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HTF Review: The Golden Girls (complete first season)

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#1 of 49 DaViD Boulet

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Posted November 22 2004 - 03:37 PM

Posted Image

The
GoldenGirls

The Complete First Season
Studio:Touchstone Television
Year:1985
RunTime:617 minutes (25 episodes)
Aspect Ratio:4x3 encoded 1.33:1 OAR
Audio:2.0 DD English
SpecialFeatures:Fashion Commentary Featurette by Joan and Melissa Rivers
ReleaseDate:November 23, 2004







Feature...



The Golden Girls is a very special television series; It’s well written, expertly acted, uproariously funny, and is built on a somewhat risk-taking premise -- the experiences of three senior-aged women cohabitating together, sharing in the events of one another’s daily life. On paper it would seem a sparse foundation upon which to build a humorous, let alone engaging, series. Yet The Golden Girls demonstrates that good characters and a good script can park us on the sofa and motivate us to learn to program the VCR. Beatrice Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty not only reward us with endless stomach-grabbing laughter…they also portray characters that at times feel so real and touching, that the effect is quite poignant, even moving.

Of course no TV show is perfect…so don’t go expecting miracles. But just ask any fan of the show and they’ll have little difficulty letting you know that this series well-deserved the Emmy Award it received its first season for “Outstanding Comedy Series”. Now if only they would release Designing Women on DVD…



Packaging & Presentation...


The First Season of The Golden Girls comes in a handsome fold-out cardboard case that fits nicely into an outer box-sleeve. The inner jacket that houses the three DVDs folds out into three sections. The packaging format then gets a little unorthodox: rather than each fold-out section securing a disc, the first section lists the complete contents of each disc, the third fold-out section holds disc “one”, and the middle section holds both disc two and three in such a way that disc two overlaps disc three and needs to be lifted out to gain access to the third disc. You’ll see what I mean when you get it. Not an obstacle but a little odd to have to remove two discs at a time when you wish to view contents on the third disc. The programs on each disc are also nicely printed on the silkscreen art each disc making it easy to see just what you’re getting into before the disc ends up wasting time loading in player.

Also worth mentioning is that each episode is preceded and followed by what appears to be its original opening and closing sequence, and the shows also appear to be unedited. One friend, a serious fan of the show, watching some of the episodes with me for this review commented: "I think there was more content in the show on DVD than what I remember from television... they must have edited it a little to fit the comercials on the version I've seen on TV."




Picture...



What did you expect. Shot on analog video in the mid 1980’s before there was even a consciousness about a potential post-airwaves life for sitcoms such as this, the image quality of The Golden Girls is somewhat wanting…at least on a 106 inch screen. Posted Image

Detail is…or the better way to phrase it is “Detail is not”. The detail, by definition, must be better than the VHS recording you made off of cable…but not by much. But then again I don’t think that the creators of this program were aiming for large-screen front-projection systems when they envisioned the show. Colors are somewhat drab, though flesh-tones are soothingly comfortable. Contrast seems generally relaxed and the picture lacks dynamic snap. Even if none of this is contradicting your expectations I think it is fair to mention these things because there are television shows, shot on video, from the same or earlier era that hold up quite well (The Muppet Show series, for instance, looks remarkably detailed, crisp, with gorgeously saturated colors and solid black-level and dynamic range). One gets the distinct impression that this DVD edition is being faithful to the source, so what I’m really describing for you is the quality of the image of the video medium on which it was recorded. I’m curious to see if shows from the later seasons “clear up” from what the first season reveals.

A disappointment? Not at all. We knew what we were getting…this was a 1980’s sitcom and the series on this DVD looks better than it ever has before to any consumer audience. And no commercials!

Picture Quality: 2.5 / 5

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Sound...



The audio is presented in 2.0 and sounds as if it is mono (depending on the way your decoder processes such audio you may hear it play through your L/R speakers or your processor may process it like traditional surround which will send all the audio information to the center channel). I've heard reports that the show was supposed to have stereo sound so I'm going to take some time and double check to make 100% sure if the auido really is 2.0 DD mono or just a 2.0 stereo signal with unusually weak channel separation. Stay tuned.

