Recently in TV on DVD Category
Greek has now officially released its entire first season on DVD with the release of Chapter Two. Try not to be confused: The first DVD release, Chapter One, was the first half of the first season, and this is the rest of that season. The second season just aired last fall and will probably be released sometime before the next season starts up. This new DVD set isn't packed with extras, but it has plenty of goodies to make it worth a Greek fan's while.
Disc 1's only special feature is commentary on the first (okay, eleventh) episode, "a New Normal," with executive producer Patrick Sean Smith and actors Senta Moses (Lizzie), Amber Stevens (Ashleigh), and Paul James (Calvin). Moses, who was in a handful of episodes, isn't one of the actors you'd think of to do a commentary for Greek, and it sort of shows. She doesn't add anything pertinent to do the discussion at all, but says things like "They have their Christmas lights on" and tells a story about falling in love with a guy because he stole a snow shovel. And none of these things are charming or endearing, because Moses has a voice that is exactly like Lizzie's voice. I think I might actually hate her as much as I hated her character, if that's possible. It was actually difficult to listen to the commentary, despite Smith and James being somewhat interesting (Stevens didn't say much at all), because of Moses's annoying additions to the conversation. And the fact that she laughed at everything everyone else said. Thank GOD she left the show, so we won't have to suffer through further commentaries with her, right? If she had done more than one commentary, I might have had to stick a fork in my eye or something. Couldn't they have gotten Clark Duke (Dale) instead? He's an actual cast member, and he's not on a commentary.
Disc 2 adds two more commentaries: On "Freshman Daze" (the episode with all of the flashbacks to freshman year) with executive producer Lloyd Segan, and actors Spencer Grammer (Casey), Scott Michael Foster (Cappie), Tiffany DuPont (Frannie), and late late arrival Jake McDorman (Evan), who comes in about 32 minutes into the episode. This is a really fun, lively commentary. You'd think it would be too many people in one commentary, but it actually works, because they're all fun and clearly enjoy each other's company. There's good info: Segan gives us a bit of a hint into the future -- that Evan might actually be nice, Kappa Tau Evan again. But it's mostly levity, such as: There is a funny moment when Foster sees a scene inside the sorority that he knows nothing about, and then he tells viewers that the guys know nothing about the girls' scenes. Segan points out he might if he read the script. It's all in good fun, but basically makes me think Foster is just like Cappie, so now I love him forever. Plus, when he sings karaoke in the episode, we learn that in real life he sings karaoke constantly. Yet another reason to love him. Oh, and yes, I am a 12-year-old girl. The best thing about this commentary is that you can really tell they're all friends. The worst thing is that they sometimes talk over each other like any group of friends. But it's worth it for the fun stuff, and the few bits of fun information (about ADR -- additional dialogue recording -- and what they wear on their shoes for clicking high heel sounds, etc.)
The other commentary on the disc is on "47 Hours & 11 Minutes," with executive producers Shawn Piller and Patrick Sean Smith, along with actors Jacob Zachar (Rusty) and Dilshad Vadsaria (Rebecca Logan). They quickly reveal that Smith, a writer on the show, stuck around for this commentary after doing the first one because it was taped during the writers' strike, so he had a lot of time to do things like commentaries. The episode also was finished during the strike, so Smith -- who wrote the episode -- didn't get to finish it up, even though this was an important episode to him (because it was the episode when freshmen parents visited). This is a more quiet commentary, but it's still interesting. With two writers/producers, you get a lot more information about how it all came together and less of the fun squeeing from the previous two commentaries. It's not as fun or funny, but definitely more informative.
Disc 3 is where all of the non-commentary extras are, though strangely there are no additional commentaries on this disc, so it still ends up feeling lighter than the other discs. Instead of commentaries, there's a flashback episode, outtakes, and a Plain White T's music video. Not exactly an ultimate collector's edition, but it'll do.
The "flashback episode," titled "And So It Begins," isn't actually an episode. It's a featurette about the making of the flashback episode, "Freshman Daze." It includes interviews with all principal cast members, and various producers. Coupled with the commentary on Disc 2, this feels like way too much focus on one episode. It would have been more fun to have an actual flashback episode looking back at the whole season of Greek, or a featurette that's about more than just the one episode.
