Fat Albert's Easter Special DVD Review

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This review was originally written on August 2, 2011
Not Very Much Easter-Related, Very Little DVD Content

The Fat Albert's Easter Special DVD by UrbanWorks Entertainment contains just one episode, "The Fat Albert Easter Special", which aired on 4/3/1982 on CBS (according to the insert card), and has an exact runtime of 23:12. This so-called Easter Special really has very little to do with Easter. For a minute or two at the very beginning the kids are painting Easter eggs, and for a minute at the end they're eating hard-boiled Easter eggs, and that's all there is in the main story that's Easter-related. There's a Brown Hornet short (which the insert card says is entitled "Casnac") randomly inserted a few minutes into the episode as a way to eat up some of the special's short runtime, which is the most Easter-related part of the entire special, and it's a trippy adventure in outer space on a planet inhabited by Easter bunnies!

The main story is about the kids deciding to clean up Mudfoot's house and pay his bills, as a kindness for the Easter season. They could have decided to do these good deeds for Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, or just for no particular holiday reason at all. That they SAY it's for Easter is apparently all that's needed to make this an Easter special! Anyway, Rudy attempts to pull a practical joke, but it backfires causing Mudfoot to end up in the hospital. Naturally, Rudy feels bad, so do the rest of the kids. The kids want to visit Mudfoot, but the head nurse won't allow the teens into the hospital. I really can't imagine anyone looking at Fat Albert and thinking that he's a teenager when he's bigger and has a deeper voice than most adult males. Anyway, long story short, as expected, everything works out in the end and the kids are taught a valuable life lesson.

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The DVD includes "Special Features" that aren't very special. On the video portion of the disc is a "Find The Bunny" set-top game. It's a simple guessing game. There's a static screen featuring five of the Cosby Kids, and you have to guess behind which one the bunny is hiding. Since the same animation is played at the start of every game, you can't use that as a clue. In fact, you have NO clues. It's simply a matter of trying each one until you find him. Yes, the game lets you keep trying until you find him. So much for the game having any sort of challenge.

On the DVD-ROM portion of the disc, accessible in a computer, you'll find 3 Printable Coloring Pages (PDF files). The three uncolored drawings are of the whole gang, Mushmouth, and Russell. Neither of these add any sort of added-value to the special's woefully short runtime.

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The back of the case shows a photo of a live-action Bill Cosby segment, but you will not find that in the Easter Special. Since I was looking forward to seeing the live-action Bill Cosby segment, I'm rather annoyed that UrbanWorks would deceive customers like that.

Luckily, if you have any desire to see The Fat Albert Easter Special, it was re-released on DVD in 2009 by Classic Media under the actual on-screen title, The Fat Albert Easter Special, with two bonus episodes ("Junk Food" and "Millionaire Madness"), bringing the total runtime up to 64 minutes. Even though I only paid $2.50 for the UrbanWorks DVD (it was marked down several times), I don't feel like I got my money's worth. A 23 minute episode should not be released by itself, but rather included with a bunch of other episodes in a compilation or season set. The only reason it was released individually was as a cash-in for the Easter season, and that's not right, even though there are other companies that do it, too.

Hot Springs Hotel: The Complete Series DVD Review

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This review was originally written on June 13, 2011
Off Sync Audio, Chopped Up Video, Third Disc Wasted

Hot Springs Hotel was a late night softcore adult comedy series that aired on Showtime in 1997 and 1998. I've always liked the show because of its wackiness and likable cast of characters. It didn't hurt that Samantha Phillips is pretty and hot.... or maybe just pretty hot :-) Oddly, the simulated sex scenes are the one thing that I really DIDN'T like about the show. I don't see the appeal in people *pretending* to have sex. Anyway, I taped all 15 episodes during the series original run and was hoping that this "Complete Series" set could replace those videotapes. It should be noted that prior to this "Complete Series" set, only 14 of the 15 episodes were released on DVD - and they were released in two-episode pairs at a considerably high price (even higher now since those seven DVDs are out of print). I was smart enough to avoid those individual releases. I really wish that I were smart enough to avoid this "Complete Series" release, too.

