TITLE: HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN - THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (MILL CREEK)
Release Date: January 21, 2014 (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Packaging: Standard DVD Case
Number of Discs: 5
Number of Episodes: 25
Running Time: 1195 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Audio: English Mono
Subtitles and Captioning: None
Special Features: None
Jonathan Smith (Michael Landon) and Mark Gordon (Victor French) return to DVD once again to help others reach higher ground in Highway to Heaven - The Complete Third Season. The five disc set from Mill Creek Entertainment, a re-release of the third season, contains all 25 episodes from the 1986-1987 season of the series. For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows Jonathan Smith as an angel who has to do some good on earth to help humanity, doing deeds such healing the sick, helping families cope with loss, sending a message to the greedy, and more. He does it all with his assistant, former police officer Mark Gordon, who often has a different view on handling the problems of society. But in the end, they work together as the perfect pair, ending each episode with a positive outcome.
Josh Brolin guest stars in the two part season premiere, "A Special Love," an episode about a Special Olympics participant and a couple who plans to adopt a contestant in the games. A dog could save a man and his son after a truck accident in "For the Love of Larry." Ernest Borgine guest stars in "Another Kind of Love, Another Kind of Peace," a story about a cab driver who sponsors the immigration of his daughter-in-law and grandson left in Vietnam by the cab driver's son. In "That's Our Dad," two orphans learn the truth about a children's TV host (played by Ned Beatty). Jonathan finds a mate for the widow of another angel in "Love at Second Sight."
In "Code Name: Freak," a 12 year old kid is treated as an outcast when he goes to college early, and learns something much more valuable than what can be learned in books. A business man may have to worry about competing with his son in "Man to Man." Eddie Albert guest stars in "Jonathan Smith Goes to Washington," an episode dealing with funding of orphan drugs. In "Oh Lucky Man," Mark wins five million dollars, but he has to keep it out of the hands of two con artists. A reporter learns a little bit about miracles, just in time for Christmas, in "Basinger's New York." Richard Mulligan guest stars. Dick Van Dyke plays a puppeteer who is also an angel in "Wally." James Earl Jones guest stars in "A Song of Songs," a story about a pianist who is dealing with life after a heart attack.
Mark is hoping that Jonathan will fail in his mission in "A Mother and Daughter." A neighborhood deals with a halfway house for the mentally disabled in "Normal People." "The Hero" tells the story of a Vietnam veteran who can't get government aid for dental work since he is not considered 100 percent disabled. Robert Culp guest stars in "Parents' Day," where a student is dealing with drug possession charges... but has a bigger story to tell about his own parents. A young man has to deal with a pregnant girlfriend in "Heavy Date." In "Ghost Rider," a spy-writer has to deal with a haunted car. Leslie Nielsen guest stars in the season finale, "Gift of Life."
Fans were excited when Mill Creek announced that they would be releasing the series unedited (A&E Home Video did not), and they kept true to their word for season one. Unfortunately, in season two, the episodes were almost all syndicated versions, despite prominently advertising unedited episodes on the outside of the case. This time, Mill Creek decided not to say whether the episodes were edited or unedited, but they've pleasantly surprised us by using MOSTLY unedited episodes. There are still three episodes that run about three minutes shorter than the rest, but most run around 48 minutes. Episodes and runtimes are as follows.
1. "A Special Love (Part 1)" (48:24)
2. "A Special Love (Part 2)" (48:22)
3. "For the Love of Larry" (47:22)
4. "Another Kind of War, Another Kind of Peace" (48:20)
5. "That's Our Dad" (48:13)
6. "Love at Second Sight" (48:15)
7. "Love and Marriage (Part 1)" (45:03)
8. "Love and Marriage (Part 2)" (45:14)
9. "Code Name: Freak" (48:19)
10. "Man to Man" (48:21)
11. "Jonathan Smith Goes to Washington" (48:11)
12. "Oh Lucky Man" (48:21)
13. "Basinger's New York" (48:17)
14. "All that Glitters" (48:15)
15. "Wally" (48:14)
16. "A Song of Songs" (48:13)
17. "A Night to Remember" (48:10)
18. "A Mother and a Daughter" (48:16)
19. "Normal People" (47:53)
20. "The Hero" (48:28)
21. "Parents' Day" (44:19)
22. "A Father's Faith" (48:19)
23. "Heavy Date" (48:27)
24. "Ghost Rider" (48:14)
25. "Gift of Life" (48:20)
Like most recent (as in the past few months) Mill Creek releases, the discs are presented in a standard DVD case with all of the discs stacked on the center hub inside. It is important to note that this is NOT the infamous black paper sleeves in the low quality cases that we all came to hate from Mill Creek over the past five years, but rather the new and improved name brand case with the discs stacked on top of each other in a secure hub, a greatly appreciated improvement by Mill Creek. The cover art has another picture of the two stars of the series (as the previous seasons had), and on the back, there is a description of the series, along with a list of guest stars and a few episode snapshots. Inside the case, you'll find the five discs, all of which have a photo of Jonathan and a listing of the episodes contained on the disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on the set look essentially the same as the previous two releases from Mill Creek. The main menu is designed like a highway, with Jonathan and Mark standing on it, with options of Play All and Episode Select. Once you choose Episode Select, the DVDs have a very appropriate "white light" effect (as if you're heading toward the white light) where you're presented with a list of the episodes on the disc, with another photo of Jonathan and Mark on the highway. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
For some reason, the video and audio quality on this series doesn't really hold up particularly well. It isn't just the DVDs, though. It seems that I've never seen this series look particularly great. In fact, I recall watching the series on TBS just years after the series ended and remembering that it never looked particularly great, looking like a low-budget series with video defects and a somewhat dull picture, and these DVDs look just the same. But I would not call it a disaster at all... just keep in mind that the DVDs look just the same as it does on TV. The audio is a bit dull, but it is perfectly fine for a show that is nearly 30 years old. The episodes are not closed-captioned or subtitled.
There are no special features on this set, which is a little disappointing but not unsurprising. It is really unfortunate that both of the stars of the series died at a rather young age and were never able to really do much reflection on the series. This, coupled with Mill Creek's approach of providing a great value on DVDs with no frills, likely means that we won't see much in regards to special features on any of these sets.
Overall, Mill Creek did a better job with this season than they did with the second season, giving us (mostly) uncut episodes. Now, they have released every season of the series that was previously released by A&E Home Video, and forthcoming releases will be particularly important as the fourth and fifth seasons have never been released on DVD. So far, Mill Creek seems to be committed to finish up the series, so I anticipate that we'll see them soon enough (with one, or possibly even both, by the end of the year). Hopefully they'll straighten out all of the issues regarding edited episodes. It is too bad that the second season ended up the way that it did, but at least this one is much better.
Even though the series does air in syndication, and quite a bit at that, it is much more enjoyable to watch on DVD. Like many series, there are some episodes that are great and others that are almost unwatchable. To watch the series on TV, you have to deal with all of them, but on DVD, you can skip to just the ones that you want to watch (and it doesn't hurt that Mill Creek provides an excellent value for these releases).
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 02/16/14
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