TITLE: GIMME A BREAK! - THE COMPLETE SERIES (BUY IN CANADA)
DVD Release Date: July 20, 2010 (VEI)
MSRP: CDN$ 44.99
Number of Discs: 18
Number of Episodes: 137
Running Time: approx. 49 hours
Runtime of Special Features: approx. 85 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English, English Subtitles (Season 1 only)
Special Features: Bonus Episodes of Kate & Allie and Stockard Channing in Just Friends
Earning herself Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of Nell Harper, Nell Carter brings this classic '80s sitcom to life. Gimme a Break! centers on the spirited, but by no means typical, Kanisky family consisting of widowed Police Chief Carl Kanisky, his three daughters Katie, Julie and Samantha, and their feisty housekeeper-turned-surrogate mother Nell.
Joining the Gimme a Break! clan in its Third Season is Joey Donovan, a six-year-old orphan played by a pint-sized Joey Lawrence. This budding con artist is soon taken in by Neil and becomes one of the show's leads in a cast that kept growing with the additions of The Chief's dopey subordinate Officer Simpson (Howard Morton), Grandpa Kanisky (John Hoyt), Julie's boyfriend and eventual husband Jonathan (Jonathan Silverman), Joey's younger brother Matthew (Joey's real-life kid brother Matthew Lawrence), Nell's mother Maybelle (Rosetta Le Noire), street-smart kid Maggie (Rosie O'Donnell), plus Nell's girlfriends (Alvernette Jimenez) and Addy (Telma Hopkins).
With her strong opinions and humorous maternal instincts, Nell's role extended far beyond that of a normal housekeeper, giving Gimme a Break! its punchy premise and helping to redfine the meaning of "family."
This box set includes every episode from Gimme a Break's six season run and features guest appearances from Sammy Davis Jr., Don Rickles, Danny Glover, Rue McClanahan, Whitney Houston, Helen Hunt, The Pointer Sisters, Milton Berle, Andy Gibb, Tony Randall, James Cromwell, Ray Parker Jr., Paul Williams and Pat Sajak.
Memorable Episodes/Notable Guest Stars:
Memorable Season 1 episodes included "Katie the Cheat," in which Officer Simpson arrives at the house with Katie, who was picked up for shoplifting. Nell has been dieting and to help her in her conquest, she has joined a weight loss group known as PORKO's in "Do or Diet." While on an errand at the drug store, the Chief witnesses a robber hold up the place in "Your Prisoner is Dead." Julie goes out to get some air after having no luck finding a date to the Junior Prom in "Julie's First Love." The Chief is counting on Katie to do very well on her college entrance exam, but she gets Julie to take it instead in "Katie the Cheat." Katie comes home with pain in her stomache and Nell rushes her to the emergency room in "The Emergency." Samantha and her friend Scotty from her baseball team decide to sit on the couch and watch some television in "Sam's Affair." The Kaniskys come home to find burglars at work, when they return home from the Chief's "Law Enforcement Officer of the Year" award ceremony in "The Robbery."
Notable Season 1 guest stars included Harrison Page 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.
Season 2 memorable episodes included "Porko's II," in which Nell hosts another one of her PORKO meetings at the house, where the head of the weight loss group shows up. The Chief goes on a stakeout with two officers where they are on lookout for an old-lady targeter in "The Chief's Gay Evening." Julie invites a handsome boy from school to come over to study with her, but he falls for Katie, and the two go out in "Katie Steals Julie's Jock." Nell is out of town at her cousins funeral as Simpson storms into the house and says that the Chief was shot but is all right in "Sam Faces Death." The Chief finds a cigarette in his sock and questions each of the girls about it in "Julie Smokes." Aunt Blanche pays a visit to the Chief on his birthday and threatens to take custody of the girls after seeing what looks like Nell and the Chief doing an indecent act in the kitchen, when she really was doing the Heimlich maneuver on him as he was choking on a piece of his sandwich in "The Custody Suit." When Samantha reads Nell part of her essay she is doing on the Chief for school, Nell tells her it would be a good idea to go to the police station and observe her father in his daily routine in "Glenlawn Street Blues."
Season 2 notable guest stars include Arlene Golonka as Maxine in "Brother Ed and the Hooker" and "Eddie Gets Married." Florence Halop guest starred as Mrs. Falkenberg in "Grandpa's Visit."
