‘Life With Lucy: The Complete Series’ Is Worth The Watch If Only For Its Historical Importance

Courtesy: PAramount Pictures Home Entertainment/CBS DVD

The 1980s is one of the most important eras in the modern era of television.  It was this era that brought audiences what are by today’s standards, some of the most timeless programs of all time; shows, such as Golden Girls, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The ATeam.  They and so many others have gone on to huge success since they debuted.  Of course for all of the great, timeless series that launched in the 1980s and went on to set a certain precedent for shows within every genre, there were just as many shows that premiered in the 1980s that were less successful, and with good reason.  They include the likes of Automan, Manimal and Lucille Ball’s finale series, Life With Lucy.  That series in question was released on DVD for the first time ever Tuesday through Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment on a two-disc set.  The collection is a presentation that Lucille Ball’s most devoted fans will appreciate in part because of its episodes.  This will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured with the set adds to the set’s appeal and will be addressed a little later.  The set’s average price point rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  When it is considered alongside the set’s other noted elements, the whole of the set becomes a set that is one of this year’s top new family DVD/DB box sets, even despite the fact that the series is easily the least enjoyable and memorable of Lucy’s TV shows.

ABC’s short-lived sitcom Life With Lucy – the fourth and final of actress Lucille Ball’s series – is unquestionably the least enjoyable and memorable of her career.  It was so bad that after only eight episodes, it was cancelled; this despite the fact that 13 episodes were produced.  Now thanks to Paramount Home Entertainment, all 13 episodes from the short-lived series are available on DVD for the first time in Life With Lucy: The Complete Series.  The episodes exhibit pros and cons with both the writing and acting.  When Ball – who allegedly had a large amount of creative control in the show – was on-screen with her longtime friend and co-star Gale Gordon (who also is famed for his role as the first Mr. Wilson in Dennis The Menace), the two shined.  Fellow co-star Donovan Scott added his own comedic touch, as did famed celebrity guest stars, such as John Ritter, Peter Graves and Audrey Meadows.  However, whenever Ball was on screen with her “family” cast mates, the result was far less entertaining.  Every bit of the acting felt forced, and the writing felt equally lacking in any real substance.  The jokes were also poor and poorly timed.  If not for the noted interactions between Ball, Gordon and Scott, those cringe-worthy performances in the family’s living room and kitchen would have made the show completely unwatchable.  As a matter of fact, in its original run, those moments were so overpowering, that they played into the show’s demise.  Of course now, audiences can see the episodes that did not air along with those that did whenever they want and decide on what they like and dislike the most.  Having that full display of episodes helps audiences to see for themselves why this piece of television history remained in the vaults for such a long time.  Keeping that in mind, releasing it was a gamble for Paramount Home Entertainment, but a gamble nonetheless that will pay off at least among the most devoted of Lucille Balls’ (and Life With Lucy’s) fans.  The inclusion of all 13 episodes of Life With Lucy plays its own important part in this set’s presentation, and is just one of the reasons that the show’s noted viewers will be willing to watch it at least every now and then.  It is just one of the most important of the set’s aspects.  The bonus content featured with the collection plays its own important role in the set’s presentation, too.

The bonus content featured with the new home release of Life with Lucy: The Complete Series is a group of brief interviews that Ball conducted shortly after the series first aired.  Three of the segments are pulled from a daytime talk show called Hour Magazine, which aired from 1980 to 1989 and featured interviews with various celebrity figures.  The other interviews were pulled from episodes of Entertainment Tonight.  Ball’s interviews on Hour Magazine are the more engaging and entertaining of the bonuses, as viewers get a slightly deeper discussion from Ball about life on and off-screen.  She talked, in one of the brief, five-minute segment, about working with Gordon, who sat next to  her and shared his own comments about working on the series and other shows in which Ball starred.  Viewers also find out firsthand that Ball’s “family” cast mates – Larry Anderson, Ann Dusenberry, Philip Amelio and Jenny Lewis – were not overly experienced in on-screen acting when they joined the cast of Life With Lucy.  That might account for why the scenes that involved them and Ball felt so forced and lacking in entertainment.  There are also some clear cheap shots that she takes at her then ex-husband Desi Arnaz that leave little doubt as to her feelings about him.  Those feelings are not good, either, not to give away too much information.

