TITLE: BARNEY MILLER - THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON
DVD Release Date: March 17, 2009 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 551 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital English
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
The men of the 12th Precinct are back for another season of big laughs and bad coffee! Fires, blackouts, smog...elections--the third season gives a wild look at New York City during one of its most dynamic times, the late 1970s -- an era before the term “politically correct” existed.
Join Hal Linden as wise police captain Barney Miller along with Fish (Abe Vigoda), Wojo (Max Gail), Harris (Ron Glass), Yemana (Jack Soo), as well as Dietrich (Steve Landesberg), Levitt (Ron Carey) and Inspector Luger (James Gregory) in this hilarious Emmy-winning comedy!
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
One thing that I made *very* clear in both the first and second reviews is that I’m still only *very* loosely familiar with the show prior to its DVD releases -- with no cable reruns it’s tough to get to better know the show before each DVD release. This season I can’t even talk about my love for the “backdoor pilot” as this is a fairly straightforward season. One episode I’ve often heard referred to is a mid-season episode, “Hash,” that features Wojo bringing...er...”special” brownies to the 12th precinct, resulting in a stoned squad. Meanwhile, natural enemies - an actor and a critic - engage in swordplay.
Guest stars for the third season include Brett Somers (panelist on the classic 70s series Match Game), actor James Cromwell, and Doris Roberts, who modern viewers best know as Ray’s overbearing mother on Everybody Loves Raymond. Other guests include Kenneth Mars, Florence Halop, Sal Viscuso, and Peggy Pope.
The packaging, not exact being a complex piece of engineering in the previous season’s release, is even further simplified in this set’s release -- to the detriment of the discs themselves. The discs are contained in a single black keepcase -- with all three discs stacked on top of each other on one central hub on the right interior panel. It appears Sony’s tendency to stack discs, as seen on many of their Complete Series releases, is now carrying over to season-only DVD sets. I’m not a fan of stacked discs, at all, and really don’t like this change. I’m a huge fan of the slim plastic cases that were used for the previous set, and don’t see the need for this change.
The front cover features a shot similar in tone to the one used on seasons 1 and 2 -- with the shot being the primary cast near a wooden door with “Squad Room Detectives” on the glass. Hal Linden is sitting in a chair, Jack Soo is perched on a table, and the rest of the cast members are standing behind them. While the first set used a black and blue scheme, and the second season used red colors, the scheme for season three is green-based. Disc art features a name plaque on the left side with the disc number on the plate. The plate sits atop a case folder, with the edge of a pair of handcuffs seen to the right. The “liner notes” for the set -- the small booklet with episode details -- is given the appearance of an aged and coffee-stained piece of paper, similar to that of a case file. The artwork department at Sony truly comes up with some solid visuals for the graphics -- it’s almost always a bright spot regardless of any issues plaguing the rest of a set. Disc one holds episodes 1-8; two holds episodes 9-15. The final episodes, 16-22, are found on the third disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
Menus are extremely basic -- the cover art from the outer box is re-used, with green bars running along the top and bottom. A cast photo is in the middle. Show logo is centered along the top green bar. The disc menu options are along the bottom bar. Menu selection options include “Play All Episodes” and “Episode Selections” on both discs, and an option to access the previews on disc 3. Episode selection’s menu consists of police caution tape bounded together into a sort of grid, with episode stills being place within certain boxes within the tape. On both menus, a police badge icon denotes the selected option.
Video and Audio Quality:
This episode’s box makes no mention of high definition mastery. Whether that simply means they didn’t feel that it was worth denoting, or whether the prints are in fact left alone is actually a bit difficult to discern as we’re dealing with a 30+ year old sitcom. The only real problems I noticed were some minor grain specs here and there -- not at ALL rare for even the best-preserved series from the era -- and some interlacing issues that may not be present in all players. The audio is Dolby Digital, on the plus side, but is ultimately only a redone mono track. Remember the vintage you’re dealing with here. Chapter stops appear at the end of each act, usually resulting in 4 chapters per episode (cold open, main act, second act, ending bit). Runtimes are displayed below -- runtimes are most in the 24 to 25 minute range, meaning they are likely not edited - a refreshing change. The only short episodes are the Quarantine 2-parter, and as the 2-parters seem to *consistently* be shorter, I’m not really doubting the change.
Quarantine (Part 1): 23:21
Quarantine (Part 2): 23:19
Bus Stop: 25:12
The Election: 25:09
Power Failure: 25:13
Christmas Story: 25:11
Smog Alert: 25:39
Community Relations: 25:40
Rand Report: 25:39
Fire ’77: 24:59
The Abduction: 25:01
The Sex Surrogate: 25:22
Group Home: 25:20
Strike (Part I): 24:25
Strike (Part II): 25:26
Good news: No more minisodes.
Bad news: No special features, at all.
You win some, you lose some...
I love this show -- and while I certain have things I’d like to see improved (special features, anyone?) I’m really just thrilled that Sony is putting out another Barney Miller set at all. The wait for this one was dramatically shorter than the wait for season two -- here’s hoping the gap until season four is even shorter! If you’re just looking for a great sitcom -- or want to rediscover a show that seems to have been lost from the public consciousness as a result of it slipping out of the endless cable rerun cycle...I HIGHLY recommend this set. And as far as TV DVD sets go, the price is really fairly reasonable. You can even pick it up for around $20 -- nearly 33% off the manufacturer’s suggested price -- at retailers such as Sitcoms Online partner Amazon.com (see link at the end). PLEASE, buy this set. The day sales drop off are the day we wait until 2013 for another DVD release. Recommended.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 0.5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 3/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 03/15/09
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