Marianne Muellerleile was Betty, Lewis Arquette was Kramer, Dennis Burkley was Dr. George Avery and George Memmoli played Phil in "Porko's." Frank Bonner guest starred as Officer Baxter and Eugene Roche was Officer Jerry in "The Chief's Gay Evening." Harrison Page played the recurring role of Hamilton Storm in "Sam Faces Death" and "The Centerfold: Parts 1 and 2." Alvernette Jimenez played the recurring role of Nell's friend, Angie, in "Nell Goes Door to Door." Alice Ghostley appeared as Mrs. Falkenberg in "Love Thy Neighbor." William Schilling played the Officer/Policeman in "The Centerfold: Parts 1 and 2."
Donnelly Rhodes guest starred as the Mayor in "The Centerfold: Part 2." Alan Oppenheimer appeared as Mr. Daniels in "The Custody Suit." Anita, June and Ruth Pointer (The Pointer Sisters) appear as the Doo-Wop Girls in "The Return of the Doo-Wop Girls." Miriam Flynn played Mrs. Brandt, Robert Costanzo was Mr. Brandt and Marcia Wallace was the secretary in "Glenlawn Street Blues." Don Rickles played Max in the spin-off attempt (to be called "Max" or "The Don Rickles Show"), "Nell and the Kid." Michael Dudikoff appeared as
Greg Hartman in "Nell Gets Sick."
Season 3 begins with "The Groupie," in which Julie wants to meet Andy Gibb and goes to see him after Nell lets her go, despite the fact that the Chief grounded her, only to be found asleep outside his hotel room. Katie becomes involved with Michael, a college professor at Glenlawn Junior College who is much older than her in "Katie's Commitment." Joey's first Christmas might be a disaster if Nell doesn't get the whole family together in "A Kanisky Christmas." Herbie, Samantha's unseen new friend, puts ideas of judgment day into Samantha's head in "Herbie." Nell gets hypnotized to remember where she put Katie's ring for graduation, but she ends up remembering a whole lot of the girls' dirty laundry, since the doctor forgot to remove the hypnotic transe, and whenever she heard three knocks, she'd tell the absolute truth in "Knock Three Times." Nell and Addy appear and compete on Wheel of Fortune during Best Friends week in "Big Apple - Part 1." Rather than go to college, Katie wants to open her own business with a friend, which the Chief agrees to in "Katie's College."
Season 3 notable guest stars included Andy Gibb as himself in "The Groupie." Michael Dorn appeared as Quentin T. Jones in "Valentine." Pat Sajak and Vanna White appear as themselves in "Big Apple - Part 1." Tony Randall appears as himself in "Big Apple - Part 2." Whitney Houston guest starred as Rita in "Katie's College." Ray Walston was Andy and Whitman Mayo was Papa Jack Jenkins in "The Center." James Cromwell played Russell Cosgrove and Jack Dodson was Principal Smythe in "Class of '84."
Memorable Season 4 episodes included "Nell's Birthday," in which Nell gets the birthday blues at turning 33. Sam is in love with a boy who just happens to be a big heel in "Sam's First Love." Addy talks Nell into going to a ski lodge to meet a couple of doctor friends in "Julie's Lie." Samantha gets upset at Nell, who disapproves of her going on a camping trip with teenage boys which will not be chapperoned in "Baby of the Family." After being lifted by a class at night school on how TV tears families apart from one another, Nell decides to make the family stop watching TV for a night in "TV or Not TV." Nell books Sammy Davis Jr. to appear to the town of Glenlawn, and sing for them in "The Lookalike." Officer Simpson's cat Sherlock is missing, and he goes out in the storm to find it in "Cat Story." On Julie's 18th birthday, Nell has a plan to get her and Jonathan back together after they broke up in "Julie's Birthday."
Notable Season 4 guest stars included Rue McClanahan as Katrina and Milton Berle as Leopold in "Grandpa's Secret Life." William Zabka guest starred as Jeff in "Sam's First Love." Ray Parker, Jr. appeared as himself in "Who Dunnit?" Hal Williams played Dr. Phil Gray in "Julie's Lie." Jonathan Silverman makes his first apperance as Jonathan Maxwell in "Julie's Lie." Dennis Haysbert appeared as Rev. Winfield in "Baby of the Family." Lynne Thipgen played Loretta and Rosetta LeNoire made her first appearance as Maybelle in "Alabamy Bound - Part 1." Sammy Davis, Jr. appeared as himself/Albert in "The Lookalike." Frank Bonner played Warren in "Police Mamas."
