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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Skit > Cable TV > Drama > Police > Crime > Murder > TV Mini-Series > Japan > Literature > Hist > The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season (2013/IFC)/Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series (2013/Anchor Bay DVD Sets)/Shogun (1980/James Clavell/TV Mini-Series/CBS Blu-ray set)

The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season (2013/IFC)/Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series (2013/Anchor Bay DVD Sets)/Shogun (1980/James Clavell/TV Mini-Series/CBS Blu-ray set)

Picture: C+/C/B Sound: C/C+/B- Extras: C+/C+/B- Episodes: C+/B/B-

Here are two new TV shows you may not have heard about, but ought to know, plus the first of the classic, original TV mini-series finally makes it to Blu-ray...

The Birthday Boys: The Complete First Season (2013) is a new comedy skit series that goes for the surreal approach where you see something that looks like a show unto itself or maybe one you have seen before, then it turns out to be the cast of regulars here sending up all kinds of TV shows, specials, pop culture and archetypal situations. We saw this on the early Saturday Night Live, SCTV, Comic Book Presents and the like. The results here, led by Bob Odenkirk, are a bit more hit than miss, but I never laughed hard. At least it is smart.

The seven episodes here offer everything from gay-baiting to nudity to outright mockery that offers a cast (eight guys in all) that have some chemistry and are obviously enjoying what they are doing, but like Kids In The Hall, you don't always feel involved in it. Still, it is a two-disc set worth a look if you really like comedy and maybe the next season will be better.

Low Winter Sun: The Complete Series (2013) is a U.S. remake of a British hit series, but this sadly only lasted a single season. As shown on AMC, Mark Strong and Lennie James play respected Detroit police officers who kill the partner of one of them in the opening scenes in what starts a slow charting and unravelling of an intricate corruption in the city hit by hard times. Then the body turns up in what they thought was a foolproof cover-up, but things go wrong early, they have to start investigating like they are the good guys (a nice twist here throughout), a snobby internal affairs guy is on the case immediately and then we start to meet the local criminals.

Well adapted, directed (Ernest Dickerson helmed the pilot) and with a strong pace backed by an exceptional cast, this should have been a hit and the ten nearly hour-long shows (over 3 DVDs) have many fine twists and turns throughout that actually work for a change. Like some of the great 1970s cop shows that got axed too early for our own good (or series like Kolchak: The Night Stalker for that matter), I strongly believe when people look back, they'll be shocked this did not make it and there was an opening for a follow-up season in the end. With only minor flaws, this is excellent and one of the best shows of its kind in years, so be sure to go out of your way to catch it. Bravo!!!

Finally we have Shogun, the hit 1980 TV Mini-Series based on James Clavell's best-selling book. For all the boom in TV on Blu-ray, it seems to have taken forever for any classic Mini-Series to arrive in the format anywhere, but here is this one. We covered it in its DVD version at this link:


Though you can see the budget limits and some shots look more aged than others, the writing, acting and directing are consistent and hold up enough that it could take on just about any Mini-Series today. Now you can see for yourself.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on both shows are HD-shot, but Boys looks better, while Sun is a little over-stylized, though that in itself bother me. The format is the only reason both did not look better and they deserves Blu-ray editions. Both also have lossy Dolby Digital presentation, but Sun is better with its 5.1 mix versus the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Boys that can be limiting. The 1.33 X 1 1080p digital High Definition image on Shogun is enough of an improvement over the decent DVD set that it justifies the upgrade, though the print has some slight damage and dirt here and there at times. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Shogun is better than the restored mono option. As was the case with the DVD, but this is a little warmer, though the mono sound is often trapped in the center channel. It is the Maurice Jarre score and some select moments when the surrounds really kick in.

Extras on both sets include at least two Making Of featurettes, Boys adds audio commentaries, Bonus Video and Promos, while Sun adds Episode Featurettes, extensive Deleted Scenes, and a third featurette Designing The Precinct on how they made the existing areas look more authentic. Shogun repeats the two from the previous DVD set and its select audio commentary by director Jerry London.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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