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L.A. Law (1986-1994)

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by The Drifter, Jan 4, 2020.

  1. Message #21 of 73 Jan 15, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
    MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    This was L.A. as I first cast eyes on it when my grandparents were alive and lived in the valley. We drove by some of those same skyscrapers in the credits and opening shots whenever they took me to Disneyland, Universal, or anywhere else.

    As for the last five seasons, I have a Oppo that I'm pretty sure is region-free, so I'll see if it can be brought back into commission to play this. I'll test the R2 ALF discs to see if they work.

    EDIT: I can run R2 PAL through an external Blu-Ray disc player to my MacBook Air using VLC to my Denon 4k receiver.
     
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  2. Message #22 of 73 Jan 21, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
    The Drifter

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    I'm about mid-way through S01 of L.A. Law. I am hugely impressed by the quality of this show....this series is incredibly good. I also find it refreshingly realistic & seemingly spot-on re: it's depiction of the legal system/criminal justice system in the U.S. Though the show came out 34 years ago, a lot of these storylines/issues are as relevant today as they were at that time.

    The superb casting here is one of it's many strengths - amazing. I don't recognize a lot of the main cast (other than Harry Hamlin from the original "Clash of the Titans" and Jimmy Smits from "NYPD Blu") which probably helps re: my enjoyment of the show, since I don't have any pre-conceived ideas about most of these actors/actresses. Re: the guest stars, I've seen a lot of them in TV shows/movies over the years, but given that a lot of these people are character actors - I couldn't tell you most of their names ;) One of the few exceptions is the incredible Karen Austin, who had guest appearances in a couple of episodes early in S01 - she was also a regular in several early episodes of the iconic comedy Night Court.

    Some of the most gripping/intense episodes/storylines (so far) have included:

    -When Abby's deadbeat husband skips town with their young son, she has to deal with the stress/concern re: whether or not her son is OK and/or whether she'll ever see him again, etc. At one point, she is counseling a wife who is is in the middle of an ugly divorce, and she & her husband are both using their young son as a "pawn" in the proceedings. Abby then loses it & tells them that they are both terrible people (I'm paraphrasing) & that they shouldn't use the child in this way, etc. - & storms out.

    Later, the opposing lawyer tells her that it was interesting to see Abby display "morality" during the meeting, and that she would "get over it" - LOL. This is cynical, but so true ;)

    -When Arnie's parents try to get him to "pick sides" between the two of them when his mother wants to get divorced after 40 years of marriage, Arnie is justifiably disgusted. And, he eventually tells them he will not get involved at all, and they will need to deal with it themselves. Interesting that Corbin Bernsen's (Arnie's) real-life mother (Jeanne Cooper) starred as his actual mother in this episode.

    -Victor (Smits) is involved in an extremely disturbing abuse case where a girl kills her brother (the abuser) in self defense. He then has to convince the mother to speak up about the father, who is also an abuser.
     
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  3. Message #23 of 73 Jan 21, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
    The Drifter

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    To follow up with my last post: As with many good dramas, I like how they also include comedic elements as good counter-points to the serious story-lines that take up most of the show:

    -Michael pursues Deputy D.A. Grace (Gracie) Van Owen because he correctly feels he has a chance with her, despite her plans to get married to someone else. Michael also correctly feels that Gracie isn't into the guy, and is only planning to marry him because he can help further her professional career. This culminates when he "crashes" her small wedding (at the courthouse) on Halloween, wearing a gorilla suit so people won't know who he is - other than Gracie herself. She then leaves with him, and soon after a picture is taken of them on the courthouse steps; she is in her wedding dress & is standing next to him, making it look like she literally just married a gorilla. Hilarious ;)

    -The law firm is trying to figure out who to hire next, and they have several candidates - but can only hire one new person. One of them is extremely qualified with a lot of great credentials, and another is poorly qualified with little or no credentials. However, Arnie wants to hire the poorly qualified candidate only because he's extremely tall (over 6 feet) & played basketball @ college - so he can be beneficial to the firm by playing on their company basketball team against an opposing law firm - ha ha. Funny, but not surprising - I'm sure people have been hired @ companies for reasons other than their professional qualifications ;)

    The only issue I have with the L.A. Law DVD's has nothing to do with the show itself, but the presentation: The Picture Quality (PQ) here is utter garbage - abysmal. I've seen slightly worse PQ on other TV shows on DVD from this era, but that's not saying much. The best I can say about the show is that the PQ is slightly better than a VHS rip, but that's not saying much either.

    I would pay good $ for a remastered, Blu-ray release of the entire series (all 8 seasons and the 2002 TV movie) - unlikely as that possibility may be. Not only does this show desperately need a serious clean-up, but given that only the first three seasons are on Region 1 DVD - a comprehensive Blu set would be welcome to any U.S. fans of the series. Also, I suspect this would probably be the only way we would get Seasons 4-8 on physical disks. I.e., at this point I doubt any company would want to release seasons 4-8 on regular Region 1 DVD - especially given that the S03 DVD set came out in early Fall 2014 (almost 6 years ago).
     