For most, if not all, of the episodes, the audio and video gets more and more off sync as the episode plays on. By the end it is SO off sync that it can't even be watched. A good example of this is in Disc 1, Episode 1 ("Money Trouble"). Go ahead to 22:12, which is near the end of the episode, and you'll see that the words are not matching the lip movements at all! None of the episodes I taped off of Showtime in 1997/1998 have this problem.

I've also noticed on at least two occasions some rather crude cuts where footage is repeated twice, thus making the audio and video even MORE off sync. Here are two examples:

* Disc 1, Episode 6 "Beauty Pageant" - At 22:17 footage is repeated and jumps around. The episode I taped off of Showtime in 1997/1998 does not have this problem. In fact, the Showtime TV broadcast episode uses different footage than the DVD in the spot where all the editing occurs. On the TV broadcast, the contestants are on stage as the winner is announced. On the DVD, the stage is empty, but all of a sudden is filled with the contestants when the winner speaks.

Here are two completely safe for work video clips that show the defect, and what the video *should* look like:

Play Video
DVD DEFECT

Play Video
ORIGINAL TV BROADCAST

* Disc 2, Episode 1 "Theo & The Model" - At 20:55 footage is repeated as the transition is made from the couple having sex to them lying in bed talking. The episode I taped off of Showtime in 1997/1998 does not have this problem. In fact, after the transition, in the TV broadcast, the camera pans from the bedside table to the couple; but this panning is cut on the DVD due to the odd editing that happens.

I e-mailed Taurus Entertainment, the company that owns the show and made the DVD, to find out if these problems were fixed and new DVDs were made. After several weeks, and a few e-mails, they never got back to me.

I know that these defects are in all copies of the DVD set because I found some copies of the episodes online that were ripped from someone else's DVD set, and they contain the same defects.

I also find it odd that the episodes on the DVDs have shorter runtimes than the episodes I taped from Showtime, even though there's an extra logo screen added at the start of each episode on the DVDs that wasn't on the Showtime broadcasts.

Oh, and it was kind of silly to devote a whole disc to less than 11 minutes of footage. With Disc 2 having one less episode than Disc 1, surely the Behind the Scenes featurette and Photo Slideshow could have fit onto Disc 2. Speaking of the photo slideshow on Disc 3, the images are really bad quality, with lots of jaggies and other low-quality artifacts. The images Taurus Entertainment has on their website for the series, as small as they are, are higher quality than what's on the DVD.

After waiting 10+ years for the entire series to be released on DVD, for the quality to be this poor is an absolute insult. As a big fan of the series, and as someone who expects quality from the DVDs and Blu-ray discs that I buy, I'm highly disappointed with the Hot Springs Hotel: The Complete Series DVD set.

For those who may want to know, here's a list of the episodes on the DVDs and a brief synopsis of each.

DISC 1
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1. MONEY TROUBLE (25:50)
Kat and Randy inherit the hotel from their Aunt Betty. We are introduced to Lacy, Kat's best friend and Theo, who they find hitchhiking by the side of the road. The initial excitement of owning this gorgeous resort is short-lived when they learn the back is ready to foreclose.

2. CHEERLEADERS (26:11)
Randy's desire to book a group of cheerleaders into the hotel overrides his logic, as he offers them a health conscious weekend with absolutely nothing healthy to offer. Kat attempts to distract the Coach of the team into a romantic weekend for Kat, as she and the Coach raise a little spirit on the sidelines.

3. TRAVELS WITH TRAVIS (26:03)
A good review from famed travel correspondent Travis Jones would go a long way for Hot Springs Hotel, but Randy has booked the Women Without Clothes club at the same time, on the same floor! Hilarity, and a little romance, ensues when Kat and Randy attempt to keep the two sides from meeting.

4. MOVIE PEOPLE (26:05)
Randy has cut a deal with a motion picture company for them to stay and shoot at the hotel. Only, he's arranged for their stay to be paid on deferment, which in Hollywood lingo means NEVER! Whenever Randy gets suspicious of them, they just give him a promotion on the film. How can he find time to argue with them when he's "auditioning" the most gorgeous girls in the world...and they're naked.

5. CORPORATE RAIDERS (26:08)
The "Queen of Takeovers" has aimed her sights on the Hot Springs Hotel. She's met her match in Kat, but unfortunately for the hotel, she takes full advantage of Randy's amorous ways and tricks him into signing away his half of the hotel, making a dangerous partnership between Kat and the Queen.

