Release Date: March 20, 2012 (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Packaging: Multi-Disc Blu-ray Disc Case
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 25
Running Time: 548 minutes
Running Time of Features: 58 minutes
Audio: DTS Master HD (English 5.1)
Subtitles and Captioning: English subtitles
Special Features: "Hello Wisconsin! Season One" featurette; Trivia; Original Promos; "Groovy Green Screen" featurette; "A Sneak Peek at Season 2" Featurette
The gang from That '70s Show is back, and this time they are high... definition! We've already seen every season of the now cult-classic series on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, and we've been seeing rereleases of the DVDs through Mill Creek Entertainment's recently acquired home entertainment distribution rights to the series. Now, Mill Creek has bumped things up significantly by releasing the first season of the series on Blu-ray for the first time ever, making it one of the first sitcoms of the '90s to appear on Blu-ray.
We've reviewed the first season of this series twice in the past, so we didn't really see a need to uniquely describe the episodes on this set yet again. So, this time, we're just going to recap the individual episodes exactly as we did for our review of Mill Creek's release of the set on DVD.
The series begins with "Pilot," where Red Forman and Kitty hand the keys to their car over to their son Eric with one stipulation: don't leave town. So naturally, he leaves town. Eric tries to prevent his mom from throwing him another birthday party in "Eric's Birthday." In "Streaking," Gerald Ford is coming to town, and the guys have their plan for how to greet them. Donna is constantly beating Eric in "Battle of the Sexists." In "Eric's Burger Job," Eric's new job is making him miserable. The gang throws a wild party at a real estate model home in "The Keg." In "That Disco Episode," Bob seems to think Kitty and Hyde are having an affair. Eric and Donna go to the drive-in with Kelso and Jackie in "Drive-In." In "Thanksgiving," Laurie brings her friend home with her for Thanksgiving, but Donna is angry when she finds out that the friend kissed Eric.
Marion Ross makes her first appearance as Red's mother in "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," where she comes for a Sunday visit that is bound to make everybody (except for Fez oddly enough) miserable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt guest stars in "Eric's Buddy," where he plays Eric's new lab partner and friend who has a secret. In "The Best Christmas Ever," Red gives Eric $40 to buy a Christmas tree, but Eric and the guys have other ideas of how to get a tree and keep the money. Jackie invites everybody (except for her now ex-boyfriend Kelso) to her ski cabin in "Ski Trip." The guys end up in jail after driving Kelso's cousin's car in "Stolen Car." Red joins the guys as they go to a wrestling match in "That Wrestling Show." In "First Date," everybody is trying to build and work on their relationships. Jackie thinks she is pregnant in "The Pill." Katey Segal guest stars as Hyde's mom, the lunch lady, in "Career Day."
Kelso tries to make Jackie jealous In "Prom Night." The series takes on the Star Wars franchise in "A New Hope." In "Water Tower," the guys paint a pot leaf on the town water tower, but it doesn't end pretty at all. Hyde's meets a girl wants him to join her punk band in New York in "Punk Chick." Eric thinks that he killed his grandmother when she suddenly dies in "Grandma's Dead." Hyde's mother runs off in "Hyde Moves In," which means new changes in the Forman household. The season ends with "The Good Son," where Eric is annoyed because he thinks his parents favor Hyde over him.
Much like the DVD release of the first season, the episodes are unedited, although some of the runtimes were a bit longer (by a few seconds) here. It could just have something to do with the encoding, though. The runtimes are as follows:
1. "Pilot" (22:31)
2. "Eric's Birthday" (22:31)
3. "Streaking" (22:29)
4. "Battle of the Sexists" (22:30)
5. "Eric's Burger Job" (22:29)
6. "The Keg" (22:30)
7. "That Disco Episode" (22:29)
15. "That Wrestling Show" (22:27)
16. "First Date" (22:29)
17. "The Pill" (22:30)
18. "Career Day" (22:29)
19. "Prom Night" (22:30)
20. "A New Hope" (22:32)
21. "Water Tower" (22:29)
22. "Punk Chick" (22:28)
23. "Grandma's Dead" (22:29)
24. "Hyde Moves In" (22:29)
25. "The Good Son" (22:31)
For perhaps the first time ever, I have (almost) nothing but praise for the packaging of a Mill Creek release! They really did it right this time. The set uses a multi-disc Blu-ray case which actually has individual trays for each of the discs. Yes, you heard it right... there are NO PAPER SLEEVES! The cover art is different from the DVD version, with a shot of the entire cast surrounding the series logo. On the back of the cover, there is a large photo of Kelso, along with a few episode snapshots and a listing of special features. The copy which I received also had an outer cardboard sleeve with the same artwork, although there is likely that this paper sleeve will only be included with the earliest pressings. Inside the case, you'll find the rather high-quality Blu-ray case, which contains discs on each side of the case, as well as a tray in the middle containing two of the discs. Disc 1 contains a photo of Kelso, Disc 2 contains a photo of Donna, Disc 3 contains a photo of Hyde, and Disc 4 contains a photo of Fez (did they just completely ignore Eric like that?). Discs 1, 2, and 3 all contain seven episodes each, while Disc 4 contains only three episodes, as well as the special features. So why do I say almost nothing but praise? Well, there aren't any episode guides or lists included, which would have been nice, but not all is lost. Episode titles are printed on the discs.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus on this set are very nice, and conform to the Blu-ray standards using the pop-up menus. On the main menu, there is a still photo on the corner of the screen of the cast inside the Vista Cruiser. The theme song plays in the background on the menu. Options on the main menu include Play All, Episodes, Special Features (Disc 4 only), and Setup. Each of these options will present you with a pop up menu which lists your options. Chapters are placed right after the opening credits and at the commercial break in the middle of the episode, which really isn't quite enough.
