Ask Bill: Answering Fan Letters
Laughter's the best therapy for this family counselor! A pet snake is loose in the house.
A teen daughter thinks "no" is an insuffiecient response to her desire to get a belly ring (okay, how
about "NO!"). Welcome to the Pearson home, where dad Bill, a family counselor, finds that guiding
his own family is an ongoing therapy session.
"Blue Collar" comedian Bill Engvall brings his winning dad-itude to the eight Season One
episodes of this series that's easygoing, relatable and therapeutically funny. As his own
brood can use more than its fair share of counseling, Bill and his wife Susan (Nancy Travis)
search for ways to raise three mischievous kids. Hassles, humor and heart are all in abundance -
from the Pearson family to yours.
Episodes Included / Notable Guest Stars:
The Bill Engvall Show premiered on TBS on July 17, 2007. It aired on Tuesdays at 9PM.
The series premiere averaged an impressive 4.1 million viewers. That made it TBS' third most-viewed show ever and the third-most viewed original
comedy episode on basic cable, trailing only the first two episodes of "House of Payne." For the season, the show averaged about about 2 million viewers
per episode and a 1.8 household rating. The show was the #1 ad supported cable original sitcom series of all time among persons 25-54.
It is written and created by Engvall and Michael Leeson ("The Cosby Show"). It stars Bill Engvall as Bill Pearson, Nancy Travis as Susan Pearson,
Steve Hytner as Bob Spoonerman, Jennifer Lawrence as Lauren Pearson, Graham Patrick Martin as Trent Pearson, Skyler Gisondo as Bryan
Pearson and Tim Meadows as Paul DuFrayne. James Widdoes directs the episodes.
There were just 8 episodes in the first season. Here is a listing courtesy of TV.com:
1. Good People (07/17/07) - Trent, the third string quarterback ends up as the starting quarterback and Bill struggles trying to help the boy improve his skills. Bill goes a little too far and Trent decides he does not want his dad at the game. Meanwhile, Lauren wants to get her belly button pierced.
2. Aloha, Raffles (07/24/07) - Bill plans to take the family on vacation to Hawaii. When he discovers that the family dog, Raffles is sick, the family must decide whether or not to try an expensive surgery. The kids try to help raise money to save Raffles in an unconventional way.
3. How Bill Met Susan (07/31/07) - For their anniversary Susan gets two tickets to a Broncos game, which Paul was delivering. While waiting on Paul, Bill and Susan share the story of how they met with the kids. This leads to a revelation for Susan and visit to the place where they met.
4. Have You Seen My Muffins, Man? (08/07/07) - Susan decides she wants to sell her muffins to make some extra money, and Bill tries his best to support her even though he's not thrilled with the idea. Bryan works on his rocket for the science fair with the goal to beat one of his friends.
5. Feel Free to Say No (08/14/07) - Bill and Susan have many issues on to address in their home. Trent is having trouble in school, Bryan's pet snake got loose and Lauren got into a car accident.
6. Jealous Guy (08/21/07) - Susan informs Bill that they need some more "us time", but when Bill tries to use Paul's advice and tries to take Susan to a Chris Isaak concert, Susan declines because she had a relationship with Chris Isaak in college.
7. The Birthday (08/28/07) - Bill is celebrating his 46th birthday with the family. Bill is hoping for a motorcycle, but is surprised by his actual gift. Lauren works on getting a fake ID to get into a club.
8. Go Ahead, See If I Karaoke (09/04/07) - Bill takes Susan out with friends to sing Karaoke and someone has a little too much to drink. Lauren meets a new boy that Bill does not like.
Notable guest stars included Brian Doyle-Murray as Ernest Faulkner in "Aloha, Raffles" and "The Birthday." Chris Isaak appeared as himself in
"Jealous Guy." Art LaFleur played the Garage Owner in "Go Ahead, See If I Karaoke."
