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Mr. Belvedere - Season Four


TITLE: MR. BELVEDERE - SEASON FOUR


Info:

DVD Release Date: January 19, 2010 (Shout! Factory Store.com Exclusive)
Color/1987-88
MSRP: $39.99
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 20
Running Time: approx. 465 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; no subtitles or closed-captioning
Special Features: Original Syndication Promos (all episodes)


Introduction:

The streaks on the china never mattered before, but now they do with Lynn Belvedere (Christopher Hewitt) in the house. Season Four brings 20 more episodes of the sitcom about the prim and proper English butler who comes to live and work for the Owens family, a dysfunctional American family in Pittsburgh.

In the fourth season, we see some changes ahead for the Owens family, with George (Bob Uecker) moving from print journalism to broadcast journalism, Marsha (Ilene Graff) finally passing her bar exam (and getting her first job as a lawyer), and Kevin (Rob Stone) finally starting out his first year in college. Things are more or less the same for Wesley (Bryce Beckham) and Heather (Tracy Wells). But still, they are going to need all the help that they can get from their butler, Mr. Belvedere, and he provides much more of that help in these episodes.

Season Four of Mr. Belvedere is among the first in a series of releases by Shout! Factory’s venture into direct-to-consumer sales, where instead of focusing on trying to get their products on the shelves in stores, they are selling DVDs exclusively on their website (ShoutFactoryStore.com). This allows them to release products that may not garner much attention on store shelves, but do garner enough attention to satisfy consumer demand for release and help Shout! Factory make a reasonable profit from the releases. These are actual pressed DVDs, not DVD-R products manufactured on demand as are sold from other manufacturers, and are very similar to the products that would be on store shelves.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

The season begins with “Initiation,” where Kevin is cornered into having to bring his less-than-attractive chemistry study partner (not Wendy this time) to a pig party, against his better judgment. Look for a brief appearance by Nancy Cartwright. George moves to the small screen in “TV George,” but he doesn’t exactly have a TV-friendly face. In “Marsha’s Job,” Marsha passes her bar exam and gets a job in a prestigious law firm, but are they more interested in her legal expertise or her body? Lauri Hendler and Emily Schulman guest star in “Moonlighting,” where Mr. Belvedere moonlights for a family that may just be in worse shape than the Owens family. Wesley pretends to be a (as Mr. Belvedere puts it) a psychopathic and alcoholic cross-dresser to save Kevin from getting in trouble in “The Fall Guy.”

Wesley brings Mr. Belvedere an old friend from England as a Christmas present in “Christmas Story,” but she isn’t exactly who Wesley thinks she is. Kevin finds the right girl for him in “Kevin’s Model,” but she is also a nude model in his art class. George is accused of not having enough controversy in his on-air sports commentaries in “Commentary,” so he decides to spice things up by suggesting that the national anthem no longer be played at ball games. Everybody ends up in Atlantic City when Heather and Wesley kidnap an elderly man from a nursing home, George and Marsha Get away from a no-tell motel, and Mr. Belvedere and Kevin hitch a ride with Robert Goulet in the two-part episode “The Trip.”

Will Heather give one of her classmates who is about to become a priest one night of passion before he takes those vows of celibacy? He sure hopes so in “Heather’s Monk.” Kevin decides to go into the medical field--as a nurse--in “Kevin Nightengale.” Kevin may be leaving home in “The Apartment.” Wesley may be getting older, but he isn’t maturing in “Graduation.” The season ends with a very special episode about sexually abusing children in “The Counselor.”


Packaging:

The packaging for this set is different from the previous sets, as it uses a standard DVD case as opposed to the slim cases used before. The artwork is very similar to the previous sets, with a green color scheme and a cast photo on the front. On the back of the box, there is just a bunch of text about the season, with no photos or anything this time. There is a spelling error, though. Where it lists “Original Promos, it is actually spelled wrong! It says “Orginal Promos.” That is embarrassing. Inside the case, there is a listing of all of the episodes with original airdates, and of course the three discs. Sadly, there are no episode descriptions to be found on this set, at all, but the set somewhat compensates for that through the promos provided for each episode (it would still be nice to have descriptions, though). The disc artwork has the series logo with different snapshots from the episodes on each disc, with Kevin (in drag) on Disc 1, Mr. Belvedere on Disc 2, and Wesley & Mr. Belvedere on Disc 3. Disc 1 contains episodes 1-7, Disc 2 contains episodes 8-14, and Disc 3 contains episodes 15-20.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very nicely done, but basically identical to the previous sets. Each disc starts with a short (less than 10 second) clip from one of the episodes contained on the disc, then the main menu comes up with the closing theme playing with videos being played as well. The main menu has options of Play All and Episodes. Upon selecting Episodes, there is an animated transition to page in a book (just like in the previous sets) that shows the episodes. There is a snapshot from each episode on the menu screen. This set contains syndication promos from each of the episodes, and these are listed underneath each episode on the menu. While there are no scene selection menus, chapters are placed at all of the appropriate places in each episode.

