TITLE: BOB - THE COMPLETE SERIES
Release Date: April 3, 2012 (CBS Home Entertainment)
Packaging: Viva Case
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 33
Running Time: 781 minutes
Running Time of Features: approx. 8 minutes
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles and Captioning: English Subtitles
Special Features: Entertainment Tonight interviews; Mad-Dog Comic Issue #1 on DVD
If you ever watched television in the '70s and '80s, you know Bob. From 1972-1978, he was Bob Hartley, the Chicago area psychologist dealing with problems both at work and at home. After that, there was a little bit less Bob until 1982, when he returned as Vermont inn-keeper Dick Loudon in the series Newhart, where he remained for eight years. But perhaps what people remember the least is his return to television in 1992, again on CBS (always returning to CBS as Lucille Ball had done for nearly 30 years), with the series Bob, where he was now cartoonist Bob McKay.
Bob McKay was the creator of a comic book superhero in the '50s called Mad-Dog, and it had the potential to be big. But in the the McCarthy era, his material was considered by a United States Senate sub-committee to be subversive and a contributor to the corruption of the youth. That was the end of Mad-Dog and Bob went on to become a greeting card artist for many years... until his employer, AmCanTranConComCo, revives the superhero and wants to put the comic back into publication. With a little encouragement from his family, including wife Kaye (Carlene Watkins), daughter Trisha (Cynthia Stevenson), and friends, Bob reluctantly gets back into the comic book business which he left forty years ago.
The series was retooled significantly for the second season (which only received an eight episode order, and of those eight episodes, three didn't even air until a special airing on TV Land in 1997), where Bob's company was sold and he was fired. But not all is lost for Bob. Sylvia Schmitt (Betty White), the wife of his former boss, hires Bob as the president of the greeting card company which he left earlier.
The series begins with "Mad-Dog Returns," where Bob McKay's comic from nearly 40 years ago comes back to life. The first day at the drawing board doesn't go so well in "Drawing a Blank." Bob's daughter Trisha catches her boyfriend eating lunch with another woman in "My Daughter, My Fodder," but the real trouble comes when her pain may become a Mad-Dog storyline! Trisha inspires a feminine revolt on her father's own comic (and her new workplace) in "PC or Not PC." The last page of the first issue goes missing in "Unforgiven."
In "Mad-Dog on 34th Street," the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is to proudly include a Mad-Dog balloon... except it ends up taking flight the night before. Everybody is stealing something in "A Christmas Story." In "La Sorpresa," Bob's surprise birthday party isn't as pleasing as he would hope. George Wendt (appearing as himself) visits to watch the Super Bowl with his friend Bob in "Da Game." Bob comes face-to-face with his nemesis of decades earlier in "The Man Who Killed Mad-Dog."
Bob arranges a casino night at a church fundraiser (and it goes all wrong) in "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Our Lady of Constant Sorrow" In "I'm Getting Remarried in the Morning," it is the McKays 25th anniversary, but it doesn't go so well when they are robbed and Trisha's plans for a celebration are ruined when she wakes up too late. Bob's hand is broken in "Death of an Underwear Salesman," which leads to a temporary new artist for Mad-Dog. Trisha and her roommate Kathy (played by a pre-Friends Lisa Kudrow) throw a dinner party which, of course, goes wrong in "The Entertainer." In "Neighborhood Watch," Bob and Kaye have a new neighbor who likes to work out in the nude every night, right in the open for Bob to see. It may be the end in the first season finale "Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Mad-Dog Gone?"
The series returns for a second retooled season (with Betty White and Jere Burns now in the cast) in "Greetings," where Bob is hired back to run the greeting card company he left. Sylvia (Betty White) tries to fix up Trisha and Pete (Jere Burns) in "For Pete's Sake." Bob and Pete's sales trip involves dodging sexual advances of a client in "Kiss and Sell." Pete fixes up Sylvia with Uncle Buzz (Dick Martin, who also was a series director) in "Michiana Moon." Sylvia decides to confront the home-wrecker who ruined her marriage when she returns to town in the "final" (this is questionable, since the last few episodes aired in a seemingly random order) episode of the series, "Better to Have Loved and Flossed."