The packaging is your standard black Amaray movie-style case. The front cover has Bill Engvall sitting in
a chair with the dog, Raffles, sitting next to him. At the top, there is a photo of the four main family members -
Skyler Gisondo, Graham Patrick Martin, Nancy Travis and Jennifer Lawrence. The show logo
in light blue and white is below that. On the back of the case, there is a cast photo of the 5 family members
and Raffles. There are 3 small screenshots from the episodes, including one of Steve Hytner and
Tim Meadows. A synopsis of the set, listing of the special features, cast/crew credits and DVD specs
are listed. Inside the case, there is a booklet that promotes the season 2 premiere (June 12, 9/8c) of
the show, some of TBS' other comedy series and TBS' shop where you can purchase DVDs. There is no listing of
the episodes anywhere on the packaging or on the discs. An episode guide with original airdates would have been nice.
Disc 1 has a blue background and a photo of Bill Engvall. Disc 2 has a green background and a photo
of the adorable and underutilized pooch, Raffles. Disc 1 is in a holder that you flip like a book.
Disc 2 is an embedded holder on the back of the case. The discs shouldn't fall out and become scratched because
of the sturdiness of them.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The static menus are very colorful and easy to navigate. The main menu has a blue background and the
show logo in light blue and white. Bill is sitting in the chair like on the cover art, but Raffles
is airbrushed out of the photo (or he was airbrushed into the photo on the front of the case).
The short, 15 second instrumental opening theme is played in the background.
There are options for "Play," "Episodes," "Languages," and "Special Features" (only on Disc 2).
There is a white circle next to the option you highlight that turns yellow upon your selection.
When you select Episodes, it takes you to a sub-menu where there is a photo of Nancy Travis and a listing
of the episodes on a green background. On the Languages menu, there is a pink background and a photo
of Raffles. You can turn on the English subtitles for the hard of hearing here.
The Special Features menu on Disc 2 has an orange background and a photo of Graham Patrick Martin.
Jennifer Lawrence and Shyler Gisondo are featured on the "Ask Bill" menus.
There are chapter stops within the episodes but no separate scene selection menus.
When you first insert a disc, there is a DVD piracy promo (1:00) followed by one for The Bill Engvall Show,
House of Payne and My Boys (:57).
Video and Audio Quality:
The episodes are presented in their original full frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio.
I'm not sure why they aren't shot in high definition and widescreen like most network sitcoms these days, but maybe
they will be in the future. Budgetary reasons have to be an issue for a cable series. Since these episodes
were just shot in 2007, the video quality is outstanding. The colors are bright and sharp, especially some of the
outdoor on-location scenes. Make note of the front of the family house. It is the same house (or a copy of it at least)
that was used on a little 1950's family sitcom that you may have heard of called Leave it to Beaver.
All of the episodes appear to be unedited and include all of the original music, with running
times of around 21 1/2 to 22 minutes in length. They are presented in their original broadcast
order as TBS aired them. The 5th episode that aired was actually the first one they produced. For the closing logo
enthusiasts, there are logos for Welladay, Inc., Parallel Entertainment Productions and TBS Productions.
The audio is an English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 track. The volume is at a good level and
the dialogue is easy to understand. The Bill Engvall Show is taped before a live studio audience with multiple cameras,
so the laughing is the real response and not a canned laugh track. Closed captioning and
English subitles for the deaf or hard of hearing are available on every episode.
Here is the episode breakdown by disc, including the running times:
1. Good People (22:08)
2. Aloha, Raffles (21:48)
3. How Bill Met Susan (21:37)
4. Have You Seen the Muffins, Man? (22:05)
5. Feel Free to Say No (22:05)
6. Jealous Guy (22:06)
7. The Birthday (22:05)
8. Go Ahead, See If I Karaoke (22:07)
We are treated to a little over 40 minutes of special features on Disc 2. These are mostly interviews
with the cast and segments that were produced for the official TBS site. Some audio commentaries would have
been nice, but these extras give some nice background on the show for people like myself who hadn't seen it before.
