TITLE: SABRINA, THE TEENAGE WITCH - THE FOURTH SEASON
DVD Release Date: June 17, 2008 (CBS DVD)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: approx. 7 hours 50 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital English Stereo Surround
Special Features: None
The magic and laughs continue as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch returns with all 22 season 4 episodes on DVD for the first time ever from CBS DVD! This year Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) turns eighteen, only to discover she must now mentor another teen witch, Dreama (China Shavers). Also, newly promoted Principal Kraft (Martin Mull) is still dating Aunt Zelda (Beth Broderick), much to the chagrin of Aunt Hilda (Caroline Rhea), who this season buys a magic clock shop. But with her boyfriend Harvey (Nate Richert), her talking cat Salem (voiced by Nick Bakay), and her new boss Josh (David Lascher) in her corner, this popular teen always saves the day! The magic never ends on Sabrina the Teenage Witch!
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
I should probably be upfront when I say: With each passing season I become less and less familiar with that year’s episodes. I still occasionally watched the show in year 4, but by then my interest was starting to wane. It’s not so much a problem with the episodes themselves, as this DVD shows -- I just got bored with the series.
The season starts out with a bit of a transitional episode for the season -- “No Place Like Home.” Sabrina’s father (played by Knots Landing cast member Doug Sheehan) invites Sabrina to come move to Paris with him -- she takes up his offer. This sets up the episodes, which ultimately leads into a Britney Spears appearance as herself (this is pre-trainwreck era, mind you). The next episode, “Dream a Little Dreama Me,” features the introduction of Sabrina’s apprentice Dreama -- as well as Hilda buying the clock store. Figure skater Tara Lipinski appears in “Jealousy,” while Shirley Jones appears in “Little Orphan Hilda.” The episode “Prelude to a Kiss” not only features an interesting turn in the love triangle thing established this season, but features guest stars Ed McMahon and Billy Blanks (remember that Tae Bo guy?) Paula Abdul appears in the next episode entitled “Aging, Not so Gracefully.” The episode “Salem and Juliette” introduces us to Dreama’s counterpart for Salem, her cat Juliette (voiced by Bebe Neuwirth). “Sabrina, Nipping at Your Nose” features a spot by Danny Bonaduce -- with all these guest stars, am I watching Sabrina or Will & Grace? In the season finale, Sabrina winds up pitting Josh and Harvey against each other in a magical obstacle course. The episode ends in a way that probably would have left me more frustrated than it did at the move to The WB had I known about the episode at the time. It’s really not bad. Ultimately, this was the final season on ABC. After this, the series moved to The WB.
Since CBS DVD has apparently decided to just use one default packaging template for nearly all of their releases, how about I just use one default packaging review for all CBS DVD releases -- and substitute the right nouns and adjectives in where appropriate -- it’s like a less interesting version of Mad Libs! Here we go...
As you can expect by now, the packaging for Sabrina, The Teenage Witch Season 4 features the same translucent case as nearly every other CBS DVD sitcom release. The DVDS for Sabrina also feature the exact same silver discs as all the other CBS DVD sets use. Seven episodes each are on discs one and two, while the last eight are on disc three. After reviewing quite a few DVD sets with absolutely identical packaging save for changes to the cover art and the logo on the disc -- it starts to get old and boring. I’m sure there’s a cost cutting measure involved in this somehow, but I don’t like it. Granted, slimcases aren’t terribly unique packages, but at the very least there’s a little differentiation, and there’s usually unique disc art season to season and show to show. But the fact that the discs for Sabrina and Wings look nearly identical is just ridiculous. It’d be nice to see a little differentiation.
The only unique part of the set is, as always, the main cover art. It features Sabrina (and Salem) posed, with some white and purple “magic” effects swirling around in front of a white background. Rear art features another shot of the duo on the left side, introductory text on the right, and the usual Random Screen captures worked into an extra-wide bar of the “magic” near the bottom.