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  4. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    And worse, only two or three episodes on the three seasons' worth that are out have the original 20th Television Fox logo of the time (none on the first go)-- most episodes have the 20th Television distribution logo.
     
  5. Message #25 of 73 Jan 21, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020
    MatthewA

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    The picture is lousy, even compared to other shows of that era that used the same film-to-tape workflow (Columbia’s Designing Women premiered the same year and looked much less bad on DVD), but the sound is excellent. The transfers might not have looked as bad on laserdisc since there would be no MPEG-2 compression to exacerbate video noise inherent in analog composite tape. I honestly have seen laserdiscs that looked better.

    We’ll see how the region 2 discs stack up, but they are the only game in town (on Earth, rather, unless Australia also got a release) for seasons 4-8.

    Which network actually aired the show in the UK originally?
     
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  6. sjbradford

    sjbradford Stunt Coordinator

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    The last season has a storyline where the firm passes on hiring a deserving minority associate in favor of the son of a friend of Leland’s. The new associate turns out to be amoral, and they writers were setting up a long-term storyline that would have seen this new associate sowing dissent and damaging the firm. But when the show was not renewed, this storyline was dropped in favor of wrapping things up with a happy ending. Too bad - I would have loved to have seen it play out.
     
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  7. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    L.A. Law is not the only thing from 1986-87 that looked horrid on DVD-- the tenth go of O-R CBS Dallas (that same season) looked just as bad (and with double-sided discs to boot)!
     
  8. Message #28 of 73 Jan 22, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
    MatthewA

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    That's the season they switched to the same film-to-tape workflow after having been done entirely on film up to that point. I think Knots Landing switched a few months earlier. It was an industry-wide decision, and one the industry is now regretting because of the costs of having to go back and redo shows.

    WB did recently remaster in HD (in its original 4x3 aspect ratio) another show they inherited from Lorimar that also premiered in 1986: Perfect Strangers. I sampled a first season episode on iTunes and it looked better than the DVDs but not quite as sharp as a Blu-ray would have been.

    Under those circumstances, I think the market can support a remaster of this show. But Disney is too busy stripping the studio that created it down to the bone, even taking the "Fox" from its name, to make it a priority yet. No wonder so many Fox shows stalled on DVD if they would only supply substandard masters for them! At least that's one thing you can't blame Disney for.
     
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  9. Message #29 of 73 Jan 22, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
    The Drifter

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    Agreed. That being said, I've seen a handful of TV shows on DVD where the PQ seemed to be slightly worse than this first season of L.A. Law on DVD. Notably, the Perfect Strangers S01-S02 DVD set - wow, the PQ was utter $#%# in this set. Thankfully, they got their act together and cleaned the picture up for subsequent seasons: The PQ for S03 - on of PS are great - obviously remastered, and a massive improvement over the previous season(s) release.
     
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  10. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    When they made the masters, they had no idea then that they would look so bad on a format that had yet to be created. NBC was the first broadcast network to adopt a lot of technologies — color, closed-captioning, stereo, and HDTV, most notably — but their foresight wasn't universal, even if their new owner is.
     
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  11. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    Probably owing to the rest of that ABC comedy being on MODs.
     
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  12. Message #32 of 73 Jan 23, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
    The Drifter

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    Continuing my S01 review....Wow! I can't say enough great things about this show. This series is f#%@#@$ incredible - I think the expletive is warranted here:

    -One of the most powerful & disturbing storylines (so far) is the one focusing on Sid Hershberg, a defense lawyer. One of his first scenes is amusing, given that he loses it during a hearing & literally punches out his client because he can't stand that fact that he has to defend criminals who are obviously guilty & lie all the time to avoid responsibility for their actions. However, subsequent scenes are much more serious, and show that the character is quickly going downhill. He eventually ends up in a mental hospital for a brief time. The one person that Sid feels he can talk to is Michael Kuzac; though, unfortunately Mike can't help him.

    Sid's storyline sadly culminates when he kills himself in the courtroom while defending a client, in front of Mike & many others. The saddest part about this is that Hershberg did not seem like a scum-bag, immoral lawyer who was only in it for the money. And, the irony here is that if he had been that type of person (like Arnie Becker, for example) he probably wouldn't have let his cases get to him - at least not as much as they obviously did.

    Kudos to the writers/producers of the show to have the guts to depict a horrific (and I suspect realistic) storyline like this on '80's network TV.
     
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  13. Message #33 of 73 Jan 23, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
    The Drifter

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    Some additional S01 episode reviews:

    -Mike is defending a drunk driver who killed a pedestrian at a cross-walk, in broad day-light - and then fled the scene. He is later caught due to eye-witness testimony & footage from a video camera that someone was coincidentally testing at the scene.The driver's aunt blatantly lies about where her nephew was during the time of the accident to cover for him (something Mike knew was going to happen ahead of time, since the drunk driver mentioned this), and so Mike - in disgust - withdraws from the case. This is despite knowing that doing this would make him in contempt of court. The judge promptly has him taken into custody, something he had warned would happen.

    Poor S.O.B. This is the second time he's gone to prison in S01 (the first time was for unpaid parking/speeding tickets in the pilot). He has probably spent more time behind bars than some of the sleaze-bags he defends - LOL.

