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Gimme A Break! - Season One


TITLE: GIMME A BREAK! - SEASON ONE


Info:

DVD Release Date: February 14, 2006 (Universal Home Video)
Color/1981-82
MSRP: $34.98
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 19
Running Time: Approx. 7 Hours, 47 Minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: approx. 105 minutes (counting bonus episodes)
Audio: English
Subtitles: English SDH; Closed Captioned.
Special Features: “The Great ‘80s TV Flashback”; Bonus Episode - Kate & Allie - Season One ("A Very Loud Family"); Bonus Episode - Charles in Charge - Season One ("Extracurricular Activity"); Preview Episode - Gimme A Break! - Season Two ("Nell Goes To Jail")


Introduction:

Gimme A Break, I sure deserve it. It's time I made it to the top. Nell Carter shines as Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper, the role that twice earned her Emmy and Golden Globe Award nominations, and helped redefine the meaning of "family." Available for the first time ever on DVD, Gimme A Break! is the funny, hip and sometimes poignant portrayal of the Kanisky family: widowed Police Chief Carl; his three daughters Katie, Julie and Samantha; and their unflappable housekeeper-turned-surrogate mother (Carter). This 3-disc set includes all 19 episodes from Season One, as well as a preview from Season Two, bonus episodes from the smash-hit sitcoms Kate & Allie and Charles in Charge, and a special featurette that takes a look back at other great TV shows of the eighties. Featuring renowned guest stars such as Danny Glover, Rue McClanahan and Helen Hunt, Gimme A Break! is the beloved sitcom that delivers both love and laughs.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Gimme A Break premiered on NBC on October 29, 1981. It was not an immediate ratings success, but it eventually found an audience. It aired in at least 10 different time slots during its six season run. A total of 137 episodes were produced. The show has rarely been seen in syndication on cable in recent years. It last regularly aired on the USA Network in September 1998. The first season cast included Nell Carter as Nell Harper, Dolph Sweet as Carl Kanisky, Kari Michaelson as Katie Kanisky, Lauri Hendler as Julie Kanisky, Lara Jill Miller as Samantha "Sam" Kanisky, and Howard Morton as Officer Ralph Simpson.

The first season premiere was delayed due to a writer's strike, and only 19 episodes were produced. There were several memorable episodes. In "Julie's Rejection," Katie nominates Julie for membership into "The Silver Slippers," an exclusive social club for girls. When Julie can't find a date to the prom, she drowns her sorrows at the arcade... where Cupid scores a direct hit in "Julie's First Love." Katie is rushed to the hospital and the Chief is shocked to learn the cause of the emergency in "The Emergency." Chaos in the Kanisky home comes to a head when Samantha drives away in her father's squad car in "Samantha Steals a Squad Car." Katie's singing group, "Hot Muffins," is such a big hit at the local nightclub that music producers want to bring the group to Hollywood in "Hot Muffins." After being named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, the Chief comes home to find that his house is being robbed in "The Robbery."

There were a number of notable guest stars. Harrison Page appeared as Bob in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and as Hamilton Storm in "The Robbery." He would return as Hamilton Storm in several other episodes the next season. Rue McClanahan plays Marian, an old high school classmate of The Chief, in "The Second Time Around." Mary Jo Catlett guest starred as Betty in "Do or Diet." Danny Glover appeared as Bill in "A Man in Nell's Room." Jay Johnson played the Priest in "Your Prisoner is Dead" and "An Unmarried Couple" and the Ventriloquist in "Nell's Ex." Julie Anne Haddock ("The Facts of Life") plays the club president in "Julie's Rejection." Liz Sheridan plays the Nurse in "The Emergency." Hilda Haynes, Nell Carter's real-life mother, plays Nell's mother in "Nell Goes Home." Elizabeth Kerr appeared as Grandma Mildred Kanisky in "Grandma Fools Around." She would be replaced by Jane Dulo the following season. Crystal Bernard guest starred as Kelly in "The Hot Muffins." John P. Navin played Scotty in "Sam's Affair." Helen Hunt appeared as Valerie in "An Unmarried Couple." An interesting trivia note: Helen Hunt auditioned for the role of Katie Kanisky. Paul Regina played Jonathan in "An Unmarried Couple." Recurring characters that make their first appearances included Alvernette Jiminez as Nell's friend, Angie, and Pete Schrum as Uncle Ed Kanisky.