The blooper reel is much better. It's only three minutes long and has a lot of the same scenes over and over, but that's mostly because Clark Duke apparently ad-libs like crazy, sending everyone into hysterics, including anyone watching the bloopers. And we get to see Frannie falling down the stairs in her high heels, which was much discussed in the commentary on "Freshman Daze."
The Plain White T's video, "Natural Disaster," isn't a TV show tie-in video or anything, so it was kind of surprising they included it... except for the fact that the Plain White T's are in at least half of the episodes of Greek to date, going all the way back to the beginning. There's also a code inside the DVD set to get a bonus song from Plain White T's . Okay, I admit, it's possibly a (slight) exaggeration that they're in half the episodes, but they're in often enough that it's noticeable, so that's something; they're, like, the official band of Greek. I can think of worse gigs for a band (or bands for a show, for that matter).
In an effort to make the various TWOP blogs as easy-to-keep-track-of as possible, "DVDs Unwrapped" is being folded into the Moviefile (for movies on DVD) and Telefile (for TV shows on DVD), so all of our movie and TV news will be in one place. (Well, two places.) New postings on both blogs will be filed under the "DVDs Unwrapped" category name, so you can still find what you're looking for easily, but all of the older DVD reviews will still be archived here. So if you ever want to look up that old DVD review of The Dark Knight, come here, but if you want the new stuff, here's where to go:
Because of the abridged nature of last year's Lost, there are probably more extras on these DVDs than there were episodes, so it's nice they didn't skimp on them just because only, like, two and a half episodes got made last year. Though there are many highlights on these discs, I was particularly surprised by the extra that totally revealed that Bernard is Jacob. Didn't see that coming. Read on and choose your own favorites!
There are a bunch of tracks to enjoy, but Damon and Carlton's commentary for the season finale is to die for. Seriously, if someone held a gun to your head and said you had to pick only one extra in this entire set to consume, I'd suggest you pick this one.
Lost on Location:
This is about the length of an episode and details how several of the season's most kick-ass stunts were done. It's interesting because stunts rule and because it showcases two very important pieces of information that I did not previously have: Josh Holloway is a giant, whiny wimp, but really adorable about it, and Rebecca Mader is a giant dork, but far less adorable in every way.
Right to Bear Arms:
This is an in-depth timeline of which guns went where with whom, when, and how, throughout all four seasons. You know, because of how the show's gun continuity was keeping you up at night. ...Except for that it wasn't, because who cares about gun continuity? You do get to see a lot of different kinds of guns, though, and you also get to find out that Josh Holloway hates guns that are heavy because they bruise his delicate skin. He really is the cutest little thing in all of the Aerosmith video canon, bless his heart.
They're not that great. This show always has weird, uncomfortable bloopers. I bet it's Kate's fault.
These are actually all really cool, but there is one awesome one that involves Sawyer and Hurley having guy talk about Sawyer's relationship drama with Kate as new roomies in New Otherton. And Sawyer does dishes during it. I died. There's also a great Miles-telepathically-speaks-to-the-brain-exploding-pylons one in there that's worth checking out, too.
The Island Backlot: Lost in Hawaii:
This is about how they all go surfing at lunch time because their jobs are way better than yours. It's also about how they make Honolulu look like Berlin, Seoul, London, Iraq, etc., which is interesting if you love green screens and fake snow. Because that's how they do that -- green screens and fake snow and sometimes, even fake sand! Whoaaaaaa! There's no reason to watch this.
Soundtrack of Survival:
This is how the genius Michael Giacchino composes the score for each episode, if you're into that. It's like Amadeus with less cleavage.
The Oceanic Six: A Conspiracy of Lies:
An E! True Hollywood Story-style investigation into the Oceanic Six's story, basically ripping it apart like anyone would if these people existed in real life and tried to sell a lie as big and obvious as theirs is. It's fun and surprisingly informative, mostly because there's a guy claiming to be a plane crash expert (how'd you like to have that job?) on it who breaks down what, exactly, happens to planes when they crash, as illustrated by computer reenactments. Basically, they shatter into a million pieces and so do the people inside. Happy thoughts!