All in all the audio is “acceptable” for a dialogue-driven-mid-80's TV show but I found there to be a high-frequency roll-off in some of the dialogue that was frustrating. This improved as the series progressed and eventually wasn’t cause for distraction.

Ok, I don’t mean to be too harsh, and we both know that the mixing engineers weren’t trying to compete with the DTS track on the Extended cut of Return of the King. In its favor let me say that much of the dialog for the show sounds as though it was recorded “live” as the actors spoke on-set, which I find refreshing and much preferred over dubbed-dialog.

Just as with the video…my intuition is that the audio on this disc presents the program in the highest possible fidelity to the source tapes, so don't interpret my low score as a criticism of DVD mastering/authoring...the show looks and sounds on DVD as good as it can...


Sound Quality: 2.5 / 5

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Special Features...



Hold me back. You get one. And it’s bad.

Didn’t sound too bad from the packaging: “Fashion Commentary” with Joan and Melissa Rivers who “provide their own unique brand of fashion critique in a hilarious featurette that pays tribute to the crazy, kitschy, wardrobes of The Golden Girls."

[b]WROOOONG!!!

Their crapola-commentary pays anything but "tribute" to the show.

Just to be sure that I got the right impression of this lone “Bonus Feature” I invited over two die-hard Golden Girls fans…friends Billy and Steve. These two are serious, dedicated, no-nonsense GG fans: Waking up at odd hours to watch sought-after episodes…taking vacation hours to stay at home for GG TV-marathons…having seen every show at least six times… I knew that their impression would be the ultimate litmus test to gauge the merit of this feature from the perspective of the fan-base.

So after having laughed ourselves silly through a few key episodes I cued up the prized “Bonus Feature” on Disc three. Instantly all hints of frivolity vanished as we listed to Ms. Joan and Melissa rip on outfit after outfit...with only the canned laugh-track on the featurette to document when their wretched banter was supposed to be funny. Not only were their jokes not amusing. And not only did they take many of the outfits out of context as they tried to rip on the show’s choice of wardrobe (criticizing the show for selecting attire that, in the context of a given scene, was supposed to be over-the-top), but HELLO, why would any “fan” of the show want to sit there and listen to these two b_____s blast the very program that they love?

Making this choice of special feature even more perplexing is the fact that one of the show’s great charms is it’s stylish, cutting-edge fashion from the ‘80’s. The clothing and choice of colors, styles, and outfits for each of the women was a key hallmark of this show; a bold acknowledgement that women in their senior years still have the right to be sexy, beautiful, and stylish. It is a positive attribute of the program that deserved to have a serious commentary detailing the decisions behind clothing designs. And instead to have these two ignorant women…both dressed in outfits far less tasteful than anything you’ll encounter in the show, unfoundedly deride the program in this way was not only a pitiful excuse for a special feature, it was offensive.

Touchstone Television hear me and hear me well: Improve the special-feature content on your second season set. And here’s a thought…why not pick some bonus material that fans of the show will actually like. What about interviews with cast members? Out-takes? Behind-the-scenes information about directing and casting decisions? What about a [b]real documentary short showcasing the fashion element of the show? How about audio commentary for a key episode or two by some of the creative talent? Or at the very least, how about NOT including “bonus” material that pisses off the fans who like the show enough to actually buy the DVD? God I’m so smart. And I don't even get paid to do this. Hopefully the marketing folks in charge of the next season DVD release will get smart too.




[b]All Together...



Fans of the show know how great this series is and were chomping at the bit to get their hands on this DVD set without needing to read a DVD review. I don’t want my review…which might sound harsh (especially regarding the “bonus features”)…to discourage anyone from purchasing this fantastic program. My comments are intended to help you gauge your expectations of the technical quality of the image and sound, the merit of the extras, and, with any luck, to help the studio folks learn how to improve upon things (bonus material) with the next season DVD release. For the dedicated fans, just finally having the first season of episodes on DVD in a manner that allows instant-access without having to fast-forward and rewind and endure countless hours of comercials is more than enough reason to justify a blind purchase.

Ok Golden Girl Fans…your journey is at an end. Twenty years after it originally sailed through the airwaves the first season of The Golden Girls is yours to own on DVD! Pick it up and let me know what you think...