6. BEAUTY PAGEANT (25:51)
Travis makes a return visit when he stages the Miss Palm Desert beauty contest at the hotel. While Kat does all she can to keep Randy and Theo away from the contestants, her heart is being broken by the two-timing Travis.

7. ROCK STAR (26:01)
When a famous rock star want to lay low, Kat checks him into the hotel, incognito. If this works out, just think of the clientele that could grace these hallways. He's given a full line of credit and access to the entire staff; the place is his. Kat changes her tune when Lacey discovers out the rock star is flat broke. They immediately tell his fan club of his whereabouts and proceed to sell off every item they can get their hands on...right down to the very boxer shorts he's wearing.

8.BACHELORETTE PARTY (25:54)
Once upon a time, Lacey's best friend Stacy stole her boyfriend Chris away in the most devious manner. Now, years later, Stacy is engaged to Chris and has returned to rub it in Lacey's face by holding her bachelorette party at the hotel. The usually cool Lacey digs in her heels and goes toe to toe with her archenemy.

DISC 2
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9. THEO & THE MODEL (25:55)
Lacey's sister Diane arrives for a visit, with her modeling agent, Dan. It's hard enough for Kat to keep Randy away from this attractive young girl, but Theo is spending his vacation at the hotel and she must divert his attention as well. Lacey would help but she is far too distracted by Dan. But things are not always as they appear, for it seems Diane is the little heartbreaker, and it is Randy and Theo who should watch their backs...and all their body parts.

10. TO YOUR HEALTH (26:00)
Heath Inspectors make a surprise visit to the Hot Springs Hotel and Randy and Kat have to convince them that the hotel can pass inspection...by and means necessary, and that's where the trouble starts.

11. HOLE IN ONE (26:02)
Randy books a group of sexy women golfers to play in Hot Springs Hotel's first annual golf tournament. One slight problem...they have no course! But between the hotel's famously potent drink, the Waki-Tiki, and Kat's ingenious plan to turn the grounds into a golf course, the tournament is a rousing success.

12. A.W.O.L. (25:43)
Randy comes to the aid of three adorable female soldiers who are out in the desert on maneuvers. He offers them and afternoon of sun, fun and Waki-Tikis. Meanwhile Lacy has insisted on Kat taking the day off and getting a makeover. Upon returning, looking gorgeous as ever, Kat is mistaken for one of the missing soldiers by their Drill Sergeant...and that's when the fun begins. War is hell, but peacetime can be oh, so sexy.

13. LAYOUT (24:50)
Randy comes up with the brilliant idea to shoot the girls of the Hot Springs Hotel for a promotional calendar. It is a very hot and steamy shoot, as the girls sensuously bare it all for the camera.

14. GIRLS IN THE BAND (25:49)
Always the humanitarian, Kat goes to great lengths to throw a formal benefit to save the roadrunner. The evening has all the makings of a rousing success, until Randy informs Kat he has canceled the chamber quartet and booked a country western band in their place. Can the smooth talking, sweet singing cowboy Chuck, right the reins or will Kat send everyone riding off into the sunset?

15. FANTASY (25:53)
The fantasies of Randy, Kat, Lacey, Theo and the girls are revealed in a very "special" episode of Hot Springs Hotel.

DISC 3
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* Vintage Behind The Scenes Featurette (8:34)
* Slideshow (2:06, with 26 images)

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OCZ StealthXStream 600 Watt Power Supply Review

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This review was originally written on March 10, 2011
Lasts Just Long Enough For The Warranty To Expire

I bought the OCZ StealthXStream 600 Watt Power Supply (PSU) on July 19, 2007 for $94.99 from Micro Center in Westbury, New York four days after I bought all of the other parts I used to assemble my own computer. It came with a 36 months (3 years) manufacturer's warranty. So, of course, it chose to die on February 24, 2011, which is 43 months (3 years 7 months) later. It's like OCZ manufactured it to last just long enough for the warranty to expire :-)

Some reviewers on Amazon had their PSUs die in 10 months, 8 months, 2-3 months, or even 2 weeks! So it looks like I was actually lucky that mine lasted as long as it did. Still, I've owned computers since 1992/1993, and none of the PSUs in them have ever died. This OCZ unit was the first to die. So, that alone, doesn't rate it very high in my book, in spite of it lasting longer than others have reported.

