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Benson - The Complete First Season



DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $29.95
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 597 minutes
Running Time of Special Features: approx. 38 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed Captioned
Special Features: “Video Introduction by Robert Guillaume,” “Inside the Governor’s Mansion: Remembering the First Season of Benson,” “Favorites from the First Season,” “Photo Gallery”


The popular spin-off from the classic series Soap is now on DVD! That is of course Benson, who was the insolent butler to the Tates on Soap, has now moved on to the governor’s mansion. The governor is of course Jessica Tate’s cousin. Benson: The Complete First Season makes its DVD debut with all 24 first season episodes plus brand new special features all on a great 3-disc set from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment! Over the course of its seven season run on ABC, Benson was nominated for 17 Emmy Awards, winning three of them and nominated for four Golden Globes.

The series stars 5-time Emmy nominee Robert Guillaume as Benson and James Noble as Governor Eugene Gatling. Also starring in the first season are the governor’s little daughter Katie played by Missy Gold, the stern German housekeeper Gretchen Kraus played by Inga Swenson, the governor’s secretary Marcy Hill played by Caroline McWilliams, and John Taylor the governor’s political aide played by Lewis J. Stalden.

Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

The first season had 24 memorable episodes. The best of the bunch are, “Change” (Pilot), is where it all happens and we see Benson move into his new job running the Governor’s mansion. “The President’s Double,” is where Benson impersonates an African president to avoid an assassination attempt. “Benson in Love,” is where he meets the attractive Francine Wade in the waiting room of the mansion, he asks her out, not knowing she is a State Senator. “Jessica,” is where Jessica Tate (special guest star Katherine Helmond) visits and falls in love with the French Baron d'Arvenaux. “Cold Storage” is a classic episode where Benson and Kraus get locked in the basement. “Takin' It to the Streets” is where Governor Gatling and Benson visit a mangy bar to talk to the constituents but land in trouble when a man picks a fight with Gatling at the bar, not knowing who he is.

In addition to special guest star Katherine Helmond, other guest stars this season include Denise Nicholas and Roscoe Lee Browne in the episode “Just Friends.” Roscoe Lee Browne did not play his Soap character Saunders, he of course was the butler that replaced Benson when Benson moved to the governor mansion. Did you also know that Caroline McWilliams and Inga Swenson were also on Soap, and obviously played different characters on Benson? Anyway, back to the guest stars. David Ruprecht guest stars in “Chain of Command,” Richard Stahl & Joel Brooks guest star in “Bugging the Governor,” Michael Bell guest stars in “Checkmate,” and G.W. Bailey guest stars in some episodes as a bartender.


The packaging is a typical Sony design--an outer box with slim cases inside. The artwork is much better than the usual Sony stuff, though. The color scheme is blue. The outer box has headshots of all the main characters from season one on the top, with the complete first season wording below that and the title shot of Robert Guillaume in Benson with a nice photo of Benson inside the O in Benson. The tagline, “He’s running the house...and state,” is below that. The back of the box has a nice photo of Benson, a photo of the mansion, and four different screen shots. That is not all though, it has a nice synopsis of the first season and the set and a box for special features.

Inside the box, we have two slim cases and the generic Sony booklet. The booklet is up to date, and is the same one used on Bewitched Season 5, which we also reviewed. Anyway, we have slim cases, first case holds the first two discs and the last slim case holds disc three. The front of both slim cases has a nice colorcast photo, different one for each. The back of each slim case has episode info (episode number, title, synopsis, and cast). Inside the first slim case, we have discs on both sides. When we take the discs out, you will see various photos on the case. In between the discs, there is a nice photo of the governor’s chair I believe. The second slim case has nice photos on the left side with disc three on the right side and when we remove the third disc, the nice photos from the left side continue. The disc art is similar to everything else on this set…they are blue. The Benson logo appears on each disc, with a photo of a star inside the O in Benson. Disc one has a photo of Benson and holds episodes 1-8 & some extras, disc two has a photo of Marcy & the Governor and holds episodes 9-16, and finally disc three has a photo of Kraus & Katie and holds episodes 17-24 & more extras.