The Freighter Folk:
This is all about the newbies of the season. All the actors are interviewed and insist that they were not crapped on too bad by the old-school Losties, Rebecca Mader shows off more of her gooberness, and there's some entertaining footage of Jeremy Davies (Daniel Faraday) improvising in character in his trailer, but the best, best, best part is a brief mini-montage of different characters just shouting "Lapidus!" over and over again, which was my hands-down favorite thing about this season (though I honestly don't know why) and a montage of it was all I really wanted for Christmas. Thank you, DVDs, for reading my mind yet again.
This is all of the flash forwards edited together in sequential order, so you can try and figure out what the shit happened to these people and when, because this show seriously messes with one's short-term memory. This will probably be more helpful later, once the new season starts and you don't remember the difference between Jack's future beard and a hole in the ground anymore.
This is a behind-the-scenes of shooting on the freighter. It's pretty boring, save the shots of rows of buckets labeled "Puke Bucket" and director Jack Bender being miserably seasick.
Lost: Missing pieces:
These are called "mobisodes," but they're really webisodes, and you've seen them all already. Personally, I like the one where Jack and Ben play chess. Also, "mobisodes" is not a word.
And really, what? No tour of Jacob's cabin? Rip city.
There are two different kinds of Monty Python's Flying Circus fans: one likes to see each episode in its original, complete format, with all of the lead-ins, animation and callbacks, and the other just wants to see the funniest sketches. There's something for both fans in this new Collector's Edition -- especially fans who just want the sketches, because they're presented in a staggering variety of formats. Even though it's pretty much a repackaging of the 16-ton MegaSet and the Personal Best retrospectives, two additional (and very good) documentaries make it a must-have collection. Just don't come crying to us when they release an even bigger set, this time with all of the movies in it.
For episode completists, all 45 episodes are spread out over 14 discs, with three or four episodes per disc, plus miscellaneous "extras," mostly clips, trivia and biographies. On the seven bonus material discs, we also get the first all-German episode made for German TV (Disc 18), although not the second, which is a mark against the set right off the bat. We also get a deleted sketch, cut from the re-broadcasts of one episode for being too political (Disc 15). (The members of a political party are shown learning a dance routine for a TV ad from a choreographer. I'm sure that if I had been British in the 1970s, I would have found it scandalous.) There are no commentary tracks on the episodes, sadly, but there is a segment where Terry Gilliam does commentary on the show's three different animated openings, explaining what he was thinking about and where the various pictures came from (Disc 15). While he doesn't remember where a lot of the art and ideas are from, it's fun to listen to Gilliam make the logical connections in his head between a naked woman and a cardinal on a tricycle. You can even take close-up looks at the different cutouts he would animate with, in the extras sections of most of the episode discs, under "Gilliam's Attic." A lot of thought has been put into these galleries, as each piece of clip art links to an alternate view, or trivia, or just a visual joke involving it.
For the specific-sketch connoisseur, you get not only the Live at the Hollywood Bowl concert (Disc 17), you also get the Steve Martin-hosted clip show Parrot Sketch Not Included: 20 Years of Python (Disc 18). Then you get all six Personal Best clip shows, showcasing the best work of each Python member (Discs 19-21), plus four "Second Best" sets of bonus clips, a funny behind-the-scenes with John Cleese on his shoot and an interview with Terry Gilliam about how he and the boys hooked up. Cleese's Personal Best is worth watching if only for the lengthy opening sketch, "Fairy Tale," which is taken from the missing second German episode -- there may be other clips from that episode elsewhere, but good luck finding them. After all, most of the set's "extras" are clips, taken from their homes elsewhere in the set and sprinkled onto the other discs in themed groups of three or four and given titles like "Confusing Musings" (long, bizarre explanations from the show), "Bleeding Critics" (just critic sketches), "The Cleese Shop" (all Cleese, all the time), "Gillianimations" (cartoons), "Spriechen zie Python?" (clips from the first German episode) and "Monty Karaoke" (where you can sing along with hits like "Sit on My Face" -- which you can already do with any song in the collection, thanks to the magic of subtitles). They don't seem to serve any purpose, except to possibly slow you down and prevent you from getting to the next episode, where you would likely have seen one or more of the sketches anyway. As an obsessive organizer who hates redundancy, I have found it best to ignore most of them, and to not think about how many times certain sketches, like "The Fish-Slapping Dance," are repeated between the six Personal Best specials.
