TITLE: CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? - THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
Release Date: April 24, 2012 (Shanachie Entertainment)
Packaging: Digipack (no outer sleeve)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 30
Running Time: 780 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Subtitles and Captioning: None
Special Features: None
Officers Toody (Joe E. Ross) and Muldoon (Fred Gwynne) are back on the streets in the 53rd precinct in the Bronx in Car 54, Where Are You? - The Complete Second Season! Being somewhat of the original "odd couple" of television (a decade earlier than Felix and Oscar), the two officers (along with the others back at the precinct) put hilarity in stopping crime and always getting into hilarious situations that probably no other police officer ever put themselves in to. The series was created by Nat Hiken for NBC in 1961 and only ended up lasting for two seasons, but like many short-lived series from the decade, it ended up leaving a legacy which is remembered up until this day. In this DVD release, we get the second (and final) season of this hilarious series.
Before we say anything about the episodes, Shanachie did for this release which they did NOT do for the release of the first season, and fans are sure to appreciate it: they actually put the episodes IN ORDER this time. Their release of the first season made many people upset because they decided to order the episodes by their popularity (which is not only highly subjective, but even if it wasn't, it certainly isn't a natural order). But to be clear, this time, we have thirty episodes of the second season... in the order in which they aired.
The second season begins with "Hail to the Chief," where Toody and Muldoon are recruited to drive the president (John F. Kennedy at the time) to the United Nations, but Muldoon views Kennedy as his hero and the stress involved with chauffeuring him hits him hard. Ned Wertheimer guest stars in "A Man is Not an Ox," where he plays a doctor who sees similarities between Toody and Muldoon which seem to be a little too in sync. The officers look back at Schnauser's last day on the mounted police route in "Schnauser's Last Ride." The 53rd precinct officers audition for a popular TV series of the era in "Toody & Muldoon Sing Along with Mitch." Larry Storch guest stars in "Remember St. Petersburg." The officers become financial backers of a play when Muldoon's sister lands a part in "That's Show Business," but how will they react when they discover it is a play about police brutality?
It turns out that Toody makes a better crook than cop, as is seen in "Toody Undercover." In "I Hate Captain Block," Toody takes care of the captain's parrot, and trouble begins when the parrot starts repeating something awful that he says about the captain. Sylvia Schnauser (Charlotte Rae) has an overgrown ego when she is asked to be in a commercial in "A Star is Born in the Bronx." Toody and Muldoon mistake the captain for a kleptomaniac in "Stop, Thief!" In "The White Elephant," what starts out as a police operation turns into the officers operating an eatery.
Benny the Bookie is out on parole in "Benny the Bookie's Last Chance," and will do anything to get back in to prison... but the officers of the 53rd are determined to see that it doesn't happen. Toody and Muldoon are opponents in a club election in "The Presidential Itch." In "The Biggest Day of the Year," something big is supposed to happen at the precinct, but nobody quite knows what that is. Toody and Muldoon try to make a kid's Bar Mitzvak extra special in "See You at the Bar Mitzvah," except the problem is that nobody likes his father.
Toody uses what he learned from watching TV to solve a crime in "I've Been Here Before." A woman promises to pair up ordinary people with Hollywood movie stars when the deli owner reports he'll be marrying Joan Crawford in "Joan Crawford Didnít Say No." Gunther buys Lucille a wig as a birthday gift in "Lucille is 40." Sylvia gets to go undercover in "The Loves of Sylvia Schnauser." The season (and series) ends with "The Curse of the Snitkins," where Toody and Muldoon convince a shy officer to join their precinct, unaware that he is a jinx.
