The 4400-The Complete First Season (2004)
|Year Of Production||2004|
|Running Time||246:55 (Case: 256)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Paramount Home Entertainment
|RPI||$39.95||Music||George S Clinton|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The 4400 hit Australian television with a great deal of hype late in 2004 and followed through on that hype by attracting a large television audience of 3.76 million over two nights. Incidentally, I should point out that what was shown over those two nights is what is referred to here as The 4400 - The Complete First Season, which surprised me as a normal season of US television runs for approximately 22 episodes. The material shown on Ten in Australia was basically the five episodes presented here run together and shown as a mini-series over two nights.
The premise of this show is a good one, which immediately sparks interest, especially amongst sci-fi fans. The premise is that a large object is observed hurtling towards earth and is shown to not be natural by its sudden changes in speed and direction. The earth's governments attempt to blow it out of the sky to no avail. Eventually it arrives over a lake near Seattle and deposits 4400 people who had all disappeared during the preceding decades. They are all returned without seemingly having aged a day and with no recollection of their time away. The Department of Homeland Security investigates and immediately decides that the 4400 people who have returned should be incarcerated for study, in order to try to determine what is going on. The people, however, are not happy with this outcome and wish to return to their lives and families. Eventually, the government relents and releases the 4400. They struggle to return to their previous lives with some finding that all their family and friends are dead and others finding that their spouses have remarried or their jobs no longer exist. Some, especially those who were not gone long, do manage to return to their normal lives, however, all is not normal with the 4400. It is obvious that these people have not been completely unchanged by their experiences and many seem to have developed strange skills or powers, possibly with a purpose.
This short series of a double length pilot and four episodes follows the stories of a small number of The 4400 as they try to make their way in the world. Other members of The 4400 also appear in a smaller number of episodes. It also follows the story from the perspective of the Homeland Security agents who investigate the case and try to protect the returnees. The main characters who run through the whole series are:
In detail, the episodes included are (Episode descriptions are kept brief to avoid giving away too much of the story):
1.Pilot (82:00) - The pilot covers most of the plot outline mentioned above. In addition to the overall story, the pilot also focuses on one member of The 4400, Orson Bailey (Michael Moriarty). He is an older man, who disappeared in 1979 from the state where the returnees appeared. He was a successful businessman and now returns looking for his wife and his old corner office. Unfortunately, neither of them are really ready for his return.
2. The New & Improved Carl Morrissey (41:19) - In addition to continuing the stories of the main characters, this episode includes the story of Carl Morrissey who disappeared in 2003. He is a lowly employee in a supermarket who enjoys helping the customers but his boss gives him a very hard time. He objects to the way the local park has become a hangout for local drug dealers and thugs and sets out to clean it up.
3.Becoming (41:23) - This episode introduces Jordon Collier, a returnee who was a Hotel Developer before disappearing. He returns to take his business back and with the press turning against The 4400, decides to become their unofficial spokesman. Collier is trying to get The 4400 to band together and form their own secure community. This episode also introduces another member of The 4400, Oliver Knox who disappeared in 1983. His case is challenging for Tom & Diana. This episode also continues the stories of the main characters.
4. Trial By Fire (41:01) - The general community really starts to turn against The 4400, harassing them and trying to harm them. Collier opens a housing estate for The 4400 and appoints Richard Tyler as his security chief. The head office of the Department of Homeland Security send another agent to take over the case, Warren Lytell, as they do not believe that Ryland has it under control.
5.White Light (41:12) - I can't really tell you much about this episode without spoiling it. Let's just say that some questions will be resolved, and many others are left hanging for the next series. The ending is good and it certainly leaves you wanting to know more.
This is high quality television despite the number of sci-fi or cop show clichés. It has a different and interesting premise. There are elements of the show which remind you of The X-Files, X-Men, Close Encounters and other shows or movies, however it retains its own character. It a mixture of various genres including sci-fi, detective, mystery and human drama. I found the show to be interesting and enjoyable both when I first watched it on television and now with a repeat viewing on DVD not long after seeing it on TV. It is certainly one of the more interesting of the recent shows to come from the US. Recommended.
The video quality is wonderfully rich and excellent quality for television.
The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is most likely the correct aspect ratio, however it was shown at 1.33:1 on Australian analogue television. To me it looks 'right' in this ratio but I have no categorical evidence evidence either way. I am informed that it was shown in the same ratio on Australian Digital Television.
The picture was very clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. It looks fantastic on DVD, much better than it did on analogue television, as you would expect. The shadow detail was also excellent which is very useful on a show like this which uses a lot of dark or shadowed scenes to promote the mood.
The colour was wonderful. Some sections had a distinct green tinge, others blue and others were washed out, but this was all by artistic choice. The colours were rich and very well saturated. I was very impressed.
I noticed only the merest hint of MPEG artefacts such as some very mild aliasing. There was also a spot of moire on a television screen at 6:33 in Episode 2. There is really nothing worth complaining about here. Good Job!
There are subtitles in English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read but slightly summarised.
The layer changes occur at 65:33 in Episode 1 and 24:09 in Episode 2 but I did not notice them at all during playback.
The audio quality is also excellent especially considering this show's television origins.
This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at the full bitrate of 448 Kb/s. I was slightly surprised to see a television show with a 5.1 soundtrack and even more surprised when I realised that good use was made of the capabilities of the 5.1 format. This show probably has the best sound quality of any television show I have reviewed, although to be fair I have not reviewed many that are this recent.
Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.
The score of this series by George S Clinton (not to be confused with funk god from the Parliament/Funkadelic crew, George Clinton) is excellent, significantly improving the feel and creepiness of the series. Of course, George S Clinton is an award winning film score composer whose credits include over 80 films such as the Austin Powers movies, Wild Things and more. The musical highlights for me were the theme song A Place in Time by Amanda Abizaid and another song which was used regularly, Worry About You by Ivy. They both had a haunting and slightly melancholy feel which suited the show well.
The surround speakers were well used adding atmosphere and some directional effects. They were not used as much as in modern action blockbusters but what was there was certainly effective.
The subwoofer was also used well to add effect to various moments such as explosions. Again it does not jump out at you but is certainly effective.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras of any sort.
The menu is very simple and includes only stills and the ability to choose episodes.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The sets released in each Region are identical except for PAL/NTSC differences. Let's call it a draw.
|DVD||Pioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output|
|Display||Sony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Bose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)|