Rugrats Holiday Classics Audio CD Review


This review was originally written on May 5, 2005
I Hate When Great Singers Are Forced To Sing Horribly

I like cartoons and I like novelty albums. Since I also like the Rugrats, I thought I would love Rugrats Holiday Classics. Boy was I wrong.

The background music isn't holiday music, but some lame hip-hop/dance beats that sound like they came from a Casio keyboard or a samples CD ("Tommy's Silent Night" is the only exception).

Some of the songs have religious themes which shouldn't be there. For example, "Toys For The Girls" degenerates from a toy song to a religious song. All of the songs should be about things babies and kids would think about around holiday time, but sung to the melodies of the classic holiday songs. If I wanted to hear the songs with religious themes, I'd listen to an album of the original versions.

Most of the songs have choruses that repeat too often. Although I like the Rugrats voices, listening to them repeat the same dumb verses to the same annoying music several times within a few minutes time, and repeat that twelve times, is too much for me to bear.

BEST SONGS - "Twelve Days of Rugrats" and "Rugrats Chanukah" (honorable mention goes to "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" because I love how Cree performs it as a sort-of rap).

WORST SONG - "Tommy's Silent Night" (hand down winner). You have Tommy singing in baby-speak about baby Jesus backed by the nice traditional "Silent Night" music, which makes this sounds offensive and sacrilegious. To add insult to injury, E.G. Daily is forced to sing off-key in character as Tommy. I know that she can sing this song beautifully if give the original lyrics and the opportunity.

If you want a great Rugrats music CD, get The Rugrats Movie soundtrack (and possibly the Rugrats In Paris soundtrack - I haven't heard it myself). STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS ONE!

You can listen to two of the full tracks on Spook Central.

More Sun Splashin' Audio CD Review


This review was originally written on May 5, 2005
Great Collection Of Songs, Too Bad Half Of Them Are Cut Off

First, the track list for the More Sun Splashin' audio CD.

1.  3:45  The Heat Is On -- Glenn Frey
2.  3:24  Listen To The Music -- The Doobie Brothers
3.  2:43  California Girls -- David Lee Roth
4.  2:53  La Bamba -- Los Lobos
5.  2:30  Groovin' -- The Rascals
6.  3:38  Follow Your Daughter Home -- The Guess Who
7.  4:00  Wild, Wild West -- The Escape Club
8.  2:34  The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) -- Harpers Bizarre
9.  2:38  Summer In The City -- The Lovin' Spoonful
10.  4:10  Freeway Of Love -- Aretha Franklin
11.  4:41  The Tide Is High -- Blondie
12.  3:48  Electric Avenue -- Eddy Grant
13.  3:13  Wonderful World, Beautiful People -- Jimmy Cliff
14.  3:37  Good Vibrations -- The Beach Boys
15.  3:15  Sugar Magnolia -- Grateful Dead
16.  4:03  Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) -- C&C Music Factory
(total time - 54:52)

Sadly, eight of the sixteen songs are cut off at end. These songs are tracks 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 15. I know this isn't limited to just my copy because I actually bought a second copy of the album and heard it on that one too. The first Sun Splashin' album wasn't like this (all songs were complete). It's really sad because this is a great collection of songs.

Britney Spears - Greatest Hits: My Prerogative DVD Review


This review was originally written on May 4, 2005
Great Idea Ruined By Poor Menu Design & Non-Standard Bonuses

It's great to finally have all of Britney's videos on one DVD. One video is different from a previously released version. "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman" contains different film clips and some different shots than the version on the "Crossroads" DVD. This means that there are, at least, two different versions of this music video. Also the movie clips on this disc's version are squeezed (they were not anamorphically unsqueezed).

Some have complained about not having a 5.1 audio track. Since most (if not all) of the videos were originally created with a stereo audio track, I'm quite happy with what is on the DVD. Better they leave well enough alone, then use the studio recordings of the songs to make a 5.1 mix, and thus ruin the videos by leaving out sound effects and the such (like Sony did on the Billy Joel: The Essential Video Collection DVD).

However, that's not to say that they didn't mess up this DVD in other areas. The menu design has got to be the worst I have ever seen on any DVD. It's very confusing and hard to navigate. No explanation is ever given as to what the key, dice, and clock icons do. Key gives you a rather unhelpful menu explanation, and dice and clock give you a random video (as far as I can tell). Moving the highlight around is more of a chore than it needs to be. You press Up, only to be taken to the left. You press Left, only to be taken up. It's very illogical. To make matters worse, if you linger for more than a few seconds on any menu screen, it changes to another screen, thus losing you your place.

