Will and Grace: Season 5

I find all of the 4 main characters cringingly painful a lot of the time and have a hatred for stunt casting celebrities – yet still find this series hilarious and addictive. Season 5 actually moves some of the characters forward a bit as Grace gets married (to probably the least annoying character in the whole season) and Will deals with losing her – a perfect opportunity for them to be whiny and dense. Karen almost behaves like a normal person at times, but Jack manages to bumble along just as ever. The wit and sappiness manage to overcome the cringey bits and make it quite hard to actually stop watching.

DVD Special Features
Buying the whole season in one box set is definitely a better idea than buying 6 separate dvds as I have in previous years and the box is very nicely packaged. The highlight of the specials is the ~5minute blooper reel which is hilarious. There’s a long Living TV interview with Eric McCormack which is cheesily fun (including a surprisingly good karaoke Don’t Go Breaking My Heart). There’s another behind the scenes feature which is fun if sappy and the usual collection of montages. An impressive set given that I picked it up for under 20quid.


Buffy: Season 3

Is this actually the best season of Buffy? I’d never really thought so, but on re-watching it I might be more tempted to come down as a yay vote. While the more mature gang of the later years might not be so irritating it’s hard not to rejoice at watching the original gang together in all their glory. Cordelia, Oz and Angel bringing the bitchy, the wit and the intensity respectively in ways that later replacements never quite managed.

Plot wise, I was surprised at how late in the season it was that the arc of the Mayor and Faith really got going. 2/3 of the season was completely stand alone episodes and some of them go down as all time greats – Band Candy, The Wish, The Zeppo, Dopplegangland and Earshot are all truly superb. Most of the characters have interesting arcs too especially the stand-out Faith. The end of this season marks a dramatic change in the series with Angel spinning off and the start of ‘grown-up Buffy’, which half of the series is better is a debate to be had over and over, but season 3 is definitely a worthy end to the first half.

DVD Special Features
As with all Buffy seasons there’s an interesting collection of commentaries from the writers (and one rather dull one from a director of photography) which very interestingly discuss the development of the series, season and episode in question. The featurettes on wardrobe, effects and weapons are short and interesting for 5 minutes but not much more. The overview featurette is considerably longer and is very interesting but should be watched at the end of the season not 1/2 way through as it’s placed on the dvds. Pet peeve is that the menu systems look very pretty but are a pain to use – there’s no ‘play all’ feature and it’s often not clear which order episodes come in.

ER: Season 4

I enjoyed watching this season but it didn’t really stand out in any way. Writing this review a week after finishing it leaves me with some difficulties thinking of things to write. The new characters of Corday and del Amico were interesting and fun in the way they contrasted with Benton and Carter respectively. Other than that everything sort of ticked along, the only stand-out episodes I can remember being the live episode which was an impressive achievement and the one with the ER being evacuated. The two episodes set out of town felt rather odd, not really like ER at all.

DVD Special Features
Hugely disappointing compared with previous sets. The only features were some deleted scenes spread across the dvds which was a sensible way to distribute them (rather than leaving them all until the final disc) but weren’t particularly exciting. There’s apparently an easter egg somewhere, but I couldn’t be bothered to look for it.

Law and Order: Criminal Intent: Season 1

I’ve watched a range of episodes on the TV and frankly they all seem to be pretty much the same. Each episode is self contained, follows the same structure and has the same timings. So although I can tell you that I enjoyed watching the first season on dvd, I have no recollection of specific episodes. The larger than life Robert Goren manages to hijack the show and yet reveal almost nothing about himself, making him a much larger mystery than any of the actual cases.

DVD Special Features
There’s an interesting featurette on the creation of the series with interviews with cast and creators, but being all by itself is a little pathetic.

Carnivàle: Season 2

My review of season 1 said that I wasn’t sure whether I liked the show or not and that how good the first season was would depend on whether the pay off of all the set up was worth it. With the series being cancelled season 2 is all the payoff we’re going to get and sadly I think it desperately needed a third season. 1 was the background for a battle, 2 was putting the troops on the relevant sides and the opening salvos, 3 would have been the battle itself (I suspect). Without getting to where it was going, I’m not sure that the rest of the journey was anything more than an interesting diversion – compare with if Babylon 5 had been axed after season 2. This is probably a bit harsh and stemming from my bitterness at the cancellation. I did find the episodes fascinating to watch – you can never really predict what most of the ‘supporting troops’ are going to do and which side they’ll pick, right up to the final moments of the last episode.

The style of the series is amazing and being HBO they can push things much further than ‘regular’ tv can get past the censors giving it a much grittier realistic feel. I think this may have had the potential to be great, but without it’s conclusion, I’m not sure where it ends up.

Desperate Housewives: Season 1

Pure trashy fun, something of a guilty pleasure and the first thing for a very long time I’ve actually watched weekly on TV. The ‘average’ suburban street of Wysteria Lane is anything but average with murder, fires, drugs and mystery merged in with adultery, bitchiness and hilarity. The housewives and their lives are all very different, but they unite together to try and find out why their friend Mary-Alice committed suicide. While that mystery runs throughout (and is actually ‘resolved’ by the end of the season) it’s the little stories of their every day lives that create the most fun and hilarity. The set up for the next season looks intriguing and so long as the bitchiness and the one liners continue I’ll even put up with adverts to watch it.

DVD Special Features
A nice box set with a good selection of special features. The commentaries by creator Mark Cherry are funny and interesting, drifting from on-set anecdotes to details about production effortlessly. The making of features are also very well put together with input from a range of cast and crew. The cheesy “Oprah is the new housewife” is kinda funny but kinda horrific at the same time. The out-takes are unsurprisingly hilarious. The only irritation is the menu system – there are deleted scenes which are in the bonus features menu, then there’s extended episodes which have different deleted scenes put back in but are separate. Why make them different? Why not either re-edit all the deleted scenes back in? And why not just put the extended episodes into the play all function? I ended up having to go in and out of multiple menus to make sure I watched everything. But overall a great box set only slightly marred by a daft menu system.

Lost: Season 1

Telling the story of the 40 days after a plane crash leaves 40 odd people stranded on an island it touches upon many genres but is best described as a character drama. Each episode focuses on one of the character’s backstory told in flashbacks but for every piece of information revealed, two more questions are presented. The lives of these characters are linked before they ever get on a plane, and the shifting alliances on the island keep everyone moving. Life on the island covers everything from the mundane of water and censuses to the bizarre of polar bears and mysterious transmissions. Nothing is as it seems and no answer is simple. Once you’ve watched the whole season, you’ll want to watch it all again to pick up all the hints of things to come.