Release Date: October 1, 2013 (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Packaging: Standard DVD Case
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 1084 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Mono
Subtitles and Captioning: None
Special Features: None
Years before Touched by an Angel was the "divine" drama on CBS, Michael Landon was working miracles on NBC with his series, Highway to Heaven. Landon plays Jonathan Smith, an angel who travels from town to town to help people find their way in life, along with the help of Mark Gordon (Victor French). The second season is now available on DVD for a second time from Mill Creek, after A&E's release of season 2 went out of print, as Mill Creek moves ahead with this classic uplifting series of the '80s.
The season begins with the two-part episode "A Song for Jason," where Jonathan and Mark visit a summer camp for young cancer patients. Giovonni Ribisi, Barry Williams, and Herb Edelman all guest star. Jonathan temporarily gives up his powers to become a cop in "Bless the Boys in Blue." Moses Gunn guest stars "Popcorn, Peanuts, and Cracker Jacks," a story about a former baseball legend who is now a vendor. Alice Ghostley and Bill Macy appear in "Cindy," a modern day take on Cinderella. In "The Devil and Jonathan Smith," Jonathan has to deal with the devil... literally. Lorne Greene plays a Broadway actor in "The Smile in the Third Row," an episode which reunites the actor with Landon (who worked with him in Bonanza). A girl's quest to find her biological mother doesn't go over so well with her adopted mother in "The Secret." Shannen Doherty guest stars.
Mark and Jonathan help a disfigured artist who is considered to be a monster with several problems in the two-part episode "The Monster." Michael Constantine plays a doctor who is prescribing too many pills to a football player in "The Good Doctor." Jerry Supiran guest stars in "Close Encounters of a Heavenly Kind," where he plays the grandson of a UFO watcher who wishes to gain custody of him. Jonathan is sent to help his own widow in "Keep Smiling." In "The Last Assignment," Ed Asner is a fellow angel who just can't seem to play by the rules. In "Summit," Jonathan and Mark deal with a dying woman who wants to see her long lost son... from the Soviet Union. Mark-Paul Gosselaar guest stars in "The Torch," a story about an Auschwicz survivor and neo-Nazis in America. In "Children's Children," Jonathan and Mark visit a home for unwed mothers that is on the verge of being destroyed by bad publicity.
Unfortunately, most of the episodes on this set appear to be syndicated versions. This is certainly not good, but Mill Creek has added a bit of insult to injury with this set by giving us syndicated episodes. When season 1 was released, Mill Creek made it clear that they would be releasing unedited versions of the episodes after A&E released syndicated episodes, and they made good on that promise, along with an indication on the front that the episodes were "The complete, uncut, original broadcast edits." For this season, Mill Creek places that same little text box just as prominently on the front cover, except now it says "The complete, original broadcast edits," but notice that the word "uncut" is missing. Still, if I were reading "complete original broadcast edits," I would assume that means "uncut," and it doesn't here. I tend to defend a lot of the quirks that some of Mill Creek's releases have, because they do a lot of great things at a great value for fans, but I feel that this was a little bit deceptive for the fans of the series. They should have just not included the text box at all.
With that being said, there is one thing that is a little surprising about these episodes: it seems as if some of the original music is left intact on the episodes. I couldn't find a list of music used on the episodes, but I did find an occurrence of a re-recording (by a different artist) of Tears for Fears song "Shout" on the second part of "A Song for Jason," which was a bit surprising for a Mill Creek release.
1. "A Song for Jason (Part 1)" (45:17)
2. "A Song for Jason (Part 2)" (48:19)
3. "Bless the Boys in Blue" (45:03)
4. "Cindy" (45:07)
5. "The Devil and Jonathan Smith" (45:11)
6. "Birds of a Feather" (45:09)
7. "Popcorn, Peanuts, and Crackerjacks" (45:14)
8. "The Smile in the Third Row" (45:03)
9. "The Secret" (45:23)
10. "The Monster (Part 1)" (45:17)
11. "The Monster (Part 2)" (45:18)
12. "The Good Doctor" (45:17)
13. "Alone" (44:53)
14. "Close Encounters of the Heavenly Kind" (45:06)
15. "Change of Life" (45:12)
16. "Keep Smiling" (45:13)
17. "The Last Assignment" (45:15)
18. "To Bind the Wounds" (44:59)
19. "Heaven on Earth" (45:07)
Mill Creek has been stepping up their game a bit on packaging lately, but they still haven't quite hit perfection. But the good news is that there are NO paper sleeves on this set. The DVDs comes packaged in a regular DVD case, with all five discs stacked on the hub inside (not great, but better than paper sleeves). As for the artwork, we once again have professional quality artwork from Mill Creek, with a photo of Jonathan and Mark on the front, and a few episode snapshots along with a description of the season and guest stars on the back. Inside, the discs all have the same photo of Jonathan and Mark used for the cover art on the first season. Episode titles are printed on each disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are identical to the first season menus, even including the same photo of Jonathan and Mark that was included on the main menu of each disc. The theme song constantly loops in the background, with options of Play All and Episode Selection. When you select Episode Selection, there is a menu that lists all of the episodes on the disc. Once you select the episode, it plays immediately. There are chapters throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality on this set is a slight... very slight... improvement upon the first season. The series really does seem to show its age, and I suppose that since it is one of the few series out there with rights not held by one of the major studios, restoration of episodes probably isn't as feasible. It seems that the quality of these edited episodes is very slightly better in regards to some of the frame rate issues that were occasionally seen on the first season. Still, I would rather see unedited episodes with minor frame rate issues. The audio is a rather standard mono track that really seems to show serious limitations in scenes where there is any music in the background. There are no closed-captions or subtitles.
There aren't any special features on this set, which is understandable since both of the stars are no longer alive (and in fact, both of them died very shortly after the series ended on NBC). I would still think that something has to be out there that they could include, but it is hard to say exactly what could be included.
The episodes on this set are great, make no mistake about that, and if you don't own this season of the series and are a fan (or just want to see the series), it is worth picking up since it is such a great value. Admittedly, the show does air on TV... everywhere it seems (I can count at least three stations on my cable lineup that air it, and they aren't the only ones). But just because something airs heavily today doesn't mean that it will always be that way, and in fact, this series has gone through years where it hasn't aired anywhere.
I really do wish that Mill Creek had been more forthcoming about the edited episodes, though. It is clear that these episodes came from a different source than the previously released episodes, and I believe that if they had tried hard enough, they could have gotten those unedited episodes again. There were some technical flaws in the video in those episodes, but honestly, it wasn't bad, and I would rather have that than these episodes that really aren't much better. But complaints aside, I'm eager to see the remaining seasons on DVD, even if they are syndicated versions (I hope they aren't, though).