    Interesting note about this episode: The storyline involving the drunk driver made it clear the video footage (of the event) was only available because someone at a local business was testing a video camera, and happened to capture the scene on the street in front of where he was filming. Conversely, if something like this had happened these days - in most cases there would already be video cameras out there that would have captured the event.

    -The firm is presented with an offer to "merge" with a much larger company, which will negatively affect their ability to spend as much quality time with their clients as they would like & would also result in a lot of logistical changes around the office - and not for the better. Arnie, Douglas & Ann initially vote for the merger, only because they feel they will make more money as a result. However, as time passes and more research is done - it's obvious they will actually be making less $ than previously thought - so they all eventually decide against this.

    It's not surprising that the lawyers that actually had some ethics voted against the merger, and the more unscrupulous ones voted for it (initially). I liked how Arnie was blatantly honest about initially wanting this because he had plans to buy a house - a luxurious one that cost upwards of $1 million (in late '80's dollars) that is.... ;) As far as Arnie & Douglas are concerned, it's all about looking out for #1, and screw the firm/their clients - if it means their bottom line will be negatively affected ;)
     
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  14. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    That doesn't seem right for Michael to be called for/held in contempt when the one he was defending (driver's aunt) lied about the whereabouts of her nephew, and disgusted him so badly that he withdrew from the case (notwithstanding that the judge warned him about it).
     
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  15. Message #35 of 73 Jan 23, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2020
    The Drifter

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    Agreed. I think the whole point of this scene is showing how unethical/unfair/biased the whole system is - which is something most of us know already. Sure, Kuzac withdrawing at the last minute will be an inconvenience for everyone involved - and also more of an expense, since it will cost the court more money, etc. - given that they will have to re-try the case. However, it could have been a lot worse. And the same judge who cites Kuzac for contempt - is later shown to be a hypocrite. He is busted for taking bribes (obviously far worse than withdrawing from a case because of ethical issues) & goes to prison for this.
     
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  16. Message #36 of 73 Jan 23, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2020
    MatthewA

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    That house would be worth at least $4-5 million now, if not more.

    Possibly. WB's Alice was done entirely on tape and, from the episodes I watched on DVD, had fewer picture artifacts despite using the same MPEG-2 codec all DVDs are locked into regardless of the medium of origin. Also, three-camera sitcoms tend to use more lighting than single-camera dramas (or comedies shot that way which are more common now than they were then despite a few exceptions) so that all three cameras can get consistent exposure.

    The irony is that the 1980s telecine machines they used for LA Law and other shows of this era shot on film do represent an improvement over the film chains that came before it. They managed to eliminate a lot of the frame-to-frame overlap you can see in off-air recordings from that era, early home video transfers, or even the opening and closing credits of any Norman Lear show up to about 1977. But the improvements since then are bigger still.

    Ironically, of the Fox shows Shout! released, Small Wonder*, which Fox inherited in the Metromedia buyout** that laid the groundwork to create a network, suffers the least when blown up to a large screen despite being shot and edited on tape and not having much of a budget to work with! I don't say that lightly. It's amazing how except for The Paper Chase, which mostly aired on cable while John Houseman was also doing some NBC sitcom about utensils whose name escapes me at the moment, nothing actually made by Fox from that Shout! deal made it to the end. Unless I'm forgetting something.

    *Their second season premiere was also an anti-smoking episode.
    **One wonders whether on some karmic level this Disney-Fox deal is partial payback for their destroying Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney's old shows. His puppets' shows would be corporate siblings with Tigger (and also The Muppets) had they not been destroyed.
     
  17. Message #37 of 73 Jan 24, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2020
    MatthewA

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    I just got the PAL versions, and as I am rewatching the pilot, it does not look nearly as bad as it did in the Region 1, and despite the 4% speedup is still in stereo and the picture has fewer compression artifacts. Not perfect, but far less unpleasant to watch, and I usually HATE watching anything shot 24p sped up to 25p. I'll provide comparative screenshots as soon as I can.

    And guess what … the original 20th Television Fox logo is there!

    This makes it all the more inexcusable that Shout! Factory got stuck with such terrible-looking masters. But, to paraphrase The Wizard of Oz, the US set has one thing they haven't got: two cast/crew documentaries.
     
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  18. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    You might want to correct what you said initially to Region 1; I think that's what you meant.

    BTW, what is the R2 L.A. Law packaging like?
     
  19. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Fixed.

    All except for the last two seasons have slipcovers that are identical to the plastic boxes. The design template has the show's trademark title license plate with the number of the season written on it in cursive above a then-current principal cast group photo:

    [​IMG]

    I also noticed that while playing it back in VLC, I was able to play it back at 96% speed, effectively slowing it down to the rate of 24p. The only trade-off is that the audio pitch now stays the same, rather than moving up or down with the speed adjustments the way you used to be able to do with a vinyl record. Don't expect Blu-ray quality, but it IS better by far.
     
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  20. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Producer

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    Do the R2 L.A. Law releases have the 20th Television Fox logo of the time on the episodes (unlike Shout!'s releases here in America)?
     

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