Who's idea was it to present all of the videos in reverse chronological order instead of forward chronological order? I'd rather see the evolution of Britney instead of the devolution. Would it have been that difficult to present an option to view them in either order?

The enhanced "alternate" videos are a great idea in theory, but they would have worked better as standard bonus features. Some can be confusing with prompts placed way too late (prompts are supposed to tell you to switch angles or audio tracks or to press Enter on your remote) and no clear indication of what the "enhanced features" of each video are (sometimes you're left wondering what the heck it is you're watching). The only one, to me, that truly works is "My Prerogative" (the camcorder clips), though that's dampened by the advertising of Sony's Cyber-Shot camera (including branding the website address on the screen).

In case you need more information before you buy, here's a list of what the "alternate" videos contain.

My Prerogative
* ENTER when prompted on film to view it.
* ENTER, LEFT, RIGHT on camcorder to view clips. DOWN to go back to video.

* NON-INTERACTIVE - Unused footage, dance sequence.

* ANGLE 1 - Regular video, ENTER when prompted on paparazzi
* ANGLE 2 - Britney sings to camera

[video is of Britney clad only is jewels with lyrics places over her "bare" breasts]
* AUDIO 1 - Instrumental
* AUDIO 2 - Regular Song

I'm A Slave 4 U
[ignore all ENTER prompts as they just switch angles or audio]
* AUDIO 1 - Acapella (vocals only)
* AUDIO 2 - Regular Song
* ANGLE 1 - Britney close-up in front of green screen.
* ANGLE 2 - Regular video, then one long uncut master shot.
* ANGLE 3 - Regular video with one clapboard shot.

Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know
* NON-INTERACTIVE - Outtakes from this and other videos edited together, instrumental audio.

* NON-INTERACTIVE - Outtakes plus one home video clip, instrumental audio with occassional vocals.

* Oops!...I Did It Again
NON-INTERACTIVE - One long uncut master shot.

(You Drive Me) Crazy
* NON-INTERACTIVE - Double video and audio, left video plays in left audio channel, right video plays in right audio channel, plus outtakes.

...Baby One More Time
[ignore ENTER-UNCUT prompt too]
* ANGLE 1 - Regular Video (with some outtakes?)
* ANGLE 2 - Uncut Master Shots, ENTER-ONE MORE TIME prompt takes you to the hallway uncut master shot.

There are two hidden features (easter eggs) in the "alternate" videos, which I personally found.

-- My Prerogative (Alternate Version): After you press ENTER at the film projector prompt to see the film footage, press ENTER again *while* viewing the film footage to see black & white footage of Britney singing the song while rolling around in the bed (Title 59). There is no ENTER prompt on screen during the film footage, so this singing in bed footage is hidden.

-- Oops!...I Did It Again (Alternate Version): Press ENTER at the start of the video to go to outtakes from the video (Title 88 & 89). There is no ENTER prompt on screen, so the Outtakes are hidden. (There is an Enter prompt on the Outtakes which takes you back to the alternate version.

All of the videos, both regular and alternate, have fantastic video and audio quality, as you would expect from DVD. I did notice that the "Baby One More Time" audio is a bit lower than all the others. I also noticed two defects, which appear in several different DVD players.

-- Me Against The Music (Title 7 & 26) - At 3:16 as Madonna is on the swing singing "Just work your body and let it go," there is one frame of a man within the shot. This frame is a still from the "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart" video (Title 18 & 37 at 4:02).

-- Crazy (Title 20 & 39) - At 3:10 is a minor freeze or jitter as Britney puts her hand on her head on the lyric "But it feels alright."

Finally, the 160 minutes run time listed on back seems incorrect. Even with all of the bonus features, I don't think it totals 2 hrs 40 mins. I'm very glad to have all of Britney's videos on one DVD, I just wish they did a better job overall.

Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood Playstation 2 Video Game Review


This review was originally written on December 20, 2004
I Hope You Like Playing 1-On-1 Hardcore Matches Over And Over And Over Again

The first Backyard Wrestling game (subtitled "Don't Try This At Home") received poor reviews from just about everyone who played it, so you'd expect for Eidos to learn and make a better sequel. Of course, you'd be wrong. Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood (BYW2) is pretty much the same as BYW1, for good and for bad.


