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

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Released 19-Sep-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Series Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Kelso's Serenade
Web Links-Season One: A Look Back (Part 1)
Audio Commentary-David Trainer (Director) - 'Cat Fight Club'
Featurette-Season Two: A Talk With Director David Trainer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-'Jackie Moves On', 'Holy Crap', 'Red Fired Up'
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-'Cat Fight Club', 'Moon Over Point Place'
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 255:51 (Case: 276)
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, Flashbcks for comic effect.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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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. As a consequence some of the content of this review will repeat what is in my review of Season 2 Part 1.

    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 3 : Burning Down the House
             The First Time
             Afterglow
             Kitty and Eric's Night Out
             Parents Find Out
             Kiss of Death
             Kelso's Serenade

Disc 4 : Jackie Moves On
            Holy Crap!
            Red Fired Up
            Cat Fight Club
            Moon Over Point Place 
              
             
    
    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. He has standout moments in Jackie Moves On doing a wonderful Jackie Chan, complete with poorly dubbed English, and then in a futuristic dinner scene in Cat Fight Club playing Woody Allen's robot butler from Sleeper.

    Disc Three of Season 2 begins with a delightful episode, Burning Down the House, which features a flash-forward to what married life could be like for Jackie and Kelso. There are a couple of stand-out musical moments, one from Ashton Kutcher at the piano with Close to You, and one from Topher Grace on the piano with Oh Donna. Second up is The First Time in which Donna's parents renew their vows, and Donna and Eric finally "do it". This episode beautifully demonstrates the greatest strengths of the series. There is real truth in Donna's doubt as to whether her parents are capable of love, and the moment at the service when she is moved by her parents words and then makes eye contact with Eric is most poignant. The basis of the best comedy is always truth, and that is certainly what this show has. Afterglow continues with the Piciotti's celebration and then in Kitty and Eric's Night Out mother and son go together to see Annie Hall - another opportunity for one of those great send-ups. The next two episodes follow the relationship between Eric and Donna as their Parents Find Out - with a marvellous scene which has Debra Jo Rupp spoon feeding Tapioca to a baby Topher Grace -  and Eric runs over Donna's cat in Kiss of Death, which also gives the three principal femmes the opportunity to execute a spot-on Charlie's Angels parody. In the next episode, Kelso's Serenade, chronicling that amiable idiot's heartbreak at losing Jackie, there is a marvellous parody of All in the Family. Of the remaining five episodes, only one, Holy Crap! falls short. This single script departs from the character driven model of the other episodes and concentrates on a "situation" - Kitty attempting to get the family into church - that does not lie at the heart of the series concerns. So long as the emphasis is on the characters of the members of the group, each episode is a sheer joy. Incidentally, in the penultimate episode of the season, Cat Fight Club, Jackie is finally admitted into the 360 "smoke" circle, and then in the final episode she declares her newfound love for Hyde.

    I can only reiterate what a totally accomplished series this is. Highly imaginative combining energy and sensitivity, with a superlative cast, generally very good scripts, and dynamic direction from David Trainer. Production values are extremely high and the disc transfers are excellent.

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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 for the Hearing Impaired titles were generously sampled and found to be accurate.

.
    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 commentary.
    

    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 twelve episodes - seven on Disc 3 and five on Disc 4 - can be selected individually 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 
                                                               Special Features : See below for details.



Special Features :

Audio Commentary by Director David Trainer :
The man who directed every episode of every season gives a commentary on the episode Cat Fight Club. Other reviewers have harshly criticised the dreariness of Mr Trainer - comparing him to James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio - but then I happen to enjoy James Lipton. Some time is spent discussing the techniques used in filming the vibrantly colourful "bumper" inserts used between many scenes. Not much substance here, but pleasant enough.



Featurette: A Talk with Director David Trainer : (13:01)
Fairly bland discussion of the series with the major emphasis being on the mutual respect and affection amongst cast members. Acknowledgement is also made of the importance of writer Mark Brazill. Presented 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 Kbps, the quality of the segments from the series is below that of the actual episodes.

 

Featurettes : Behind the Scenes of That '70s Show

These brief "visits" to the Friday night tapings, originally "webisodes", are very repetitive - using more than once the same footage of crew members and cast. Their chief interest lies in the glimpses of actual production, audience/crew shots and the chance to see the stars interact with their public.
Episodes "visited" are :  Jackie Moves On (7:22)
                                    Holy Crap! (5:31)
                                    Red Fired Up (6:49)
                                    Cat Fight Club (6:56)
                                    Moon Over Point Place (7:19)
All are presented 1.33:1, in 4x3 transfers, with Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 Kbps. The quality is well below that of the actual episodes with a distinctive video look.

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 with extreme sensitivity and honesty 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)
Saturday, March 21, 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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