The new PSU I just bought from NewEgg is a Sigma Focus SP700B 700W (800W Peak) ATX12V power supply, which set me back $69.94 ($59.99 + $9.65 shipping). NewEgg claims that it has a 3 years manufacturer's warranty, though I can find no proof of that on the packaging or on the Sigma website. Of course, I'm hoping that it lasts MANY years - a lot longer than three - so I shouldn't have to even worry about the warranty.

DVD (SD) Vs. Blu-Ray (HD) Runtimes & Video Formats

The following was written by Amazon user Interzone_Records on January 22, 2011 in regards to a review that was posted for the Angelina Jolie film "Salt". I found the information so informative, that I thought it best to archive a copy here.

I rented the standard disc [of the Angelina Jolie film "Salt"] from Netflix. It contains all three versions, but the times are nowhere near what Senor Zoidbergo mentions in his review. This is probably due to the difference in the encoding speed of Blu-Ray, which runs at 24 frames per second, and NTSC format, which runs at 29.97 frames per second. The difference between the PAL and NTSC versions of films is 4%. So the speed difference between the US NTSC standard DVD format and the Blu-Ray is probably closer to 5%.

On the standard[-definition] U.S. [DVD], the actual times are:

Theatrical Version: 1:39:56
Unrated Extended Cut: 1:40:58
Unrated Director's Cut: 1:43:59

Senor Zoidbergo lists the following times for the three versions on the Blu-Ray disc

Theatrical: 1:35:54
Extended: 1:36:56
Director's Cut: 1:39:48

This is a difference of about 4 minutes on each version. Some time ago, I asked the owner of the Masters of Cinema label, in England (the UK equivalent of a Criterion specialty label), about the difference between NTSC and PAL and Blu-Ray. Here is his reply:

"The encoding format of HD material on Blu-ray has nothing to do with either PAL or NTSC. The 'problem' of these two competing DVD formats (NTSC and PAL) evaporates with Blu-ray, where the HD material is in 1080p resolution at 24 frames per second, not the standard definition 480p (NTSC 29.97fps) or 576p (PAL 25fps) resolution of "old TV".

In this respect, because of the increased resolution of 1080p HD Blu-rays *and* the fact that the material is now running at 24 frames per second (the exact same speed as film projected in a cinema) - Blu-ray is a stunning global format in which to view films as they should be seen.

Confusingly, a Blu-ray can also hold standard definition PAL or NTSC format encodes as well, but this will look exactly the same as it would on a DVD disc. It will remain standard definition. Thankfully, Blu-rays are being used to hold HD 1080p material, rather than as repositories for huge amounts of standard definition DVD footage."

TNA Lockdown 2005 & TNA Anthology: The Epic Set Box Set DVD Review

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This review was originally written on September 23, 2010
An Analysis Of The Lockdown 2005 DVD Alterations

Included in the TNA Anthology: The Epic Set box set are the following three pay-per-views:

* Victory Road 2004 (November 7, 2004) [TNA's first three-hour PPV]
* Turning Point 2004 (December 5, 2004) [TNA's second three-hour PPV]
* Lockdown 2005 (April 24, 2005) [TNA's first all-steel cage PPV]

Each PPV is split across two single-layer discs, as this was before TNA started using dual-layer discs. I'm not very found of this, as I prefer for each event to be shown as one continuous three-hour program, but there's nothing us fans could do about it now. TNA isn't going to re-release new DVDs of these old PPVs. So we just have to live with the minor inconvenience of ejecting one disc and inserting another into the player to watch each event. Bonus features are on the second disc of each PPV, in case you were wondering.

You should be aware that if you buy this set online, the three Disc 1's MIGHT be loose in the cases. The first box set I ordered from Amazon had the first and third Disc 1's loose (Turning Point was the one that stayed put), while the second box set had all three Disc 1's loose. All of the loose discs were scratched as a result of being loose and moving around while being shipped. I had to return the first set because the scratches caused glitches when playing one of the discs. The scratches on the second set looked bad, but thankfully the discs played fine.