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#2 of 49 RobertSiegel

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Posted November 22 2004 - 04:16 PM

David, thanks for the great and extensive review of The Golden Girls. You wanted me to share a story I had on another thread, so I'll rewrite it here, and then comment.

A good friend of mine was allowed to do research in the vaults on The Golden Girls for a final UCLA project about 10 years ago. I just called him and asked him for more information on this as he had mentioned it before but never gave me all the details. He said he was able to view many tapes, and many of them contained over an hour of outtakes. Aparently each tape was an episode and within those, during the taping, are all the mistakes and re-taping of the scenes. He was able to copy some of the original scripts that had director and writer notations, and there were some of Bea's personal scripts there as well with notes. He came across costume design sketches, unused scripts that were never filmed (probably rejected), what he said were over 500 photographs on the set, video taped interviews used to originally promote the show (sent out to shows such as Entertainment Weekly), boxes of video trailers used by affiliates, and 3 video tapes of screen tests including several auditions. One tape he viewed showed about an hour and a half of the director, the stars and writers preparing for an episode. This gives us an idea of what's available to use on these dvd's, that they choose not to use. One episode script that was never used that he read was about Stan and Dorothy going away for a weekend before they attempted to get remarried, which makes me think the episode (which Dorothy almost marries Stan again) was supposed to be 3 parts. The other part of the story was Blanche attending a policeman's ball with Rose and being embarassed when several of the policemen talk and discover Blanche has had "more than one of them."

My friend and I have known each other for over 20 years and I believe him without doubt, he's a very honest person and I saw his final paper and saw some of these materials (though they were copies, of the photos,ect..NOT the videos).

Knowing this, I am extremely disappointed at Buena Vista Home Entertainment for releasing the set they did. According to David, the extra with Joan Rivers is awful. One would expect extras that would salute this fine (my favorite of all time) tv comedy, and give insight into the show, and there certainly are alot of materials available. As I also stated on the other thread, being a graphic artist in the field of entertainment, I thought the graphics used for this set were simply awful, not at all a tribute from anyone who liked the show but wanted to complete the cover art in about 5 minutes. Note the typeface used for GOLDEN GIRLS, I mean, come on! And 4 separate photos in thin boxes, when there were stunning publicity stills made of the girls together? This was a rush job.

Finally, the interior of the set. I absolutely hate when the studios put one disc on top of the others. What are they thinking? This means the discs will eventually get twice the use and possibly rub or be scratched easier. Is it that hard to make a foldout for 3 discs on separate liners?

I may sound unduly harsh in my comments, but please understand that I have loved this program since day one, and have eagerly awaited the dvd release, hoping for the extras the show deserved. So to read about set 1 and its cover art, then find out the one extra is awful, is an extreme disappointment. I suppose I should be thrilled this program was finally released, and with that, I am. But I certainly hope that BVHV does something better for the next sets. The fact that the stars are promoting this means they could have been interviewed, maybe one of the girls per episode, or something similar. The girls have done alot for Lifetime, there's no reason to assume they wouldn't have done it for the dvds. When Lifetime comes up with a program containing out-takes and jokes on the set, and the studio itself provides nothing, I feel a big disservice has been done to those who will pay for this dvd set.

I was also surprised to see the discs are mono, or did the stereo come later?

In any case, it will be nice to have the series uncut and without commercials and the best quality possible. There was just so much more that could have been done. When sets like Gilligan's Island and other shows have more extras than this, and that's almost 20 years earlier, something is wrong. I don't yet have this set, but am going by this review and 2 others I have read.

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#3 of 49 Casey Trowbridg

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Posted November 22 2004 - 04:16 PM

Quote:
The Golden Girls is a very special television series; It’s well written, expertly acted, uproariously funny, and is built on a somewhat risk-taking premise

This sums it up for me exactly.

David great review.

I can't say I'm a fan of that packaging.

That special feature sounds awful, I heard also that they included a laugh track on it is that the case?

I don't want a feature like that, and I won't watch a feature like that but I will pick up the set.