The game includes 25 playable wrestlers (all unlocked from the start) and 5 CAW slots. Of the 25, only 4 are female: Adrienne Pain, Sunrise Adams (adult film actress), Tera Patrick (adult film actress), and Tylene Buck. The other 21 are male: Andrew WK, El Drunko, Kelvin Finn, Luke Hadley, Madman Pondo, Masked Horn Dog, Messiah, New Jack, Ruckus, Rude Boy, Ryuji Ito, Sandman, Shaggy 2 Dope, Sick Nick Mondo, Sonjay Dutt, Supreme, Vampiro, Vic Grimes, Violent J, and Zandig.

A big problem with the game is that there's very little to do in it. Up to two players can duke it out in a 1-on-1 exhibition match, or a single player can go through the Career mode (you can have up to 10 saved careers). That's it. There's nothing else to do. One of the reasons WWE games are ranked so highly is because they give you a wide variety of match types. This game is just one match type: 1-on-1 hardcore. Although the game tries to give you the impression of variety, the entire game consists of you playing this same exact match over and over and over again. There's no reason a BYW game has to stick to non-ring-based action. Heck, watch the BYW Videos in the game's Media Room and you'll see that 95% of the action in the real-live events takes place in a ring. There should be the following match types: tag team, handicap (not the fight one guy then the other "handicap" match that this game has as it's career finale), lumberjack, steel cage, Hell in the Cell (though they'd have to use a different name since WWE probably has that copyrighted), plus the non-ring hardcore action. In short, everything you see in a WWE game should be here, but with the violence and blood turned up to the EXTREME! The rings should have regular, barb wire, and electrified ropes (player's choice). There should be thumb tacks, barb wire bats, panes of glass (they should be held and set up like tables in a WWE game), and other assorted "ultra-violent" weapons. Tables should not be part of the environment (they're "Enviro-Mental Throws/Attacks" in this game). They should be items you can pick up, place somewhere, stackable, and do moves onto - like you see in the WWE SmackDown! games.

Loading times throughout the game are 15-20 seconds each, but they happen right before every single opponent, plus short ones before going back to the menus. I shutter to think of how many minutes total of loadings you will sit through by the time you're done with Career mode.

Create-A-Wrestler (CAW) sucks, which is sad because you're forced to use it for career mode the first time you play it. There are so few options that I can practically list all of them here. There are only 6 body types: 4 male (athletic, muscular, overweight, slim), 2 female (athletic, muscular) with 16 different skin tones (most of which are useless unless you want funky colored wrestlers). There are 6 different face styles for each gender. There are 7 different hair styles for each gender with 16 different hair colors (again, most are rather funky). In terms of clothing, each gender has 18 upper body (shirts), 18 lower body (pants), and 6 footwear (including bare feet) choices. You can choose two different colors for each, assuming the piece of clothing has a base and a stripe.

Rounding out the CAW options are a few custom logos/tattoos, a limited selection of moves, and 35 mostly useless CAW accessories that you can buy for $200 each in the shop section of Career mode. How useless are they, you may be wondering? Take a look at this list and judge for yourself: Top Hat, Cowboy Hat, Football Helmet, Do Rag, Skater Helmet, Headband, Bowler, Visor, Sun Hat, Beanie, Beret, Headphones, Hard Hat, Baseball Cap, Ear Muffs, Biker's Helmet, Sunset Shades, Round Glasses, 3-D Glasses, Eye Patch, Painter's Mask, Clown Nose, Corn Cob Pipe, Bandage, Big Ears, Tiny Shades, Left Arm Band, Double Elbow Pads, Double Wrist Bands, Gauntlets, Biker Gloves, Bandoleer, Messenger Bag, Backpack, Bow Tie, Single Gun Belt, Double Knee Pads, Shin Guards, Wallet Chain, Tool Belt, Knee Brace, Spurs, Leg Garter, Studded Belt, and Snow Shoes. Nothing says "I'm a hardcore brawler, don't F with me" more than a guy wearing a Bowler hat, 3-D glasses, a clown nose, and a pair of snow shoes. To the game's credit, though, a few of these looked great on a gal wearing the default thong outfit (cowboy hat, biker gloves, and leg garter).

