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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits
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Doogan's Views - Main Page

The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Seasons 1 and 2

I love The Twilight Zone. I love it a lot actually. Growing up, it was one of my all-time favorite television shows. I wasn't alive during the initial broadcasts, so I was only able to devour the show in syndication, but I never missed it. It has a special place in my heart as a life marker as well. The night I met my wife, I was watching one of the first DVD releases with my buddy Johnny B. when she and a bunch of her friends came over to my apartment for a party my roommate was throwing. Forever will The Twilight Zone be linked in my heart and mind as background noise when I first laid eyes on my wife.

The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition - Season 1The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition - Season 2

Buy this DVD now at Amazon!Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

But enough of that mush, you're here to read my first review in a loooooooooooong while. Bill pulled me out of DVD retirement so I could wrap my eyes around Image's deluxe treatment of one of the most important TV shows to ever come across the cathode ray nipple.

Image is planning to release all five seasons in five deluxe packages, and if the next three are anything like the first two, I can't frickin’ wait. These sets are completely badass. I thought the original random collections Image released were fun, but they were complete garbage compared to these sets.

What makes these sets so well-done isn't just the improved image and sound, which are both leaps and bounds better than the original releases. It's in the presentation and the volumes of extras heaped onto these discs.

Season One is the stand out. It comes with a very nice paperback book: The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree. It's a hefty and well-researched tome, offering just about everything you could ever wonder about Twilight Zone. Zicree also provides his library of audio recordings as a virtual commentary track spread over these new DVDs. If you read the book, you won't really learn anything by listening to these recordings, but it's neat to hear them anyway. Keep in mind, these aren't exactly archival quality. Just treat them as the curiosity pieces they are.

Season One contains traditional audio commentaries as well. Participants include Earl Holliman, star of the very first episode, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Martin Milner and Joe Dante fave Kevin McCarthy. All these commentaries are interesting, some more than others. They aren't the end all be all, but if you're a fan, you'll dig them. Also included are three additional audio features. One is a small collection of newer radio plays based on original scripts for Twilight Zone. They're just okay, nothing to write home about, but still a neat extra that illustrates just how good the originals were. Next are a series of lectures that show creator Rod Serling gave at Sherwood Oaks College. They're gappy, but worth a listen. Finally, we have here a selection (20 actually, a bit more than a selection) of isolated scores from the show. Who wouldn't pay just for scores featuring the work of Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith at the height of their talents? Joining all those audio extras on the first five discs are two video extras. One is a Drew Carey Show excerpt riffing on the seminal episode Time Enough at Last, while the other is a short photo gallery featuring Paul Douglas, who was originally cast in the episode The Mighty Casey but passed away during the production and was recast.

Disc Six is where you'll find all the other "Whoo-hoo!" extras. There's an original pitch pilot with a different narrator, a silly opening sequence, a long introduction with Serling “selling” the show and then a longer version of Mr. Denton on Doomsday. On that pitch is commentary by CBS executive William Self, more Serling lectures and an alternate show narration with Serling as an isolated feature. You also get a sales pitch by Serling for the show in the Netherlands, a complete episode of Liar's Club which was hosted by Serling, a blooper reel, award show clips, a DVD-ROM comic book, advertising cards featured in the original broadcasts, a picture gallery and another radio show. Not bad, huh?

It also should be said that the episodes themselves are presented as close to original broadcast as possible, with outro/previews featuring Serling and promos of upcoming CBS shows like Father Knows Best and Wanted Dead or Alive. I didn't go into episode review because, let's face it, this is THE best show of its kind. Most of the episodes are classics in their own right: Where Is Everybody?, Time Enough at Last and The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street are just a few of the must-sees in this season. All hyperbole aside, The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Season One was THE best TV DVD of 2004, and that's saying a lot because there were MANY great TV packages that came out last year.

Take away the heavy paperback, and Season Two fares just about the same as Season One in terms of extras and presentation... setting it up as a must own collection.

Featuring 29 classic tales (including The Howling Man, Eye of the Beholder, The Invaders and Long Distance Call), these episodes look and sound really, really good on DVD. A few of these episodes were filmed on videotape (a regrettable cost-cutting measure that didn't pay off), so they don't fare as well quality-wise as the traditionally-filmed episodes, but they look as good as can be expected.

At this point, I'll chime in with my only peeve about both of these sets. I was hoping it was a problem with Season One and wouldn't follow into Two, but it did so now I'll complain... there is no 'Play All' option on any of these DVDs, which really sucks. You are forced to watch an episode and click through the menus to watch the next. It gets annoying and I hope someone out there complained in a timelier manner than I am at this point, so many the Season Three set that streeted yesterday actually has one.

Alright, back to the praising.

Commentaries on this set include tracks with Donna Douglas, the “ugly” chick from Eye of the Beholder, Bill Mummy and writer William Idelson (on Long Distance Call), Cliff Robertson, Dennis Weaver and Shelley Berman. All are fun and well worth listening to. We also get 6 more radio dramas, more interview records from Zicree, isolated scores for a whopping 22 episodes (more Herrmann and Goldsmith, hell yeah!), production slate footage from the video episodes, a selection of color photos and a DVD-ROM accessible draft of the script for Twenty-Two, with handwritten notes by Serling.

Disc Five brings up the rear with another fine selection of additional supplements. There's a Mike Wallace Interview with Rod Serling, a funny little clip from the Tell It to Groucho television series, an additional clip from The Jack Benny Show, as well as product ad cards, stills and another DVD-ROM comic book.

I have to say, I've been watching these sets off and on since they came out and I've loved every minute of them. Both are must-own. In fact, all the forthcoming sets (if they're anywhere close to the quality of these two) should be well worth your time.

I'll chime back in as I pick up the newer sets and make this review a full report of all five seasons. Bill will let you know when amendments are made.

And next week I'll be back with a look at samurai flicks that have come out in the last few months.

Keep spinnin’ those discs!

Todd Doogan

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