#4 of 49 DaViD Boulet

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Posted November 23 2004 - 01:43 AM

The laugh-track on the two Rivers' commentary was the only indication of "humor" in their discussion to be found (updated the review to mention the laugh-track). While Joan has earned her right for respect so I'll avoid any personal attack, it was down-right frightful just how talentless and witless were the comments from Melissa. Even *had* the fashion been something worthy of berating, I don't thing her prattle would have made me laugh...not even a little.
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#5 of 49 David Galindo

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Posted November 23 2004 - 02:54 AM

Well, the idea sounded OK on paper. Too bad it was such a horiffic commentary (according to yall- I dont think Im picking up this set now). Gah.

#6 of 49 DaViD Boulet

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Posted November 23 2004 - 03:14 AM

David,

does your decision to purchase the set really hinge on the value of the lone bonus feature?
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#7 of 49 Steve Phillips

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Posted November 23 2004 - 03:26 AM

Are you sure about the mono, or is the packaging just wrong? NBC broadcast the show in stereo, and even put an "IN STEREO WHERE AVAILABLE" on the screen during the opening credits. I've still got some off the air recording with that.

NBC rolled out stereo broadcasting in a big way in the fall of 1985; I remember because I had a stereo set and was glad our local station made the switch.

#8 of 49 DaViD Boulet

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Posted November 23 2004 - 03:32 AM

Steve, it sounded like mono to me. Let me add a caveat to my comments and I'll try to verify 100% in the near future...it sounded like mono so I just assumed that it was (all sound seemed to be coming from the center channel).

Stay tuned...and if any of you get the set and can confirm otherwise...that it's true stereo let me know...
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#9 of 49 Casey Trowbridg

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Posted November 23 2004 - 06:02 AM

Quote:
Well, the idea sounded OK on paper. Too bad it was such a horiffic commentary (according to yall- I dont think Im picking up this set now). Gah.

As DaViD said in his review, I hope this awful commentary does not prevent you from purchasing the show...I'm buying the set and I will probably not watch the commentary, unless my curiosity of just how bad it is gets to me.

The show is great and deserves better and the show should make the purchase not someone's bad choice for an extra. Just IMO of course.

#10 of 49 Jon Martin

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Posted November 23 2004 - 06:16 AM

Quote:
does your decision to purchase the set really hinge on the value of the lone bonus feature?


Am I the only one who doesn't care about extra features on this or on most DVDs? If I like a show, or movie, I'd pretty much buy it with whatever extras it has or doesn't have.

I still plan on getting this set.

And they are unedited, right? I remember a couple of the biggest laughs being cut for syndication. Some of the worst syndication editing ever.

One scene, where this little old man is dating all the girls, he picks one of them up at the door and says "Well, suppose I've got to feed you". Great line, but it was cut from the syndication airings of it.

#11 of 49 David Galindo

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Posted November 23 2004 - 06:46 AM

Quote:
does your decision to purchase the set really hinge on the value of the lone bonus feature?


Yes, it did...as a christmas gift to my sister. But she said she didnt want it if there aren't good bonus features, since she just enjoyed them on Lifetime. So that saves me some money Posted Image

But if I enjoyed the show and watched it regularly on TV, Im sure I would buy it with or w/o bonus features (just like Seinfeld). I apologize for not making that clear in my first post.

#12 of 49 JasonLH

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Posted November 23 2004 - 07:57 AM

Here is a quote from the review at UltimateDisney:

During a transitional shot of the house on the fourth episode on the first disc, there is a brief glitch in the video. It's certainly noticeable and seems more pronounced than a typical layer change, however, it is extremely brief and in no way hinders viewing the episode. It is important to note, however, that I can't be sure if this is merely a problem on my copy of the disc, or if it exists on all of the products.

Does anyone else have this problem with their set?

#13 of 49 Andrew Budgell

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Posted November 23 2004 - 08:39 AM

I just bought my set, and unwrapped it. While I have yet to watch it, I wish Buena Vista had used a better method for holding the discs. These are DVDs I hope to keep forever, as this is my favourite show, and I don't want them scratched or damaged in anyway! Please, BV, change this for season 2!

Andy

#14 of 49 DaViD Boulet

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Posted November 23 2004 - 08:44 AM

link for ultimatedisney's review:

http://www.ultimated....s-season1.html

Great review. Definitely worth the read and great captures of screen shots and packaging etc. His impressions of the AV quality were more favorable (probably not reviewing on a 106" screen...Posted Image ) and he didn't seem as taken-aback about by the "special feature". I'd love to hear from you fans about your impressions of that feature once you get the disc in hand.
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#15 of 49 MatthewA

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Posted November 23 2004 - 09:47 AM

Robert, you just made me even more envious. Perhaps they can have send-away "bonus discs" of features which you can get for free thru the mail. Studios should entertain that idea IMO.

