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A&E Home Video presents
Rollergirls: The Complete Season One (2005)

"I feel like I got hit by a train."
- Lux

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: June 08, 2006

Stars: Lux, Punky Bruiser, Venis Envy, Cholo, Catalac, Sister Mary Jane, Miss Conduct, Clownsnack, Cha Cha
Other Stars: Jail Bait, Ruby Sioux, La Muerta, Witch Baby, Mighty Aphrodite, Hades Lady
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 09h:45m:00s
Release Date: May 30, 2006
UPC: 733961752434
Genre: television


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

DVD Review

As a rule, I have no need for reality television. There's just too much of it, and from my distant observer eyes it all appears to be clones of clones of clones, with increasingly camera-savvy "regular joes" mired in carefully constructed conflicts and calculated histrionics. That's where the drama comes in, I guess, as the hook for viewers, but like I said, I really have no need for the genre. So with that potentially elitist/TV snob admission out of the way, there's no one more shocked than I am that I found A&E's Rollergirls: The Complete Season One such an addictive pile of fun.

The now-canceled thirteen episode series follows the girls and handful of teams of the recently revived Texas Roller Derby league (TXRD, for short), as they party, scrap and tussle before, during, and after each bout. Each 43-minute episode builds up to the big match of the 2005 derby season— pairing up teams like The Holy Rollers, The Hellcats, The Cherry Bombs, The Rhinestone Cowgirls or The Putas Del Fuegos—in the converted warehouse dubbed The Austin Thunderdome.

The bouts are really just a small part of each episode, which isolates one or two specific rollergirls (with names like Catalac, Miss Conduct, Cha Cha, Venis Envy, and my current crush Punky Bruiser), and follows them around in their personal lives as assorted tensions build towards the big match. It's almost an accident if we learn their real first names, as they generally refer to each other by their derby monikers, and there is a familial love/hate relationship between the girls and the teams, with much bickering and drinking involved.

Episodes cover a variety of day-to-day situations, and in between training and drinking look at things like stolen boyfriends, the arrival of a highly touted rookie, the cancer recovery of a top player, the return of a controversial former star and the mock wedding of pair of rollergirls. Over the course of the season, we're given insight into a few key skaters—and their stories/lives do tend to overlap episodes—and as things progress and we get a peek behind-the-scenes, it imbues the bouts with an interesting level of curiosity that the spectators don't necessarily see. The bouts get pretty rough-and-tumble, and the girls are constantly swearing at each other, and though the thirteen episodes allow a few of the obscenities to slip through, most of them simply have audio dropout during the frequent f-bombs.

No need to know the rules of roller derby, because prior to each bout there is an explanation of scoring. And this is one of the few detriments of watching eps back-to-back, because it's the same segment used every time, which apparently was used to encourage new viewers when the series originally aired. Another hackles-raiser is the bout announcer's reliance on the phrase "she's going through the pack like a hot knife through butter" far too often; and during one contest uses it twice within minutes. Someone buy that man a new phrasebook, please.

I was expecting more of a phony pro wrestling approach to roller derby—my cynical mind initially wondered why each bout seems to always come down to the final jam—but this seems like the real deal. It's not a career as much as it's a near full-time, full-contact hobby, and the girls all have day (or night) jobs, and still have to hit the streets to pass out flyers promoting the next matchup.

Does this make me a reality television convert? Not really. I do like this show, but maybe it's a combination of the bruised attitudes, the use of some great alt music, and one of the greatest theme songs ever, courtesy of The Donnas. The TXRD revival looks like a hip, fun alternative scene, and a handy Google search has directed me to the schedule for Chicago's all-girl roller derby league. I'm on my way, but it won't be the same without Punky.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Having something released in nonanamorphic widescreen today is kind of the equivalent of a 1975 Gremlin; you know they're out there, but you just hope you don't have to own one. Why A&E released this in nonanamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen is a little beyond me, but that's what's happened so we're stuck with it. And it's a shame, too, because otherwise this set looks quite good. All thirteen eps are clean, with particularly bright colors and well-defined detail under a variety of lighting conditions, which for a reality series can be tricky.

The lack of an anamorphic treatment knocks the grade down a notch.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Nothing particularly flashy about the 2.0 stereo track, but given its limitations, the presentation delivers rather effectively. Voices are clear, but where this mix fools you a little is during the music elements, which really sound noticeably full-bodied.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
3 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The four discs are contained inside a pair of cases with the swinging, hinged partition (like Gladiator), which resides inside a heavy-duty cardboard slipcase. Each individual episode (there are thirteen) is cut into six chapters.

Disc one carries Anatomy of a Bout (03m:57s), a fake newsreel format piece that uses vintage footage to give a brief history intercut with the girls of the TXRD, as well as an explanation of how the game is played. Casting Tapes (48m:15s) runs a little long, and has the rollergirls fielding questions about themselves; also included are text-based Rollergirl Biographies for the featured players.

The remainder of the supplements show up on Disc four, with a so-called "bonus episode" entitled Confessions of a Rollergirl (21m:02s), which is essentially a highlights reel of the season. There's a set of Meet the Team featurettes, with The Rhinestone Cowgirls (04m:18s) featuring Lux, The Holy Rollers (04m:31s) hosted by Punky Bruiser, and The Hellcats (04m:31s) anchored by Catalac. Player Profiles (29m:20s) takes a peek at a few of the key players, their roles and their take on the game.

The quantity is here, and while I'll never complain about any extra Punky Bruiser, the edges of what passes for quality seemed to blur a little.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

As a kid I used to watch The LA Thunderbirds roller derby on some fuzzy UHF channel, and I was always intrigued by the meld of full-body contact and bad attitudes. This modern, all-female reawakening of the sport is laden with an exciting punk aesthetic, and seems to run on alcohol, tattoos, short skirts, sweat, and above all, colorful characters knocking the crap out of each other.

Rock on, Punky Bruiser!

Recommended.

 


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