TITLE: BECKER - THE THIRD SEASON
Release Date: January 12, 2010 (CBS Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 8 hours, 40 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital English
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned
Special Features: None
There’s no funnier doctor than Becker, the angry physician with no patience. When you say “grumpy antagonistic doctor on television,” many people point to House -- but a full six years prior to the debut of that show, Becker was making his patients lives miserable over on CBS. Starring fan favorite Ted Danson (Cheers) the hit series returns to DVD for its third hilarious season. Aided y his frustrated nurse Margaret (Hattie Winston) and zany office worker Linda (Shawnee Smith), the Bronx-dwelling Dr. John Becker selflessly treats his needy patients, he just never stops complaining about it! Even with support from his friend Jake (Alex Desert) and diner owner Reggie (Terry Farrell), plus Bob -- who is now a building super -- he’ll still figure out a way to screw things up. This 3-disc set includes all 24 season three episodes of Becker on DVD for the first time ever from CBS Home Entertainment.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
Easily, the most notable part of the season -- at least to me -- is Becker getting sued for malpractice in a three-part episode at season’s end. Sitcoms aren’t always known for having plot arcs that spill over multiple episodes, so this was a nice experiment. The capsule summary of the main plot for the three shows goes roughly like this: Becker takes an out-of-shape patient to the gym for a workout. Like clockwork, the patient has a heart attack. Furious, he decides to sue Becker as he feels without the trip to the gym it wouldn’t have had happen. Becker consults with an attorney, who wants him to settle as if it goes to trial Becker could lose his practice. He considers it but ultimately decides not to as settling could imply guilt, and he wants a clean name. Here’s where one of the key flaws with the situation comedy format presents itself: Unlike a more dramatic television show the situation the show presents is supposed to lead to laughter. Malpractice by its nature isn’t particularly funny. Throw in that if Becker faced any long-lasting consequences it would seriously mess with the show, and suddenly you know darn well nothing long-lasting (aside from some future throwaway jokes) will come from this, wasting three episodes. There are still laughs to be found but they either rely on Becker’s temper or the B-blots.
You want guest stars? Richard Hatch, winner of the very first Survivor series, appears in the episode “One Wong Move.” Of course, Richard Hatch would wind up serving time for tax evasion for not paying taxes on his winnings, so seeing him again is an interesting bit of history to dredge up. Jaclyn Smith (Charlie’s Angels) appears in “The Wrong Man.” LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Roots, Reading Rainbow) appears in “Beckerethics” as does John Fugelsang, who many people now have forgotten co-hosted America’s Funniest Home Videos alongside Daisy Fuentes in between the runs of Bob Saget & Tom Bergeron. Jaclyn Smith returns in “Pretty Poison.” Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) appears in “The TorMentor.” Academy Award-nominated actress Mariel Hemingway appears in parts 2 and 3 of the malpractice arc as Becker’s attorney Rut. The third episode of that trio, the season finale “Trials and Defibrillations,” also features Judyann Elder, who is most remembered, perhaps unfortunately, as the replacement Harriet Winslow on the last season of Family Matters.
The packaging is exactly what you’d expect for this studio. It is a single-unit clear plastic case with a flipping panel in the middle. This middle panel holds discs one and two, with the third disc affixed to the back panel. The discs are the usual default Paramount silver with the show logos being given an etched appearance. Front cover features the primary cast on the front in one of the many, many generic cast photos a show like this generates. Inside panel covers features episodic breakdown. Each disc contains 8 episodes; those of you who can’t quite grasp simple math take note that episodes 1-8 are on disc 1, 9-16 are on disc 2, and 17-24 are on the final disc. If all of the above sounds hauntingly familiar it’s because it’s identical in all but front cover to the previous two sets. While season 1 was blue and season 2’s front cover was red, this season we get...green.
Menu Design and Navigation:
Do complicated menus frighten you? Are menus with animations and theme tunes a work of evil? Do you despise DVDs with high production values? Then you’ll love Becker (and really just about anything that this studio does). It’s not a rip on the graphic designers -- the whole episode list with checkboxes, menu names on band-aids, modified photograph design of the main menu fits in with the aesthetic of the series and they should be commended. But why are TV DVD menus by some studios -- particularly this one -- so simplistic in their design? The very same studios produce high quality movies for their films, so why are TV shows treated like the red-haired stepchildren of the DVD business when quite a bit of the sales of DVD are due to the sheer volume of TV shows available? It’s baffling.
The main menu isn’t really the *main* menu, it’s more of a landing page. From it you have Becker in front of a green-tinted doctor’s office, the show logo in the top left, and the two options “Play All” and “Episodes” on the bottom left with small checkboxes -- with an X in the box denoting the active selection. The episode selection menu features the usual crowd from the diner sitting at the diner, which has been given a green hue. A list of episodes fills the bottom-left lower quarter of the screen. It’s a bit hard at times to make out which episode is selected as the small, thin, and dark X doesn’t really stand out very well against the background.
Video and Audio Quality:
First and foremost, the usual disclaimer about the possibility of edits appears on the bottom. Whether there actually are any or not remains to be seen as we hit the runtimes; I’m pretty sure that the lawyers at Paramount/CBS require that to be on there at this point so there’s no telling.
Unlike last time, I have absolutely no complaints about the video. If you’re read enough reviews at this site you know I seem to find things to complain about with ease (perhaps making this the perfect series for me to review given the similar nature of the lead character) but I don’t really have anything. Video is nice; the audio is a rather decent Stereo track. Chapter stops are placed at the end of each act. Episodes are constructed in the format of Opening titles, opening segment, main act 1, main act 2, and final closing segment, and closing credits.
Now for the runtimes:
The Film Critic: 21:49
Super Bob: 21:49
One Wong Move: 21:51
What Indifference a Day Makes: 21:51
The Usual Suspects: 21:52
The Wrong Man: 22:17
Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em: 21:52
Dr. Angry Head: 21:50
Margaret’s Dream: 21:31
Heart Breaker: 21:51
The Trouble with Harry: 21:50
The Princess Cruise: 21:31
Pretty Poison: 21:49
2001 ½: A graduation Odyssey: 21:50
Elder Hostile: 21:50
The Ugly Truth: 21:50
The More You Know: 21:49
You Say Gay Son, I Say Godson: 21:50
Nocturnal Omissions: 21:51
The TorMentor: 21:50
Small Wonder (Part 1): 21:21
Sue You (Part 2): 20:14
Trials and Defibrillations (Part 3): 21:12
OK, so much for any unclarity. A 20:14 screams “this has had scenes removed!” The farther away from 22 minutes the more edited a show appears to be. 20:14? Ridiculous.
None. You’re telling me no interviews, commentaries or even bloopers could have been on this set? Not even the generic episode promos? That’s CBS Home Entertainment for you.
Nearly two minutes appears to be hacked off of one of the episodes. In what universe is that a good thing? If you can move beyond the editing this is still a great show. It just needs a better DVD presentation, is all. Looking forward to the fourth season’s release onto DVD as I enjoy the show quite a bit, I’m just disheartened to see the show getting such a mediocre to poor DVD presentation. The peril of in-house releases I guess. If you can live with a few edits here and there, buy the set. If it’s a deal breaker, then my apologies for being the bearer of bad news, but, well, that’s life.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 3.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 01/22/10
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