For the Python historian, two new documentaries are fairly fascinating -- one, called Before the Flying Circus (Disc 15), chronicles the Pythons' lives from childhood up to the first episode, explaining exactly how they got into comedy, how they all met, and how they set about getting a ridiculous, ridiculous TV show approved, all in glorious black-and-white. The other, which is perhaps even more fascinating but for totally different reasons, is Monty Python Conquers America (Disc 16), which explains how they got onto TV in the United States. The sprawling saga of how the Pythons, after killing in Canada and bombing on the Tonight Show, could barely manage to get aired on a PBS station in Dallas, Texas, run by the father of Luke and Owen Wilson (Luke is interviewed) is totally frustrating to someone who discovered Monty Python at the age of 13 and instantly loved them. It really made me think about how much they changed comedy, TV programmers in the 1970s couldn't even crack a smile at them, and yet a 13-year-old in 1990 had been raised to appreciate their bizarre sensibilities. New interviews with the cast were filmed for both, but anyone wanting to hear from the Pythons circa 10 years ago can check out Live at Aspen (Disc 17), which is an on-stage team interview featuring host Robert Klein, quickly discovered Graham Chapman impersonator Eddie Izzard, and Terry Gilliam in a Tintin sweater accidentally kicking over the real Graham Chapman's ashes. And mini-bios and film credits for the boys appear on nearly every disc.
It's hard to nit-pick the set, with the exception of that missing German episode -- a shame, considering it's been released by A&E before, on the Life of Python DVD. In fact, I would have liked to have seen most of that material (the new sketches, the 1971 May Day Festival film, Michael Palin's tour of Pythonland and the South Park tribute) in this collection. I would also have liked to not have to sit through the opening menu animation every time I put in a new disc, but that's neither here nor there.
Buy it now, or your desire for it will be like an albatross around your neck.
Oh, the good Doctor in all his glory. What more could you want? A season-ending two-part episode that brings back pretty much all the recent companions? Or a smashing Christmas episode with Kylie Minogue that will have you fearing robot angels? Or how about just David Tennant's wacky Video Diary? Still not enough? Well, hold on to your hats, because the price of the Doctor Who Complete Season 4 DVD is worth it for the Children in Need "Time Crash" benefit episode alone, and it's on here as an extra. Sure you can see it on youtube or that ilk, but something this awesome is deserving of the full home-theater treatment.
I was dreading watching this season because of two words: Donna Noble. Her appearance as the screaming, annoying bride in Season 3 had made me very wary of her status as a regular companion of the Doctor. Nothing against the lovely Catherine Tate as an actress, but Donna just really rubbed me the wrong way. But while I wasn't her biggest fan (like some others), she definitely grew on me, and this season has some of the most incredible episodes to date. Seriously, the minds at work over there keep outdoing themselves, and the offerings from Stephen Moffat (who will be taking over as showrunner when Russell T. Davies steps aside) truly blew my mind. Because of the cryptic and creep Matrix-y "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" episode, I'm going to have nightmares every time I walk down a shadowy street. Was it not bad enough that he made it so I can't look at statues anymore? Can't wait to see what he concocts for Season 5.
Anyway, during Season 4, there's a trip to Pompeii, an "It's a Wonderful Life"-ish twist with Donna, the Doctor has a kid, there's a visit with Agatha Christie, the near-destruction of the universe (thanks for that, Daleks!) and the cutest little creatures since Tribbles, the Adipose! (Yes, I'm ignoring the fact that they are blobs of fat.) So the episodes are fantastic and you should run out and watch them if you haven't. I guarantee that even if you hate Donna Noble like I did, she'll have you blubbering like a baby by the end of the season. And the discs are jam-packed with Extras, because those BBC folks surely know what they are doing.
Interspersed over the appropriate DVDs are the deleted scenes for the episodes. Some are better than others, but Russell T. Davies is happily there to explain why each of them got cut. Some are touching, like the tribute to the actor who initially played Donna's grandfather, who passed away during the shooting; some were just extra shots of dialogue that could have been done without; and one was a last shot of the Cybermen. Davies laments the removal of the Cybermen, and so do I, but his reasoning for axing it does make sense.
