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American Dreams - Season One Extended Music Edition


TITLE: AMERICAN DREAMS - SEASON ONE EXTENDED MUSIC EDITION


Info: DVD Release Date: September 7, 2004 (Universal Home Video)
color, approx. 18 hours, 14 minutes
MSRP: $89.98
Number of Discs: 7
Number of Episodes: 25
Language and Subtitles: English, closed captioned; Spanish and French subtitles
Special Features: 3 different Audio commentaries on 2 episodes from Dick Clark, creator and executive producer Jonathan Prince and cast members; Back to Bandstand - rare footage and extraordinary moments from American Bandstand; "My Boyfriend's Back" music video with Stacie Orrico, Brittany Snow, and Vanessa Lengies; time capsules for every episode; NBC News Time Capsule documentary with Brian Williams


American Dreams DVD Menu American Dreams DVD Menu

Introduction:

American Dreams, which won two Emmy Awards in its freshman season, is set against the memorable, upbeat sounds of the 1960s as it depicts a more innocent America -- as seen through the youthful Pryor family of Philadelphia as they brace for cultural turbulence ahead that still resonates in this contemporary era. 16-year-old Meg Pryor (Brittany Snow) pursues her dreams of dancing on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand", allowing the series to showcase performances from today's hottest music artists appearing as 1960's music icons.

American Dreams is brighter, bolder and better than ever. Set to the irresistible backbeat of the best and biggest hits of the '60s, the first season is now available in this 7 disc set featuring extended music scenes. All 25 episodes from the premiere season are included and feature incredible extended performances from some of today's hottest music superstars, inculding Usher, Ashanti, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, and many more. The set is loaded with over 250 unforgettable rock 'n' roll hits exploding in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. There are also numerous bonus reatures including audio commentaries, American Bandstand vintage footage, music video, and much more.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Memorable episodes include the pilot episode, where Meg and Roxanne find themselves on camera on American Bandstand while JJ questions his desire for a football scholarship from Notre Dame. The pilot episode was one of the better opening episodes I've seen of any series, and I was hooked instantly. Sam is welcomed into the Pryor home, Meg tries to win the affection of teen heartthrob Jimmy Riley, and Helen attends class at Temple University in "New Frontier." In "Silent Night," Meg and dance partner Jimmy Riley are voted one of Bandstand's favorite couples and J.J. is accepted into the University of Notre Dame. I especially liked this episode since it was set at Christmas time. Beatlemania grips the Pryor household and J.J's full scholarship from Notre Dame is denied in "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." The season finale, "City on Fire," was perhaps the best episode of the first season. Racial tensions begin to flare in North Philly, sparking a massive riot, and Meg finds herself in the middle of the violence when she visits Sam at the new store.

The American Bandstand scenes allow young current music stars portray the artists that originally appeared on the show in the 1960's. Michelle Branch appeared as Lesley Gore singing "You Don't Own Me" in "The End of Innocence." Nick Carter appeared as Jay Black of Jay and the Americans and sang "Come A Little Bit Closer" in "Soldier Boy." Usher portrayed Marvin Gaye in "Cold Snap" and sang "Can I Get A Witness." Ashanti appears as Dionne Warwick in "Silent Night" and sings "Walk On By." Vanessa Carlton portrayed Dusty Springfield and sang "Wishin' and Hopin" in "Heartache." India.Arie played Nina Simone in "False Start" and sang "Came Ye." Wayne Brady guest starred as Jackie Wilson in "The One" and sang "Baby Workout." LeeAnn Rimes plays Connie Francis and sings "Where the Boys Are" in the episode of the same name. B2K appear as The Temptations in "Secrets and Lies" and sing "My Girl." Third Eye Blind guest star as The Kinks in "Down the Shore" and sing "All Day and All Night." Other guest stars that appeared as various chracters include Robby Benson as Professor Witt in several episodes, Dan Butler as Coach Ambrose in serveral episodes, Clifton Davis as Alvin Lewis in "The Home Front", and Art Garfunkel as Mr. Greenwood in "False Start".