Ball’s Entertainment Tonight interview segments are entertaining, but not overly engaging, as they offer brief insight into life on set and bringing her own classic brand of comedy to the new series.  On a related note, it was allegedly Ball’s insistence on using her vintage brand of comedy to the show that played a very prominent role in the series’ lack of long-term success, according to other interviews that were not featured in this set as extra content.  Keeping that in mind, the Entertainment Tonight segments do add some interest to this set, but not as much as the Hour Magazine interview segments.  Collectively, the two do just enough to add something more to the collection and make it a little more worth watching, if only occasionally.

Keeping in mind what the set’s primary and secondary does for its presentation, the set’s average price point of $37.14 slightly questionable.  That price was obtained by averaging prices from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Book Sellers and Books-A-Million. Considering the fact that the set features 13 episodes and only a handful of bonuses (the promo spots are not even worth noting as they add nothing to the set’s presentation), that price seems a bit steep to say the least.  That is especially considering the fact that the lowest of the set’s price listings comes in at $34.99 (at Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy).  The set’s most expensive listing is at Barnes & Noble Booksellers — $40.41.  Knowing the low response that the series received in its original airing more than 30 years ago and how little content is featured here overall, it would have been wiser for the set’s pricing to have been lowered to at most $25, if not lower.  Other TV series’ box sets with equal and less content (and sometimes more, such as the recent re-issue of Lost in Space: The Complete Series – which was released last year exclusively through Walmart) are priced lower.  The noted Lost in Space set retailed for $19.99 in store at Walmart.  To that end, the pricing of this set is questionable.  Audiences would do well to find the lowest price (again, noted here) and pay that if at all.  Otherwise, it is sadly not a set worth the purchase unless viewers are the most devoted Lucille Ball fans and TV history buffs.

Paramount Home Entertainment’s brand new home release of ABC’s short-lived sitcom Life With Lucy is a set that the most devoted of Lucille Ball’s fans will appreciate.  That is because it features all 13 episodes from the series.  That means the five episodes that never made it to air are featured here along with the series’ other sets, complete with all of the series’ highs and lows.  Once more, this makes the set appealing primarily for a very targeted audience.  The bonus content featured with the set adds a little bit of engagement and entertainment to its whole, though mainly through the Hour Magazine interview segments.  Those elements make the set worth an occasional viewing.  However, the set’s average price point is a bit steep.  That being the case, unless one is among those truly devoted Lucille Ball fan, it would make more sense to watch it on Netflix or borrow it from the nearest library should said institution have it in stock to check out.  Keeping all of this in mind, Life With Lucy itself proves to not be the most entertaining series, but still important in its own right, because it shows how much Ball’s career and acting ability had declined by that time.  It makes this collection important for the most devoted television history buffs and Lucille Ball fans.  More information on this and other titles from Paramount is available online now at:




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CBS All Access’ New ‘Star Trek’ Series Fails In Its First Season

Courtesy: CBS Television Studios/Paramount

In a little more than a month, CBS All Access’ latest entry into the Star Trek universe – Star Trek: Discovery — returns for its second season.  While audiences count the days until the fledgling series returns, they have its debut season to take in on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of CBS Television Studios and Paramount Home Entertainment.  Released in stores Nov. 13 on separate DVD and Blu-ray sets, Season One’s home release offers both pros and cons to note, beginning with the series’ very writing.  It will be discussed shortly.  The set’s bonus content is its own positive, and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s average price point is also important to discuss, and will be addressed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the season’s presentation.  All things considered, the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery proves to be a new start for the Star Trek universe that is worth at least one watch, but sadly not much more.

The debut season of CBS All Access’ new Star Trek offering, Star Trek: Discovery is a rough new start for the Star Trek universe’s latest offering.  It is not the franchise’s worst entry, but definitely is not the franchise’s best entry, either.  That is due in part to the writing, which like Paramount’s 2009 big screen Star Trek reboot, is little more than just another revisiting of the Star Trek universe’s past.  It takes audiences into the past, attempting to show what led to the never-ending tensions between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.  The result is a presentation that conjures thoughts more of SyFy Channel’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot than any Star Trek entry, either on the big or small screen.  This is just the beginning of the problems with the writing, because the set-off is actually somewhat ambiguous.  Were the Klingons already planning to rise up before the incident with Michael Bernham and the Klingon warrior, or did it only happen after that incident?  Audiences know that said incident played at least in part to the conflict, but because of the dialogue featured throughout the early episodes of Season One, audiences will be left scratching their heads to a point as to that setup.