David Tennant's Video Diary
There are only two of his Video Diaries for this season, but they are fabulous. The first chronicles Tennant's hysterical journey to Blackpool, where he's in charge of flipping the switch and lighting the most awesome Doctor Who-themed lights. I'm so jealous that I live on this side of the pond. We don't have cool Doctor Who things like that. I would have taken a day off from work to go. Anyway, Tennant gets stuck in traffic and then he gets a police escort. His giddiness is infectious. His second diary is fantastic because it's filmed during the two-parter when so many of the Who characters have returned. I'll take any chance at seeing John Barrowman acting goofy, he doesn't disappoint. And Tennant's thrill at being part of this universe is clearly evident when he shows off certain things on set -- even the stand-in for him is adorable.
Journey (So Far)
This documentary takes a look back at the series since its revival. It's got crew members/writers talking about this show and how it started as wishful thinking and what it's really become. It shows all the most amazing scenes from Season 1 through 4, and really gives a good look at why this series is so addictive.
Doctor Who Confidential
For all you Whos down in Whoville, there's an entire disc of Doctor Who Confidential, which goes behind-the-scenes and explores the making of the episodes. It could keep you busy for a while.
Children in Need - "Time Crash"
I saved the best for last, of course. The "Time Crash" mini-episode, which was filmed to benefit the charity Children in Need. The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) is taking off, after leaving his latest companion Martha Jones behind, when something wonky happens on the TARDIS and he's suddenly standing next to the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison). Freakin' genius. There's confusion and a little bit of one-up-manship going on, but it's so cool to see them together. Brilliant, and very, very funny, and blends in perfectly with the start of Season 4 and the Titanic crashing into the TARDIS.
So go buy it now. You deserve a little pre-holiday cheer.
Stephen Colbert's holiday special, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All was conveniently timed to come out on DVD two days after it premiered on Comedy Central, which is fitting, because by the time you get to the end, you realize you've been watching an extra-long commercial for the DVD version all along. But with all of the hilarious extras on the disc, it's okay (in this case) to fall for the spiel hook, line and sinker. Hell, they should have advertised the soundtrack album, too, because that alone is worth having, if only for car-trip sing-alongs. Here's what you get if you spring for the DVD, instead of just watching it on the teevee.
Live Audience Track: For those who prefer canned laughter with their store-bought good cheer.
Alternate Endings: That's right, the special has alternate endings, endings that I can only assume didn't quite gel with the director's ideas about how a holiday special should end. The first one concludes with a pretty lackluster "It was all a dream" ending, and is barely worth the five seconds it takes to watch. The second (and best) has Jon Stewart returning to the cabin to tell Stephen that there's been an accident and that they're the last two people on Earth. Tempers flare, and a Twilight Zone ending results. The third starts off with the bear entering the cabin as Stephen begins to sing "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding," but this time the bear doesn't sing along, if you get my drift.
Burning Book Yule Log: This is pretty much just one of those video fireplaces, but every now and then someone throws a big stack of books on it. Perfect for your next literary society get-together!
Bonus Song: Cold, Cold Christmas For this song, which is completely outside the realm of the story, Colbert dons a cowboy outfit and sings a song about wishing for a cold Christmas, one that will match his ex-girlfriend's cold heart, and possibly freeze her new boyfriend to death. It's like Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas," but a lot more vengeful.
Video Advent Calendar: This really seemed like a good idea at first, to both Stephen and me, but after the introduction on Day 1, Colbert is stumped, and actually asks how many more of these he has to do... on Day 2. Day 3 had him wrapping himself up like a present, preparing to mail himself to the viewers at home, which seemed a little cutesy for Colbert. (He was very kittenlike.) I didn't watch any further, given the vehement instructions I received in Day 1 not to read more than one a day, but expect more brief vignettes.
Stuff your stocking by buying it now!