Season 5 begins with "Joey's Train," in which Nell is sad and doesn't want anyone to remind her of the Chief since he passed away. Mama Maybelle arrives in Glenlawn to visit Nell, and tells her that she has to have an eye operation, and fears that she may never be able to see again in "Mama." Sam is taking the role of a big sister to a girl named Pam, a kid from a single-parent home in "Sam's Little Girl." Nell and the gang decorate the Christmas tree as Joey pretends that he is sick, but wants to help out as well in "Snippets." While looking for an old photo album, Joey finds the Chief's gun, and accidentally shoots Nell in the foot in "The Gun." When Officer Simpson leaves his cousins adopted children with Nell to babysit for her, her date who is at the house at the time lets Nell see who he really is, when he shows her his feelings that he has for kids, none whatsoever in "Getting to Know You." In "Katie's Korner," Katie, who has been sad since her latest boyfriend left her and is now engaged, is going broke and is deciding to close Katie's Korner.
Notable season 5 guest stars included Ken Berry as Dave in "The Man From Zoron." Gary Collins appeared as himself and Jack Riley played Jack in "Second Chance - Parts 1 and 2." Elizabeth Berkley plays the girl in "Getting to Know You."
Memorable Season 6 episodes included "Sam Goes to College - Part 1," in which Samantha, excited that she has gotten into Littlefield College in New Jersey, is let down when she receives a letter in the mail, saying that the school cancelled her scholarship. Nell continues to talk Samantha out of moving to San Francisco with Katie in "Sam Goes to College - Part 2." As Nell and her mother are at the bank, a con man shows up, tries to attempt to fool Nell to take her mother's life savings, and is successful in doing so, as Nell falls for his trap in "The Scam." Nell decides to buy a Christmas tree, as does Addy, who both know that it costs too much for one in New York in "Christmas in New York." Nell has a better job in her company as a book editor in "The Window - Part 1." Nell decides to quit her job so she could stay home with the boys in "The Window - Part 2." Joey begins to have a crush on Maggie, and at her husband's birthday party, Nell finds out that he wants to leave New York behind and move to Georgia in "Joey's First Crush." When Joey's favorite television star "Captain Jerk", is hospitalized after swallowing a whistle, some of Nell's blood is used for a transfusion, since he has a rare blood type, and Nell has the same type as him in "Joey's Hero." Nell finds out that it's Parents Week at Littlefield College in New Jersey, and she's upset that Samantha didn't invite her to attend it in "Parents' Week - Part 1." Nell tries to convince Samantha to stay in college, and in the end, is successful at doing so in "Parents' Week - Part 2." Episode summaries courtesy of TV.com .
Notable Season 6 guest stars included Michael Dorn as "Major Carpenter" in "Below Sea Level." Paul Gleason appears as Mr. Kimball in "The Scam." Rosie O'Donnell joins the cast as Maggie O'Brien. Blake Clark guest starred as B.J. O'Brien in "Joey's First Crush" and "Joey's Teacher." Paul Williams played Captain Jerk in "Joey's Hero." Helen Page Kent appeared as Miss Bennett and Joseph Maher was Professor Dudley in "Parents' Week - Part 1." Teddy Wilson was Rev. George Dixon in "Save the Church." Ernie Hudson guest starred as the African prince in "Someday, My Prince..."