As season one progresses, it resurrects some ST story elements that are all too familiar to longtime ST fans.  One of those elements is a time loop arc. Another is the alternate universe story arc.  The time loop has been done already in Star Trek: The Next Generation while the alternate universe arc was used in Star Trek: TOS.  This series’ writers try to freshen up the time loop arc by setting it off through a character that fans of TOS will recognize, and while it does work to a point, the story starts to plod along after a while, getting lost in itself along the way.  The alternate universe arc proves even more problematic not only because it’s already been done, but also because it creates its own share of plot holes.  Not to give away too much for the sake of those who haven’t yet seen Season One, but if the alternate universe has the evil twins of the Discovery “prime” universe – the term “prime” is actually used by Berham in this arc – then where is the “good” twin of Capt. Lorca and the “evil” twin of Bernham?  Bernham’s doppelganger is mentioned by the “evil” Phillipa, but the writers never address where she is in a bigger sense.  Nor is it mentioned where the “good” Capt. Lorca is or if there even is a “good Capt. Lorca.  The writers try to explain it away in an early scene in the arc between Discovery’s Bernham and Lorca, but it is still ultimately left up in the air.  Even Paul Stamets’ double is introduced as he sits in a coma.  This is its own problem as one can’t help but make comparison to so many soap operas, as every major soap opera has done the coma “dream sequence” way too many times.  Getting back on track, even as Discovery gets back to its own universe, the whereabouts of the “evil” Discovery ship is not addressed, either.  Where is it?  Did it go back to its universe when Discovery jumped back to its universe?  Again, here audiences have a plot hole that is left wide open even as the writers struggle to address the situation in the story arc’s finale.

Another plot hole that is left wide open involves Bernham’s adoptive father, (who also proves to be the father of another even more well-known Star Trek character) Sarek.  Again, not to give away too much, but Sarek is rescued after his ship is sabotaged (in a moment that makes one think of something from Iron Man 3), but after his rescue, his character is ignored until the season’s final two episodes.  Audiences don’t hear from him after Bernham leaves him laying in sick bay, recovering from his wounds.  Next time he’s seen, he’s in full health.  This is problematic as it doesn’t take long after that instance for the problems to start again for Discovery.  Was Sarek still on the ship at that point?  When did he leave the ship?  Again, this is a plot hole that simply cannot be ignored.  It proves the writing that much more problematic.  This still is not the last of the issues raised through an examination of the writing.  The introduction of Lt. Tyler creates its own issue.

The introduction of Lt. Tyler is a direct comparison to Battlestar Galactica.  This critic will attempt to not give away too much information here, but the revelation about who and what Tyler is makes that comparison far too easy.  The recent reboot of Battlestar Galactica saw the Cylons infiltrate the humans’ ranks by making them look like the humans.  This in itself was a lifting from Terminator 2 (if not other previous movies and TV shows).  What the writers did here with Tyler is very similar, but instead of making him a robot, they made him something else.  Audiences who have yet to see this season will be left to make that discovery themselves, but it goes without saying that it has been done before.  In this case, it is the same thing, just altered slightly and in more gory fashion.

As if the general story elements, the plot holes and that they create, and the rehashing of another element are not enough, the smaller items of the writing prove just as problematic for this presentation.  There is lots of overt bloodshed, gore, sexual content and foul language.  Given, maybe her and there, there has been some mildly suggestive material in previous Star Trek incarnations, but never was it to the point that it is here.  There are flashes of a sex scene between one of the lead Klingon characters and another character late in the season’s run.  There is also enough bloodshed and overt violence to appease the most bloodthirsty person.  It’s a disappointment because none of the Star Trek universe’s other series’ needed any of that in order to be even mildly entertaining.  So, why did the writers think it was needed here?  Have audiences really become that dependent on violence and sexuality?  If so, then that is in itself is a troubling statement.

