That '70s Show-Season 2: Part 1 (1999)

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Released 19-Sep-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV COMEDY SERIES Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-David Trainer (Director) - 'Halloween' And 'Hunting'
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-"Kelso's Serenade" (Part 2)
Featurette-Season One - A Look Back
Web Links-Part 2
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 298:30 (Case: 308)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (21:19)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By David Trainer
Terry Hughes
Tim Ryder
Studio
Distributor
Carsey Werner
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Topher Grace
Mila Kunis
Ashton Kutcher
Danny Masterson
Laura Prepon
Wilmer Valderrama
Debra Jo Rupp
Kurtwood Smith
Tanya Roberts
Tommy Chong
Don Stark
Lisa Robin Kelly
Mo Gaffney
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Chris Bell
Alex Chilton
Todd Griffin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes, In black and white flashbacks.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

                       

    There obviously is continuing passion for the US sitcom That '70s Show, a series from the same team that produced Third Rock from the Sun. Fox have recently reissued all eight seasons in separate four-disc Slimline Sets, as well as a thirty-two disc box set of the complete series. Season Two was originally released in Australia as two separate two disc sets, Season 2 Part 1 and Season 2 Part 2. It is those earlier discs that I am reviewing, although the content is identical to that in the newly available four disc set of the complete season.

    After the success of Season 1 - see my earlier review - fans eagerly awaited the second season and were not disappointed. Originally aired between September 1999 and May 2000, the same cast returned and each of the twenty-six weekly episodes was so crammed with incident, good humour and the charm, not to mention considerable talent, of the cast, of both generations, that the frequent misfires were soon forgotten as each fast-moving episode galloped along from scene to scene. The episodes included on these two discs are :

Disc 1 : Garage Sale
             Red's Last Day
             The Velvet Rope
             Laurie and the Professor
             Halloween
             I Love Cake

Disc 2 : Sleepover (a.k.a. Donna and Eric Sleepover)
            Eric Gets Suspended
            Red's Birthday
            Laurie Moves Out
            Eric's Stash
            Hunting
            Red Gets a Job  
             
    
    I first sampled this show when I realised that Ashton Kutcher was in the cast. I watched a couple of minutes, spotted the talented Topher Grace (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton) and thought it was some kind of teenage Disneyland, a mixture of sketches and Laugh-In style inserts, and promptly switched channels. To my surprise I found that it was actually a very old fashioned sitcom. The sets are more elaborate than for, say, I Love Lucy or Happy Days, but it was still the basic sitcom formula of known characters in known locations faced with a new issue each week. Season 2 however is more character driven than the first, with episodes taking a more serious turn mid-season, then returning to a lighter tone for the season wind-up.

    Set in the 70s - duh! - each episode is set in Point Place, a small town in the state of Wisconsin. Most of the scenes revolve around and in the home of  Reginald "Red" Forman (Kurtwood Smith) and his wife Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp). The Formans have two children, high school student Eric (Topher Grace) and the off-to-college-moving-back-home Laurie ( Lisa Robin Kelly). The basement of the Forman home is the meeting place for Eric and his friends, who include next-door neighbour Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon), Jackie (Mila Kunis), Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Steven Hyde ( Danny Masterson) and an exchange student of indeterminate accent, possibly  from "south-of-the-border", Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). The other two regulars are Donna's parents, Bob Pinciotti (Don Stark), and his glamorous dim-witted wife Midge (Tanya Roberts). Every member of this large ensemble cast is excellent, with  Valderrama continuing to be a standout in almost every episode as the unrelentingly sweet, cute and almost unintelligible, Fez.

    Gone are the Laugh-In style inserts of Season 1 and the new season starts extremely well with the often hilarious Garage Sale, which features Hyde making a "special" batch of brownies to offer at Red's money making venture. Episode 2, Red's Last Day sees Red retrenched and features 50's pop icon Paul Anka. The Velvet Rope has an hilariously outraged Eric barred by a bouncer from entering a Chicago club. As the season progresses episodes become more character driven, with the still central romance between Eric and Donna moving to a more serious level. These developments have so much more impact because of the wonderful on-screen chemistry between these two very fine actors. As episodes unfold the Pinciotti's have marital problems and Red seeks employment after losing his job. Even the relationship, for want of a better word, between Kelso and Jackie takes a more serious turn when it develops into a love triangle, due to the perseverance of Laurie, who had initially "made her move" on Kelso in the first season. Despite these more serious arcs we always have the idiocy of Ashton Kutcher's Kelso. Despite the indefensible stupidity of the character, Kutcher always manages to instil charm and wit into his performance. This is a very talented comedy actor, with great timing and wonderful physical control.