There are lots of reviews of the three PPV's that cover the matches and give you the reviewer's opinions on them. So I'm not going to say anything about that - though I did enjoy all of the matches, some a little more than others - rather I'm going to go into detail about the alterations that exist in the DVDs, when compared to the original live broadcasts.

I don't have the original live broadcasts of Victory Road 2004 and Turning Point 2004, so I don't know for sure if there are any alterations, but there *might* be in the Michael Shane (now Matt Bentley) matches. You see, all instances of the name "Michael Shane" in commentary and on-screen graphics had to be changed to "Matt Bentley" for legal reasons. This is because in July 2005, Matt Bentley was forced to refrain from using the "Michael Shane" alias, which he had used for his entire career, following threats of legal action from World Wrestling Entertainment, the employers of Mike Shane (one of the Gymini twins at the time), who had trademarked his name, something Bentley had neglected to do.

Bentley appears in the Victory Road 2004 PPV in the battle royale on Disc 1 (Chapter 2). He enters at 12:42 and is eliminated around 27:57. Bentley's match in the Turning Point 2004 PPV is on Disc 1 (Chapter 3) from 21:54 to 35:30. In all likelihood, he originally used the name Michael Shane at these two events, so the commentary was probably re-recorded on the DVDs.

Now, the Lockdown 2005 PPV is one I have on tape, so I can give you complete details as to what was altered. In fact, Lockdown 2005 was the first 3-hour TNA PPV I ever ordered, and the only one until Hardcore Justice 2010.

DISC 1
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-- The 10-second long "This is TNA: The new face of professional wrestling" intro, which preceded the live program, has been removed from the DVD.

-- For legal reasons (the name was already copyrighted by another wrestler, then working for WWE), the wrestler known as "Michael Shane" had to have all instances of his name changed to "Matt Bentley". The first alteration is in the video package that precedes the match, where a screen that read "Shane", now reads "Bentley". When Michael/Matt comes out for the match, the graphic shown at the bottom of the screen was changed from "Michael Shane" to "Matt Bentley w/ Trinity". The biggest change is that the commentary from Don West and Mike Tenay has been completely changed (re-recorded) for the entire match. It's interesting to note that the name "Michael Shane" still appears on the entrance video playing in the background when he makes his entrance, and you can still hear the ring announcer announce him as "Michael Shane" behind the commentary at 40:17.

-- The Daniels/Skipper video package (which is the last footage on Disc 1) that precedes their match was much longer in the original live broadcast. It stayed on the shot of the team on the entrance ramp longer, then followed for a minute or two with more footage and narration, before showing the black & white Turning Point footage. The DVD cuts from a brief bit of the entrance ramp opening footage right to the Turning Point footage.

DISC 2
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-- For legal reasons (WWE claimed copyright ownership), the wrestler known as "The Outlaw" had to have all instances of his name blurred or silenced out, with the name changed to "Kip James" on the DVD packaging and new commentary. The first alteration is in the backstage segment with Dusty Rhodes where he picks the name of the next Lethal Lottery combatant. He picks "The Outlaw", but the words are silenced out, thus leaving DVD viewers in the dark as to who just got picked (unless they could read Dusty's lips). In the video package that follows the Dusty segment, a few instances of "The Outlaw" are silenced out. The name "Outlaw" is blurred out on the pre-match line-up screen. Finally, the commentary from Don West and Mike Tenay has been completely changed (re-recorded) for the entire match.

-- The DVD cuts out the Hard Justice 2005 ad at the end, originally shown on the live broadcast in between the end of the Styles/Abyss match and the TNA copyright ending.


The Lockdown 2005 DVD is dedicated to Chris Candido, who broke his leg at the live event, which lead to the post-surgery blood clot that caused his death four days later on April 28, 2005. Since I did the research, I'd like to give you some information about the Chris Candido bonus features.

CHRIS CANDIDO BONUS FEATURE NOTES
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-- The first match - Chris Candido and The Naturals (Chase Stevens & Andy Douglas) vs. Petey Williams (with Scott D'Amore), Elix Skipper, and Mikey Batts - was from the March 4, 2005 episode of Impact!