Video and Audio Quality:
Since this is a Blu-ray release, obviously, the video and audio quality is better than we've ever seen before. Everything is presented in real and true high definition, with a nearly flawless picture. The episodes are all presented in anamorphic widescreen, which is sure to please fans. The audio track is very nice too, with a DTS Master Audio track. Unlike most other releases from Mill Creek (including their DVD release of this same set), compression isn't an issue at all. In fact, oddly enough, the DVD for this season from Mill Creek contained three discs, while this Blu-ray version contains four discs. Typically, Blu-ray releases contain fewer discs. For those who need them, this set does include English subtitles.
For the most part, the special features on this release are the same as the ones on the DVD release. So, again, we'll just run through those details again, and then we'll get in to the special features which are actually new for this release.
They can be found on Disc 4, beginning with "Hello Wisconsin! Season One" (18:03), where we get some cast interview interspersed with some clips from the first season. We get to see just about all of the "kids" in this feature, as well as Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp. "That '70s Trivia Show" (2:21) is kind of a boring non-interactive trivia segment. Basically, it is just a running video of cast members asking trivia questions, with clips giving the answer. It would be more interesting if this was an interactive feature, but I understand that Mill Creek just carried over what was used on the previous release. Finally, "Promopalooza" (3:44) is a series of promos for the series from Fox from the first season. It is really great to see these included, although they are edited together in an unconventional form.
One of the "new" special features for this release is "A Sneak Peek at Season 2" (30:55), which, while it is enjoyable to watch, I can't quite understand why it is even here. Basically, what we have here are some clips from some of the season 2 episodes, along with behind-the-scenes footage. Oh, and the REALLY bizarre part? These special features were previously included in Fox's release of the second season... the season which this feature goes behind-the-scenes through. These are not in high definition either. I'm really confused about why they were included here (and yet not included on the season 2 DVD from Mill Creek or held off until a season 2 Blu-ray), but they are nice to have... even if they are out of place.
On all of the above special features, you will find one thing that is just a tidbit bizarre which was NOT found on the DVD release. All of the special features are in SD, so they are merely transferred straight from the DVD release. To compensate for the shift in aspect ratio, Mill Creek added a rather large border to these special features, which is just a little bit annoying. Still, at least it is only the special features.
The final special feature, the only one which is new, is "Groovy Green Screen" (3:20), where we get to see some behind-the-scenes footage of the actor performing on green screens for the episode transitions. This one is somewhat in high-definition, but not exactly. The titles for the feature are in HD, and the background art is as well, but we mostly just see a bunch of side-by-side comparisons of what happens on the blue screen next to (or below) the way that the scene appeared on the show... and those boxes are in SD. These only sound on this feature is the somewhat generic music which plays in the background.
This is probably the best release of the series that we've seen to date, but the special features, while many were good, were just somewhat bizarre and seemed to just be haphazardly thrown in to the set. Still, it wouldn't be fair to complain about the set because of the weirdness of the special features. What is important on any set is the episodes, and these are not only great episodes, but the quality of the episodes is better than we've seen on any release of this series to date. The episodes really do look nice in HD, even if they still aren't perfect. So far, while Mill Creek has made it clear that we can expect to see the rest of this series on DVD, they have made it clear that this Blu-ray rest is essentially a "test" to see how well this can perform on Blu-ray, and subsequent Blu-ray releases will depend upon sales of this season. With that being said, I implore fans who enjoy the show and own a Blu-ray player to pick up this set. It is a very inexpensive set (even cheaper than many seasons of series on standard DVD even) and the quality improvement compared to the DVD release makes it extra groovy.