The episodes on the set are not only unedited (as were the first season episodes; a review of the first season on amazon.com created some undue panic when a person incorrectly indicated that episodes were edited), but the episodes even have their original sponsor opening and closing credits. Runtimes are as follows:
1. "Hail to the Chief" (25:56)
2. "One Sleepy People" (25:55)
3. "A Man is Not an Ox" (25:55)
4. "Schnauser's Last Ride" (25:55)
5. "Toody and Muldoon Sing Along with Mitch" (25:49)
6. "Occupancy, August First" (25:57)
7. "Remember St. Petersburg" (25:46)
8. "That's Show Business" (25:54)
9. "Toody, Undercover" (25:58)
10. "I Hate Captain Block" (25:55)
11. "A Star is Born in the Bronx" (26:00)
12. "Pretzel Mary" (25:50)
13. "142 Tickets on the Aisle" (25:54)
14. "Stop, Thief!" (25:49)
15. "J'Adore Muldoon" (25:53)
16. "The White Elephant" (25:58)
17. "Benny the Bookie's Last Chance" (25:51)
18. "The Presidential Itch" (25:55)
19. "Toody and Muldoon Meet the Russians" (25:55)
20. "Here We Go Again" (25:57)
21. "The Star Boarder" (25:52)
22. "The Biggest Day of the Year" (25:49)
23. "Here Comes Charlie" (25:40)
24. "See You at the Bar Mitzvah" (25:40)
25. "I've Been Here Before" (25:41)
26. "Joan Crawford Didn't Say No" (25:58)
27. "Lucille is Forty" (25:39)
28. "The Loves of Sylvia Schnauser" (25:59)
29. "The Puncher and Judy" (25:34)
30. "The Curse of the Snitkins" (25:57)
I haven't seen any sets where I have been able to say this in a while, so it must be time to say it for the first time in a long time: OUCH. The packaging on this set is one of the worst I've ever seen on any recent DVD set, and in fact, I've seen very few as bad as this one going back to the earliest days of DVD. The cover art has a picture of Toody and Muldoon standing in front of a typical New York City delicatessen. On the back, there is a caricature of Sylvia and Leo Schnauser, along with a rather lengthy description of the season (although it is certainly nice that they put this much into the description, rather than the standard few sentences we see on a lot of sets these days). Still, it all looks very cheap, almost public domain quality. Inside the case, you'll find a listing of episodes (underneath the discs). There are four discs in the set, with eight episodes on each of the first three discs and six episodes on the fourth disc. The disc artwork just has the series title on a blue background.
The artwork, though, isn't the only problem. Here, we have a two panel digipack in this set. It wouldn't have hurt to have put some sort of sleeve on it, but unfortunately, they didn't. So you basically have a folding case with no outer support for it. And it just gets even worse when you open up the digipack, because the discs are placed in these holders which are virtually impossible to remove the discs from until you get the hang of it (then it becomes very natural, but it took me a while to get it). Clearly, even Shanachie knows that this packaging isn't the greatest, because they unbelievably have instructions on how to remove the discs from the case on each disc! I've never seen a set where that has to be indicated.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The packaging was bad and, well, so are the menus. The main menu on each disc looks very cheap and unimpressive, with a large still photo of Toody and Muldoon (same one as seen on the cover) with a red background. There are many elements of terrible design on the menu, with different fonts all over the place... including one which resembles (but isn't, it is a little different) the dreaded Comic Sans. Once you select an episode, it plays right away... and when the episode finishes playing, the next episode plays immediately. It doesn't go back to the main menu like it should. There are no chapter stops at all. And on top of all of that, there is no play all option.
Video and Audio Quality:
So far, it seems like I've been getting into a lot of negatives about this set. But when it comes to video and audio quality, this set is, by and large, of pretty decent quality. The picture isn't necessarily quite as sharp and focused as it could be, but there are very few issues to truly be concerned about here. There are some grain and debris issues, but the episodes actually look a lot worse in syndication (from what I've seen on MeTV, at least). The episodes are in mono, as one would expect, but unfortunately, subtitles and closed-captioning are not included.
There is only one special feature on the entire set. On Disc 4, you'll find a "Joe E. Ross Stand Up Comedy Routine" featurette (11:23), which is basically what it sounds like... a stand-up comedy routine from Joe E. Ross from after the series ended. On the back of the package for the set, it indicates that he was a raunchy burlesque comic before the series, and after the series ended, he made an attempt to do a more wholesome standup act... which ironically, is sort of the opposite direction from what most comedians were going in at the time.
There is no beating around the bush on some of the negatives of this release. Even though they did get the episodes in the correct order this time, it is still painfully obvious that the packaging is just plain awful (poor design, and the artwork isn't very professional) and the menus are terrible too (they look unprofessional, and the episodes don't return to the main menu once you finish watching them as is the standard for DVD releases). But that should NOT stop anybody from purchasing this set. Despite all of those negatives, the video and audio quality of the episodes is pretty good, the episodes seem to be unedited, and this is simply a fun series to watch. If you want to watch this series, this is definitely the way to go. It would be nice to see a complete series release with some of this issues rectified (including putting the first season episodes in order), but it is doubtful that if any such release did come, that it would be much better than the two that we've seen. So, my best suggestion is to sit back and enjoy this set for what it is worth--high quality transfers of a hilarious series.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 3/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 04/20/12
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