While the writing exhibited in the debut season of Star Trek: Discovery does a lot to detract from its presentation, the set is not a total loss.  That is thanks to the bonus content featured throughout the set.  Throughout the set, audiences are treated to featurettes, which focus on the series’ sets, costumes, makeup and even the philosophical aspects of the storylines as well as other items.  The discussions on the stories’ deeper ruminations are interesting, and do create at least a little bit of appreciation for the work that the writers put in.  After all, this is not the only Star Trek entry that has striverd to use its stories to create dialogues on certain deep topics.  However, it sadly is not enough to make up for the bigger problems posed through the writing.  The discussions on the sets and costumes make for fun glances behind the cameras,  Audiences will be interested to see how the costume and makeup departments used modern 3D printing technology alongside more traditional methodology to create the look of the Klingons.  In the same vein, the thought and effort put into the sets is just as interesting.  This feature will appeal just as much to theater production specialists as it will to general audiences.

As the season comes to an end, audiences are treated to another, different type of feature in the season retrospective, “The Journey of Season 1.”  This roughly 20-minute featurette features discussions from the show’s cast and creative heads about their favorite episodes and the importance of those episodes to the season’s overall presentation.  This brings everything full circle in regards to the bonuses.  It brings back those discussions on the season’s philosophical elements while also letting more people offer their own perspective on those themes.  Of course it is just one more of the bonus features worth watching.  The bonuses, including deleted scenes (at least one of which gives a hint about Season 2), are spread throughout the season’s discs.  This is important in that it shows Paramount and CBS Television Studios did not try to just cram a bunch of random featuerettes onto the last disc, unlike what so many other studios do.  It shows the companies wanted to give audiences the biggest bang for their buck.  They succeeded at that, too.

Speaking of bang for the buck, the set’s average price point is respectable.  The average price point for the season’s Blu-ray presentation – using prices listed at Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million – comes to $39.86.  In other words it comes in at just under $40.  The DVD set’s average price – using those same outlets – comes to $32.14.  Both sets feature the same bonus content and the same episodes.  There is no real difference between the two platforms in terms of content.  Considering this, the pricing here is on part with other DVD and Blu-ray sets for other TV series, so there is that to appreciate.  Considering the entertainment that the bonus material (and to a slightly lesser degree, the primary content) offers, that makes both platforms’ average pricing respectable.  When this is considered alongside the noted bonus and primary content, the whole of Discovery: Season One proves worth at least one watch, but sadly, no more.

CBS All Access’ latest journey into the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is a presentation that is nothing like its predecessors.  More akin to Syfy’s most recent Battlestar Galactica reboot and Disney’s most recent Star Wars movies, this latest revisiting of the Star Trek universe history’s past (it has already been done in 2009 with Paramount’s big screen Star Trek reboot) suffers severely from writing problems, such as lagging story arcs that are often times overflowing with plot holes and general lack of creativity.  Additionally, the overall cinematic nature of the season, and the knowledge that the series is a serial (unlike its predecessors) makes this season feel more like one big movie than a general TV series.  Some people will like it, but others – like this critic – will very much dislike these aspects.  The bonus content spread across the set’s discs does at least a little bit to make up for the problems posed by the writing.  The average price point for the set’s separate DVD and Blu-ray platforms lets audiences know that their money spent was not entirely wasted.  Despite that affordable price point and the positives in the bonus material, the problems posed by the writing are just too much to overcome.  In general, the positives of the pricing and secondary content makes this set worth at least one watch, but sadly no more than that.  Star Trek: DiscoverySeason 1 is available now in stores and online.  More information on Star Trek: Discovery is available online now at:




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‘MacGyver: The Complete First Season’ Hindered By, But Not Stopped By Content, Pricing Problems

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

MacGyver is officially back.  No, not the new, younger MacGyver, but the man, myth and legend played by Richard Dean Anderson.  Thirteen years after the original MacGyver series was last released on DVD, Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS Home Entertainment has resurrected the first season of the timeless action series on Blu-ray.  It marks the first time that the series has ever been released on Blu-ray, and while it is a welcome re-issue, due to the writing – which will be discussed shortly – it is not a perfect presentation.  That is due to a lack of any bonus material, which will be addressed a little later on.  The set’s average price point rounds out its most important elements, and will also be addressed later.  Each element noted here is important in its own right to the whole of MacGyver: The Complete First Season.  All things considered MacGyver: The Complete First Season is still a good offering from CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment.

