Season Four, Volume One DVD Review
This isn't something I've done many times; in fact only time was back in May of 2006 when I reviewed the season one DVD. The season two and three DVDs didn't get reviewed mainly just due to lack of time, but now I have some spare moments (and am currently slacking off on starting the latest capsule) and decided to throw this together.
I'll say what I said before; if you frequent this site you probably know all you need to know about the show and you likely already own this DVD. The basics are that the single disc contains all eight episodes of season four, volume one (or 4.1 as it's lovingly refered to) and a couple pretty basic extras. If you want to support the show, or you haven't seen these episodes yet, then you should buy it, because you probably won't be disappointed. So let's get started!
The outer sleeve of this is stylized to look like Dr. Venture's infamous 'speedsuit'. It's pretty classy and subtle as far as DVD covers go and I actually like it a lot. Sadly there's little else to the packaging. It's actually the only DVD for the series without any sort of signifigant art. Season one had the Bill Sienkiewicz insert, season two had some great pencil drawings by Jackson and season three had a cover by Bill Sienkiewicz along with a photo of a live-action Venture family in the insert.
This is perhaps due to this set only being a single DVD (all the others, save the season three Blu-Ray have been two discs), though the hard case (again a first for a Venture Bros. DVD) has a rather detailed photo of a fellow's chest. It's a funny gag when you pull off the sleeve for the first time (if you haven't seen the ATHF, Vol. 7 DVD) but ultimately I would have liked something more attractive. No offense to the actual owner of the chest of course.
Of course packaging is a fairly small concern when it comes to these things, and at least this one is kind of funny, so I don't think anyone should really be too concerned with it.
There's not a huge amount to say here. A concern I had was attempting to cram eight episodes with two audio tracks each (standard and commentary) along with various extras onto a single DVD. At the end of the day it appears to have worked out just fine as the episodes don't seem to suffer from too many artifacting issues and for most will look the same or better than when they first watched them (unless you watched them in HD of course).
Fans of cursing and naughty language will be happy to hear that the audio is also fully uncensored, so many a 'fuck' and 'shit' will be uttered by various characters. The video is, unlike season three, still censored, so the one or two opportunities you may have to see someone's cartoon nether regions will be denied, so I guess if that's your thing you'll have to turn elsewhere.
The sound quality is pretty nice as well, and a few mixing gaffes from when the show aired (mostly music cues that were too loud) appear to have been fixed, which is nice. If you're on the west coast you will also be happy to note that both halves of "Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel" are present and accounted for.
What is probably the crown jewel of any Venture Bros. DVD is of course the audio commentary provided by Jackson and Doc. While they are the only two who partifipate for this season (season three contains additional guest star commentary), it's still very much worth listening to. A big complaint I have is that the video files of the episodes they were watching seemed to have playback issues and would black out for them towards the end, so you end up with them killing time towards the end of the episode since they can't see anything. Sometimes they even just give up and end the commentary entirely. That only happens for around half of the episodes, and the commentary is still funny an interesting prior to their technical issues.
Oddly enough, compared to previous DVDs they seem to go off on fewer tangents and provide more information here, when generally it was customary for them to talk about random things that may or may not have had anything to do with the show. You do get some insight into a number of scenes that had lines cut and they also spend time talking about their writing process, which is always interesting (to me, at least, and I assume many others). Their inability to come to grips with people's dislike for Sgt. Hatred (a view I share with them) also comes up a few times.
Here's where things get a little slim. Just due to the fact that the DVD was in production at the same time as the second half of season four the extras are pretty scant. The Comic-Con preview is on there and folks saddened by the lack of the extended opening from "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together Part I" on the season three DVD will be happy to know that it's on here instead. There is also a set of deleted scenes which you have to watch in its entirety. Due to the animation budget the show never goes beyond line recording and storyboarding as far as deleted scenes go (though I am told this is different for season 4.2), so all you have to go by are some storyboards with the audio played over it. Most of the deletions are also just one or two small lines cut out of a scene (bookended by the fully animated scene), rather than entire deleted scenes (with two exceptions, both in "Self-Medication"). Still it's good stuff and I'm not really going to complain about additional content.
I paid $18 for mine at Best Buy (that's the same price it's currently listed for at Amazon) and that's not a bad deal. If you're into number crunching that works out to $2.25 an episode, which is only 25 cents more than you'd pay for them on iTunes, plus you get commentary and a few random extras. If nothing else it will handosomly complete your collection of Venture Bros. DVDs.
It is worth noting that if you're waiting for a Blu-Ray release then that likely won't be out until after season 4.2 completes. I believe the plan is to put the entirety of season four (all 16 episodes) on Blu-Ray and release a second DVD containing the back eight episodes as the season four, volume two DVD. Who knows what features will be on either of those, though it is worth noting that Blu-Ray discs can hold a lot more data than DVDs. If you are waiting for an HD release you might want to sit on this in the meantime. The Blu-Ray version will likely contain the same commentary as this DVD.
So yeah, fans of the show (and fans of Jackson and Doc) will enjoy the set and it's certainly worth the price of admission for them. If you missed out on a great half-season then it's also totally worth it because it's a excellent set of eight episodes that are certainly worth seeing. For those of you wishing for an HD version I would hold out for (likely) a few more months just to see what happens with that. There's really no shame in buying it if you can't wait though.