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Will & Grace - Season Four


TITLE: WILL & GRACE - SEASON FOUR


Info:

Release Date: August 16, 2005 (Lions Gate Home Entertainment)
Color/2001-02
MSRP: $44.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 25 (23 half-hours, 2 hour-long shows)
Running Time: 640 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: 28 minutes
English Audio; Closed Captioned
Special Features:
• “Themed” Featurettes (Clips from the show set to a certain theme/song)
• Outtake Reel from Season 4


Introduction:

Eric McCormack & Debra Messing star in this crazy sitcom about two longtime best friends living together. They both love French films, poker night with the guys and George Clooney. They are the perfect couple -- except that Will is gay. Also in their crazy little world is Jack, Will's flamboyantly gay friend, and Karen, Grace's rich socialite secretary. The comedy gold that results when their lives intertwine is the stuff that has kept this show on the air now into its seventh season.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

This season was one of the last great seasons of the show. After this season, the show developed a major guest star addiction, and wouldn’t be the same afterward. Any episode of the arc involving Woody Harrelson’s character Nathan is worth watching. The episode “Moveable Feast” is also quite good, in my opinion. Most of the episodes this season are also good ­ particularly any episodes that focus more heavily on Karen and/or Jack.

Rather than type fifty paragraphs listing the guest stars ­ and W&G S4 had a LOT of them ­ I’m just going to list them all, with the episodes they appear in, below. A quick guide to finding the episodes in question: Episode numbers are in regards to season-order, not overall. Also, a note, a list of what episodes are on what discs is later in the review.

Woody Harrelson: The Third Wheel Gets the Grace (#1), Past and Presents (#2), Loose Lips Sink Relationships (#5), Rules of Engagement (#6), Anne Meara: Star-Spangled Banter (#8) Beau Bridges: Moveable Feast (#9) Blythe Danner: Moveable Feast (#9), Cheatin’ Trouble Blues (#18) Debbie Reynolds: Moveable Feast (#9) Rosie O’Donnell: Dyeing is Easy, Comedy is Hard (#14) Matt Damon: A Chorus Lie (#15) Suzanne Pleshette: Someone Old, Someplace New (#16), Something Borrowed, Someone’s Due (#17) Sydney Pollack: Cheatin’ Trouble Blues (#18) Tom Poston: Went to a Garden Party (#19) Michael Douglas: Fagel Attraction (#22) Molly Shannon: Fagel Attraction (#22) Glenn Close: Hocus Focus (#23) Cher: A.I.: Artificial Insemination (#25) Rip Torn: A.I.: Artificial Insemination (#25)


Packaging:

Packaging is your standard 4-panel DVDigipak, inside a cardboard sleeve. Each of the fold panels has part of the list of shows on each disc. With the way the setup unfolds, however, you may have to shuffle around to find the various episodes listed in order. In addition to a little synopsis about each episode, the panels contain 1-2 promotional and/or still images from the show. Front picture is the standard cast photo with Grace holding onto Will, Jack leaning on Grace, and Karen standing off to the side. Other pictures include the cast sitting on furniture outside a trailer, and other assorted still images from the show. The disc art is a simple green-tint headshot of each individual cast member. Eric McCormack (Will) is on the first disc, which contains the first seven shows. Disc two (Grace/Debra Messing) has shows 8-14. The third disc ­ featuring a headshot of Megan Mullaly (Karen), contains shows 15-20 as well as the outtake reel. The final disc, the Jack (Sean Hayes) disc, has episodes 21-25 and the themed featurettes.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The fourth-season menus are significantly more laid-back than the “moving circles” menu of the third season set. However, at the same time, this makes the menus seem less professional than the last set. The majority of the menu remains static while staying at it. A bottom strip of windows shows various clips from the season with the show theme playing in the background. There are only a few clips per disc, so this gets repetitive quickly ­ however, this IS a problem with most other releases that do this. The only time any other animation occurs is when selecting an option on the main menu. The menu parts gradually fall/slide away, and then the submenu animates in (or the episode plays, depending on choice). Menu art for the episode selection menus is consistent. Discs one and three feature Grace on the first page of episodes, while the art on the 2nd page features Will. On discs two and four, page one is Karen, and page two is Jack. On all 4 discs, a static image from that episode is positioned on the right side of the screen, with the episode title immediately to the left. As there’s only one themed featurette menu, Lions Gate wisely opted to use a cast photo rather than a picture omitting any particular cast members. Strangely enough, there’s no animated transition between the main menu and the featurette menu, even though a transition animation DOES exist for all menu options on all other discs.


