HTF REVIEW: M*A*S*H Season 2

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by John_Berger, Aug 1, 2002.

  1. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2001
    Messages:
    2,489
    Likes Received:
    0
    I tried to make my review as good as Ron's, but that's a pretty high standard for me to meet. So I'll just give you the best review that I can. [​IMG]
    M*A*S*H, Season 2
    24 Episodes over 3 DVDs
    Full-frame (1.33:1)
    Released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
    [​IMG]
    There are few TV series that have made such an impact on the American TV scene that even after three decades the series continues to surge in popularity. M*A*S*H, the classic drama/comedy loosely based on real-life MASH unit 8055 during the Korean War, stands in that elite group of TV series. First aired in 1972, M*A*S*H has finally started to be released to DVD.
    There's not much to say about the series itself. If you don't know what M*A*S*H is, then you've been living in a cave somewhere in a remote island in the south Pacific.
    When it comes to the DVD release for season two, Fox could not have taken better care of the beloved series.
    Completely Remastered
    As one who has watched M*A*S*H religiously since childhood, I can very clearly remember how the show used to look. The prints that were used for syndication in the 1980s and early 1990s were of none-too-great quality.
    Not too many years ago, Fox completely remastered the entire series in preparation for a large presence on the FX network as well as being released on home video. The differences that they used in their advertising between the pre-mastered and re-mastered versions were astounding. Most of the effort on remastering was for the video quality, although the audio was definitely cleaned up as well. The quality of the re-mastering comes across very clearly on the DVDs.
    [​IMG]
    The video quality of the DVDs is incredible. Even on the 13" TV in my computer room, the image is sharper than it ever has been. I watch M*A*S*H just about every time that it's on TV (which is daily on not one, but two TV stations that I get) and I have done so for years. I can say with a clear conscience that the video quality is better than I've ever seen it. The video is incredibly sharp to the point that I even noticed the grain on the paneling and the numbers on the Swamp dartboard.
    Considering that when Fox re-mastered the video they had to work with prints that were over 25 years old, the video quality is simply wonderful. There were some very brief instances where I noticed dust on the master prints, but nothing so obvious that it took away from the overall impression of the video quality.
    The color of these re-mastered episodes is phenomenal. Now, one might think, "How can you possibly tell that? The whole camp wore Army green!" True enough, but color abounds throughout the series. Not only do we have Klinger's outrageous women's dresses, but we also have home movies in episodes like "Dear Dad ... Three" that have incredible color quality. (See the image below for an example of this.) The blue skies, the medium brown of the paneling, the bright red of Hawkeye's robe, and the bright yellow of McIntyre's robe - they all come through in striking brilliance.
    [​IMG]
    The audio on the DVD has four different formats, all of which are in monaural Dolby Digital 2.0:
    - English with laugh track
    - English without the laugh track
    - Spanish
    - French
    The audio is nothing spectacular, particularly since the audio tracks are monaural. I would have liked to have the audio re-mastered to at least a stereo format if, for anything, environment. There are several instances throughout the series of aircraft flying overhead and artillery fire that would sound great in stereo or surround.
    Without question, the best part of owning these episodes on DVD is that they're completely uncut as far as I can tell. Having watched M*A*S*H even when episodes were new in the 1970s and 1980s, it is easy for me to tell when episodes have been cut in order to make room for more commercials - suddenly-broken laugh tracks being the most tell-tale sign. Each episode on the DVD is almost exactly 26 minutes. Let's face it. TV networks would have a coronary nowadays if they were told that they can only run four minutes of commercials per half-hour, so Fox has been cutting out several more minutes in the syndicated episodes for the past several years. If you have the syndicated episodes memorized like my wife and I do, you will probably catch yourself saying, as I did, "Hey, I never saw that scene!" several times while watching these episodes.
    What's Included
    There are no special features, behind-the-scenes featurettes, or anything like that, nor should there really be. Chances are that Fox will reserve such material for the final episode DVD, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen."
    The included 14-page booklet starts with a description of the series, which for the most part I would expect just about any M*A*S*H fan to already know, but it's nice reading. The vast majority of the booklet, though, is dedicated to all of the episodes that are in the set. The information for each episode includes the title (obviously), a description of the episode, the writer(s), director, and chapter list. (Each episode has 10 chapters.)
    Included is also a flyer stating that the third season is due out in Winter 2003. That's too long to wait, in my opinion, but it's not like I really have a choice in the matter.
    The price for the set can't be beat. I picked up my season two set at my local wholesale club for $27.95. Considering that the set consists of 24 episodes, that is a great bargain, particularly when compared with the $109 MSRP price tag of a season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
    [​IMG]
    Every Silver Lining Has A Grey Cloud
    Unfortunately, both the season two set and the season one set suffer from some problems that continue to drive me nuts.
    The first is that the discs are a mix of 16:9 menus with 4:3 episodes. For those like me who have a 16:9 TV and therefore put the DVD player on 16:9, this is an annoyance. Since it doesn't make sense to have the 4:3 episodes in 16:9, does it really make sense to have the menus in 16:9? It might be petty, perhaps, but it's an annoyance nonetheless.
    The second problem is something that I find to be somewhat inexcusable. For whatever reason, Fox has continued what it started with the season one set - there is no function for playing all episodes continuously. Each episode needs to be selected and started individually. This is a major inconvenience, particularly for those like me who enjoy having a DVD playing in the background while doing something else. Even my Monty Python series DVDs have a function on the main menu to play all of the episodes, one right after the other.
    This unfriendly design is also impacted by the fact that the episodes have their own menus. You have to actually make two selections to start each episode, and you then have to select "Home" after each episode to get back to the main menu so that you can select the next episode. This is a real burden on the viewer and it needs to be addressed in future releases. Fox desperately needs to implement a "Play All Episodes" functionality with their future M*A*S*H series releases.
    Another issue about the sets in general, not with this specific release, is that Fox appears to be taking their own sweet time releasing the sets. Whereas Star Trek fans are getting spoiled with a new Next Generation season every two months, the M*A*S*H release schedule is closer to two sets per year, meaning that it will take another six years until the entire series is completed. Hopefully, Fox will speed up the release process after season three.
    Conclusion
    Even with the need to select each episode individually and the mix of anamorphic and non-anamorphic materials, the ability to see these episodes in their full, unedited format from the beautifully re-mastered prints and the reasonably low price more than make up for the shortcomings.
    This set is a necessity for any serious M*A*S*H fan; and at this price you have no excuse to not purchase it.
     