The episodes on the set largely appear to be unedited, though having never really watched the series before, I can't say for certain. Some episodes seem to run a little shorter than the rest, particularly "The Phantom of AmCanTranConComCo" and "Michiana Moon" which run about a minute shorter than many of the other episodes. Also, the episode "Mad-Dog Returns" on Disc 1 has a slightly abnormal runtime, but it is actually abnormal in the sense that it is so long, running nearly 29 minutes. I'm not sure why this episode is so long, but I certainly don't have a problem with it! Runtimes are as follows:
Disc 1 (Season 1):
1. "Mad-Dog Returns"(28:46)
2. "Drawing a Blank" (23:46)
3. "My Daughter, My Fodder" (23:46)
4. "Penny For Your Thoughts" (23:46)
5. "Terminate Her" (23:46)
6. "PC or Not PC" (23:24)
7. "A Streetcar Named Congress-Douglas" (23:47)
8. "Unforgiven" (23:36)
Disc 2 (Season 1):
9. "Mad-Dog on 34th Street" (23:40)
10. "Stone in Love" (23:09)
11. "The Lost Episode" (23:26)
12. "A Christmas Story" (23:36)
13. "La Sorpresa" (23:46)
14. "Bob & Kaye & Jerry & Patty" (23:47)
15. "You Can't Win" (23:36)
16. "Da Game" (23:32)
17. "The Man Who Killed Mad-Dog" (23:40)
Disc 3 (Season 1):
18. "The Phantom of AmCanTranConComCo" (22:47)
19. "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Our Lady of Constant Sorrow" (23:45)
20. "I'm Getting Remarried in the Morning" (23:25)
21. "Tell Them Willy Mammoth is Here" (23:45)
22. "Death of an Underwear Salesman" (23:41)
23. "The Entertainer" (23:36)
24. "Neighborhood Watch" (23:47)
25. "Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Mad-Dog Gone?" (23:30)
Disc 4 (Season 2):
1. "Greetings" (23:21)
2. "For Pete's Sake" (23:47)
3. "Whose Card is it Anyway?" (23:25)
4. "Speechless in Chicago" (23:37)
5. "Kiss and Sell" (23:25)
6. "Michiana Moon" (22:20)
7. "Have Yourself a Married Little Christmas" (23:38)
8. "Better to Have Loved and Flossed" (23:23)
The packaging artwork isn't the fanciest thing that I've ever seen, but it certainly does fit in with what the series is about. In fact, the cover almost looks like a comic book cover... though you probably would never see a photo Bob Newhart on the cover of ANY superhero comic book cover. Still, he stands next to his animated creation Mad-Dog on there. On the back, we have information about the series, and a large photo featuring Betty White and Jere Burns with Bob. Considering that they were in very few episodes of the series, it seems a bit puzzling. There are also a few episode snapshots at the bottom. Inside the standard Viva case, you'll find the four discs, with no artwork other than the series logo on a gray background. The first three discs all contain first season episodes. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-8, Disc 2 contains episodes 9-17, and Disc 3 contains episodes 18-25. The fourth disc contains all eight season 2 episodes (including the three "unaired" episodes). Episode titles are printed on the disc, which you may find useful if you receive a copy of the set with a dark opaque case. Episode titles are printed on the inside of the packaging insert, but much like another release which I recently received from another studio, you can't read them unless you remove the insert from the case. I'm pretty sure that this is merely some sort of manufacturing defect that is likely occurring wherever these DVDs are being pressed, and hopefully something will be done about these soon, though I doubt that there will be any remedy for anybody who buys these DVDs with these cases, as it really is only a minor defect.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set are very unexciting, but I suppose they do the job. You'll find a large photo of Bob on the menu, along with the series title, a listing of all of the episodes on the disc, a subtitles option, and (on Discs 1 and 4) a special features option. There is no audio or video on these menus at all. And there is no play all option either. I'm not sure why CBS Home Entertainment seems to have given up on including that option. Personally, I never used it much, but I can understand why some fans would prefer to have it. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
I have no clue what went wrong at all with the video and audio quality on this set. It is almost painful to watch at times. The video quality just seems to be far out of focus and everything just looks grainy. I'm guessing that this is all because the series has just been sitting in the vaults. The audio quality is a bit low and dull, even though the episodes are in stereo (and, to be specific, they are actually in "CBS StereoSound™ (Where Available)" according to the opening credits on some of the episodes). It just isn't all that impressive. Each episode has English subtitles, but there aren't any closed-captions on the set. You would almost expect there to be, though, because the original CBS closed-captioning logo was also left in the top right-hand corner of the first few seconds of many episodes. I won't complain about that, though. It is preferable when they leave original artifacts such as those intact, as long as the feature or something that is equally as good (and actually the English subtitles are better since they work with HDMI) is included.
