  That is first and foremost because of the show’s writing.  Audiences will see in this season that the writing is even more character driven than before.  Now that it has been released to the masses on DVD, audiences will appreciate the bonus featurette “Voices of the War: The Real China Beach.”  This piece goes into some depth explaining why the series was especially a favorite not just among general audiences but vets, too.  And making the recently released DVD set complete is its packaging.  StarVista and Warner Home Video are to be commended for the set’s packaging.  Together with the writing and the bonus featurette, the three factors come together to make China Beach Season 2 another must have for any of the show’s original audience base.

The very first aspect of China Beach’s second season that makes it work is its writing.  The series’ first season spent most of its time setting the scene for the series.  It spent much of its time introducing the characters and their chemistry, as well as the series’ backdrop.  To the defense of the series’ heads, there’s not a thing wrong with that.  That early establishment was solid in its own right.  Now in its second season, the series’ writers have begun to delve more into the characters themselves.  They begin to show how working in Vietnam is affecting them personally and in their interactions with one another.  Most interesting about this is that the stories of the doctors and nurses at China Beach are in fact based on stories collected from those that actually served and worked in Vietnam.  That explains why the stories are so gripping.  This leads to the second aspect of the success of Season Two’s recently released box set.  That aspect is the bonus featurette, “Voices of the War: The Real China Beach.”

The recently released DVD box set of China Beach Season 2 includes as an extra, a bonus featurette titled “Voices of War: The Real China Beach.”  This featurette takes viewers behind the writing that comprised Season Two.  It does so by presenting interviews with the show’s heads and cast.  Spliced into the cast and crew interviews are interviews with nurses that actually worked at the medical camps in Vietnam.  The combined interviews display in full detail just what made the series work so well for so long.  Audiences will laugh along as one of the series’ heads tells an anecdote of how one veteran told him something in one episode didn’t happen a certain way but then did a full 180 the following week, asking how in the world the crew knew that said situation had happened.  On another level, audiences will be moved seeing lead cast member Dana Delaney brought to tears in recalling her interactions with the nurses on whom the series was based.  These are just a couple examples of what makes this featurette so important.  Perhaps the most important part of the whole featurette is the recurring sentiment among the cast and crew that the intent with the show was to honor those that served.  They wanted the memory of those that served to be properly honored especially considering how soldiers at the time had been treated by their fellow Americans upon returning from the front lines.   Such sentiment is difficult to find among cast and crew of any of today’s shows.  Audiences don’t hear the cast and crew of any medical and crime dramas sharing such sentiment towards the police officers or EMTs that put themselves on the line every day.  It makes this sentiment all the more powerful.  And in the bigger picture, it makes Season Two even more worth the watch.

The writing and the bonus featurette included in China Beach Season Two are equally important to the overall enjoyment of this recently released box set.  There is one more aspect of this set that audiences will appreciate, making it complete.  That aspect is its packaging.  StarVista and Warner Home Video have given proper respect to audiences with the set’s packaging.  Each of the set’s five discs have been given their own spot inside the standard DVD case.  Four of the set’s discs are placed on their own spot on either side of two “leafs” inside the case.  The fifth disc gets its own spot on the back of the case on its own spindle.  This protects each of the discs from one another and from themselves.  The result is the capability of watching this season for a long time.  It is the final touch on an already impressive box set from a show that proves especially in its second season that it is deserving of more respect from a whole new generation.  China Beach Season 2 is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GLT2TR6/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1VZVGYAGEKD2Q93H5722&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on this and other releases from StarVista is available online at http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS and http://www.timelife.com.  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 news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.