All of the episodes appear to be unedited, with running times of around 24-25 minutes. These episodes also have the "Previously on Gimme a Break" teasers for the 2-parters and Nell Carter's "Live from Hollywood" opening for "Cat Story." There's nothing on the packaging to indicate that any of the episodes are edited or that any music was changed. Since this set was produced in Canada, they may not have the same issues with clearing music rights. The episodes are presented in their original broadcast order. The disc breakdown, original airdates and runtimes are as follows:
Disc 1 - Season 1
1. Katie the Crook (10/29/81) (23:59)
2. A Good Man is Hard to Find (11/05/81) (24:09)
3. The Second Time Around (11/12/81) (24:19)
4. Mom's Birthday (11/19/81) (24:19)
5. Do or Diet (11/26/81) (24:20)
6. A Man in Nell's Room (12/03/81) (24:18)
7. Your Prisoner is Dead (12/10/81) (24:20)
8. Julie's Rejection (12/17/81) (24:00)
Disc 2 - Season 1
9. Julie's First Love (01/07/82) (24:10)
10. Nell's Ex (01/14/82) (24:08)
11. Katie the Cheat (01/21/82) (24:19)
12. The Emergency (02/04/82) (24:18)
13. Nell Goes Home (02/11/82) (24:21)
14. Samantha Steals a Squad Car (02/18/82) (24:18)
15. Grandma Fools Around (02/25/82) (24:19)
16. Hot Muffins (03/11/82) (24:19)
Disc 3 - Season 1
17. Sam's Affair (03/18/82) (24:17)
18. The Robbery (03/25/82) (24:17)
19. An Unmarried Couple (04/01/82) (24:17)
Bonus Episode - Kate & Allie Season 1: Allie's First Date (03/19/84) (24:27)
Bonus Episode - Gimme a Break Season 2: Nell Goes to Jail (10/02/82) (24:51)
Bonus Episode - The Stockard Channing Show (03/24/80) (24:50)
Disc 4 - Season 2
20. Nell Goes to Jail (10/02/82) (24:46)
21. Brother Ed and the Hooker (10/09/82) (24:54)
22. Sam's Imaginary Friend (10/16/82) (24:50)
23. Grandpa's Visit (10/23/82) (24:53)
24. Take My Baby, Please (10/30/82) (24:56)
25. Porko's (11/06/82) (24:46)
26. The Chief's Gay Wedding (11/13/82) (24:55)
27. Katie Steals Julie's Jock (11/27/82) (24:45)
Disc 5 - Season 2
28. Sam Faces Death (12/04/82) (24:55)
29. Nell Goes Door to Door (12/11/82) (24:57)
30. Love Thy Neighbor (12/18/82) (24:56)
31. Love, Kidney (01/06/83) (24:34)
32. Julie Smokes (01/13/83) (24:56)
33. The Centerfold: Part 1 (01/20/83) (24:45)
34. The Centerfold: Part 2 (01/27/83) (24:57)
35. The Custody Suit (02/10/83) (24:47)
Disc 6 - Season 2
36. The Return of the Doo-Wop Girls (02/17/83) (24:57)
37. Eddie Gets Married (02/24/83) (24:56)
38. Grandpa Robs a Bank (03/03/83) (24:49)
39. Glenlawn Street Blues (03/10/83) (24:56)
40. Nell and the Kid (04/28/83) (24:57)
41. Nell Gets Sick (05/05/83) (24:56)
Bonus Episode - Gimme A Break! Season Three - "Joey (Part 1)" (10/27/83) (24:57)
Bonus Episode - Kate & Allie Season Three - "The Reunion)" (09/30/85) (24:28)
Disc 7 - Season 3
42. The Groupie (09/29/83) (25:02)
43. The Way to a Man's Heart (10/13/83) (25:02)
44. Katie's Commitment (10/20/83) (25:03)
45. Joey: Part 1 (10/27/83) (25:06)
46. Joey: Part 2 (11/03/83) (24:53)
47. The Mayor (11/10/83) (25:04)
48. Melissa (11/17/83) (25:04)
Disc 8 - Season 3
49. Nell's Friend (12/01/83) (25:05)
50. Grandpa's Rebellion (12/08/83) (24:52)
51. A Kanisky Christmas (12/22/83) (25:07)
52. Herbie (01/05/84) (24:49)
53. James Returns (01/12/84) (25:04)
54. Samantha's Protest (01/19/84) (25:07)
55. Flashback (01/26/84) (25:05)
56. Knock Three Times (02/02/84) (25:07)
Disc 9 - Season 3
57. Valentine (02/09/84) (25:06)
58. The Big Apple: Part 1 (02/16/84) (24:55)
59. The Big Apple: Part 2 (02/23/84) (25:04)
60. Rodeo (03/08/84) (25:05)
61. Katie's College (03/15/84) (25:05)
62. The Center (04/19/84) (25:02)
63. Class of '84 (05/03/84) (25:03)
Disc 10 - Season 4
64. Joey Goes to New Orleans: Part 1 (09/29/84) (24:08)
65. Joey Goes to New Orlenas: Part 2 (10/06/84) (24:08)
66. Nell's Birthday (10/13/84) (24:08)
67. Grandpa's Secret Life (10/20/84) (24:08)
68. Sam's First Love (10/27/84) (24:09)
69. Who Dunnit? (11/03/84) (23:09)
70. Breakdance (11/10/84) (24:09)
71. Daddy's Little Girl (11/17/84) (24:10)
