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WKRP: Season One

20th Century Fox
Show B+
Special Features C
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Perhaps some of you were wondering why WKRP took so damn long to reach DVD. Well, I'll tell you.

It had to do with getting rights to all of the classic rock that was played on the show, or rather, the removal of that classic rock. Instead of choking up the dough for DVD rights to the likes of Pink Floyd music, Fox opted to replace the music with generic stuff or remove scenes altogether. It was rumored that this would cause a dramatic change to the show.

Does it wreck the show? Not really. Yes, it would be cool to see these shows untouched, but that would've probably required many, many dollars for music rights, and sales would probably not be nearly enough to justify that sort of spending. The good news is that the comedy itself is still very funny, and the show managed to capture the inside dynamics of a radio station quite nicely.

I've worked in radio for many years, and I can tell you that I've met many Herb Tarlecks, Johnny Fevers and Les Nessmans. Having been a developing, prepubescent kid when this was originally airing, I can tell you that I was far more into Bailey (Jan Smithers) than I was Jennifer (Loni Anderson).

Special Features: The pilot has a commentary track. A couple of short features shine, including one involving the infamous "Fish Story" episode, which scored great ratings after writer-creator Hugh Wilson intentionally tried to write the worst slapstick piece of garbage he could come up with. After getting an order from the network to write something more "jokey" like Laverne and Shirley, he came up with this silly episode, and then refused to put his name in the credits.


The Queen

Miramax
Movie A-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

I thought Helen Mirren, who did an amazing job playing the title character in this film, was deserving of the Oscar she won. (Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland? Not so much, but more on that in about 60 words.)

Mirren may've been playing a real person in this film, but her performance hardly felt like an impersonation. She brought a lot of depth to a person that we've really only seen on the surface during her existence.

Special Features: Two audio commentaries and a documentary, all interesting.


The Last King of Scotland

20th Century Fox
Movie B-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Forest Whitaker did a damn fine Idi Amin impersonation in this film, but I don't think he deserved the Oscar. It's not entirely his fault, because the script wasn't all that great, making this tale of a Scottish doctor allying himself with the infamous dictator a bit tedious. The film feels long, even though it isn't, and some of the fictional liberties are totally outrageous. The story of Amin is scary and amazing enough that a straight retelling should've worked fine. This one feels too Hollywood.

Special Features: Deleted scenes and some decent documentaries make the special feature content better than the actual movie.


The Odd Couple: The First Season

Paramount Home Video
Show B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

During summer nights spent growing up in New York, I'd watch a ballgame on Channel 9, then switch over to Channel 11 for late-night programming. Sometimes it was The Honeymooners, sometimes the original Twilight Zone and quite often The Odd Couple.

I loved Neil Simon's film starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon as Oscar the slob and Felix the neat freak. This is one TV show that did the movie it was based on justice. Rank it alongside M*A*S*H.

Jack Klugman as Oscar and Tony Randall as Felix made for a great screen pair, and the years have done nothing to diminish the quality of this show. The tale of two divorced men trying to live together "without driving each other crazy" was always an entertaining one, thanks to the impeccable comic timing of the duo. The first season, as with other big shows of the time (like Happy Days), was filmed like a movie. In subsequent seasons, it switched to taping before a live audience. While the taping format hurt Happy Days, Klugman and Randall were so good that the live format actually made the show better.

Special Features: These older TV show packages are usually show-only throwaways, but that's not the case here. Producer Garry Marshall, with his awesomely distinctive voice, offers up show intros and commentaries that are good, wholesome fun. Even Klugman gives a quick commentary on his Emmy-acceptance speech. There's a quick film of Klugman doing a book tour and talking about the show, and a segment featuring the duo on The Mike Douglas Show. Most precious is a scene from a 1993 stage revival of the play starring Klugman and Randall, something that I forgot even happened. It sucks that Tony Randall died.

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