Packaging:

This set has some of the nicer, professional packaging that I've ver seen for a DVD set. It's first class all the way. There are two digipaks with one holding four discs and the other containing three discs. The two digipaks have a small half-sized slip cover to hold them. The slip cover has additional photos on it with details on the bonus features. The covers feature a photo of Brittany Snow and a smaller photo of Brittany and Vanessa Lengies dancing on American Bandstand. The backs of the digipaks feature various cast photos and scenes from the episodes. The inside of the digipaks have more photos and nice, fairly detailed summaries of the episodes on each disc. When you take the discs out from the case, there are blue tinted photos that appear behind the plastic hubs. Each disc has a different cast member on it and is in a different color. Meg is on red disc 1 which has episodes 1-4, J.J. is pictured on yellow disc 2 with episodes 5-8, Jack and Helen are on orange disc 3 with episodes 9-12, Roxanne is on purple disc 4 and has episodes 13-16, Patty is on pink disc 5 with episodes 17-20, Will is on green disc 6 with episodes 21-24, and Sam is on blue disc 7 with episode 25 and the bulk of the bonus features.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are well-designed and offer loads of information. The first disc has previews for Law & Order - Season 14, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 5, Law & Order: Crimintal Intent - Season 3; and Magnum P.I. - Season 1. The main menu screen features some moving images and clips from the series (sort of similar to the opening theme) with a portion of the show's theme song "Our Generation" playing in the background. There are 3 options at the bottom of the screen: Play All, Episode Index, and Languages. When you pick an episode, there is a colorful sub-menu that has a still image from the episode, the episode title & original airdate with short summary, and an option for time capsule notes which gives about 5 factoids (2 screens of text) from the general time period that the particular episode is depicting. There is also a "Back to Bandstand Highlights" option for each episode which gives 1-4 minutes of classic footage from the original American Bandstand including Dick Clark interviewing music legends such as The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore, and Marvin Gaye.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio quality of this set is awesome. The episodes are shot like mini movies with 35mm film to give them a richer feel and are presented in Full Frame 1.33:1. The audio is equally outstanding and has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Since there is so much music in every episode, it sounds so vibrant in this format. The actual episodes appear to be all unedited, running around 42-44 minutes. The set includes English, Spanish, and French subtitles. There is extra extended music footage from the American Bandstand scenes that were not seen in the original broadcasts on NBC. This adds about a minute or so to the episodes. While it is nice to have these extended scenes, it might have been an even better idea to just have the complete musical sequences as music videos in a separate bonus feature.


Special Features:

There are numerous extras that add value to the set. Each episode has the Time Capsules and Back to Bandstand options for each episode. The total running time combined of the Back to Bandstand highlights is around 47 minutes. The 4th disc has a "My Boyfriend's Back" music video on the set of American Bandstand featuring Stacie Orrico, Brittany Snow, and Vanessa Lengies. The video runs about 3 minutes, and this song was first available on the American Dreams soundtrack. There is also a 30-minute documentary hosted by NBC News anchor Brian Williams that takes you inside the historic events providing the backrdop for the first season of American Dreams including the assassination of JFK, race riots in Philadelphia, Vietnam War, and the civil rights and youth movements.

Three commentary tracks are available on the pilot episode and on the season finale "City of Fire". Executive Producer Dick Clark and Creator/Executive Producer are one team; the 2nd team includes cast members Rachel Boston, Ethan Dampf, Will Estes, Gail O'Grady, Sarah Ramos, and Tom Verica; and the 3rd team is Vanessa Lengies and Brittany Snow. These commentaries were very interesting and informative, especially the Clark/Prince tracks as they go into a lot of behind the scenes details on how the show is made. They discuss how the pilot episode was filmed in Vancouver, how they used vintage cars and the hair and makeup of the era, the choice of music in the episodes and how some cast members were picked, and general behind the scenes details on how the show was produced. The other two tracks by the cast members are interesting to hear, but it's sometimes hard to follow the one with the six cast members as they talk over each other.


Final Comments:

I've been a fan of American Dreams since day one. Watching the first season, everybody seems so young and they grew up so much in the second season. I love the cast, the music, the storylines, and just the general time period. I know some people like to nitpick the music choices or other historical inaccuracies, but the show is quality entertainment that you can watch with your whole family. While this set is a bit on the pricey side (primarily due to the music licensing issues and there are 3 extra episodes to make 25 instead of the traditional 22), if you are a fan of the show you will definitely want to pick up this set. It's a set that not only looks nice as far as the packaging and the episodes themselves, but it also offers some interesting bonus features that add to the experience. Look for the 3rd season premiere on NBC on Sunday, September 26th!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 4.9/5
Audio Quality: 4.9/5
Special Features: 4.8/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
Overall: 4.9/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 09/12/04

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005JNAF/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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