    David Trainer, the one and only director on the series, propels each episode with unflagging energy and precision, allowing every talented member of the large cast to shine. With so much energy and talent on screen the occasional moment that falls flat is soon swept away in the current. This is a totally enjoyable show with so much humour, warmth, wit, clever observation, and talent that the twenty-odd minutes fly past in an instant. The four disc re-packaging is a good buy indeed.
 

 

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of each episode is very good, marginally better than that of the already very pleasing Season 1.
   
    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer.
       
    The transfer quality throughout all episodes is extremely sharp, clear and clean, resulting in an extremely bright and attractive image. Naturally this does not apply to the sequences which are designed to look like old film or black and white flashbacks to the past.
    Shadow detail is hardly an issue with almost all scenes brightly lit, as is the norm for TV sitcoms. The occasional darker sequence, such as night scenes in the car, look very satisfactory, with dark solid blacks.
    There is no low level noise.
    Colour is bright and vibrant highlighting the fashions and decor of the period. There is very little variation in colour quality and skin tones are extremely good..
    No MPEG artefacts were noted, and there were no film artefacts.

    The English subtitles were sampled and found to be accurate.
    The English for the Hearing Impaired titles were not available on the review sample discs.
.
    Both discs are dual layer with layer changes between episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is very pleasing, although there is virtually no movement across the fronts, and with the surrounds used almost exclusively for the audience reactions.
    There are two audio streams, both in  English Dolby Digital 2.0, Surround Encoded at 192 Kbps. The second stream contains the director's two commentaries.
    

    The non-stop rapid fire dialogue is very clear and perfectly easy to understand - even Fez. All of these actors are trained professionals.
    There were no drop-outs and no sync problems.
    The reproduction of music of the period is always bright and attractively recorded and reproduced.
 

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

 Menu

    The Main Menu on both discs is dynamically colourful, with vibrant graphics, animation and full motion of the stars plus the revamped theme, In the Street,  in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Encoded at 192 Kbps.
    The menu is presented 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The options offered on both discs are : Episode Selection : Screen has brightly coloured still featuring a star of the series, without audio.
                                                                                              The seven episodes on each disc are listed separately for individual playing, or you can select "Play All".
                                                               Language Selection : Screen uses a character still from the series with the options:
                                                                                                  English
                                                                                                  Subtitles
                                                                                                  English for the Hearing Impaired (Not available on the review discs)
                                                               Special Features : See below for details.



Special Features : Disc One

Audio Commentary by Director David Trainer :
The man who directed every episode of every season gives a commentary on two episodes, Halloween and Hunting. Other reviewers have harshly criticised the dreariness of Mr Trainer - comparing him to James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio, but I found these brief commentaries - as each episode is a mere twenty-one minutes - entertaining and informative. But then I also like James Lipton. Of interest is that the show was filmed in front of a live audience of two hundred, using four film cameras. Any scene that could not be done in front of the audience was pre-shot, such as if the set to be used was out of audience sight, or children were being used, who were not permitted to work at night. There is also a rather nice - though obvious - explanation of the 360 degree camera "pot" sequences.

Featurette: A Look Back (4:49)
"Previously on the first season of That '70s Show ..."  This is a collection of amusing and entertaining clips supposedly from Season 1, but actually includes a few from Season 2 as well. Fun, but very slight fluff. Presented 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0, Surround Encoded at 192 Kbps.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There is no difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases.

Summary

    With a cast of superlative comedy actors, young and not-so-young, and a director who knows how to deliver fast paced comedy, twenty-one minutes never seemed so short. There is a serious side to this humorous study of teenagers emerging into the troubled adult world of their parents, and this is handled extremely sensitively by all concerned. However,  it is the laugh out loud comedy that you will remember. This is an outstanding half-hour sitcom - smart, imaginative, sensitive and very, very funny.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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