TITLE: WILL & GRACE - SEASON EIGHT
Release Date: September 16, 2008 (Lionsgate)
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 23
Running Time: 515 minutes
Running Time of Special Features: approx. 113 minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
Subtitles: Closed Captioned
Special Features: Season 7 Outtake Reel and Themed Featurettes
*The Final Bow special
The Last Words: Interviews with the Cast
Season 8 Outtake Reel
Commentary Track on the Finale
The eighth and final season of Will & Grace is now on DVD! The eighth season took place during the 2005-06 TV season -- and featured among other things a pregnant Grace, Jack hosts a talk show, and the season premiere is done live. I’d grown cold to this show for a while, but recently someone I know got me interested in the series again, so hopefully this review will be more positive than it might have otherwise...at least until the video section, where all bets are off.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
There are a few episodes that I really should talk about here -- the live episodes and the finale, plus one additional one. I’d already moved on from the series by then, but the premiere and finale episodes I still clearly remember watching in original broadcast. The first live episode really made me a fan again (I go through hot/cold phases with this series) but I didn’t have a DVR then which meant I tended to miss the series quite a bit. I didn’t even realize they’d tried the live experiment again later in the season until later on.
In the premiere Jack starts hosting Jack Talk, Stan is apparently alive, and did I mention the series is live? Alec Baldwin guest stars, and plays a recurring character. Before getting to the finale, I just wanted to mention an episode I saw recently for the first time that had me in stitches: Von Trapped. It’s the 10th episode of the season. Will and Grace plan to attend a theater event relating to The Sound of Music -- in costume. Naturally everything goes wrong. My description is terrible, but this was a great episode, in my opinion. Taye Diggs guests as James, who goes on to recur for part of the season. The second live episode occurs next, but it doesn’t stand out to me as much as the first go-around. Finally it is the finale, which is already on DVD. As I introduced the episode two years ago:
The culmination of eight seasons ends with one series finale - will Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) raise a child together and find ultimate happiness? Will Jack (Sean Hayes) find anyone that loves him as much as he loves himself? Will Karen (Megan Mullally) find true happiness with the absence of Stan? All these questions are answered as this groundbreaking series concludes eight amazing seasons. Harry Connick, Jr., Kevin Bacon, and Bobby Cannavale guest star.
Other guest stars for the season include Harry Connick Jr., in his recurring role as Leo, Debbie Reynolds in her recurring role as Grace’s mother Bobbie, plus longtime actress Blythe Danner as Will’s mother in THAT recurring role, while Sydney Pollack appears as Will’s father; Andy Richter guests in the episode “The Old Man and the Sea,” while Wings co-star Steven Weber appears in the annual Christmas episode. Today show host Matt Lauer appears as himself in the episode ”Bathroom Humor,” Lily Tomlin appears in the episode “Forbidden Fruit,” Hall & Oates appear as themselves in the episode “The Definition of Marriage.” Wanda Sykes appears as Karen’s attempted paid surrogate in “Buy Buy Baby.” Finally, Bernadette Peters appears in “Whatever Happened to Baby Gin?”
It is the standard issue for Will & Grace DVD sets...outer box with a digipak inside. Front cover has the 4 cast members in a photo in the center, with the show title on top and the “Will & Grace” on bottom. Outer box is gold this time. I guess they wanted to wrap up the series with a valuable metal Rear cover features the 4 cast members posing inside little squares. Consistent with the style theme set up by previous DVD sets. Digipak art is the same as the outer box, however, each of the interior panels contains a photo and details for episodes on various discs. Each of the four discs has as its artwork, with the return of circular photos for each individual cast member, appearing in a golden tint. Like always, the disc art breakdown goes Will-Grace-Karen-Jack. Each of the first three discs contains 7 episodes, while the final disc holds the final two episodes and the bonus features. (Leading to a 1-7, 8-14, 15-21, 22-23 setup)
Menu Design and Navigation:
Yet another sedate menu system, which I have to admit I’m perfectly fine with. The menus on some early sets were WAY too busy-looking. This set features purple bars at the top and bottom, a set of purple/gray/black/white squares serving as a border, with a golden strip down the center. The strip animates between golden and orange shades. Left-of-center, clips from episodes play. Right-of-center is the disc options in a surprisingly small font. Episodes transition out with effective animations. The entire thing honestly looks like a golden strip of film, even if that’s not the look they were going for. The Episode selection menu features a similar but static design. Four stills per page, two pages on the first three discs, with the episode title and a still image present. Selecting a still causes the episode to load.