On top of that, you can't even delete CAWs. The best you can do is revert them back to their default appearance and moves, but the CAW slot will still be filled - even after you've deleted your Career save and the CAW no longer has a use. Also, you can't import CAWs from another game save/memory card.

Besides the CAW accessories, the game has a few other unlockables, but they're really not worth the effort to unlock. If you can manage to make it through the game tedious and boring Career mode, you get the option to play it all over again, but this time with one of the in-game wrestlers. Since the story is exactly the same as the first time, there's nothing new to see by playing it again with an established character instead of the CAW you used the first time. As an added bonus, completing Career mode also unlocks all of the "Game Videos" in the Media Room. These are the same video you've seen throughout season mode (actually, each one is unlocked after you view it in the course of your career).

These videos are only marginally better than the ones you can buy from $1000 each in the shop. The five purchasable videos are short highlight reels of these wrestlers: Zandig, Ryuji Ito, Sick Nick Mondo, Vic Grimes, and Sandman. Before you get too excited, you should know that they each run a mere 35-40 seconds and contain no audio at all. In fact, almost all of the "BYW Videos" in the Media Room are 35-40 second audioless highlight reels. These are the same clips shown on the main menu. However, there are more clips shown on the main menu than there are in the Media Room. All of the main menu videos should be viewable in the Media Room, where they're displayed full screen. I, personally, would have rather watched the clips of the ladies (Tylene Buck, Tera Patrick, and Sunrise Adams) in the Media Room than a clip of Andrew WK singing, made pointless by the fact that there's no audio in it.

The only "BYW Videos" that have audio are three relatively short music videos and the promo/newspiece ("Pulse"). I have never seen a wrestling match from BYW or any of the other feds represented in the game. It would have been more beneficial for them to include one or two whole matches, instead of all these pointless, short, and mostly audioless video clips. Maybe *that* would get me interested in buying one of their videos.

The "Pulse" video is a TechTV story about the game and a wrestling event held to promote it several months (?) before its release. One of the game designers proudly mentions that BYW2 was the first wrestling game with confirmed online capabilities. There is no online mode in the final product. Oops!

The design of the different fighting areas is pretty good overall, though of course, some are better than others. I, personally, like the Office because you can break ALL of the cubicles in the middle of the room, and when that's done, you're left with a TON of weapons and one open area to fight in.


The game engine is essentially the same as in BYW1, but with a few additions, such as submission holds and a block button. There's also a new type of environmental attack, appropriately titled an "Enviro-Mental" attack. You can perform these attacks when you have your opponent in a front grapple and you're positioned in the right spots of each fighting area. You'll know when you're in the right spot because an exclamation point inside a triangle will appear on the screen. All you have to do is press the Triangle button and a cutscene will pop up showing you doing an extreme move to your opponent, like powerbombing him through a picnic table, hitting him with beer bottles, or frying his face on a fast food grill.

The problem with the environmental attacks, as with ALL attacks, is that the wrestlers don't sell their moves. They'll pop right back up on their feet as if you just blew air in their face. In WCW Kevin Nash once sold a finger poke to the chest as if he had just gotten hit with a bowling ball, yet here they act like nothing happened if you repeatedly slam their head in the truck of a car. The only time wrestlers act like a move really hurt them, is when they MISS a move that THEY were trying to perform.

One of my biggest grievances about the game engine is that reversals require guesswork, not skill. When in a grapple, you have to guess which of the four face buttons your opponent will use for his next move, and press it before he does his move. This is just like the reversal system introduced in WWE Smackdown Shut Your Mouth in 2002 (in that game it was the four d-pad directions instead of the face buttons). A lot of people apparently hated this system (such as me), and it was changed to a much simpler 2-button method (one for strikes, one for grapples) for the next WWE game in 2003. Why BYW2 would use a reversal system that wasn't even kept for the WWE games is beyond me. (I don't remember if BYW1 used this reversal system or not.)



The meat and potatoes of the single player experience is the Career mode, which replaces the short Talk Show mode from BYW1. The Talk Show mode was boring and repetitive, and guess what? Some things never change.

The story is simple enough: The Backyard Wrestling "federation" has come to your town with a $1 million prize to anyone who can plow through the competition and win all the regional championships.

Career mode consists of ten fighting areas. The first nine are grouped into three sets (or tiers), with the last area being the locale of the finale. Each of the first nine areas contains five "missions" and five "challenges" each, with the last in each tier also containing a Title Tournament. The finale area contains the final five challenges. Thus bringing it to a grand total of 45 missions and 50 challenges, plus 3 title tournaments.