Packaging:

This 3-disc set contains all 19 episodes from the first season (1981-1982). The packaging is a thin outer cardboard box with three slim cases. A nice photo of Nell Carter is on the cover, and there are six smaller photos of the cast in picture frames at the bottom. Some people might complain that it isn't a season one photo of Nell or that the other photos aren't all from season one, but I'm sure there were only a limited number of cast photos to choose from. On the back of the outer box, there are 3 small photos from the episodes. There is also a synopsis of the series and a list of the bonus features. The three slim cases, which slide out from the outer box, all feature the same photos as the cover art. There are some short 1-2 sentence summaries of the episodes listed on the back of the cases. It would have been nice if they included the original airdates, but those are listed on the menus. Inside the slim cases, there is just white space. I think they could have used this area for more photos, trivia, or quotes from the series. Thankfully, Universal used single-sided discs for this release. However, the discs are very plain looking. They are just white on the top half and purple on the bottom half, with the Gimme A Break! logo in purple at the top of them. Disc 1 has episodes 1-8, Disc 2 has 9-16, and Disc 3 has 17-19 and the bonus features. Inside case one there is an insert for other Universal TV DVD products such as Charles in Charge.


Menu Design and Navigation:

Gimme A Break! - Season One DVD Menu

The menus look pretty nice and are easy to navigate. The main menu has the same photo of Nell on the left-hand side of the screen as the cover, although it looks like it was reversed and re-positioned. The Gimme A Break! logo is in the center in purple. There is a photo of Lauri Hendler, Dolph Sweet, Lara Jill Miller, and Kari Michaelson in a frame on the right-hand side of the screen. The second season opening theme can be heard in the background, and it loops after it ends. On the bottom of the screen in a blue bar, there are options for "Play All," "Episode Index," "Languages," "Bonus Materials," and "Sneak Peeks" (only on disc 1). For disc one, before the menu screen, we get previews for Magnum, P.I., Knight Rider, The A-Team, Charles in Charge, Gimme A Break!, and Kate & Allie. Sneak Peeks include: Northern Exposure; Revelations; Cleopatra 2525, Earth 2; Sliders; American Gothic; The Munsters; Kolchak: The Night Stalker; Battlestar Galactica Season 1; Battlestar Galactica Season 20; Law & Order; Leave it to Beaver; and Miami Vice.

Your selections on the menus are underlined in yellow and turn green when you pick them. When you select "Episode Index," it takes you to a sub-menu that features a photo in a frame from each episode. There are 3-4 episodes per screen. When you choose an episode, it takes you to another menu where there is a photo, along with pretty detailed summaries and the episode titles, original airdates, and notable guest stars. There is also an "Episode List" option that just gives a vertical listing of the episodes that you can choose. The Languages menu has cast photo and lets you turn on subtitles for the deaf & hard-of-hearing. The Bonus Materials menu is present on all three discs for some reason, but the actual bonuses are only on the third disc. There are no chapter stops or scene selection menus. Universal really needs to add them for future releases.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video and audio are both excellent and better than I expected. It is hard to believe that these episodes are around 25 years old now. They were shot on video tape, so there isn't any problem with a lot of grain or dirt that you see with shows on film. The last time Gimme A Break was in national syndication was on the USA Network in September 1998. The episodes on this DVD set look much cleaner and have likely been digitally remastered for the best possible picture quality. There are no more than 8 episodes per disc, so there are no compression isuses. All episodes appear to be unedited, running over 24 minutes in length. They are in their original broadcast order. There is nothing on the packaging to indicate that any of the music has been replaced. This is an additional two minutes than what you saw on the USA Network. No more jokes cut off, while still having the audience's laughter on these episodes! For the closing logo enthusiasts, these episodes have the Alan Landsburg Productions logo on them.

