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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
The Mad About You Collection (1992-99)

"Tell me why
I love you like I do?
Tell me who
Can stop my heart as much as you?"

- Andrew Gold (from the theme song)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: April 08, 2005

Stars: Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt, John Pankow, Anne Ramsay, Leila Kenzle
Other Stars: Lisa Kudrow, Carl Reiner, Cindi Lauper, Carol Burnett, Christie Brinkley, Yoko Ono, Ed Asner, Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Carroll O'Connor, Hank Azaria, Michael Moore, Louis Zorich, Robin Harris, Robin Bartlett, Mo Gaffney, Lyle Lovett, Tim Conway, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual situations)
Run Time: 08h:11m:00s
Release Date: February 08, 2005
UPC: 043396090774
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B-B B

DVD Review

Have you ever been fond of a television program during its original run, revisited it in syndication and found yourself going "Man, sometimes this show really sucked"?

Mad About You, the small screen romantic comedy seen weekly on NBC from 1991-1998 starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt, in its prime, the pairing of these two fine actors could be pure bliss when all the creative elements clicked. But on a bad week, it made the movie Twister look like an artistic triumph. If I may risk the wrath of overly devoted fans, these dry spells could hover for more than a week or two, perhaps two-thirds of a season (remember the wince-inducing droughts of its last three years? I'm still trying not to, for the most part).

Sometimes I wonder why us DVD collectors go full throttle over complete season television sets. Shouldn't we remember a show at its very best instead of playing obsessive completists? Okay, I'll admit I foresee a time when I'll have no use for network television; my list of must-see appointment programs seems to grow smaller each passing year (shows going gracefully into that rerun zone, cancellation, creative bankruptcy, etc.). Maybe by then technology will have conjured up a high-tech player that will enable me to play programmer of an imaginary network with my stash of unwatched collections seven days a week, not have to load one disc and enjoy the fruits of 100-plus episode runs (be afraid, Nick at Nite). In the meantime, pardon what will likely be an unpopular, positive reaction to the arrival of Sony's Mad About You Collection, a nice four-disc set of most of the series' best episodes from its seven-year network residency.

More than just a contractual obligation/greatest hits compilation, it has the advantages of extensive involvement from its two leads who cherry picked a whopping 21 installments that meant the most to them creatively. In addition to bloopers and behind-the-scenes featurettes that have become second hat on practically every TV DVD set released nowadays, Reiser and Hunt taped lengthy introductions with NYU Professor and longtime fan Richard Brown specifically for each episode (discussed further in the Extras section below).

Though every season of the show had its share of clunkers, I'm sure die-hard fans will no doubt agree that 1992-1996 had the fewest misfires, with many ranking amongst the best television had to offer at that time. Thankfully, half of this collection is devoted to Mad's classic era with standout episodes like Met Someone, the first of its classic flashback storylines; if one didn't know better, this could have been mistaken for the show's pilot episode. In an unusual move that paid off, this particular outing occurred a few weeks into the show's run, after Reiser and Hunt had cemented their terrific chemistry; the moment when Paul breaks down Jamie's resistance in her office with a touchingly tender kiss remains one of the most romantic moments I've ever seen on television. But in addition to being one of the tube's most memorable couples, they could slapstick with the best of them (Ricky and Lucy, Rob and Laura); case in point comes courtesy of Giblets for Murray, a memorable holiday episode that's pure farce as our newlyweds endure a string of wacky bad luck moments as they frantically attempt to put on their first Thanksgiving for friends and in-laws (and who could forget Murray the Dog's pie-covered face as he adds to his owner's woes?). Speaking of the Petries of Dick Van Dyke fame, a positively surreal blending of television comedy classics past and present merges perfectly in The Alan Brady Show, which features a fabulous guest appearance by the legendary Carl Reiner as the tyrannical television legend of this episode's namesake, who drives Paul to his breaking point while playing narrator for a documentary he's producing, or maybe I should say Jamie's breaking point (showcasing Emmy winner Hunt in a flawless tip of the hat to one of television's queens of comedy).

Sometimes tears could flow for real for those of us at home, especially during what I feel is the absolute peak of the series' run at the conclusion of Season Four; the three-part Finale took the Buchman's into dramatic territory as the couple's occasional marital woes cause two incredibly different moments of weakness: Paul nearly taking a cab home with an attractive partygoer; Jamie's initially brief, sweet lip lock with a co-worker goes a little longer than she intended. Two confessions later, one evidently hurts worse than the other, and Paul's out the door. Though some Mad watchers had major issues with this multi-part arc, I thought it was positively brilliant. It takes a lot of courage to take familiar characters and comfortable situation off the straight and narrow, and veer them into darkness. But it's a situation many twosomes have faced for real with the same intensity and heartbreak these characters endured; Reiser and Hunt were never better than in their first post-separation reunion confrontation (Paul's aching "How could you doubt my love for you?" retort is still a powerful moment all these years later); not only was she deserving of an Emmy, but the former stand-up comic should have gotten the gold, too.