Not everything is unlocked from the start. You need to complete one tier in order to unlock the next, and the tenth and final area is unlocked after the third tier. The game has a rather confusing way of setting this all up, so I'm going to try to explain this as simple as possible. Please try to follow along. I'll use Tier 1 as an example (it contains the Backyard, Trailer Park, and Pool areas). You can play all 15 missions (five per area, remember) in any order you want. However, you must complete all 15 in order to unlock 12 of the 15 challenges (again, five per area) and the Title Tournament in the Pool area (the last area in each tier has the tournament). Completing the tournament (four matches total) not only unlocks the next tier (set of three areas), but also unlocks the three Title Defense challenges in the Backyard, Trailer Park, and Pool areas (one defense per area). If you lose any of the three Title Defense challenge matches, you have to play that tier's tournament all over again to reclaim the belt. This whole procedure of completing all 15 missions and the title tournament is required for all three tiers. It's quite possible that you don't even need to do the Challenges, but I did them anyway, so I can't tell you for certain.

If this all sounds like it makes perfect sense, it's because I explained it to you and you didn't have to figure it out for yourself using the rather disorganized menu in the game. The game doesn't even do anything to signify that you did all the missions and challenges in an area. You'd think they'd put a big X over the locale on the useless "why is it taking up space on the screen" map. Anyway, if you think this doesn't sound so bad, wait until I tell you specifically about the missions and challenges.


You are given a specific objective for a match or a series of matches. Some of these include: performing a specific number of reversals, using a Weed Whacker three times, or just avoiding your opponents attacks 20 times. For objectives like these, you don't even have to go on to win the match. Once you perform the objective required, you can just quit the match and go on to the next objective. Later in the game, some objectives will require you to win a match within a set period of time, win a match with more or less than a certain percentage of health, or just to fight without using certain moves. Obviously, in these cases, you actually DO need to finish the match.

Some of the missions are downright stupid. No one in the right mind would do what they want you to do in a normal match on purpose. I mean, who really would want to finish a match with less than 10% percent health, if they didn't have to? Since I hate the reversal system (as I've previously mentioned) you can imagine how thrilled I was when I had to reverse 20 moves as one of the mission objectives.

These "Missions" should be in a separate "Challenge" section outside of career ala WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw, with unlockables earned for completing them. They should NEVER have been made a required part of completing career mode.

What makes the missions even harder is that the game doesn't specifically tell you how to complete them. I rented this game, so I had no manual to give me the controls. I had to rely on the information given on the loading screens. While this is good most of the time (and I made sure to write down the controls as fast as I could - though the few screens repeat often enough that you'll get all the info down soon enough), the game has a nasty habit of giving you loading screens that don't relate to the objectives for the match you're about to play, or giving you the information you need AFTER you need it. For example, I played a mission in which I was not allowed to grapple, so guess what information was on the loading screen before the match? Yup, the grapple controls. Better yet, there's a mission in which I had to perform a Guard Break (I believe that's what it was). The game decided not to tell me how to perform the move until *AFTER* I quit the match out of frustration (it was on the loading screen that takes you back to the menu).


The five goals almost always are as follows:
  1. Fight a real wrestler. Sometimes you'll be required to finish him off specifically with a knockout, pin, or submission. On two instances, you will be forced to "hunt" for a specific wrestler: The game will give you several matches with random jobbers, occasionally giving you the wrestler you NEED to fight, and if you beat him three times, you complete the challenge.
  2. Fight a jobber (a freaky-looking CAW), who will then by replaced with a real wrestler.
  3. Win three matches in a row.
  4. Win five matches in a row.
  5. Defend your title (unlocked only after you win the tournament).
From what I can tell, the challenges are optional, as it doesn't seem like you need to do them to progress in the career (I did them anyway, so I can't say for sure).

The challenges are what should have been required for career mode, as they make more sense within the context of the story.

At this point you should have realized that the "Missions" should have been called "Challenges" and vice versa.


The graphics are decent, but nothing more than what's required to get the job done. I've read that they're better than what was in BYW1, but without doing a side-by-side comparison, they don't look that much better to me.

A nice touch is that a wrestler who is repeated pummeled will have blood stains all over his body by the end of the match. Sadly, the blood stains look like someone drew lines on them with red marker. There's no dripping blood, hence why I call them stains.


