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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Britcom > Science > Geeks > Variety Show > Children > Game Shows > Stand-Up > Satire > Absolutely Fabulous: 20th Anniversary Specials (2012/BBC DVD)/The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fifth Season (2011 – 2012/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD Set)/50’s TV Classics (Film Chest DVD Set)/Jim Gaffigan:

Absolutely Fabulous: 20th Anniversary Specials (2012/BBC DVD)/The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fifth Season (2011 – 2012/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD Set)/50’s TV Classics (Film Chest DVD Set)/Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe (Image DVD)/Salvation Boulevard (2011/IFC/Sony DVD)/Sunny (2011/CJ Entertainment DVD)


Picture: C+/B- & C+/C/C/C/C+     Sound: C+/B- & C+/C/C+/C/B-     Extras: C+/C+/D/D/D/C     Main Programs: B-/B-/B-/C+/C-/C



Now for some various comedy releases you might want to look into….



After wrapping up their huge hit series many years ago, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are back for Absolutely Fabulous: 20th Anniversary Specials which has three all-new episodes/specials of the show.  Now shot in HD, they make an easy transition with Edina and Patsy still addicted to everything including trying to turn back the clock on aging for themselves.  These could have been duds, but these are as amusing as the classic shows (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and fans will be pleasantly surprised.  I am not going to say much else because I do not want to ruin any surprises, but this worked very well and the duo has as much chemistry as they ever had.


Extras include two featurettes on the Sports Relief event, plus UltraViolet Copy is also available.




As big a hit as ever, The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fifth Season permanently adds Melissa Rauch as Bernadette and Mayim Bialik as Amy to the cast that did start out as an all-boys club.  I think there are some big laughs this season and have been a fan of the show before most discovered it, but I know the producers are wondering where they’ll go next and some viewers and fans were not as happy with this season.  Why?


Well, the show is repeating itself a little bit, plus new characters (no matter how welcome and well integrated into the teleplays I might think they are) are tough for viewers to sometimes handle and the show is coasting a bit on its success.  At least it is consistent.  However, the show has become more sentimental about them than it should at the expense of dealing with their states of pain and loneliness by only laughing at those factors this time out instead of talking a new look at them.  Also, when a story arc starts to peak, characters either get married or as in the 1960s, someone might even get sent to outer space.  The writers of the show are still very smart, but adding new characters is not the only solution.


Rauch is funny, but Bialik is outright winning as their female opposite number in the world of intellectual loners and is one of the biggest reasons I liked this season more than most.  Yet, some things were desperate and the weekly TV grind has finally caught up with the show.  The series is bound to be on for years to come, but before it backfires on itself, the makers are going to have to find new ground to go or the series could wear thin fast the point of no return.


The one show this did remind me of was Daria (also reviewed on this site), the underrated MTV animated series whose title character was as isolated as any of the regulars here.  The show was about her isolationism and the writers handled that brilliantly, then she started to have a relationship, which led to many viewers complaining that she should stay uninvolved and that it was a betrayal of the show.  You could say that has happened to this series as well, ensemble cast notwithstanding.  They need to get that sense of self-=reflection back and quickly, or the show will become a spoof of itself and burn out like a supernova in terms of quality.  With a cast this great, they need to do better.


Extras include UltraViolet Copy, three nice behind the scenes featurettes (Theory @ 100, Theory’s Law Of Reflection and Professors Of Production) and another funny Gag Reel.



As a throwback for fun, Film Chest has issued 50’s TV Classics, a 3-DVD set with episodes of various comedy shows.  DVD 1 has a 1957 Bob Hope Show where he is overseas entertaining troops with special guest stars including Ann Miller, a 1950 Ed Wynn Show with The Three Stooges, a 1950 children’s series The Paul Winchell & Jerry Mahoney Show (with amusingly blatant Tootsie Roll sponsorship with talking mannequins) and especially amusing 1957 Dinah Shore Show (the 9th episode of the debut season) with Art Carney, Betty Hutton in rare form and Boris Karloff in (in time for the holiday) a Halloween episode that is one of the funniest, most amusing thing anyone here ever did.  Charming and fun, this should be a holiday classic.  It is the highlight of this set.


DVD 2 has three episodes of the Western anthology series Death Valley Days from 1953, 1956 Lawrence Welk Show and 1956 Milton Berle Show, while DVD 3 is a game show set including a 1950 Beat The Clock, two 1957 Who Do You Trust? Shows, 1953 Name That Tune and all is rounded out with a 1954 Red Skelton Show.


A nice sampler of a set, there are no extras, but these shows are worth a look for the most part and make for a nice change of pace.



Our one stand-up comedy entry is Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe which may not be a laugh riot, but I was impressed by how amusing some of his jokes were and especially how many he fit into this 77-minutes act.  He is talented and the material is at least ambitious at the least.  This is one of the better releases of its kind of late and though there are no extras, don’t be surprised if we see and hear more of this guy.



George Ratliff’s Salvation Boulevard (2011) wants to be a satire on the hypocrisy of mega-churches and be an off-beat caper comedy at the same time, but it is not that good and even with a cast that includes Pierce Brosnan (very strained as the phony preacher), Greg Kinnear (who just made a similarly bad film), Jennifer Connelly (not as funny as she could have been), Ed Harris as the atheist and Marisa Tomei still being sexy all these years later.  Unfortunately, it is flat, the Coen Brothers have nothing to worry about and it is not being risky enough on any subject it tackles.  See for yourself, but don’t be sleepy when you watch.  There are no extras.



Finally we have Kang Hyoung-Chul’s Sunny (2011), a sometimes-entertaining young ladies comedy where the story of growing up in the 1980s takes place in flashback (most of the film) with period music (except where badly remade and not licensed) that has some fun and funny moments (like when they are fighting or protesting or getting caught in someone else’s more serious protests), but that eventually flattens out into a formula melodrama that does not add up and you have seen too much of this before.


If you can sit through the poorer parts, some of this is fun, but it is an overall disappointment and does not capture the earlier period well enough.  Nice try though.  Extras include a Music Video, Trailers, four making of featurettes and a piece on the soundtrack.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Absolutely, Bang and anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Sunny are the best of the DVD performers, but they all have their share of softness and even motion blur at times.  Good thing Bang also is here in 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image Blu-rays which being the only Blu-ray on the list is the best performer with a warmer look, better color range and more stable picture.  It can still be soft and limited, though.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Salvation, various 1.33 X 1 black and white prints on 50’s and anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Gaffigan are the poorest performers here, very soft and weak in playback overall.



The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on all episodes of Bang may be somewhat towards the front speakers, but it is the bets-sounding material on the list as expected, even over the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on the DVD versions of the same episodes.  The same type of Dolby 5.1 on Sunny actually sounds better, but on Salvation is as limited.  Lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Fabulous is next up in best recording quality, followed by the same sounding lesser on Gaffigan and the 50’s set has Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that varies in quality, but sounds rough as expected.




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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