MacGyver: The Complete First Season is a good new offering from CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment.  That is proven in part through the writing exhibited throughout the series’ debut season.  From the season premiere to the finale, Season One sees Angus MacGyver work taking on a wide range of scenarios around the world (although the whole season was filmed in Los Angeles).  The season premiere took MacGyver to the American Southwest in an attempt to stop a chemical leak at a secret military base, which threatened the whole region’s water supply.  Later in the season’s run, he is hired by a federal witness who is testifying against his own brother, who just happened to be an infamous drug lord.  A little later, it’s up to MacGyver to stop a mad bomber from destroying a cruise ship.  As if all of those adventures are not enough, the action and thrills continue even later in the season, as MacGyver and a young computer wiz have to work together to stop another madman from launching a pair of missiles on a California bridge.  Even closer to the season’s end, MacGyver finds himself having to avert a global crisis after a train is hijacked by Indian terrorists who want vengeance against two men who sold poisoned medicine to the terrorists’ family and friends.  Between these episodes and the 16 others that make up the rest of the season, the stories presented throughout the season offer plenty of variety for audiences, and in turn, plenty of enjoyment.  That variety in the adventures is just one aspect that makes the writing stand out.  The deeper elements of the writing deserve just as much note as the adventures that form the foundation of the writing.

The deeper elements of the seasons writing are, specifically, the seeming deeper messages presented in the adventures.  Case in point is the message of personal pride that the writers deliver in “Ugly Duckling.”  This is the episode in which MacGyver takes a young female computer hacker under his wing after a professor, respected by both figures, is inadvertently killed in an attempt to kidnap him by a group of domestic terrorists.  The young lady is extremely smart in the realm of computers, but has very low self-esteem at the same time, even calling herself ugly.  It takes MacGyver’s honesty and gentility for her to realize she should have every bit of pride in herself, both in regards to her looks and in regards to her talents with computers.  Considering the current feminist era in which Americans are living, this positive message is something that members of the MeToo movement will appreciate.  That is because it sends those messages to women in general, that it is okay to be smart and that they should not be made to feel a certain way about their bodies.  Kudos are in order to the series’ writers for this.

Staying in that vein, “Countdown,” which sees MacGyver working to keep a mad bomber from sinking a cruise liner, sees a female 1st Officer take over as the ship’s captain after the captain is killed by one of the mad bomber’s intricate devices.  This might not seem like much on the surface, but again, it is one of those deeper elements that deserves being noted.  Putting a woman in such a high position of power was not exactly something prominent on screen back in the late 80s and early 90s (and even before that span).  So seeing her taking control of the ship, and confidently so at that – even working side-by-side so to speak – with MacGyver to save the ship, gives her even more control.  Again, this is something that was before its time, and again is certain to appeal to today’s female audiences.

“Slow Death,” which sees MacGyver dealing with Indian terrorists, presents its own deep content as MacGyver tells the group’s head that killing someone else out of vengeance for the death of one’s own people is not justice, but in fact pride, and thus its own sin.  The sequence in which this discussion takes place is no more than perhaps about five minutes in length.  Yet, even in that short time, this deep discussion on ethics and religion makes for its own interest in this case, showing yet again why the deeper content in the writing is just as important as the season’s stories.  It is most certainly not the last example that can be cited in proving the importance of the writing’s deeper elements.  The very discussion in the season premiere on the military’s weaponization of so much technology, and the discussion on family loyalty in ‘The Prodigal’ brings even more proof of the importance of the intrinsic elements of Season One’s writing.  When this is considered along with the deeper elements of the season’s other episodes, and the stories’ primary elements, the whole is unarguable proof that the writing in Season One is the most important of its overall elements.  Of course for all the good that the writing does for MacGyver’s debut season, the lack of any bonus content, does just as much bad for the set’s presentation.