An Overview of The Bill Engvall Show (5:17) - This featurette includes interviews with Bill Engvall, Skyler Gisondo,
Nancy Travis, Jennifer Lawrence, Graham Patrick Martin and Executive Producer/Director James Widdoes.
Various clips from the episodes are shown between the interviews. There is also quite a bit
of behind the scenes footage. They talk about the general idea of the show, Bill's 2 best friends on the show -
played by Steve Hytner and Tim Meadows, and the taping schedule for the show.
A Conversation with Bill (3:22) - Bill talks a little about his character, working with Nancy Travis and the kids,
and his 2 best friends on the show. Some of this interview overlaps with the prior featurette.
Set Tour (5:00) - Bill and Nancy give a tour of the set. They show the kitchen, family room, patio,
the boys' room, their bedroom and Bill's office. It's a pretty large area, although the studio audience section
doesn't look as big as I would have expected. The family room set reminds me some of the one used
on "8 Simple Rules."
A Conversation with Tim and Steve (3:54) - Tim Meadows and Steve Hytner talk about their characters and working
on the show. Steve discusses his favorite scene.
Skyler Gisondo Rap (:52) - The youngest son does a little rap song.
Ask Bill: Answering Fan Letters - This section offers unique and humorous family and relationship advice and tips
from Bill Engvall in his "Bill Pearson" character. These clips are also available on the official TBS site.
It is divided into 8 sections:
Arguments, Signs, and In-Laws (2:35)
Tattoos, Auctions, and Quiet Kids (2:39)
Postnuptials, Sugar-coated kids, and Wedding Stand-offs (2:42)
Clingy Kids, Dolls, and the Need for Nannies (2:39)
Boyfriends, The Right Time, and Beauty Pageants (2:22)
Teenagers, Wills, and Plastic Surgery (2:46)
Wedding Watches, Elvis Weddings, and Old School Proms (3:07)
Stars, Flowers, and Free Haircuts (2:50)
The Bill Engvall Show was one of the new TBS comedies that premiered last year that I wanted to watch,
but I just never got around to it. I'm happy to be caught up now with all of the episodes on DVD.
It reminds me a little bit of "8 Simple Rules," "Rodney" and "According to Jim."
There is really nothing new that hasn't been done before in a lot of other family sitcoms,
but I like the show and cast. The show has charm, humor and heart. It has the potential to improve.
It took them 4-5 episodes to find their groove, but I thought the final 3 episodes of the season were among the best.
It is hard to develop chemistry in only 8 episodes, but I think Bill Engvall and Nancy Travis have done it pretty well.
The kids have done a good job with their parts, especially the older son who seems to have a bigger role.
Steve Hytner (Kenny Bania on "Seinfeld") and Tim Meadows ("Saturday Night Live") didn't appear in
the same episode until the 6th episode that aired, and I feel they were a bit underutilized in the early
episodes. I think if the show can mix Bill's work at his office as a family counselor and his family life a little
more, the show would be better off. A suburb of Denver was a unique choice as the location for the show.
I like how they've made references to the Broncos and Rockies and have the Colorado license plates.
This was a surprise hit for TBS last summer. I'm not crazy about the fact that the first season
episode was only 8 episodes. I'm used to 22 episode network sitcoms. The show was picked up
for a second season, but they are only producing 10 episodes this season. Now I know how people
in the U.K. feel with their short-run comedies. It's hard to get attached to a show that airs for a couple
of months and then goes into repeats or off the air entirely for a while. Overall, Warner Home Video has done a good
job with this first season release. The special features gave me some good background on the cast and characters
that I didn't know about. Season 2 premieres on Thursday, June 12, at 9/8c on TBS!
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
-- Reviewed by Todd Fuller on 05/17/08
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