TITLE: THE MARY TYLER MOORE - THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON
Release: October 6, 2009 (Fox Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 624 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: N/A
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Special Features: None
In the fifth season of the Emmy-winning hit show Mary and her hilariously eccentric friends at WJM-TV weather a few storms, sometimes literally. If her life isn’t challenging enough, Mary takes a crack at producing the news, and even has a brush with the law! Laughs are the lead story when a consultant turns the newsroom on its ear. Lou becomes Mary’s neighbor, and Ted starts a rumor that he and Mary are dating. Featuring some of television’s most memorable characters and story lines, this inimitable series is wonderful to see again.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show - the show stars Mary Tyler Moore (wow, The Mary Tyler Moore Show stars Mary Tyler Moore (who would have guessed??) as Mary Richards, an associate producer at WJM-TV in Minneapolis. A lot of the show centers on the absolute nuthouse that IS the WJM newsroom. Mary’s boss, Lou Grant (played by the one and only Edward Asner), is a rather grumpy guy but occasionally does soften a bit. Also at WJM is Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), the self-absorbed and...well...dumb senior news anchor at WJM. Also in the newsroom is Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), a WJM news writer, as well as Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), the...uh...nuts former host of The Happy Homemaker Show and current WJM staffer. Away from the newsroom you’ll find (Cloris Leachman). Rhoda, Mary’s best friend for the first four seasons, was spun off into her own series this year.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The first episode I want to talk about is the season’s first. The episode, which would go on to win an Emmy for the show, sees Mary spending the night in jail because she refused to reveal a source. For all the shenanigans that go on in the newsroom, it’s occasionally overlooked that the staff of WJM ARE in the journalism business, and this episode returns to that a little bit. It’s a really enjoyable little half hour.
The season’s seventh episode revolves around Sue Ann, and as I absolutely adore Betty White obviously I’m going to rate this episode highly. The title is “A New Sue Ann.” A young fan name Gloria sweet-talks Sue Ann into getting her hired onto Sue Ann’s show. After Gloria succeeds, she then butters up station management, and winds up being even more like Sue Ann than Sue Ann is. Role reversals, particularly for the more colorful characters, are always interesting -- and this is no exception.
Towards the season’s end, in “Ted Baxter’s Famous Broadcasting School,” Ted is duped into opening a school for broadcasters. Realizing quickly he’s in deep trouble, he begs Lou, Mary, and Murray to be the faculty. For me at least, it’s always been one of the episodes to endure in my mind.
In terms of special guests, this season we see the wife of Barney Miller, “C.D.” from Walker, Texas Ranger, an Everybody Loves Raymond alum, and two Love Boat cast members. Barbara Barrie, who portrayed the wife of Barney Miller in the early episodes of the series, is in the episode “I Love a Piano”. In the tenth episode, “What are Friends For?” Noble Willingham appears. Noble later played C.D. on Walker -- even though MANY people mistakenly attribute the C.D. acting to Wilford Brimley. Doris Roberts, who would go on to play Ray’s mother Marie in Everybody Loves Raymond, appears in “Phyllis Whips Inflation”. Finally you have two Love Boat alumni -- Fred Grandy and Bernie Kopell -- who appear in episodes 22 and 23 respectively.
In the intervening three years since the last release, Fox has moved to a new default packaging style. They’re even issuing reprints of popular older titles in this style (Futurama is one example). The new standard is to release sets in thick clear plastic cases -- cases that are perhaps most similar in construction to Xbox 360 game cases. This is the case here. Discs 1 and 2 are on a panel that flips over, with the third disc being affixed to the interior-right panel. Box art is visible above; menu art consists of a largely white surface, with a teal and a green triangle each appearing on each disc.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus have been retooled since the last sets, with somewhat rounded rectangles containing small and large photos from episodes, all over a *very* 70s green background. All episodes on the disc are accessible from the main menu. There are eight episodes per disc. The selected episode is denoted by a small color change on the episode number that isn’t particularly visible. Each episode has a sub-menu, with a Play Episode menu, a scene selection menu, and a language selection menu. The scene selection options are pretty much only ever found on FOX sets, and they’re a favorite feature.
Video and Audio Quality:
Because of the scene selection options, you’ll find even up to 10 chapters per episode. Each fade out to a new location or setting gets its own chapter. On the plus side it’s easier to resume an episode or skip the opening titles -- but it’s also harder to skip long distances at once.
For a 35 year old sitcom, the video looks FANTASTIC. Seriously, comparing the episodes versus nearly ANY TV series from the era you’ll find that the video is superior. There is still a very minor blemish here and there, but this is remarkable, particularly for a set considered all but abandoned. Audio quality IS a mono track, but as far as mono tracks go it’s pretty decent as well. It may take forever to get the episodes out, but when they appear they appear SPLENDID.
1) Will Mary Richards Go to Jail? (26:07)
2) Not Just Another Pretty Face (26:04)
3) You Sometimes Hurt the One You Hate (26:04)
4) Lou and that Woman (26:04)
5) The Outsider (26:07)
6) I Love a Piano (26:08)
7) The New Sue Ann (26:07)
8) Menage-a-Phyllis (26:04)
9) Not a Christmas Story (25:35)
10) What are Friends For? (25:35)
11) A Boy’s Best Friend (26:04)
12) A Son for Murray (26:04)
13) Neighbors (26:05)
14) A Girl Like Mary (26:03)
15) An Affair to Forget (25:36)
16) Mary Richards: Producer (26:05)
17) The System (26:08)
18) Phyllis Whips Inflation (26:03)
19)The Shame of the Cities (26:05)
20) Marriage Minneapolis Style (26:07)
21)You Try to be a Nice Guy (26:03)
22)You Can’t Lose ‘em All (26:04)
23)Tex Baxter’s Famous Broadcasters’ School (26:02)
24)Anybody who Hates Kids and Dogs (26:03)
No special features, again. Though given that the show was abandoned for three years, releasing the show at ALL could be considered a feature.
Heck, I’m so excited to even see another release that I don’t particularly care that there are no bonus features -- just having the episodes is a feature enough. It’s really amazing that a sitcom so often cited as one of the best, and often as one of the most important, hasn’t been seen in *daily* national reruns in six years, and at ALL nationally since AmericanLife pulled reruns in mid 2008. Someone -- TV Land or WGN to the white courtesy phone, please -- needs to air this wonderful sitcom again. THAT’S what I’d like to see further in the future. That, and for Fox to release the final two seasons. Fans are so close -- please let us finish the series.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 10/28/09
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