TITLE: ROOM 222 - SEASON ONE
DVD Release Date: March 24, 2009 (Shout! Factory)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 26
Running Time: Approx. 630 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: 16 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English
Special Features: “Forty Years On” Featurette
It’s time to take a trip back to 1969 to Walt Whitman High School to Pete Dixon’s classroom in Room 222! Season One of the ABC Friday night staple from the late 60s and early 70s contains all 26 episodes from the 1969-1970 season.
The series was among the first series to actually focus on serious issues that affected high schools in America at the time. Of course, even the serious issues that they faced were handled in a light-hearted manner without too much chaos. The series starred Llyod Haynes as Pete Dixon, the history teacher in room 222 at Walt Whitman High. Denise Nicholas plays Liz McIntyre, the guidance counselor, and Karen Valentine plays student teacher Alice Johnson. The series was a success from the start and remained successful throughout its entire five year run.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The series begins with “Richie’s Story,” where one of Walt Whitman’s students is found to have used a fake address to attend the school. Why would he do that? Ms. McIntyre helps a student get a job at a department store in “The Coat.” It’s an epidemic when the flu hits the school in “The Flu.” Mr. Dixon may have found a job that better suits him in “Teacher’s Dropping Out,” so will he leave Walt Whitman?
A veteran teacher finds that her methods are outdated when students sign a petition to get rid of her in “Our Teacher is Obsolete.” Ann Morgan Guilbert and William Schallert guest star in “Fathers and Sons,” when a father is upset at Mr. Dixon when his son decides he doesn’t want to go to medical school. Ed Begley, Jr. guest stars in “Alice in Blunderland,” where Ms. Johnson is evaluated by her supervisor during a chaotic class. Cindy Williams guest stars in “The Exchange Teacher.”
A student is upset because the school isn’t properly educating her to be a housewife (seriously) in “Operation Sandpile.” In “Play it Loose,” a pop star that once dropped out of Walt Whitman comes to talk to the students about staying in school, but the bigger story is that she and Pete start spending a lot of time together. Bernie Kopell guest stars in “Goodbye, Mr. Hip,” where he is worried that he may be fired over a joke that students pull on him.
Pete is teaching adult education at night in “Ralph,” so will he have enough time for Liz? Two students are thinking about going to Mexico (and getting married while there!) in “I Love You Charlie, I Love You Abbie.” A new student is at Walt Whitman in “The New Boy,” and he is there because he caused trouble at his previous school. Will Walt Whitman be a better fit? Rob Reiner guest stars in “Funny Money.”
The packaging for this set is very nice. The cover art has a door (to room 222) with a window in it, with the entire cast looking out of the window in the door. Inside, we have two double slimcases, each holding two discs. The cover for the slimcase holding Discs 1 and 2 has a picture of the male stars, while the cover for the slimcase holding Discs 3 and 4 has a picture of the female stars. The back of each slimcase has a listing of all of the episodes, written on a chalkboard. There is also a very nice booklet that contains a listing of all of the episodes, with original airdates and descriptions. The disc artwork is incredibly simple, with Mr. Dixon standing in front of a chalkboard on each disc. Disc 1 contains 7 episodes, Disc 2 contains 7 episodes, Disc 3 contains 6 episodes, and Disc 4 contains 6 episodes.
There is one comment that I’d like to make about the artwork, however. It isn’t a major deal, and you have to be nitpicky to even notice, but it is very clear that the classroom and hallway scenes in the background are NOT from a 1960s era school, but rather from a modern era school. Whiteboards, modern overhead projectors, modern office chairs, modern fire alarms, and more can be found on the packaging! It isn’t a problem at all, though, but honestly somewhat amusing to see.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The main menu starts with animation similar to the opening credits, with the opening music playing, and then gives options of Play All and Episodes. Disc 4, of course, has a Bonus option as well. This is on a chalkboard, and when you select an option, you get a menu that is on a piece of paper. It is very clever, really. Once you select what you want, you get it right away. There are no other menus. Chapters are placed at all of the appropriate spots throughout the episodes.
Video and Audio Quality:
Oh boy. Where do I begin? Well, first and foremost, I should make it clear that everything that I am about to say is not the fault of Shout! Factory or the DVD producer. In fact, they were kind enough to even place a disclaimer on the packaging that says “DVDs created from best surviving video masters.” I didn’t know what this meant until I watched a few episodes, and they really aren’t kidding about that disclaimer.
The picture is incredibly faded, it tends to jump around, it is full of debris, and has scratches all over the place. Simply put, the episodes on this DVD set really are not “pretty,” at all. However, that should not scare you, as the episodes certainly are viewable, and there are no serious major defects in the video quality, but rather several minor ones throughout that compound to provide us with somewhat disappointing video quality. However, I can personally say that I am much happier with this than I would have been with “nicer looking” syndicated versions, as some companies have done in the past when they couldn’t find perfect masters of a series. In a sense, as bad as the picture quality is, it does give the series a bit of a nostalgic feel. Still, it is too bad the episodes were not preserved a little better.
Audio quality, on the other hand, isn’t as disappointing. It is a dull and basic mono audio track (what did you expect?) that doesn’t excite, but is definitely adequate for the series, and is without any major defects. Unfortunately, the episodes are not closed-captioned.
It appears that the episodes are indeed unedited, which is always great news. Runtimes are very consistent, coming in at just under 26 minutes. They are as follows.
Richie’s Story (25:53)
Naked Came We Into The World (25:51)
Funny Boy (25:53)
The Coat (25:27)
The Flu (25:56)
First We’ll Eat, Then We’ll Strike (25:52)
Teacher’s Dropping Out (25:52)
Our Teacher is Obsolete (25:55)
Triple Date (25:54)
Fathers and Sons (25:53)
Alice in Blunderland (25:59)
Clothes Make the Boy (25:56)
Seventeen Going on Twenty-Eight (25:51
The Exchange Teacher (25:30)
El Genio (25:30)
Arizona State Loves You (25:29)
Operation Sandpile (25:54)
Play it Loose (25:53)
Godbye, Mr. Hip (25:29)
Once Upon a Time There Was Air You Couldn’t See (25:53)
The Whole World Can Hear You (25:51)
I Love You Charlie, I Love You Abbie (25:59)
The New Boy (25:53)
Funny Money (25:53)
Just Between Friends (25:56)
Shout! Factory does very well with their retrospective interviews, and this set is no exception. “Forty Years On” (16:26) talks about the beginning of the series and how it came to be. It mostly features series creator James L. Brooks (yes, the same James L. Brooks that has made his mark on many TV series) talking about how he had received a phone call to create a series about a school with a leading African American cast member. There is quite a bit of discussion about casting here as well. It also features Denise Nicholas and Michael Constantine. Of course, the star, Lloyd Haynes is not included, as he died over 20 years ago in 1986. It would have been nice to have had some archive interview footage from him somewhere on this set if it exists anywhere, though.
Overall, this is a great set, but the video quality is a sure disappointment! But I don’t feel that I should dwell upon that, as that is the only issue of concern with this set. Besides, the alternative is “cleaner looking” syndicated versions, and who wants that?
I have only see the series a few times in the past, and not frequently enough to really call myself an “expert” on the series by any means. However, I was generally pleased with it and can’t wait for future seasons to come out on DVD. It kind of reminds me of the TV series Boston Public without a lot of the really silly events that often occurred on Boston Public. The series is more of a drama than a sitcom, but it works in both genres at times. The bonus feature included is very nice as well, and fans are certain to appreciate that. This is definitely a great series that any classic TV fan is sure to appreciate.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 2/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 03/06/09
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