-- The second match - The Naturals (with Chris Candido) vs. America's Most Wanted (Lance Storm & Chris Harris) - was taped on April 26, 2005, and aired on the April 29, 2005 episode of Impact! on Fox Sports Net. This episode was filmed and completed just before he passed away, but was dedicated to Chris with a photographic "In Memory of Chris Candido" screen at the start, and a photographic "Chris Candido, 1972-2005" screen at the end. This was his final wrestling appearance.

-- The Xplosion outtakes were filmed about two weeks before he died, according to Jeremy Borash's exclusive comments on the Forever Hardcore DVD-R (which includes the same footage in chapter 42 of the main program - it's not on the retail DVD). According to Borash, he was bandaged up and in a wheelchair because he was working an angle where he was supposedly injured as a result of getting beat up by Kevin Nash.


Since I taped the April 29, 2005 episode of Impact!, in which the second Candido match originally appeared, here are some notes on the differences between the original broadcast and the DVD.

* The original broadcast had a "Tag Team Championship" graphic over the initial close-up of the lights.

* The original broadcast had an "Impact!" on-screen graphic at the bottom of the screen naming each competitor as they entered: "The Naturals, Chris Candido" and "America's Most Wanted".

* The original broadcast had a 30 minute countdown banner across the top of the screen (with "The Naturals vs AMW" on the left and the Fox Sport Net logo on the right) for the entire match duration. This is the "Fox Box" that Mike Tenay refers to at 9:27.

* In the original broadcast, 3 times during the match the Lockdown results would appear in a banner at the bottom of the screen.

* In the original broadcast from 17:10 to 17:17 there was a white banner at the top of the screen (right below the countdown banner) advertising the following month's Hard Justice pay-per-view. It was accompanied by a sound effect when it appeared and disappeared, which is still heard on the DVD!

* The original broadcast at 18:30 there was a quick shot of a crowd member holding a nice AMW sign, which is missing from the DVD as it remains on the shot of the action that preceded and followed this crowd shot.

* In the original broadcast from 19:21 to 19:29 there was a small Hard Justice logo in the bottom right corner of the screen advertising the following month's pay-per-view.

* In the original broadcast from 21:26 to 21:32 there was a white banner at the top of the screen (right below the countdown banner) advertising the Jeff Jarrett vs. AJ Styles match on May 15th (at the Hard Justice PPV). It was accompanied by a sound effect when it appeared and disappeared, which is still heard on the DVD!

* In the original broadcast, after the post-match comments, there was a replay of a shot of Candido on the floor by the side of the ring holding the belts, while Tenay's voiceover mentioned the matches for next week's show. This was immediately followed by another Candido tribute screen which used a frame from that belt-holding shot.

And that concludes this analysis of the alterations between the original broadcasts and the DVDs. The two biggest alterations in the Lockdown 2005 event are the result of legal name changes, so while I don't like the changes, I can't blame TNA for them. Though I do think it's sad they let WWE claim copyright ownership of "The Outlaw" without fighting it. There's no reason TNA should have left out the "This is TNA" intro (it's on the other two PPVs), and shorten down the Daniels/Skipper video package, as there was PLENTY of room for those extra few minutes on the disc. So that's not forgivable. And I only mentioned the removal of the Hard Justice 2005 ad at the end just to be complete. That's definitely no great loss.

The changes to the Impact! match featuring The Naturals (with Chris Candido) vs. America's Most Wanted are, for the most part, completely welcome. Watching the original tape from 2005, it was really sad that Fox Sports Net (FSN) forced TNA to put up that stupid countdown banner across the top of the screen for the entirety of the match. Like anybody really cares about time limits anymore in wrestling. The constant banner ads for the next PPV and scrolling Lockdown results on the bottom just added to the screen clutter. So I'm happy that all of that crud is gone on the DVD. Though I do find it funny that the PPV banner ad sound effect is still there. I don't like that TNA removed the "Tag Team Championship" graphic and entrance name graphics as they added to the presentation. That initial close-up of the lights looks naked without the graphic over it. I still don't know what to make of the removal of the quick shot of the crowd member holding the AMW sign. The sign had a really nice drawing on it, and was certainly worth showing a quick shot of. It's not like there was any real action going on in the match for those 3 or 4 seconds, anyway.

That is all.