This limited-edition set was supposed to come with a beautiful Crow bust, but we were denied the endless hours of fun said toy would likely provide by the publicity gods, so unfortunately all I have to report back to you is the content of the DVDs. You'll just have to take a leap of faith that the Crow bust -- and the mini-posters we also didn't get -- are fun to look at. The DVDs are still pretty good, though, if undeniably cluttered with a good amount of really dated jokes, like a "What do you think of Roseanne singing the national anthem?" reference, for example, but nevertheless! When the jokes aren't topical, they're still as funny as I remember them being when I was eight. Which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your particular maturity level. The set comes with four complete movies -- First Spaceship on Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf and Future War, plus all the sketches that originally aired with them. Now for the extras...
The History of MST3K:
They're not joking; this is a complete history, and it is loooooong. It contains many things, including footage of when MST3K was a cable access show they made in Minneapolis for a hundred bucks an episode, and the many incarnations of Tom Servo, who was basically a grey trashcan with no gumballs in the beginning. Also, Joel used to be a "prop comic." Like Carrot Top. And Gallagher. Other highlights here include: How South Park got them canceled, the episode where they were drunk, what a bitch it was to make the movie, and how much the fans hated the blonde guy they replaced Joel with.
The Original Trailers:
...Of the movies they made fun of. Some of them are funny by themselves, but they're obviously way more entertaining with commentary by Joel and the robots.
MST3K at Comic Con '08:
Moderated by the always hilarious Patton Oswalt, this features Joel and a bunch of the show's writers and producers basically telling an abridged version of "The History of MST3K" for some very excited nerds at Comic Con. And they brought Crow with them!
Variations on a Theme Song:
This is for the hardcore fan/people who enjoy terrible music. (As much as I love the show, I have always passionately hated the theme song.) This is all of the MST3K opening titles sequences edited together in sequential order. So you can see what Crow looked like when he was just starting out in Minneapolis (like a lacrosse stick with a beak), and what Joel looked like when he still had hair. Aww!
Desperately need a little Crow T. Robot for your own? Buy it here.
This feature is really short and not that great, but I do declare - Zach Braff and Donald Faison are pretty talented beatboxers.
These are extended, improvised versions of jokes that aired on the show, and though they feature a pretty wide spectrum of the cast, there is a surprising lack of John C. McGinley, who is famous for his long improvised takes. The Janitor (Second City alum Neil Flynn) really rocks these, but that's to be expected. He's amazing.
One-On-One with Ken Jenkins
Jenkins plays Bob Kelso, and while this little interview was delightful and entertaining, I don't really understand why he was the only cast member with a separate, stand-alone interview. Is he leaving the show? I honestly don't know. Anyway, he's very funny and warm (he makes a coal mining joke!), and had a lot of gracious praise for the cast and crew.
The John C. McGinley improv rants finally arrive! Also, a hilarious deleted scene of J.D. saying he "worked out today" that cuts to him standing on a treadmill in rollerblades. Why would they cut that? It was the biggest laugh I got out of the whole DVD set.
Making the Finale:
The Princess Bride tribute episode was apparently quite an undertaking and there's a lot of talk about how it was the huuuuuugest episode they'd ever done, but honestly? It looked like crap. This behind-the-scenes shows a bit of Zach Braff's directing skills and a whole lot of a very tired-looking Judy Reyes complaining about how hard it is to act with a green screen, and how even harder it is to act with Donald Faison. I wonder why people say the magic's gone from the show?
Commendably, there is commentary on every episode, something not enough shows do. Unfortunately, the only major character (unless you count Neil Flynn) who does it is Zach Braff, and he only did his tracks by himself. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to willingly listen to Zach Braff speak for 22 minutes.
Buy it now, you brave loyalists!
Although it says "Volume 1" on the box, Amazon.com describes this set as "The Complete Series 1 & 2." Technically, it's accurate: while BBC America aired them all in a row, this is actually the first two British series, a grand total of 13 episodes, each of them full of ferocious, dino-tastic action. But the word "complete" only applies as far as Series 1 & 2 are concerned, because Series 3 starts in January. The episodes are worth the price of the set alone, but luckily there are a few extras to sweeten the pot.