A close watch of Season One’s Blu-ray re-issue reveals that there is no bonus content included in the set.  It is not the first time that the first season has lacked any bonus content either.  Research into the most recent re-issue of Season One (a DVD release from 2005) revealed that the noted set also lacked any bonus material.  This is a negative in that there is so much that could be presented, not the least of which is that deeper material included in each episode’s writing.  It would have been interesting to learn how those elements were woven into each episode.  That is because it honestly added so much heart and overall substance to each episode.  That heart is something that is so sadly lacking in so many television shows and movies today.  Also that would have been welcome is some audio commentary talking about the variety in MacGyver’s adventures connected with select episodes.  What’s more, it would have been nice to have had some kind of discussion comparing ABC’s original series to the series’ recent reboot from the vantage point of lead star Richard Dean Anderson and the rest of the cast and crew.  One could even argue in favor of discussions on shooting locations, making places around Los Angeles and the rest of the west coast look like other parts of the world.  Simply put, there are so many discussions that could have been included as secondary items to the set.  They honestly could have also added so much depth to the set’s overall presentation, especially being that Season One’s previous DVD release also lacked any bonus material, too.  Presenting Season One again sans any of those discussions detracts noticeably from the set’s presentation.  In turn, it makes the set imperfect, despite the enjoyment offered through the writing.  It also plays directly into some concerns over the set’s average price point.

The average price point of MacGyver: The Complete First Season in its new Blu-ray re-issue comes to approximately $45.61.  That price is found by averaging prices from Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  A search of Books-A-Million did not turn up any sign of the set.  Keeping in mind what has been noted of the season’s writing and its lack of bonus material, that average price point is slightly questionable.  It is not money wasted, considering the enjoyment offered throughout Season One’s 22 total episodes.  However,  that lack of bonus content leads one to wonder if that price point could be less expensive.  Given, it is not the nearly $80 that consumers had to pay when The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete First Season and I Love Lucy: Season One and Two were released on Blu-ray, or even when each of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s seven seasons were originally released.  Those prices have long since been reduced dramatically.  Regardless, even with 22 timeless adventures featured here, complete with plenty of substance within each adventure, one would think a price perhaps $10 less would be more fitting since that bonus material is so lacking here.  To that end, PHE/CBS Home Entertainment’s new re-issue of MacGyver: The Complete First Season is a good offering from the companies, but it could have been better.

CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment’s recently released Blu-ray presentation of MacGyver: The Complete First Season is a good offering from the two companies.  It offers plenty of action and adventure that is, honestly, fun for most of the family, unlike so much of today’s television.  That is evidenced through the adventures on which MacGyver embarks in each of its 22 episodes.  The secondary content that ties into each adventure adds even more enjoyment to each episode.  It collectively gives audiences plenty to appreciate.  While the episodes and their writing do so much to make this set enjoyable for viewers, the set’s lack – once again – of any noticeable bonus material detracts from the set’s presentation.  In direct connection, the average price point of $45, considering that lack of any bonus material, creates its own concerns for the set, too.  If the bonus material that the set is lacking was present in the set, that price point would not be an issue.  However, not having it there means that the price point should be at least $10 less expensive.  Keeping all of this in mind, this latest re-issue of MacGyver: The Complete First Season is not a miss for CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment, but it is not a hit, either.  It is available now and can be ordered online at http://cbshe.com/MacG1.


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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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek TNG’s Sixth Season Is The Series’ Best Season Yet

Courtesy:  CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount and CBS Blu-ray will release Star Trek: The Next GenerationSeason 6 on Tuesday, June 24th. This penultimate season of TNG (as it will henceforth be known here) is one of the best of the series’ seven-season run. The primary reason for that is the same reason that the series’ previous seasons remain so enjoyable to this day. The reason in question is the series’ writing. Another reason for the success of this latest box set is the inclusion of the standalone Blu-ray containing the two-part episode “Chain of Command.” This is not the first season to include a key episode as a standalone feature. And odds are that it won’t be the last with one more season to go. Last but not least in examining this latest season’s box set and its companion Blu-ray is the bonus commentary included in both features. Audiences will learn some interesting pieces of information in listening to the companion commentary included with certain episodes. All three factors noted here come together both on the Season 6 BD box set and companion BD to make them collectively one more must have for any Star Trek fan that has yet to add Season 6 to their library.

Writing, whether it be for television or movies, is key to the success of failure of a script. It is the heart of everything. That being the case, the writing behind Paramount’s Star Trek: The Next Generation is to thank in large part for the series’ success. And in its penultimate season, TNG presented to audiences some of the series’ best writing to date. One of the key examples of the strength of the writing in Season 6 comes in the pivotal two-part story episode “Chain of Command.” This episode saw Captain Picard the victim of torture after being captured by the Cardassians. The performance on the part of Sir Patrick Stewart as he struggled to survive his horrible treatment was beyond believable. To an extent, it makes one think of what POWs in Vietnam and other settings of war must have gone through. That makes this even more of a powerful reflection of real life. It’s such a powerful episode that no matter how many years it’s been since audiences have seen it, it has just as much power today as it did in that original broadcast. It’s just one example of the wonderful writing exhibited in this season of TNG.