Video and Audio Quality:

Video is nice. This was one of the last seasons of the show done in 1.33:1. While it would have been nice to have these episodes in their HD glory, at least one can be happy knowing that’s down the pipe. These episodes were only shot 4 years ago, so there’s no deterioration. There’s no grain issue, and the colors look fine ­ if a bit dark. The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, and sounds fairly nice.

Due to the recent practice by some outfits of releasing syndicated episodes of a series onto DVD as opposed to the much-preferred master copies, from here onward in all my reviews I will be listing the runtimes of every episode in the DVD set next to the episode title. As I don’t always have the resources to judge every show versus the original or syndicated copies, I may be unable to state with certainty whether a set is original broadcast-length or if it’s syndication-edited in some cases, therefore I’m including runtimes, and you can make up your own mind.

Third Wheel Gets the Grace: 21:34
Past and Presents: 21:44
Crouching Father, Hidden Husband: 21:44
Prison Blues: 21:44
Loose Lips Sink Relationships: 21:35
The Rules of Engagement: 21:16
Bed, Bath, and Beyond: 21:31
Star-Spangled Banter: 21:19
Moveable Feast: 42:09
Stakin' Care of Business: 21:43
Jingle Balls: 21:38
Whoa, Nelly: 21:41
Grace in the Hole: 21:36
Dyeing is Easy, Comedy is Hard: 21:37
A Chorus Lie*: 25:54
Someplace Old, Someplace New: 21:39
Something's Borrowed, Someone's Due: 21:40
Cheatin Trouble Blues: 21:37
Went to a Garden Potty: 21:41
He Shoots, they Snore: 21:34
Wedding Bells: 21:18
Fagel Attraction*: 26:23
Hocus Focus: 21:32
A Buncha White Chicks Sittin' around Talkin' 21:43
A.I..: Artificial Insemination: 42:16

Total Runtime of Episodes: 640 Minutes (If that number’s wrong ­ oops)

Chapter stops are fairly well placed, occurring at the start of the video portion of the main title theme (meaning that you actually skip to that chapter approximately two seconds into the theme ­ a strange thing to behold), as well as at each fade to black and right before the closing credits. And yes, Virginia, there IS a Play All feature.

* Notes: The episodes “A Chorus Lie” and “Fagel Attraction” were special extended-length episodes, filling a 35 minute timeslot instead of a 30 minute slot. As such, the runtime runs higher (25:54 and 26:23) for these episodes. Sadly, once upon a time that was the average runtime for a show in a 30 minute slot. Today, in the era of 21-minute runtimes and added commercials, it’s sad that the only time episodes run what they USED TO is when a network creates an “extra long” slot. “Moveable Feast” and “A.I.: Artificial Insemination” both aired as hour-long shows, and as such run double-length.


Special Features:

Featurettes are remarkably simple ­ an outtake reel from the show’s 4th season, and various clips from the show edited together, with music, to a certain theme (the title of each featurette is amazingly indicative of the contents of the clip package). Really, the features themselves are quite ordinary.

Runtimes of Special Features:

Outtake Reel: 6:37

Featurettes:
Let's Get Physical: 1:39
Fashion Quips: 1:51
With a Song in Our Hearts: 2:16
Out and About: 2:13
The Sounds of Comedy: 1:29
Everybody Dance: 2:05
A Rose by any Other Name...: 1:55
Hugs & Kisses: 1:45
9 to 5ish: 2:02
Enter Stage Left: 2:07
The Little Voice in my Head: 2:01

Total Runtime for Special Features: 28:00

Honestly, given that it took a year to progress from season 3 to season 4 in the release cycle, I’m shocked at how bare-bones this set it. The “special features” are nothing more than prearranged clip-packages ­ there’s nothing unique or informative at all. No commentary, no cast interviews, NOTHING that would justify a year between releases.


Final Comments:

Season five is when the show started to go downhill, in my opinion, so I’m not looking forward to it as much. Still, more depth in the special features department would go a long way in justifying future releases, particularly if there’s another year-long wait. Please, Lions Gate, try to arrange for some cast or crew members to lay down commentary tracks, or get an interview, or SOMETHING besides pre-packaged clips/bloopers. If you’re a fan of the show ­ well, due to how late in coming this review is, you probably got to see Will & Grace Season Four before I did. Fans of the show that have been holding out, go ahead and pick it up. At the very least, having the 26-minute shows in their full glory again is something. If you’re a fan of any of the guest stars this season, you might want to consider the set, if you’re interested in obtaining one piece of their body of work. As for Joe Q. Viewer….well…maybe you ought to rent the show, view an airing on your local affiliate or cable, or catch the final season of the show Thursdays at 8:30 PM e/p on NBC Thursdays this fall first before buying it.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 2/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 08/24/2005.

To order the DVD click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009WFEEG/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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