Disc 11 - Season 4
72. Carl's Delicate Moment (11/24/84) (24:08)
73. Julie's Lie (12/01/84) (24:59)
74. Baby of the Family (12/08/84) (24:09)
75. TV or Not TV (12/15/84) (24:57)
76. The Spirit of Christmas (12/22/84) (24:57)
77. Grandpa's Will (01/05/85) (24:58)
78. The Answering Machine (01/12/85) (24:59)
79. The Gift (01/19/85) (24:58)
Disc 12 - Season 4
80. Alabamy Bound: Part 1 (01/26/85) (24:58)
81. Alabamy Bound: Part 2 (02/02/85) (24:58)
82. The Earthquake (02/09/85) (24:58)
83. The Lookalike (02/16/85) (24:58)
84. Cat Story (02/23/85) (24:49)
85. Police Mamas (03/23/85) (24:59)
86. Monkey See, Monkey Do (03/30/85) (24:58)
87. Friendship (05/04/85) (24:58)
88. Julie's Birthday (05/11/85) (24:58)
Disc 13 - Season 5
89. Joey's Train (09/14/85) (24:53)
90. Shop of Fools: Part 1 (09/21/85) (24:54)
91. Ship of Fools: Part 2 (09/28/85) (24:54)
92. The Man From Zoron (10/05/85) (24:55)
93. Addy's Goodbye (10/19/85) (24:55)
94. So Long, Jonathan (10/26/85) (24:53)
95. Mama (11/02/85) (24:54)
96. Sam's Little Girl (11/09/85) (24:55)
Disc 14 - Season 5
97. The Elevator (11/16/85) (24:54)
98. Nell's New Car (11/23/85) (24:55)
99. Nell's Gifted Child (11/30/85) (24:53)
100. Katie's Apartment (12/07/85) (24:53)
101. Snippets (12/14/85) (24:54)
102. Second Chance: Part 1 (01/04/86) (24:54)
103. Second Chance: Part 2 (01/11/86) (24:55)
104. Bienvenido, Jonathan (01/18/86) (24:53)
Disc 15 - Season 5
105. The Gun (02/01/86) (24:51)
106. A Lesson for Nell (02/08/86) (24:50)
107. Pride and Prejudice (02/15/86) (24:53)
108. Family Reunion (02/22/86) (24:50)
109. Getting to Know You (03/29/86) (24:50)
110. Katie's Korner (04/05/86) (24:50)
111. Found Money (05/03/86) (24:49)
112. The Purse Snatcher (05/10/86) (24:41)
Disc 16 - Season 6
113-114. Sam Goes to College (09/24/86) (47:42)
115. Below Sea Level (10/01/86) (25:01)
116. Joey Meets Matthew (10/08/86) (24:55)
117. Nell Goes Back to New York (10/15/86) (24:56)
118. The Apartment (10/29/86) (24:58)
119. I Love New York (11/05/86) (24:55)
120. Nell the Boss (11/12/86) (24:55)
Disc 17 - Season 6
121. Harry the Hamster (11/19/86) (24:57)
122. Joey the Gambler (11/26/86) (24:56)
123. The Scam (12/03/86) (24:56) (24:54)
124. Christmas in New York (12/10/86) (24:53)
125. Nell's Secret Admirer (01/17/87) (24:56)
126. The Loan (01/14/87) (24:57)
127. The Window: Part 1 (01/21/87) (24:46)
128. The Window: Part 2 (01/21/87) (25:30)
129. Joey's First Crush (01/28/87) (24:56)
Disc 18 - Season 6
130. Joey's Teacher (02/04/87) (24:57)
131. Joey's Hero (02/11/87) (24:54)
132. Joey the Gigolo (02/25/87) (24:56)
133. Parents' Week: Part 1 (03/31/87) (24:57)
134. Parents' Week: Part 2 (04/07/87) (24:54)
135. Save the Church (04/28/87) (24:55)
136. Someday, My Prince... (05/05/87) (24:55)
137. Mama's Date (05/12/87) (24:17)
The 18-disc set contains all 137 episodes from Seasons 1-6 (1981-1987). The outer cardboard box features a cast photo of Lauri Hendler, Nell Carter, Joey Lawrence, Dolph Sweet, Lara Jill Miller and Kari Michaelson. The show logo is in a light blue circle above them. The back of the box has 12 small, circular photos of the cast from the episodes, including guest stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Andy Gibb. Strangely, there are no photos of Telma Hopkins used anywhere on the packaging or on the menus. A synopsis of the set is listed. The DVD specs are noted on the bottom of the box. The Gimme a Break! logo is on the spine of the box. Three plastic slim cases slide out from the right of the box. Slim case #1 (Seasons One and Two) features a photo of Carter pouring Sweet coffee and smaller tinted photos of Michaelson, Miller and Hendler. Slim case #2 (Seasons Three and Four) has a photo of Carter and Joey Lawrence and smaller tinted photos of Hendler, Miller, Sweet and Michaelson. Slim case #3 (Seasons Five and Six) has a photo of Nell Carter with an air-brushed hat on her and smaller tinted photos of Joey Lawrence, John Hoyt, Michaelson, Hendler and Miller. On the back of the slim cases, the episode titles and original airdates are listed by disc. There are six discs inside each case. There are four held in embdded holders on the front and back of the case and two discs in a holder in the center of the case. There is just blank space inside the cases. Nell Carter is on the spine of the slim cases. Unfortunately, they didn't include any episode summaries or an episode guide booklet. The discs have the same photos as the slim cases and the Gimme a Break! logo in a light blue background. Each disc holds up to 8 episodes.
