Top positive review
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First Class Show, First Class DVD Set
on April 19, 2014
Looks like I'm the first reviewer to have actually received and viewed (at least in part) this set, having pre-ordered it from Shout who delivered it five weeks before the official release date.
BACKGROUND: The Bob Newhart Show is my favorite show in the history of television. I've bought every VHS and DVD release available over the years, and have been making recordings off the air for 20 years in an effort to collect (and then "upgrade" the quality of) all the episodes in this series. My expectations for this set are high since the show deserves the best DVD release possible. Fox released the first four seasons in 2005 and 2006, only to leave fans hanging for 8 years for the last two seasons. Luckily, Shout Factory took the opportunity to release the Bob Newhart Show the way it should have been from the beginning - as a complete series set. Yes, this means hardcore fans like me have DVDs, VHS tapes, and old DVD-R recordings that we don't need anymore. So sell the old ones or give them away. To me it's a small price to pay to get this set.
THE SHOW ITSELF: Not much to say other than what you likely already know - The Bob Newhart Show is generally regarded as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Its rare combination of amazing writing, a top-notch cast, and a style of humor that is at once accessible and sophisticated, is a high water mark in the history of television.
PACKAGING: The set comes in a standard height box with 3 Amaray-style cases that holds 6 discs apiece. Gone are the two-sided Fox discs with cheesy cartoon-themed menus. Here, discs for Seasons 1 and 2 are in one case, seasons 3 and 4 in a second case and seasons 5 and 6 are in the third case. These are NOT stacked on a spindle and thus are easily accessible. The disc faces feature nice 1970s-inspired artwork across all discs with color variations for each case. The fourth (bonus disc) case is a standard height but slim. The menus for each disc are based on the look of Bob's office door. Everything is classy and everything matches.
AUDIO AND VIDEO QUALITY: The Bob Newhart Show has always had quality issues on broadcast and video release as far back as I remember, and sadly this release is no exception. Over the years I've assumed that the transfers we've seen are taken from either second-generation prints, 16mm dupes, or analog-sharpened film-to-tape transfers. Other sitcoms shot on film in this era look better. If anybody has inside information on the condition of the original or edited film elements I'd love to know the story. So generally the contrast on most episodes it too high and harsh looking, there is a lot of grain, and most episodes are pretty de-saturated and the color temperature is too magenta in my opinion. Sound is also a bit harsh and thin in most episodes. My guess is that Shout has used the best original material available, and I have certainly never seen this series look or sound better than it does in this DVD set. So it's just decent, and probably limited to being so just by the nature of the source material.
EXTRAS: Every episode I've watched so far is uncut and runs about 25 minutes. Shout appears to have carried over the commentary tracks from the Fox discs. The 40-page booklet is very nicely designed, well written by sitcom expert Vince Waldron, and organized so you can find the episode titles, plot summaries, and airdates easily. The 19th Anniversary reunion show from 1991 is a 1-hour "clip show" that is just okay. It's nice to see the actors again, but not much actually happens other than setting up the clips which are (by themselves) great. The "Group Therapy" extra is a sit-down studio conversation with cast and crew that is very entertaining and insightful and lasts most of an hour. The unaired pilot is a real treat, and is quite different from the show as we would know it later.
CONCLUSION: It great to finally see this show get the treatment it deserves with this Complete Series DVD release. The packaging, tasteful and consistent menus and disc artwork, full-length episodes, and extras are a fitting presentation. Other than some picture and sound quality issues that are probably inherent in the source material, there's little room for improvement in this set. Unless somebody finds some "lost" negatives or higher-quality masters in a vault or basement somewhere and makes a high-def blu-ray transfer of them, this is probably the best presentation of the Bob Newhart Show we will ever get. Overall well worth the money and a set to be re-watched for many years to come. The concept and execution of "the sitcom" just doesn't get any better than the Bob Newhart Show, specifically as it is delivered in this DVD set. Enjoy!