Video and Audio Quality:
Lionsgate made the decision to stick with 4:3 episodes for the duration -- a boneheaded move for folks who prefer TV in widescreen, while folks with regular TVs wouldn’t have noticed a difference most likely. Using the standard definition prints also results in colors being excessively warm, more noise and issues appearing in the videos -- not to mention noticeable compression against solid colors AND interlacing issues. Audio is a workhorse 2.0 audio track -- which for a sitcom whose presentation has already been half-hearted is all you can ask for. It does its job adequately, but it won’t blow you away.
The problem with using standard definition prints shines through vividly in the two live episodes. In the HD versions of these two episodes, the episodes appear great. There are a few minor lighting changes and small tweaks, but generally the show looks good. But when using the SD prints, suddenly the episodes look like a cut-rate budget daytime soap opera in terms of production. It’s awful. Chapter stops appear at the end of each act, which result in 3-4 stops per episode. Play all IS available from the main menu.
Alive and Schticking: 21:50
I Second that Emotion: 21:22
The Old Man and the Sea: 21:20
Steams Like Old Times: 21:19
The Hole Truth: 21:15
Love is in the Airplane: 21:21
Birds of a Feather Boa: 21:09
Swish Out of Water: 21:19
A Little Christmas Queer: 21:21
Von Trapped: 21:19
Bathroom Humor: 20:50
Forbidden Fruit: 21:13
Cop to It: 21:20
I Love L. Gay: 21:20
The Definition of Marriage: 21:20
Grace Expectations: 21:15
Cowboys and Iranians: 21:21
Buy Buy Baby: 21:20
Blanket Apology: 21:20
The Mourning Son: 21:20
Partners ‘n’ Crime: 21:20
Whatever Happened to Baby Gin?: 28:00
The Finale: 42:30
Again: I can positively attest that the episodes from “Christmas Break” onwards aired in widescreen, so their appearance in full frame is disappointing.
Commentary on “The Finale” with David Kohan, Max Mutchnick, James Burrows, and Eric McCormack (42:30): Great commentary on the part of all four. It’s too bad it took THIS long for Lionsgate to get on the commentary bus. This is an amusing commentary track.
The Final Bow: Curtain Call: The Last Season Featurette (12:59): (Recycled from Finale DVD)
Essentially home-movie like video from the last episode. There’s no interviews or anything, just video.
The Last Words: Interviews with the cast and crew (24:10): (Recycled from Finale DVD)
Because here’s the interviews. Everyone who SHOULD be interviewed IS interviewed. Videos for a read, various stuff. A nice featurette.
Themed Featurettes: A montage of clips set to a specific theme. Themes this time include “For Love or Money,” “Pop Goes
the Culture,” “Enter Stage Left,” and more. 12 Featurettes, each runs 2:00 to 2:30, for a total of around 25 minutes.
Blooper Reel: 8:27 worth of screw-ups, missed takes, and falling on their behinds. Not to mention one point where the audience boos and groans at a joke instead of laughs.
Runtime of special features: approx 113 minutes
HDTV sales were still rather low when this show originally aired, so I guess they were just counting on not many people knowing the difference. The problem is that this is 2008 now -- and as the show DID air in widescreen, some folks might well like to see these episodes in their proper aspect ratio for the first time. For all the talk of unedited episodes, I was saddened to see full frame video, I really was. The video that’s there mostly looks good, though the two live episodes have issues. One of my hopes for the DVD set was also dashed -- they only included one version of each live episode, even though the east and west coast versions differed. Sad fact.
It’s nice to se a larger number of special features, even if some are recycled from a previous set. If you’ve came this far, go ahead and purchase this set to complete the collection. Ideally, if you haven’t made a buying decision, buy the complete series set instead -- you usually save money that way. I really wanted to be positive, but there are just glaring issues. If you need this set for completion’s sake, go for it. If you want all eight sets and haven’t bought anything, buy the full series set. If not, watch the show via whatever method you watch the series and consider investing in other DVDs.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Final Score: 3.5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 09/20/08
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