Commentary: Of the 13 episodes in the set, only two get commentaries, both featuring the show's executive producer and co-creator Tim Haines, head writer and co-creator Adrian Hodge and director Jamie Payne. The first commentary is on Episode 7, the first episode of Series 2, which allows the creators to talk about how hard it is to sum up an entire series (the "Previouslies" apparently took longer to write than the rest of the episode), why they made certain changes for the second series, and why the raptors in the episode are technically the show's first true dinosaurs. The other commentary is on Episode 10, which featured the ridiculous walrus men, inconsistent lighting and the kickoff of the highly improbable Connor/Abby romance, thereby giving the team plenty to crack jokes about. (Believe it or not, Andrew-Lee Potts and Hannah Spearritt are dating in real life.) Sadly, there are no commentaries on all of Series 1, which boggles my mind. Wasn't the first series released on DVD in the U.K.? Was it released with NO commentaries? Why not, if it was so successful that they greenlit a second series? I'm not sure why I care, but I feel like there would be some interesting things to say about the early episodes, before the show had become a hit.
Behind the Scenes: The Series 1 making-of doc is 45 minutes long, and is fairly comprehensive -- basically, it's three 15-minute documentaries in one, which is either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much of it you're interested in. (They're all mixed together, so you can't really skip ahead.) It serves as an on-set diary, where we see the pitfalls and problems of on-location shooting; a meet-and-greet, where you learn about the characters, the actors and their motivations; and a special-effects documentary, breaking down what goes into creating the dinosaurs -- including Rex -- and acting with them on set. If you have the time, and the attention span, it's pretty darn interesting.
Through the Anomaly: The Series 2 behind-the-scenes is aptly titled, because you feel as if you've been sent through a portal to a world where Andrew-Lee Potts ruled the Earth. It's similar to the first-series doc, but framed by a manic, hat-wearing Potts, who mugs for the camera -- possibly in character, possibly not -- and at one point puts on a dress. Apparently, this documentary aired on television as an episode, and there was one for Series 1, as well, starring James Murray ("Stephen Hart"). The Series 1 making-of seems to be a totally different thing, and as interesting as it is, I would have liked to have seen the poppier version, with Murray's dreamy narration. You know, for the ladies.
No need to travel through an anomaly to get your copy, just go through this web portal.
As a fan of Futurama, I was excited to hear the series was coming back as several feature films, but the first one caught me off-guard. After all, it was the Futurama I knew and loved, but it was, like, an hour and a half long. It wasn't three episodes mashed together, either. It was one looooong episode. The trick for me was learning to get used to the pacing, which I eventually did, and now I think it's great. This week, the third movie, Bender's Game, hit stores, and it's even trickier to wrap my head around, because there's a pretty lengthy Lord of the Rings parody in it, which is longer than an actual episode all by itself. Still, that chewy Futurama goodness is still there, and the title is a pretty awesome pun. And the extras... oh, you could plotz over these extras. And also Zoidberg was there, even!
Menu Screens: First of all, the menu screens are beautiful. The chapter select is set up like a D&D game table, and the Languages and three Features screens each have a breakdown of the main characters' applicable gaming levels, like "Strength," "Intelijence" and "Armor Class." (Bender's armor class is "Shiny Metal." He must have been talking about his armored ass.)
Commentary: Somehow, they manage to get Futurama creator Matt Groening, executive producer David X. Cohen, voice actors Billy West (Fry, Zoidberg, Zapp, Prof. Farnsworth), John DiMaggio (Bender) and Tress MacNeille (Mom), writer Michael Rowe, producer Claudia Katz and director Dwayne Carey-Hill into one room to talk about the movie. I'd be curious to see it, and apparently you can see it on the Blu-ray version, in what may be the first video commentary track. But the audio is still plenty entertaining, since you get to hear from the creators, writers, performers and animators, with interjected impersonations by the voice talent. They manage not to talk over each other too much, and it's a good time.
Storyboard Animatic: While it's cool that this DVD has the animated black-and-white storyboards for the first half-hour of the movie -- including the Yellow Submarine-inspired opening sequence, which has nothing to do with the plot -- there isn't much to say about them. The sound plays over the entire thing, though, so if you ever wanted to watch a cartoon about a bunch of rough sketches who have a space ship, this is your dream featurette.