Menu Design and Navigation:
There are basically 3 different designs of menus used, with a slight variation for Seasons 5-6. The Season 1 menus are exactly the same as VEI's earlier release of Season 1. They are pretty plain looking, but they are easy to navigate and get the job done.
The main menus feature the same photo of Nell Carter in red in the center of the screen.
On the left, there is the Gimme A Break! logo in blue. On the right, there are 5 of the
same tinted, circular photos that were used on the cover art.
There are options for "Play All," "Episodes," and "Subtitles" and a link to VEI's website -
in a green bar at the bottom of the screen. A "Bonus Material" option is given on the 3rd
disc. When you go to the Episodes menu, there are 3-4 episodes listed per screen. There is
a still image from each episode in a picture frame. The Gimme A Break! logo is in
blue at the top of the screen and it has a white background. The episode titles are
listed in green. When you highlight an episode, it changes to a different shade of green.
I think they should have made the highlighted color different, as it was difficult to tell
which episode I was about to select. The episodes menu lack the original airdates and
longer episode summaries that the Universal set used. The bonus episodes menu is set up
the same way, with photos in picture frames. There is no theme music or chapter stops on the first season (Discs 1-3) menus.
Season two's menus are exactly the same as VEI's earlier release. A cast photo of Miller, Carter, Michaelson, Hendler and Sweet is used on the main menus. There are 5 more circular, tinted photos in the top right of the screen and the Gimme A Break logo in a red circle on the left. There are options for "Play All" and "Episodes" in a bar near the bottom of the screen which also mentions VEI's website - www.visualentertainment.tv .
Bonus episodes are found on the third disc. When you select Episodes, it takes
you to a sub-menu. There are 4 episodes on each screen. A still image from the
episode is shown in a picture frame. The episode titles are super-imposed on the
stills in yellow text. When you highlight the episode, the text turns to light blue
and finally to green upon your selection. The bonus episodes menu is set up
the same way, with photos in picture frames. An added feature for this season was
chapter stops. There are no scene selection menus.
Seasons 3-6 sport some new menus for this release. They are still very plain looking, but they are quick to load and easy to navigate. A new feature for these menus is the theme song that was used starting with Season 3 playing in the background. Seasons 3-4 feature the same photo of Carter and Lawrence as slim case #2. There are small, circular tinted photos of Sweet, Hendler, Michaelson and Miller in the top left of the screen. A pink and green show logo is below them. There are options for "Play All" and "Episodes". There is a red arrow next to your selection that turns light green upon your selection. When you select "Episodes," it takes you to a sub-menu where there are screen shots from the episodes in picture frames that are on a mantle.
Seasons 5-6 menus are the same, but they have a photo Nell Carter in red with the air-brushed hat and small, circular titned photos of Hoyt, Lawrence, Michaelson, Hendler and Miller. Chapter stops are placed at the appropriate places. There are no scene selection menus.