Although I felt the final three seasons of the program paled in comparison to its golden period, the final two discs made me reassess that opinion somewhat. Amongst my favs, The Penis features yet another great guest star turn with comic genius Mel Brooks returning to his semi-regular role as Paul's beloved Uncle Phil (God, I still love that cowlick), who's all aglow with pride when it looks like his nephew and niece-in-law will name their forthcoming newborn after him—until they find out his real name. The Conversation (one of the few post-birth episodes that worked for me) has us witness our new parents struggling with leaving little Mabel to fall asleep on her own (with the neat effect of events happening in real time sans commercial breaks), and the slightly overreaching, but still strikingly well written and performed Final Frontier, the series finale set in the future as a fully grown Mabel (wonderfully portrayed by Janeane Garofalo) follows in the footsteps of her pop via a film depicting her love/hate/love of her parents, filled with many twists and turns, time travel jolts that pretty much answers "whatever happened to?" questions faithful viewers may have pondered as the characters bid adieu.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: In the late-1980s and early '90s, many situation comedies started going the cheap route; instead of producing high quality film masters that were carefully assembled with detail to color correction and so on, many shows began being assembled on tape, and Mad was one of the unlucky recipients of this so-called progress, with many of its early episodes suffering in visual quality. Although they look a little better than their appearances on the first and second complete season sets, the washed-out colors and dated appearances still can't help but show. But as the series moves into the second half of its run, these shortcomings slowly disappear. Still, I think a little restorative work couldn't have hurt on all the inclusions for a more consistent image throughout, but my guess is Sony figured it's not a big deal. Think again; this set barely (and I mean barely) escapes grade "C" status in this territory.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0yes


Audio Transfer Review: Okay, since we're talking situation comedy, I'm willing to cut Sony some slack in this area. In fact, the audio has some nice low end in the incidental musical, but dialogue is the main thing. Although not flashy, these 2.0 fits this talky series just fine (and in another plus, the laugh track isn't as annoying; there's a pure quality to it becaus,e save for the rare scene that was filmed without a studio audience, the laughter was genuine, with no need for artificial sweetening).

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 48 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring 13 Going on 30, 50 First Dates, Little Black Book, Maid in Manhattan, Generic Sony Contemporary TV Teaser
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Actors Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt on Pilot and The Final Frontier (Series Finale) episodes
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Episode Introductions by Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt
  2. Blooper Reel: The Seven Warning Signs of Madness
  3. Mad About The Theme Song Featurette
  4. Mad About Guest Stars Featurette
  5. TV Spots
Extras Review: Bad news first: don't get too excited about the pair of commentary tracks pairing Reiser and Hunt; unfortunately, the actors wind up being more observant than forthcoming. My guess is that they may have been recorded after their more impressive and extensive sit-down sessions with N.Y.U. Professor Richard Brown, which comprise the extremely good episode introductions that you can choose to watch or bypass with each installment. At first glance, I was a little worried because the vague details on the packaging didn't mention the fact that a teacher for a prestigious college was going to be involved in these bits, and to be honest, for the first 10 to 15 seconds of the intro to the Pilot episode, it looked to me like an overblown parody of The Charlie Rose Show: dark set, serious looks and all. Anyway, there's not a wasted moment in these informative, charming and very entertaining recollections, which range from five to nearly 11 minutes in length, filled with terrific inside information including Yoko Ono's surprising request for the writers to not be afraid to use Beatle references during her guest shot (as a high strung Paul begs Jamie not to make any Fab Four talk, only to have Mrs. John Lennon enter to the strains of I Want to Hold Your Hand playing in the background), the eerily foreshadowing of reality TVin the brilliant Our 15 Minutes ("people trying to be cool when they aren't," Reiser cracks) and making the head NBC honchos very nervous with the gutsy storyline for the three-part fourth season finale (way to go, guys!).

As for the rest of the inclusions, they're minor and routine by comparison, but they each have their share of strong points: Mad About the Theme gives some interesting insight into the show's catchy opening song highlighted by Reiser's revelation that nearly two weeks prior to the premiere of the series, such a thing didn't exist. Mad About Guest Stars salutes the numerous heavy hitters ranging from Carol Burnett to Jerry Lewis that graced the soundstage throughout the years; The Seven Warning Signs of Madness is a fun seven-minute blooper reel that covers the usual guffaw-prompting breakdowns (forgotten lines, impromptu singing and giggle fits); and a huge assortment of vintage series promos (including many specialized bits created to launch the show in 1992) wind up the good stuff; assorted movie trailers plugging Sony's most recent romantic comedies now available on DVD along with a generic teaser spotlighting its TV on DVD releases are also included.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

It will be interesting to see what future packages of this series will entail (I'm sure the fans could easily pick 21 additional favorite episodes themselves), but for those less discriminating, easy to please devotees that don't feel the need to have every last waking moment of the Paul and Jamie Buchman Story, The Mad About You Collection will more than satisfy. Recommended.

 


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