I really didn't expect any special features at all for this set, but there are a few included, and while they aren't huge, they are very nice. First, on Disc 1, we have "Entertainment Tonight Interview with Bob Newhart" (2:00), where we get to see a short clip from the September 17, 1992 episode of Entertainment Tonight (then co-anchored by John Tesh) where we get to see what "the new series debuting tomorrow" is all about. Also on Disc 1 is an interview where Bob and the co-stars talk about the then upcoming episode "A Streetcar Named Congress-Douglas" (1:51). For some reason, I came across a VERY peculiar glitch on this, where a text listing (in the form of subtitles) of the menus from the DVD set Dynasty - The Fifth Season, Volume One randomly popped up on the screen toward the end of feature, and this happened to me on two DVD players. This little glitch is perhaps the most bizarre thing I've ever seen on a DVD set, though perhaps it has something to do with the appearance of Entertainment Tonight clips on that particular set.
We don't get any more special features on Discs 2 or 3, but if you head on over to Disc 4, there are a few more. First, we have another Entertainment Tonight interview (3:58), this time with Betty White. This one is really good, because it is more of a "scripted" segment where Betty White takes us on a behind-the-scenes tour of the set and gives us a comedic bit where she pretends to be a very nice and sweet person, but is constantly insulting and bad-mouthing her co-stars (pretending like nobody ever saw those parts) along the way. It is an interview which is uniquely Betty White, and fans of Betty (who isn't one?) will appreciate it.
Finally, on Disc 4, there is a "Mad-Dog" Issue #1 featurette. Apparently, when this series aired... and keep in mind, this was an era where comic book publishers would put out anything and create "collectible" issues which turned out to be worth less than the paper they were printed on... a few (if that many) issues of Mad-Dog, the comic in the series, were published by Marvel comics. Here, we have a few on-screen views of some of the pages from the first issues of the comic. Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to navigate. It would have been nicer if they had placed a PDF copy of the issue as a DVD-ROM featurette, but it seems that features like these are incredibly rare for TV series releases.
It took me a long time to appreciate the humor of Bob Newhart, and after all of these years, I finally can say that I really enjoy the series Newhart, and to a slightly lesser extent, I also enjoy The Bob Newhart Show. But as for the series Bob, well, I feel like this show was the one that was never quite meant to be. My main gripe is that the series is very dry and boring. Of course, "dry and boring" is actually what makes a lot of Bob Newhart's humor so great, and that is probably why it worked so well on Newhart, as the series really called for that type of humor. But here, it just doesn't contribute that much to the series and it is really a shame. It doesn't help either that the series was retooled after the end of the first season, only to be canceled five episodes after the retooling. Even the addition of Betty White to the cast, and it seems like she always adds to any show, doesn't seem to help much with this series. With all of that being said, though, I think that fans of Bob Newhart, through the good and the bad, are certain to enjoy this release. I'm honestly pretty surprised that we are seeing it at all, considering that his earlier series seem to have had really unfortunate fates on DVD, but it is especially nice that we are getting the whole series in one lump.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 1.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 03/26/12
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