Like WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw (SVR), the game features wrestler voice-overs (used in intro/outro cutscenes and a few Career videos only). For the most part, they are done by the real people, though the following use substitutes: Sandman, Vampiro, Kelvin Finn, Ruckus, and Adrienne Pain (I'm not sure if those last three are real people or characters made specifically for the game). Also just like SVR, the voice acting is really bad.

A big problem is that the sounds of impacts, punches, weapons, and the such, all sound very flat and underwhelming. There are also times when a sound effect should be heard, but isn't. This completed undermines any power that a move should have.

Some of the artists on the licensed soundtrack include: Insane Clown Posse, Andrew WK, Kool Keith, Bad Brains, Body Count, and Hoobastank. So if you're into that type of music, you're sure to love the very large soundtrack (there was over two and a half minutes of music listings in the end credits!). I, personally, didn't like the music in the game, so I turned it off. That's not to say the game didn't turn it back on itself every now and then. Speaking of glitches ...


I've encountered many of them while playing the game. Some of them are pretty bad and could actually make you lose matches or missions/challenges. Here's a small list.

* Because I don't like the in-game music, I turned it off (by setting the volume to zero). Every now and then, while in Career mode, after a match, as it autosaves my game before going back to the menu, the music would come back on. It stays on while I'm on the menu, only going back off when the match loading screen appears.

* One time in the pool area, and MANY times in the restaurant area, I found my character inexplicably walking by herself towards the bottom of the screen. She would not move in the direction I wanted her to, and would only stop her migration to screen bottom if I held the block button or got into a move with my opponent.

* If doing a move on a ledge (like in the pool area), you may end up doing the move without even touching the opponent. Sometimes both characters will even shake violently like they're having a seizure or something.

* Wrestlers will sometimes fall out of grapples and teleport to standing positions in another part of the fighting area.

* The enemy artificial intelligence is also quite bad, and I don't think it's because I had the AI Difficulty set to Low. Almost every time a match started in the junkyard area, my opponent would run straight to the red van on the right and just keep running into it for a few seconds.

I also came across a glitch that prevented me from getting 100% completion in Career mode. Office: Challenge: Title Defense never becomes selectable (it's always greyed out). I had no problem playing the other eight Title Defense challenges. I completed career mode with 45 out of 45 missions completed and 49 out of 50 challenges completed.

I didn't even get all "opponents seen." I would think that the game would have shown me all of them by the end of career.


If you use cheat device codes (like Infinite Health & Turbo for Player 1, No Turbo for Player 2), you can probably work through career mode in six to ten hours - if you don't get bored first. If you play it straight, then it'll take a lot longer due to all of the stupid tasks the game forces you to complete. That's if you don't become bored AND overly-frustrated and just give up on the game altogether.

Replayability is practically non-existent for a single player because if you do complete career mode, you will NOT want to play it again with the newly unlocked option to use an in-game wrestler this time. And even if you did, it would be the exact same season you played through the first time.

Of course, two players will get a little more replayability out of the game, but not much more, because there's only so many times you can play a 1-on-1 match against each other before you both get bored. It's not like there's a plethora of areas to fight in, anyway. If you do one match in each area, after 10 matches, you will have seen them all.


If you must play this game, RENT IT! It's not worth the $50 asking price for a purchase.

The Hitchhiker Canadian First Season DVD Review


This review was originally written on December 17, 2004
Sets A World Record For Amount Of Compression Artifacts

I have a lot to tell you in this review. Let's start briefly with why I bought this set, which was only released in Canada. I own one of the Hitchhiker VHS tapes, but two of the three episodes are missing the beginning credits. I wanted the complete episodes, especially on DVD. I live in the United States, but the DVD released here (titled "The Hitchhiker Vol. 1") only contains 10 episodes, only one of which was on the videotape. This Canada-only "Season 1" set contains the first 26 episodes of the series, although in a different order from how they were released in the United States (it's the first three seasons here).

I have no problem with the episodes being in a different order, what I *DO* have a problem with is the ungodly amount of compression artifacts found in the set. Practically EVERY episode has at least one noticable artifact (though admittedly a few of these you'd have to have an "eye" for in order to see them).

Here is a list of the episodes in this set, in the order presented on the DVDs, with the time markings of the compression artifacts listed in brackets after the episode title.