Audiences still needing convincing of the solid writing in Season Six need look no further than the episodes “Relics” and “Birthright.” These episodes are bookends of sorts for this season of TNG. “Relics” is a wonderful episode first and foremost because it brings back another member of the original Star Trek cast in the form of James Doohan. The commentary regarding this will be discussed later. But in learning how he was brought into the episode, audiences will see even more clearly why this minute aspect of writing is just part of what makes this episode so enjoyable. It might be a bit of a stretch, but one could potentially compare the writing in this episode to a religious allegory. That’s because Scotty (Doohan) was essentially a man brought back from the dead. He was resurrected in a manner of speaking. He is forced to come to terms with that fact that he is a man living on borrowed time and that he is completely out of place. The end result won’t be given away for the sake of those that have not seen this episode or haven’t seen it in years. Others might have a different interpretation of the script than that of this critic. But those that do prove even more the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

One more example of the solidity of the writing in TNG’s sixth season lies in the season’s second two-part episode “Birthright.” Just as “Relics” brings back the original days of Gene Roddenberry’s beloved universe, “Birthright” presents in not so subtle fashion, the future of the Star Trek universe. Deep Space Nine is introduced along with one of the series’ lead characters, Dr. Julian Bashir. It even puts Worf onto the station, hinting at his future role in the series. This bookend is heightened even more thanks to the bonus commentary included on the previously discussed episode. Again, that commentary will be discussed later. But put simply, audiences will learn that the inclusion of Dr. Bashir and the station was no coincidence. Such willingness to show the future of the Star Trek universe at this point is key to TNG in terms of its writing as it showed that there was intent to end TNG’s run in the not too distant future. And of course as fans know, the series’ seventh season would be the last for this series. To that extent, one could easily argue that it was a respectful way of saying to TNG’s that the series would come to an end, but that they had no intent of just leaving viewers hanging. Once more, it is one more expert exhibition of how the writing in TNG’s sixth season was some of the series’ best.

On a more subtle note, audiences that pay close attention in the episode “Starship Mine” will notice actor Tim Russ capturing Captain Picard. Those more familiar with the Star Trek universe will recall that Russ would eventually go on to play Vulcan officer Tuvok aboard the starship Voyager. Of course he wasn’t Tuvok in this episode. But it’s one more interesting little tidbit proving one more time the strength of the writing in TNG’s sixth season.

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Blu-ray/Paramount Home Entertainment

The writing behind this season of TNG is some of the best that the series had seen to this point. That should be obvious by now. The episodes cited here are just parts of the proof of that. There are many more episodes that prove this argument. Moving on, Season Six is accompanied by the two-part episode “Chain of Command” on its own standalone Blu-ray disc separate from the primary box set. This episode was seen as being so pivotal because of its powerful story. Rarely had any TV show before or after tackled the entirely political topics of torture and war. And rarely had any series ever tackled them in such fashion. The bonus commentary included with this standalone episode makes it even more interesting. Audiences learn that there was apparently a certain amount of tension both in front of and behind the camera as a new Captain was brought in albeit temporarily as Picard was in the hands of the Cardassians. One of the individuals that discusses the episode compares the cast of TNG to a big family. So even bringing in a new cast member albeit for a short time can cause a feeling of being unsettled among the cast even behind the lens. That and the powerful writing show just why this was the proper episode to separate into its own disc versus the season’s other two-part episode, “Birthright.” It’s one more positive to a whole that every Star Trek fan will appreciate in this season.