Menu Design and Navigation:

The menu screens match the style of the cover art. There is no theme playing the background, like most Sony sets. Options are Play All Episodes, Episode Selection, Special Features (disc one and three only), Previews (Disc three only). Previews option has God Grew Tired of Us, Stomp the Yard, Norman Lear and Great TV Families. When we select Episode Selection, we get the typical Sony episode menu--a square screenshot from the episode with the title (though on this set the screenshot is inside an O from the word Benson). Each episode has five chapter stops (opening credits, Act 1, Act 2, Tag Scene and closing credits).

Video and Audio Quality:

The back of the box says the show is mastered in high definition! It certainly looks good and it is the best the series has ever looked, I’m sure. The audio is fine, a nice Dolby digital sound. The episodes for the most part are around 24-25 minutes, so it is unedited, unless there is something very minor cut. It is certainly not the syndicated prints. Some notable notes include the original opening credits for the pilot episode is intact (you know where Benson is shown moving into the mansion, it is comical...TV Land never showed it, but SGN did) and all the episodes have the full one-minute opening credits but two episodes (“The Layoff” and “War Stories”). The two episodes that do not have the full theme probably did not have them originally, but don’t worry nothing is edited out in the actual episode. There are three others or so that has a similar run-time, but has the full theme. The new Sony Pictures Television logo is at the end of each episode.

The runtimes are as follows:

Disc 1:
1. Change (Pilot) (25:08)
2. Trust Me (24:37)
3. The President’s Double (24:50)
4. Benson in Love (24:48)
5. Conflict of Interest (25:08)
6. The Layoff (24:07)
7. Snowbound (24:58)
8. Jessica (24:50)

Disc 2:
9. Don’t Quote Me (25:09)
10. War Stories (24:06)
11. Ghost Story (25:08)
12. Taylor’s Bid (25:07)
13. One Strike, You’re Out (24:09)
14. Just Friends (24:08)
15. Chain of Command (25:07)
16. Bugging the Governor (25:08)

Disc 3:
17. Kraus Affair (25:08)
18. Checkmate (25:07)
19. Cold Storage (25:08)
20. Old Man Gatling (25:08)
21. Power Play (25:10)
22. Takin’ It to the Streets (24:08)
23. The Army Wants You (25:04)
24. Marcy’s Vacation (25:08)

Special Features:

Usually, Sony’s classic TV sets are bare with just Sony previews. This set is not like that and is GREAT! Disc 1 has the bulk of the extras. We get a nice “Video Introduction by Robert Guillaume” that runs 1:04. He is thanking the fans in buying the first season and introduces the show to them. He mentions season two at the end, so let’s hope we get that on DVD very soon. Then we have the best feature on the set, “Inside the Governor’s Mansion: Remembering the First Season of Benson.” This runs 29:26 and is a fan’s dream come true. It is filled with great inside info and facts. I won’t give it away! Interviewed for this featurette are Robert Guillaume, James Noble and producer Tony Thomas. They talk about each actor from this season (Robert Guillaume, James Noble, Inga Swenson, Missy Gold, Caroline McWilliams, and Lewis J. Stalden). After that, they discuss the studio audience, acting style, working together and creating a lasting impression. My only gripe is I wish more had participated. However, the three that did were fantastic.

The remaining extras are on the last disc. Another featurette is given, titled “Favorite Episodes from the First Season.” It runs 6 minutes and Guillaume, Thomas and Noble discuss their favorite first season episodes. Among the favorite episodes they discuss are “The President’s Double” and “Jessica.” Then we have a Photo Gallery. It is a nice video montage of still photos running for 1:34. There is nice music playing in the background as well. Gross Myth Company produced all of these special features. Maybe Sony should go to them more often, because they did a wonderful job. Let’s hope Sony continues to deliver like this on all of their classic TV sets! Finally, as I mentioned in the Menu section, Sony Previews are also available on disc three.

Final Comments:

Sony should be proud! They did a wonderful job actually on this set. All the episodes are unedited, the video quality is superb and there are actually some worthy special features! I wish more of the actors had participated, but still good. I would have liked audio commentaries and bloopers as well. Let’s hope we get those for season two. This series is certainly a very smart sitcom and is underrated. It is different from Soap’s style, but it is just as good maybe as Soap. Robert Guillaume is wonderful in this role and James Noble and Inga Swenson are great throughout as well.

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

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

-- Reviewed by pavanbadal on 07/04/07

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