01. When Morning Comes [5:24/8:11/11:26/12:08]
02. Shattered Vows [18:39/19:09]
03. Split Decision [21:58]
04. Remembering Melody [NONE]
05. Face To Face [NONE]
06. And If We Dream [26:26(slight)/26:28(slight)/29:30(slight)]
07. Petty Thieves [NONE]
08. Hired Help [1:09(slight)/21:05(slight)]
09. Man At The Window [NONE]

10. Murderous Feelings [NONE]
11. Videodate [27:42(slight)]
12. A Time For Rifles [NONE]
13. Lovesounds [11:10]
14. Last Scene [16:35]
15. One Last Prayer [1:14(slight)/1:17(slight)/8:45]
16. Ghostwriter [4:27]
17. Dead Man's Curve [2:34/22:19/23:17/23:33]
18. True Believer [25:16]

19. Man Of Her Dreams [NONE]
20. O.D. Feelin' [17:33]
21. Man's Best Friend [NONE]
22. The Curse [NONE]
23. Nightshift [NONE]
24. W.G.O.D. [NONE]
25. Killer [15:59/23:29/23:43]
26. Out Of The Night [1:51/2:05-2:08/5:28/20:33]

Now I'll list everything else that's wrong with this set.

* It comes in a cheap top/bottom load slipsleeve (the cases easily fall out when you take it off the shelf). I wish it was a side loader like mosts dvd-set sleeves.

* The seems like the version of "Split Decision" included is from an edited syndicated print as there are fade ins and fade outs (for commercial placement) that aren't seen in any other episodes. It's also clearly edited at 18:52 and at 18:54 - if you frame advance during the fade out you can briefly see another shot.

* In "Last Scene" there's an original tape defect at 28:35.

* In "True Believer" the picture jumps very slightly from 3:03 to 3:34.

* In "Man's Best Friend" there is no audio from 12:42-12:46. The original Lorimar video I have has the audio. The DVD cuts out music and the dog panting and the first part of Michael O'Keefe's dialogue ("I mean...").

* There are several errors on the packaging text:

-- Most of the episode descriptions on the back of the cases give away the surprise endings.

-- The back of the sleeve mentions the following actors who are not in any of the episodes on the discs: Robbie Benson (was in "Tourist Trap" 1990), Louise Fletcher (was in "Offspring" 1991), Elliott Gould (was in "A Whole New You" 1991), Lisa Hartman (was in "Her Finest Hour" 1989), C. Thomas Howell (was in "White Slaves" 1990), Lauren Hutton (was in "Riding The Nightmare" 1990), Nick Mancuso (was in "Fading Away" 1990), Michael Ontkean (was in "Square Deal" 1989), and Alan Thicke (was in "Tough Guys Don't Whine" 1990).

-- The back of the sleeve mentions director Gerard Ciccoritti (aka Jerry Ciccoritti), but he did not direct any of the episodes on the discs (he directed "Power Play" 1989).

-- For episode 3 (Split Decision) it says "retail" when it should be "real."

-- For episode 9 (Man At The Window) it says the female lover's name is Catherine when it's really Carla (as listed in the end credits of the episode itself).

-- For episode 11 (Videodate) in the first sentence is says Gregg Henry's character is named Jack Rhodes, but in the last sentence it says his name is Jeff.

Now let me list the neutral and good points of this set.

* This DVD set includes the original Nicholas Campbell (as The Hitchhiker) version of "Split Decision" (ep 3), but the Page Fletcher versions of "When Morning Comes" (ep 1) and "Shattered Vows" (ep 2).

* For those purists in the USA, I should let you know that the Alliance Atlantis logo was tacked on to the end of all episodes. However, it appears AFTER the "Markowitz/Chesler Producing" logo and "This Has Been An HBO Presentation" screens, so all of the original content is present.

* Each episode has a 2.0 (stereo) and 5.1 audio track. I really see no need for the 5.1 track and would have preferred that they left it off (maybe there wouldn't be so many damn compression artifacts if they had that extra space on the discs to work with).

* There are no bonus features like in the U.S. "Volume 1" release (audio commentaries on selected eps).

* This set gives you more episodes for less money than the U.S. "Volume 1" set. For the record, there are only five episodes (from Seasons 4 & 5) on the U.S. set that aren't on here: Why Are You Here?, Homebodies, The Legendary Billy B., In the Name of Love, and The Miracle of Alice Ames.