Video and Audio Quality:
Seasons 1-2 were previously released by VEI several years ago. The episodes on this complete series set appear to be exactly the same, with the same menu design. There is a disclaimer at the start of the menus for Seasons 3-6 which states "This DVD contains technical anomalties inherited in historical footage." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but the episodes all look fine to me. They were probably not digitally remastered, but they are all very watchable. Gimme a Break! was shot on tape like other sitcoms of the '80s like Diff'rent Strokes or Gimme a Break. The first few seasons look a little bit grainy compared to the rest of the series. There doesn't appear to be any major tape glitches in any of the episodes. These episodes look to have better video quality than the prints that the USA Network aired in the late '90s. All of the episodes appear to be unedited, with running times of 24-25 minutes in length. No more jokes cut off, while still having the audience's laughter on these episodes. There are no more than 8 episodes per disc. For the closing logo enthusiasts, the episodes for Seasons 1-2 have the Alan Landsburg Productions logo super-imposed at the end of them. For Seasons 3-4, there are logos for Alan Landsburg Productions and MCA TV. For Seasons 5-6, there are logos for Reeves Entertainment Group and MCA TV.
The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track. The volume is at a good level,
and the dialogue is easy to understand. Some of the episodes have noticeably lower
volume than the others, but you can easily adjust that on your remote. Season 1 has a subtitles option.
There are no subitltes available for Seasons 2-6. Closed-captioning doesn't appear to be available on any of the episodes.
The only special features are some bonus/preview episodes that were previously included on the Season 1-2 releases by VEI. It would have been great to have some new special features included like original promos, bloopers and interviews/audio interviews with the cast members. Most fans will probably just be pleased with the complete series in unedited form on DVD.
Season 1 - Disc 3:
Kate & Allie: Season One - "Allie's First Date" (24:27) - This was the pilot episode of Kate & Allie.
Kelsey Grammer of "Cheers" and "Frasier" fame was in it.
Gimme a Break!: Season Two - "Nell Goes To Jail" (24:51) - This was the second season premiere episode.
Stockard Channing in Just Friends - "Pilot Episode" (24:50) - VEI released a 2-disc set with 23 episodes for this show in November 2006. The bonus episode on this set is from CBS' first attempt at launching a sitcom for Stockard Channing. It aired on March 4, 1979. The episode quality is not as good as the Gimme a Break! episodes. There are some tape glitches and other digital imperfections,
but it was still very watchable. There was even a closing logo for "Little Bear Productions,"
which is probably very rare.
Season 2 - Disc 3
Gimme a Break! Season Three - "Joey (Part 1)" (10/27/83) (24:57) - This is the episode which
introduces us to Joey Lawrence as six-year-old orphan Joey Donovan.
Kate & Allie Season Three - "The Reunion" (09/30/85) (24:28) - The premiere
episode from Kate & Allie's third season. This episode features a guest
apparance by Patricia Richardson.
One of my all-time favorite sitcoms of the '80s is finally complete on DVD! It's a dream come true to see these episodes in very good quality and unedited for the first time. Fans have been waiting for this release for many years. Universal released Season One on February 14, 2006. VEI followed with their release for Canadian consumers on May 30, 2006. Season Two would follow on October 3, 2006. Season Three was rumored to be coming in 2009, but that release never materialized. VEI then said they would forego releasing the series season by season and instead decided to release all six seasons in one set.
This release won't win any awards for the best packaging, menus or special features, but it has several things going for it. All 137 episodes appear to be completely unedited and in very good quality. From reading comments by fans of the show, there doesn't seem to be any problems with music substitutions that plague so many other DVD releases. This set is also available for only CDN$ 44.99 ($43.79 in US dollars). That's a pretty hard deal to beat for 137 episodes on 18 discs. These are Region 1 DVDs, so they will play fine on any North American players. Amazon.ca shipping is very reasonable. I would recommend choosing the expedited international shipping (it's only $1 more than their regular shipping). Delivery takes only 4-7 business days to the U.S. from Canada.
Congratulations to VEI on this excellent complete series release. They sure deserve it. You might also want to check out their Kate & Allie - The Complete Series set if you are a fan of that '80s sitcom. Let's hope VEI and more studios start adopting this method of releasing series complete as one release instead of the season by season sets. Nobody wants to wait many months or years between seasons that may never happen. If the complete series have complete and unedited episodes and are priced affordably, I don't think the packaging, menus or the lack of special features are that big of a deal.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 1.5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 3.5/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller
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