ISSUE: There is a problem, however, with the menus on Disc 3. After you play an episode, or even one of the promos, on this disc, the DVD stops at the end of the episode. It doesn’t return to the main menu or the episode menu as one would expect it to do. This is a technical glitch that several people have reported, and it seems to be a widespread problem. One other problem with Disc 3 is that on the Episodes menu the episode “The Counselor” is spelled wrong. It says “The Conselor” for some reason. This is the second instance of spelling problems I found on this set! Mr. Belvedere spells better probably in his diary than this!


Video and Audio Quality:

The episodes mostly have good video and audio quality, with a few minor glitches in the video here and there. A few episodes had some minor grain issues here and there, but it wasn’t too bad. The audio sounds pretty good in general, but is a bit low at times. Unfortunately, the episodes are not closed-captioned.

There is perhaps a bit of bad news about this set, unfortunately. While most episodes run around 24 minutes, there are a few episodes that are shorter. Two of them run under 23 minutes even. I don’t know for a fact that these episodes are edited, but that does seem a little bit short for the episodes, especially when you consider that the unedited version of the theme song (as included on every episode on this set) runs about 14 seconds longer than the syndicated version of the theme song. It seems that all of the original music is included in the few episodes that originally included music. Another problem with this set concerns the episode “Commentary.” The last few seconds of the closing credits are simply missing on this episode without any explanation. It isn’t a significant part of the closing credits, but it still does not look good for a professional DVD set.

Episode runtimes are as follows:

Disc 1:
Initiation (24:18)
TV George (22:42)
Triangle (22:54)
Marsha’s Job (24:06)
Moonlighting (23:16)
The Wedding (24:13)
Fall Guy (24:18)

Disc 2:
Christmas Story (24:16)
G.I. George (24:06)
Kevin’s Model (24:10)
Commentary (24:06)
The Diary (24:02)
The Trip, Part 1 (24:13)
The Trip, Part 2 (24:11)

Disc 3:
Foxtrot (24:12)
Heather’s Monk (24:10)
Kevin Nightengale (24:08)
The Apartment (24:11)
Graduation (24:06)
The Counselor (23:56)


Special Features:

Just because this is a direct-to-consumer release doesn’t mean that we are left in the dark on the special features, although we don’t exactly have anything that was created explicitly for this set. What we do have, however, are syndication promos for each and every episode contained on the set. They are the all the standard “On the next Mr. Belvedere...” promos that were created for the syndication package, and can be found with the episodes on each disc. I really like having these included, and I wish that more DVD sets would include them. They are all 31 seconds each. As nice as these are, though, it still would have been nice to have some audio commentaries or additional interviews on this set.


Final Comments:

This set definitely has a few kinks, but all in all, it is a decent set. The biggest disappointment would be the (likely) edited episodes, although it is entirely possible that they may not be edited. Still, the runtimes raise some suspicions. The technical problems with the menus on Disc 3 are a source of annoyance as well. And of course, it is disappointing to not have any descriptions for the episodes. There are some spelling issues as well, such as on the episodes menu for “The Counselor” it is spelled “The Conselor.” But on the positive side, this is a great set of episodes. It is also the only way that we can really see the series right now. And finally, aside from the problems mentioned, Shout! Factory did mostly a decent job with the presentation of the set. But the kinks really have to be worked out for future releases, and it would be even nicer if Shout! Factory could rectify them for those who purchase this set. Sadly, that would require recalling all three discs, as Disc 1 contains the (likely) edited episodes, Disc 2 contains the episode with the missing seconds from the closing credits, and Disc 3 contains the menu problem.

Hopefully Shout! Factory’s direct-to-consumer sales will allow us to eventually see the final two seasons released on DVD, something that I would have never imagined seeing happen just a few years ago. It may really happen. We just might live the good life yet!


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 Design/Navigation: 3.5/5
Overall: 3/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 01/25/10

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