The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track. The volume is at a good level, and the dialogue is easy to understand. These episodes feature the opening theme that they used for the first season. Subtitles for the deaf & hard-of-hearing are available on all of the episodes and some of the bonus features.

Here is the episode breakdown by disc and the running times:

Disc 1
---------
1. Katie the Crook (10/29/81) (24:00)
2. A Good Man is Hard to Find (11/05/81) (24:10)
3. The Second Time Around (11/12/81) (24:20)
4. Mom's Birthday (11/19/81) (24:20)
5. Do or Diet (11/26/81) (24:21)
6. A Man in Nell's Room (12/03/81) (24:19)
7. Your Prisoner is Dead (12/10/81) (24:21)
8. Julie's Rejection (12/17/81) (24:01)

Disc 2
---------
9. Julie's First Love (01/07/82) (24:11)
10. Nell's Ex (01/14/82) (24:09)
11. Katie the Cheat (01/21/82) (24:20)
12. The Emergency (02/04/82) (24:19)
13. Nell Goes Home (02/11/82) (24:22)
14. Samantha Steals a Squad Car (02/18/82) (24:19)
15. Grandma Fools Around (02/25/82) (24:20)
16. Hot Muffins (03/11/82) (24:20)

Disc 3
---------
17. Sam's Affair (03/18/82) (24:18)
18. The Robbery (03/25/82) (24:18)
19. An Unmarried Couple (04/01/82) (24:18)


Gimme A Break - Season One DVD Menu

Special Features:

The special features are found on the third disc. They are pretty good, although they could have been a bit better and more focused on the show. There are three episodes included: 1 each of Gimme A Break!, Kate & Allie, and Charles in Charge. The Gimme A Break! second season premiere, "Nell Goes to Jail," is called a "preview" on the back of the box and not just a "bonus episode." There is also a bonus episode from the first season of Charles in Charge (also being released on 02/14): "Extracurricular Activity" and one from Kate & Allie's first season: "A Very Loud Family." Kate & Allie will be released on May 2nd. The previews show a first and second season combined release for it.

"The Great '80s Flashback" is a 29-minute documentary about the pop culture impact various programs made on the television landscape during the 80's decade. This is one of those multi-purpose special features that promote all of the series Universal has released on DVD. About 2 1/2 minutes is devoted to Gimme A Break. Lara Jill Miller is part of the new interviews. She looks great. You might recognize her voice from Clifford's Puppy Days or The Life and Times of Juniper Lee. Other people interviewed include: Ray Richmond (Writer, The Hollywood Reporter), Alex Ben Block (Columnist, TV Week), Robert Ward (Co-Executive Producer, Miami Vice), Stephen J. Cannell (Executive Producer, The A-Team), Debbie Matenopolous (Host of “The Screening Room,” TV Guide), Julie Cobb (Charles in Charge), Glen Larson (Executive Producer, Knight Rider), David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider), and Jack Gill (Stunt Coordinator, Knight Rider). The shows featured are: Miami Vice, Magnum P.I., The A-Team, Knight Rider, Simon & Simon, Murder She Wrote, Quantum Leap, Gimme A Break!, Charles in Charge and Kate & Allie.

For future seasons, I would like to see a documentary on Gimme A Break! with new interviews/audio commentaries with the surviving cast members. Some bloopers would be fun to watch, if they exist.


Final Comments:

It has been a long wait for Gimme A Break! on DVD. This is a show that you would think would have been shown more in syndication in recent years. It was so sad when we lost Nell Carter unexpectedly three years ago. My favorite seasons of the show are the early "Chief" years. The scenes with Nell and The Chief were always hilarious. Nell Carter was clearly the star of the show, but the other cast members were strong and added a lot to it, also. Overall, this is a pretty decent set. I think they could have jazzed up the packaging a bit, included chapter stops, and added a few more Gimme A Break! focused special features, but maybe they are saving them for future releases. Speaking of future releases... you can sign up for an e-mail alert of upcoming releases at http://www.gimmeabreakdvd.com/ . Give us some more DVDs, we sure deserve them!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 02/12/06

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

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000CELOW2/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

For much more information on the show, visit our extensive fan site: Gimme A Break Online


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