TITLE: THE COSBY SHOW - SEASONS 1 AND 2 (MILL CREEK)
Release Date: January 21, 2014 (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Packaging: Standard DVD Case
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 49
Running Time: 1199 minutes
Running Time of Features: N/A
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: None
The Huxtables are dancing their way back onto DVD with The Cosby Show - Seasons One and Two! For those unfamiliar with the series (we'd expect that number to be relatively low), The Cosby Show was Bill Cosby's second journey into the sitcom world, but his first incredibly successful sitcom. The series starred Cosby and Phylicia Rashad (Phylicia Ayers-Allen, as credited in the first season) as obstetrician Cliff and attorney Clair Huxtable. Together, they're raising an entire family in the heart of Brooklyn, dealing with all of the daily problems that an upper middle class family has to deal with in raising children. Even though they were an African American family, the series rarely made their race an integral part of the series, instead choosing to portray the family as any other American family. It aired on NBC in the late 80s into the early 90s, and was one of the final pieces to the puzzle that turned NBC from a failing network to the most successful network on TV. In fact, the series spent five consecutive years as the #1 series on TV, and never fell out of the top 20 in the ratings. The latest four-disc release from Mill Creek Entertainment brings the previously out-of-print first two seasons to DVD once again, with all 49 episodes of the first two seasons, in their original unedited form.
The series begins with the pilot episode, "Theo's Economic Lesson," where Theo lets Cliff know that grades aren't important in life... and then proceeds to receive a lesson from Cliff! A funeral is held for a member of the family who lives in a bowl in "Goodbye, Mr. Fish." In "Bad Dreams," Vanessa begins to have bad dreams after seeing a scary movie. Cliff learns how talented his son is as a football player in "Is That My Boy?" In "A Shirt Story," Denise decides to help Theo with a minor problem. Denise is looking ahead to college in "Breaking With Tradition," but her choice puts her at odds with her grandfather's hopes. Clair gets a little bit of "baby fever" in "One More Time." Dizzy Gillespie guest stars in "Play it Again, Vanessa," where Vanessa is desperate to learn how to play the clarinet. Denise's latest boyfriend visits in "How Ugly Is He?," and he is really smart... but he has some certain opinions about certain professions that neither Cliff nor Clair would like to hear. We finally get to meet Sondra for the first time in "Bonjour, Sondra." In "You’re Not a Mother Night," Clair gets a chance to take a vacation from being a mother, at least for one night. Cliff has to take care of a sick child in "Rudy's Sick."
In "Father's Day," the kids decide to give Cliff a proper Father's Day present for once... except it is Christmas. Theo has his ear pierced in "Independence Day," and is doing whatever he can to hide it. Theo accepts on award on his father's behalf in "Physician of the Year." Cliff gets a bit of dance fever in "Jitterbug Break." In "Theo and the Joint," Cliff and Clair find something that they really hope doesn't belong to Theo. Vanessa is placed in an advanced class in "Vanessa's New Class." Sondra is ripped off by an auto mechanic in "Clair's Case," and Clair is going to do whatever she can to right that wrong. In "Back to the Track, Jack," Cliff learns that he isn't quite the athlete he used to be. In "The Younger Woman," Cliff's new widower friend has a new woman in his life, and Clair isn't too comfortable with the fact that she is the same age as Sondra. A sleepover becomes too much for Cliff to handle in "The Slumber Party." Tony Orlando guest stars in "Mr. Quiet," which was a backdoor pilot for a proposed spinoff. The first season ends with "Cliff's Birthday," where Lena Horne makes a special appearance.
The second season begins with "First Day of School," where nobody is eager for back-to-school (except for Cliff and Clair). Rudy causes a bit of trouble with a juicer in "The Juicer." In the classic episode "Happy Anniversary," Cliff goes "over the cliff" in a surprise for his parents' anniversary, but it turns out that they really enjoy what the children have planned instead... a home cooked dinner along with a Ray Charles lip-syncing performance. Elvin makes his first appearance in "Cliff in Love," but it seems that Cliff might get in the way of his relationship with Sondra. Theo gets involved with one of Denise's friend (or at least that is how he sees it) in "Theo and the Older Woman." The Huxtables prepare for Halloween in "Halloween." In "Rudy Suits Up," Cliff is happy to see his youngest daughter playing football. Denise is ready to buy her first car in "Denise Drives." In "Clair's Sister," Clair's sister is about to get married, but not before the bride and groom can find out a little bit about marriage. Clair can't get her feet into her new shoes after an injury in "Clair's Toe." In "Denise's Friend," Denise's friend is dealing with a medical issue that Cliff can help her with, but she doesn't want her parents to know. Theo's teacher, the "Dragon Lady," comes to dinner in "Mrs. Westlake."
Clair is determined to get a painting in "The Auction," no matter what the price. In "Vanessa's Bad Grade," Vanessa is worried after receiving a bad test grade. Theo and Cockroach get into one of their first schemes in "Theo and Cockroach." Danny Kaye guest stars in "The Dentist," where the one of Rudy's friends needs to get over his fear of dentists. Cliff wants his father to return to his musician roots in "Play It Again, Russell." In "A Touch of Wonder," the family has an encounter with Stevie Wonder. Cliff finds himself without much peace at home with the whole family in the way in "Full House." In "Close to Home," Cliff realizes that his problems at home may not be as bad as they could be thanks to a friend. Theo is rooting for Mrs. Westlake to have her baby (so that he can get out of a math test) in "An Early Spring." In "Theo's Holiday," the family gives Theo a little taste of the real world, through some elaborate role playing. Cliff's card game turns out to be a little better than expected in "The Card Game." Cliff gets to go back to his track star past again in "Off to the Races." The second season ends with "Denise's Decision," where Denise faces an important decision about college, but Theo and Vanessa have their own opinions about where she should go (for somewhat selfish reasons).