Futurama Genetics Lab: On one level, this is just a fun game; on the other hand, it's a peek inside the animators' sketchbooks, showing their brilliance and creativity. What you do is, you pick two characters from the seven provided -- Fry, Leela, Bender, Prof. Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg, Morbo the newsanchor and the Hypnotoad -- and you hit "Merge," and you're shown an original character that's a combination of the two. If I did my math right, that's 42 different characters, and they're all pretty awesome. Of course, seven of them are some kind of toad, but they're still neat. I recommend Zoidberg + Morbo = Zorbo, and Fry + Bender = Friender.
D & D & F: Dungeons & Dragons & Futurama: This is a mini-documentary about Futurama's love of Dungeons & Dragons. I thought it would be mostly a rundown and explanation of D&D references in the TV series, but it's also a look at of writers David X. Cohen, Eric Kaplan and Mike Rowe, who are pretending to play D&D in Eric's mother's basement and are dressed to suit. In a T-shirt with a stretched-out neck, Cohen looks like every D&D player I've ever known, and he shows off his childhood Dungeon map, from before he and his friends realized the game didn't need a board. Kaplan wears a chain mail hood and carries a flail, and is immediately brutalized by the D&D-hating Rowe, who carries a baseball bat for beating D&D fans like Kaplan. Whenever anyone's D&D explanation gets too nerdy, Rowe starts to bring out the bat. The weird part is that there are only three or four D&D-inspired TV scenes that they talk about before they start talking about clips from Bender's Game, the movie you just watched. Still, it's a pretty funny segment.
How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps: When I was younger, and The Simpsons was funny, I used to love the part of the Simpsons Magazine that showed you how to draw the Simpsons characters. Well, now the creative types at Rough Draft Studios are here to tell you how to draw the Futurama characters! ...Three of them, anyway. It's actually pretty informative, as we see Bender's Game director Dwayne Carey-Hill draw Bender, assistant director Derek Thompson draw Zoidberg, and supervising director Rich Moore use a 3B pencil to... call up his assistant, retake director Crystal Chesney-Thompson, and get her to draw Leela. (You can also read an interview and see amazing artwork by all three artists here.)
3D Models With Animator Discussion: Similar to the wire-frame breakdowns of the cars on the Speed Racer DVD, this featurette shows spinning models of all of the spaceships used in the demolition derby, including George Takei's Enterprise, Bakula's Enterprise, the
Deleted Scene: Cup or Nozzle? A short animatic scene, in between Farnsworth trying to smell-detect the crystal and Mom detecting the crystal, in which Cubert and Dwight are in line at an ice cream truck. The crystal in Cubert's pocket hums ominously, Dwight smells something, and Cubert opts to get his ice cream from the nozzle, causing a tube to be shoved into his mouth and ice cream to be dispensed. Throwaway, but it's nice they included it, if only to introduce a new fan-favorite character: shifty alien ice-cream vendor.
Blooperama 2: Outtakes from Bender's Game: Live-action footage shot during a group recording session for the movie. There are a few outtakes, but mainly it's to show the cast goofing off, and to show you what they look like in real life, leading you to realize that you've seen John DiMaggio on television before.
Bender's Anti-Piracy Warning: In case you didn't realize, Bender is not the best person to advocate not stealing things. It's pretty funny. His organization is called "D.O. I.T." In fact, you should just watch it now.
David X. Cohen's Dodecahedron Collection: Proving that he is an actual gaming nerd, and not just playing one for the purposes of the extras, Cohen shows off all of the 12-sided objects he owns that aren't actually dice. Well, one is a big, plush die, but that belongs to his daughter. The rest are made of wood, rubber, or naturally forming pyrite. Yes, 12-sided dice appear in nature! Maybe primitive man played D&D! (This is a "secret" extra, behind the Zoidberg skull on page three of the Features menu.)
"Wedgie It On In There": If you want to see Billy West say that line wrong 17 times, as the rest of the cast gets more and more exasperated, click on the castle on page three of the Features menu. Is it secret? Yes. Is it safe? Not really.
Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder: A sneak peek at the next Futurama movie. Normally, I wouldn't count previews as extras, but it certainly felt like a bonus for me, especially since Cohen has said that they would all be content if this was the last Futurama thing they ever did. The plot involves an ancient battle or some such, and it somehow involves the Robot Mafia, Zapp Brannigan and the voice of Snoop Dogg, which is all I needed to hear.
The future is now, so why wait? Buy it here!