Menu Design and Navigation:
So that I don’t wear this Mad Libs reviewing style of mine down too quickly, I’ll try for originality on this section. It’s not easy though: Like most of this studio’s other TV DVD releases, the menus are basic -- a static shot with no music in the background (though given the disclaimer I’m about to mention, this may be good). Episodes are listed on the main menu -- selecting them plays the episode. That’s it -- one static menu per disc. You know what else features a static 1 menu per disc? The DVD recorder hooked up to my TV (Having, after all, moved away from VCRs for better and worse). The single static menu is incredibly well-designed, but there’s nothing else here.
Video and Audio Quality:
Video is quite good for the show’s age. Colors are crisp and by and large don’t appear too warm or cool. There isn’t evidence of excessive sharpening, nor are there noticeable compression artifacts. The audio is your usual stereo Dolby Digital track -- the music, dialogue, and background mix out well, and I don’t really have any complains about the quality of the video and audio presented on the disc. Play All is accessible from the main menu. Chapter stops are placed at the end of each act.
Now let’s get to the important part...like nearly every CBS DVD television release, the disclaimer about edits is present. You know the one: “Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions.” That was not unexpected in any way shape or form. Runtimes you can view below to judge for yourself -- they seem a bit short to me, but by 1999 *everything* ran short. That’s the price of increased commercial time.
What’s different about this set is a SECOND disclaimer: “Some music has been changed for this home entertainment version.” When you see that, you know something’s amiss. That disclaimer isn’t boilerplate -- it only appears when there IS at least one piece of music edited. Here’s the thing, and it’s why my warning earlier on becomes important: I don’t know what was removed, just that something WAS removed. My viewership of the show waned by the 4th season, and I’ve never caught the reruns on cable. At the end of this review is a link to Sitcoms Online’s Sabrina message board -- if you can find what’s edited PLEASE post there.
Here are the runtimes:
No Place Like Home: 21:28
Dream a Little Dreama Me: 20:58
Little Orphan Hilda: 21:28
Spoiled Rotten: 21:09
The Phantom Menace: 21:28
Prelude to a Kiss: 21:27
Aging Not So Gracefully: 21:29
Love Means Having to Say You’re Sorry: 21:19
Ice Station Sabrina: 21:28
Salem and Juliette: 21:24
Sabrina Nipping at Your Nose: 21:21
Now You See Her, Now You Don’t: 21:28
Super Hero: 21:22
Love In Bloom: 21:18
Welcome Back,. Duke: 21:18
Salem’s Daughter: 21:28
Dreama, The Mouse: 21:28
The Wild, Wild Witch: 21:13
She’s Baaack! 21:28
The Four Faces of Sabrina: 21:28
The End of an Era: 21:26
As you should no doubt expect, there are absolutely no special features to be found on this set...par for the course for the distributor, CBS DVD/Paramount.
I know a lot of these reviews seem like I’m just railing on the studios who put these DVDs out -- but it’s not just because I like to hear the sound of my own extra 300 words per review here: Beneath the snark and the Mad Libs, I really do care about the product hitting the store shelves. I’m a fan of television, and I’m a fan of the DVD medium. I’ve seen what TV on DVD is capable of, and I know that CBS DVD is capable of much MUCH better content than this. You know, there are fans of the show who’ll wander in to their local retailer or website of choice who will never pay mind to things like edits (except for the glaringly obvious ones) or whether a set has special features, or whether every last DVD that this studio puts out is the exact same silver. But there ARE fans who care, and whose purchases will be decided by the little things. In a worsening economy, it’s important to give consumers the most value for their dollar -- the little things like quality packaging, special features, etc. do that.
While I wish there WERE features and those other little things, ultimately the meat and potatoes of the set are the episodes. Viewing the other episodes for the first time, and re-watching the ones I had seen -- made me realized I missed a good season. The episodes are fairly consistently good, and it’s an enjoyable season. Next season we head into what is, for me, the great unknown: The WB years
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 2.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 06/04/08
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