As mentioned before, the episodes on the set are unedited (or at least seem to be), with runtimes around 24 minutes. Runtimes for each episode are as follows:
Season 1/Disc 1:
1. "Theo's Economic Lesson" (23:40)
2. "Goodbye, Mr. Fish" (24:13)
3. "Bad Dreams" (23:40)
4. "Is That My Boy?" (24:42)
5. "A Shirt Story" (23:40)
6. "Breaking with Tradition" (24:42)
7. "One More Time" (24:42)
8. "Play it Again, Vanessa" (24:40)
9. "How Ugly Is She?" (24:41)
10. "Bonjour, Sondra" (24:40)
11. "You're Not a Mother Night" (24:08)
12. "Rudy's Sick" (24:40)
Season 1/Disc 2:
13. "Father's Day" (24:39)
14. "Independence Day" (24:39)
14. "Physician of the Year" (24:12)
15. "Jitterbug Break" (24:40)
16. "Theo and the Joint" (24:38)
17. "Vanessa's New Class" (24:41)
18. "Clair's Case" (24:42)
19. "Back to the Track, Jack" (24:42)
20. "The Younger Woman" (24:08)
21. "The Slumber Party" (24:43)
22. "Mr. Quiet" (24:40)
23. "Cliff's Birthday" (24:38)
Season 2/Disc 1:
1. "First Day of School" (24:41)
2. "The Juicer" (24:41)
3. "Happy Anniversary" (24:43)
4. "Cliff in Love" (24:41)
5. "Theo and the Older Woman" (24:41)
6. "Halloween" (24:41)
7. "Rudy Suits Up" (24:40)
8. "Denise Drives" (24:41)
9. "Clair's Sister" (23:41)
10. Clair's Toe" (24:46)
11. "Denise's Friend" (24:41)
12. "Mrs. Westlake" (24:43)
Season 2/Disc 2:
13. "The Auction" (24:41)
14. "Vanessa's Bad Grade" (24:43)
15. "Theo and Cockroach" (24:42)
16. "The Dentist" (24:42)
17. "Play it Again, Russell" (24:11)
18. "A Touch of Wonder" (24:41)
19. "Full House" (24:40)
20. "Come to Home" (24:11)
21. "An Early Spring" (24:11)
22. "Theo's Holiday" (24:20)
23. "The Card Game" (24:40)
24. "Off to the Races" (24:10)
25. "Denise's Decision" (24:41)
The packaging for this set comes in the standard Mill Creek case in which the discs are all stacked on top of each other in a center hub (we can't say enough how glad we are that the days of the black paper sleeves are over!). On the cover, there is a photo of Cliff and Clair, with small circles below them with each of their five (not four, for those who get the reference) children. There are eight episode snapshots on the back, along with a brief description of the series. Inside, you'll find the four discs. The season 1 discs have a photo of Cliff and Clair (the same photo is also seen on the back of the case), and the season 2 discs have a photo of Cliff on them.
Menu Design and Navigation:
I'm not sure what has happened with Mill Creek on their menus lately. In the past, they've been known for having great looking menus that are very elaborate and professional looking for a low budget studio. Lately, though, they've devolved into very simple looking menus with no audio or video effects at all. In this set, for example, the main menu is nothing but a cast publicity photo (it appears to have just been taken directly from stock photo files), and options of Play All and Episode Select. Selecting Episode Select brings up a menu that lists all of the episodes on the disc, along with the same stock photo. Chapters are placed throughout each episode at all of the appropriate places.
Video and Audio Quality:
The seasons presented look pretty "normal" for standard 80s sitcom, so there isn't a whole lot to say here that viewers would be surprised to find. Essentially, the series looks about like it does when it airs in syndication. The only slight problem that I could find that seems to be more specific to these DVDs is the issue of video compression. It isn't bad in general, but at times, particularly when there is a lot of motion in the video (i.e. somebody walking to the door), you can tell that something looks a little off compared to what we're used to. I wouldn't call it a disaster by any means, though. The audio for the episodes is mostly fine, though a bit soft at times. Each episode on the set is closed-captioned.
None of the special features from the previous studio carried over to this release, which is a bit unfortunate. Mill Creek is sort of hit or miss on carrying these over, which likely has to do with how willing the previous studio releasing the products are to share the special features that they produced.
Having a copy of the 25th anniversary release of the complete series that First Look Studios released in 2008, I can honestly say that particular set was the best release of the series, considering that it was the first release to contain unedited episodes from the first season as well as special features. With that being said, that particular release did not enjoy a very long "shelf life," and was already out of print about a year after being released. So for those who missed it, this release is, by all means, the greatest possible release you can get for the series. When you add in the great value that Mill Creek has provided (two seasons for under $15), that almost makes this set perfect. In fact, my only true complaint is the fact that they put so many episodes on a disc. But other than that, this set is perfectly fine.
If you are a fan of The Cosby Show and do not own the complete series (or perhaps you own some of those hodgepodge season sets, including UrbanWorks original edited season one), you should pick up this set. Even if you're only a casual fan, this is certainly worth picking up at this low price. The next logical step for Mill Creek, though, is to make fans happy by bringing them something that we haven't seen on DVD... particularly the spinoff series A Different World, which had one season released several years ago (again, with edited episodes) and was quickly abandoned after that. Until then, it is great that we at least get to see The Cosby Show (which is, by all means, the more "important" series) back in print on DVD.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 03/03/14
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