  2. greg_t

    greg_t Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2001
    Messages:
    1,650
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was somewhat disappointed in the video quality. For the most part, it was very good. But there were three or four episodes that just seemed really dark and lacking in detail. sorry I can't remember off hand which ones I was unhappy with. I understand that these are old episodes and aren't going to be pristine, but I've seen those three or four episodes on tv within the last couple of years and don't remember them looking that bad. The audio also seems very bright and unnatural. Swithing the receiver to pro logic and listening in mono seemed better to me. This isn't meant to discourage anyone from picking this set up. If you're a fan of the show they are a must have, but I was more impressed with the first season set.
     
  3. Peter D

    Peter D Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2000
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've watched a few episodes from the Season 2 set, and I thought it looked fine. I was happy that no noticeable compression problems jumped out at me (which was unfortunately the case with season 1).

    I agree wholeheartedly with John on the 'Play All' option - every tv show on DVD should have this. It's a drag when you just want to toss in a disc and have it play while you're doing other stuff to have to pick and ep every 25 minutes.
     
  4. Beast

    Beast Second Unit

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2001
    Messages:
    483
    Likes Received:
    0
    John_Berger, great review. I just picked the set up today at Media Play. Quick note, when they say that Season 3 will be out in Winter 2003, remeber that Jan.-Feb. are Winter 2003. I heard that Season 3 will likely be out in early febuary. [​IMG]
     
  5. Allan Mack

    Allan Mack Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    May 26, 2001
    Messages:
    614
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for the review, John. Your screenshots are great, even better than Ron's. What software do you use?
    And by the way, is there really a town called Mechanicsburg, PA? Is it mostly inhabited by mechanics? [​IMG] Just curious...
     
  6. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2001
    Messages:
    11,380
    Likes Received:
    38
    Good review, John! You're not as bad as you think you are. [​IMG]
    I substantially agree with every single thing you said, by the way.
     
  7. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
    Owner

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 1997
    Messages:
    47,696
    Likes Received:
    5,066
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
     
  8. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2001
    Messages:
    2,489
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  9. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2002
    Messages:
    1,348
    Likes Received:
    1
     
  10. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2001
    Messages:
    2,489
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  11. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2001
    Messages:
    2,489
    Likes Received:
    0
     

Share This Page