But uncut episodes are finally for sale legally and this is one gift horse I'm not looking in the mouth. I consider this THE best sitcom of the 1980s, and that includes "Cheers" and "The Cosby Show." Buena Vista should be praised for simply releasing them uncut. It's proof that, when they want to, they can do something right

NBC was indeed stereo in the fall of 1985. I still have network airings of various shows (albeit in mono) with the "in stereo where available" bug. Too bad the episodes don't have that; that would be kind of neat.

Enough is enough, Disney. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray.

 

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#16 of 49 Casey Trowbridg

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Posted November 23 2004 - 10:19 AM

Quote:
Yes, it did...as a christmas gift to my sister. But she said she didnt want it if there aren't good bonus features, since she just enjoyed them on Lifetime.
So that saves me some money

Ah, but if she's used to seeing the butchered versions on Lifetime, it would be a bonus for her to see them the way they originally aired without severe edits.


That's a better feature than most commentaries are anyway.

To the question above, it depends on what the show/film is. Good features have made me buy something I might not have otherwise bought, but bad features or no features have never stopped me from purchasing something I love.

#17 of 49 David Galindo

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Posted November 23 2004 - 10:22 AM

Hey, your right. I might just pick this up after all. Thanks Casey for pointing that out- I must be stupid for forgetting about that Posted Image

#18 of 49 RobertSiegel

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Posted November 23 2004 - 11:37 AM

Jon Martin: The episode with that line that I remember (well, I suppose I have to feed you) is with the guy that was a small non-handsome man who had that powerful effect on women, is that the one? All the girls fell for him? Anyway that was on Lifetime the other night and when he picked up Dorthy, he said "Well, I suppose I have to feed you." Is that the episode you are referring too?

From what I remember, this program was stereo from the start, but could it be that maybe the first season was not in stereo? It was only the theme and audience response that was really in stereo anyway, but I really would like it as it was originally aired..

Classics on Blu-ray is what it is all about!


#19 of 49 Andrew Budgell

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Posted November 23 2004 - 02:05 PM

Well, I have started my foray into The Golden Girls: Complete First Season have have completed disc one! I am very thrilled with this release, even though there is a lack of bonus features/stereo track, and the packaging isn't the greatest (mostly in terms of how the discs are stored within the package). With that being I am thoroughly enjoying this release! I have seen these episodes countless number of times in syndication, so it is fun seeing what should have been included all along - it's like seeing these episodes for the first time!

I thought that the audio and video were very acceptable. They were just as good, if not better than what I see on Prime TV here in Canada. While I loved your review David, I thought you were too hard on the video portion. This is a mid-1980's sitcom, not Harry Potter after all! But then again, I shouldn't be talking as you know soo much more about this kind of stuff than I will ever know.

I don't have many complaints about this set, but more suggestions. I don't really care about the cover art as much as bonus material and the following. My suggestions to Buena Vista are as follows:
1) Please include stereo tracks if available.
2) Add more extras that we KNOW (thanks to Robert!) that are in your extensive vaults! ie. Outtakes, bloopers, interviews, scripts, photos, etc. I would also love to see the Royal Command performance that was done for the Royal Family. Include Betty, Bea and Rue in creating new bonus material. If they are willing to promote the DVD, then I'm sure they would provide new commentaries and interviews. Please also include the title card or whatever that was used before the commercials as a bonus feature. I miss those!

Either way, I am so thankful to have these shows on DVD, so that I can enjoy them forever. This is my favourite series, and it's about time it got released! Can't wait for season two in the Spring.

Andy

#20 of 49 DaViD Boulet

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Posted November 24 2004 - 01:55 AM

Andrew,

what do you think of the infamous "special feature"?

Take a look and let us know what you think...I'm wondering if anyone else will have the negative reaction that me and my two guests had the night we spun it up...

BTW, did it sound like "mono" to your ears? Do you have surround processing? Was all (or most) of the audio directed to the center channel?

-dave Posted Image
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