The writing behind each of the episodes included in Season Six and the companion standalone episode are both important parts of the whole that makes this season another memorable piece of the Star Trek universe. There is still one last aspect of the whole set to note in examining this set. That aspect is the commentary included on various episodes. Audiences learn in the commentary that comes with “Relics” that it had been so long since the show’s writers and runners had kept from bringing members of the original series’ cast on to this series simply out of concern. It’s explained in the commentary that there had been an edict of sorts early on in the show’s run that there would be no mention of the previous series. It is ruminated that this was done out of fear that it would only heighten the comparisons between the two series. Yet purely out of chance, that episode in question came to life. And the inclusion of James Doohan happened organically. On another side, the commentary included in “Chain of Command” offers more depth than can even be touched upon here. Needless to say, that the commentary in question is quite in depth. And that depth serves to show once more what makes not just this episode, but the season in whole such a success. There is commentary included in other episodes of Season Six. What is noted here is only a glimpse of why the season’s commentary is a pivotal part of the season’s success. Audiences will find even more entertaining and informative commentary when they purchase TNG Season Six for themselves. In doing so, audiences will attain an even clearer view of why this season is one of the best from TNG’s seven total seasons, the set’s other factors aside.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season Six will be available Tuesday, June 24th in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Season-Blu-ray/dp/B00IURL19Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717281&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+season+6. The “Chain of Command” standalone Blu-ray can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Generation-Command-Blu-ray/dp/B00IUR3YI0/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1402717308&sr=1-1&keywords=star+trek+the+next+generation+chain+of+command.

More information on Star Trek: TNG Season 6 and other home releases from Paramount Studios is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ParamountMovies and http://www.paramount.com/movies/home-media. 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.

Redemption Is One Of Star Trek: TNG’s Best Story Arcs

Courtesy:  CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Courtesy: CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment

Star Trek: Redemption is a good companion piece to the newly released fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The two-part episode that bridged the fourth and fifth seasons of is one of the strongest episodes from the still young life of the hit science fiction series.  It is such a strong episode because of its writing.  Season Three really saw Star Trek: TNG’s writing improve by leaps and bounds from its first two seasons.  This episode was a prime example of how far the show’s writing had come since the show’s inception.  It is one of a handful of episodes focuses more on character development, which was the key in getting viewers to better identify with not just the characters, but the show, too.

The most interesting aspect of this two-part bridge episode is the fact that according to the bonus commentary and bonus feature, “Survive and Succeed: An Empire at War” series creator Gene Roddenberry was completely against this storyline originally.  Ronald D. Moore and company note in the bonus episode commentary that Roddenberry’s initial thought on Worf was that Worf was not a main character.  The result was that he believed that Worf did not deserve an episode of such level.  Go figure, it’s gone on to become one of the best episodes in the series’ seven-season run.  It proves exactly why Worf did in fact deserve to be considered a main character even that early in the show’s run.  After all, the show’s writers had written other episodes for him in the previous seasons.  This was merely the culmination (also as noted in the bonus commentary) to those episodes.

That this two-parter solidified Michael Dorn’s place as a primary cast member on Star Trek: The Next Generation is only one part of what makes “Redemption” a great episode.  It also takes the time to flesh out the Klingon world, just as much as Worf’s own story.  Audiences had already been introduced in small ways in previous episodes to the Klingon way of life.  But this was really the first time that audiences were taken deeper into the Klingon culture.  It’s an eye opener that even a child could face the death penalty in the Klingon culture for certain crimes.  By connection, it’s just as powerful to see that while he is a Klingon, Worf was willing to go against that norm.  Audiences that watch this episode with commentary will appreciate how this decision came about.  Yet again, it’s proof of the value of a feature’s bonus commentary.

Audiences that watch this episode with commentary are treated to some very enlightening details that tie directly into the episode.  Some movies and TV episodes’ commentaries are not all that useful.  They are there more for entertainment’s sake than anything meaningful.  “Redemption” is the exact opposite of that, as detailed here.  In terms of the entertainment factor, audiences do find out in the commentary that some of the cups used in this episode were allegedly used in the massively major motion picture (say that three times fast), The Ten Commandments.  There is also a little tidbit revealing that the bridge of one of the Klingon ships had in fact been used in some of the original movies in the Star Trek franchise.  And even the hall in the Klingon High Council building was remodeled from the episode, “Sins of the Father.”  It’s these bonus facts and general insight from the creation of the episode that audiences will appreciate from this special stand-alone release.  It is available now on Blu-ray in stores and online at the official Star Trek website at http://shop.startrek.com/detail.php?p=452626.  Star Trek fans can keep up with all of the latest Star Trek news and more on the show’s official website, http://www.startrek.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 reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.