Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season (2011/Sony DVD Set)/Hell On Wheels: The Complete First Season (2011/E1 Blu-ray set)/Monroe: Series One (2011/Acorn DVD
Set)/Murdoch Mysteries: Season Four
(2011/Acorn Blu-ray + DVD Sets)
C+/B/C+/B- & C+ Sound: C+/B/B-/B & B- Extras: C+/C+/D/C Episodes: C+/B-/B/C+
have been looking for intelligent TV shows to catch, here are four to consider…
I am a
little surprised it has made it this far, but first we have Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season
(2011), a comedy about a one-time chemistry teacher who has become so immersed
in illegal substance creation and distribution that he likely at this point of
the series sees the rest of his life as far behind him. He is played by Bryan Cranston, who is one of
the main reasons the show continues, proving to be a very talented actor who
has propelled the show even when it has not always worked. This set has 13 hour-long shows over four
in this case, it is best you start with the first season, but it is a show that
I have thought could break out and be great, but is in a steady holding pattern
that is good for its fans at least.
Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, Anna Gunn and Dean Norris are among the
fine supporting cast at this point and it is at least a quality show telling a
story, which seems more rare every time I turn around and turn the HDTV. Extras include FACE OFF – inside the
explosive finale, Gag Reel, Gale’s Karaoke Video, 13 cast/crew commentaries, 8
featurettes on the making of this season, Deleted Scenes, Extended Version of
the Season Finale, “Better Call Saul”
commercials, 21 episodes of Inside
Breaking Bad, 5 Uncensored Episodes and Extended & Alternate Scenes,
which is a huge, nice number of extras.
on the show, start with this link, which will take you to all of our additional
coverage as well:
even a little better is a new Western series that also happens to air on the
AMC cable network, Hell On Wheels: The
Complete First Season (2011), which is actually shot in Canada and on film
(as seen in the behind the scenes footage despite claims this is only an HD
shoot) and is the first such production since Deadwood on HBO, showing how rare the genre shows up as a series on
TV anymore. The good news is that the
series, which is essentially a Revenge Western show, is pretty good and has some
archetypes and even clichés, but also some edge to it which helps make it
work. The man seeking revenge this time
is Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannan, who wants to avenge the death of his wife in
the 10 hour-long shows that make up this debut season.
not do much new with the genre, but being made in Canada gives it an unusual
look and supporting actors like Colm Meaney and Tom Noonan are a plus, though
music’s Common seems out of place as a liberated African American at a time
with much uglier racism and people acting out their hatreds more readily. An even odder item is that a railroad is
being built here, but we do not see many Chinamen and they often did the labor
without getting credit or even being photographed. This is where the show gets into authenticity
trouble. Otherwise, it is worth a look,
especially if you like Westerns.
extras are often low definition and editing (including sound editing) can be
sloppy, but they include a promo trailer for the series, Crashing A Train piece running about 3.5 minutes, a Making Of piece on Recreating The Past running about 17 minutes and three sets of
other featurettes: Character (seven
running about 13 minutes), Episode
(on all 10 running about 53 minutes) and more Making Of (seven running just over 33 minutes)
biggest surprise here however is one fans of the recently cancelled House might
want to see. Monroe: Series One (2011) is the latest show starring James
Nesbitt, this time as a brain surgeon who is also joking all the time, but I was
very impressed and pleased with the writing, realism, wit and pace of the show
like no medical show in a while. He has
a family, tries to deal with egos at work including his own and with realistic
cases. There are only six hour-long
shows here, but they are exceptional and I think it is sad no U.S. network
has been smart enough to grab this one.
has already proved he can more than carry a series (see Murphy’s Law) and he is
an actor with longtime experience, all of which pays off here. The look and feel of the show work, the
supporting cast works and this is Nesbitt’s best work yet. I hope this is the start of a long series. There are no extras in this set, but this is a
strong debut season, something we do not see much, so know it is worth going
out of your way for.
we have Murdoch Mysteries: Season Four
(2011), which continues the detective series with the twist that it is set over
100 years ago, making the technology, circumstances and means very different
that a show set today or even 30 years ago.
Like Breaking Bad, it is in a
holding pattern, is a high quality production, has 13 episodes for the season
(the same number of season at that) and is a hit. I like the show, but again, I was always
hoping this could breakout into something more, but it has its audience and is
sticking with what works.
on both Blu-ray (three discs) and DVD (four discs), extras are the same with Alternative Love Letters (2 minutes) and
a Behind The Scenes featurette (15
minutes) which should be watched after seeing the episodes so nothing is
ruined. The mysteries are set up nicely
enough, but the show can still be very pat and maybe too safe. Otherwise, I like the actors and production
design, so it does look good.
on the show, try these links for previous seasons:
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all three DVD presentations are a
little softer than I would have liked with some motion blur and a lack of
detail that holds back what was shot.
This is evident on the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image
transfer for Murdoch on Blu-ray
which might still have some softness, but color, depth and detail improve over
the DVD and it is the preferred way to watch.
Best of all is the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer
on Wheels, which may be styled down
to sometimes being almost monochromatic, but has very little blur and much
better detail, depth and range than anything else here.
Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Breaking
should be the best audio here at least on the DVDs, but by being too much
towards the center channel, is the poorest performer with the most
restrictions. Why it is designed this
way, I don’t know, but it is disappointing.
The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on the Acorn DVDs has healthy Pro
Logic surrounds in both cases and more than expected. However, the PCM 2.0 Stereo on the Murdoch Blu-ray is even richer and
warmer than expected, whether you play it as stereo or in Pro Logic. That leaves the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1
lossless mix on Wheels as narrowly
the best here with a nice soundfield throughout and a fine match for its
picture playback performance.
- Nicholas Sheffo