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"Alias Smith and Jones: Seasons 2 & 3"
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Timeless Media
Genre:
TV-Series
Release Date:
10/10/10
Special Features:

None

Review:

"Alias Smith and Jones" chugged along like a locomotive at top speed starting as a TV movie and then turned into a midseason replacement. The show became so popular that ABC immediately renewed the series for season two. Sadly after shooting the 18th episode and while on break actor Pete Duel killed himself leaving the popular series without finished dialogue for some scenes (voice actor Paul Frees came in and dubbed Duel's voice for these scenes)and five episodes short of what wass ordered. Actor Roger Davis (who had auditioned for Hannibal Hayes but lost the role to Duel ending up as the opening narrator for the series)replaced Duel for the remaining five episodes and the show--still popular although fans were still reeling from the death of Duel--was renewed for a third season. ***

It's a pity that there aren't any additional extras such as commentary tracks from those who worked on the show discussing the issues that dogged the series by the end of season two and the final season. Murphy and Davis would have been able to provide some unique insight into the production process, changes in response from the audience and the committment from ABC. I'm thinking about preparing some commentary tracks on my own for a few friends that I had planned on recording as podcasts with trivia with the time and production information on the series and the actors for the final episode of season two featuring Duel and the first episode of season three.I t was extremely difficult for fans to watch the lighthearted series and fall back into the groove of the series in the wake of Duel's tragic suicide. Unfortunately, that meant that Roger Davis didn't have a chance to really establish himself in the role. Reportedly producer J. W. Swerling Jr. wanted to end the show after Duel's death but was prevented from doing so when ABC threatened to sue the studio if they didn't deliver a full second season. ***

Removed from the tragedy of Duel's death, "Alias Smith and Jones" holds up remarkably well. Yes, the writing is a bit formulaic and, yes, the series did rely on a number of tried and true plot devices. What made the show sparkle was the on screen chemistry and performances of Duel and Murphy and, later, Davis and Murphy. 40 years after Duel's death the 50 episodes (including the TV movie pilot) have finally come to home video (although there were some videotape releases prior to this the entire series was NOT available unless you caught it in reruns). The series continues to demonstrate Duel and Murphy's stardom was no accident--both actors have deft comic timing and make even the most tired and shop worn dialogue sound mighty fresh. ***

It's a pity that there aren't any additional extras such as commentary tracks from those who worked on the show discussing the issues that dogged the series by the end of season two and the final season. Murphy and Davis would have been able to provide some unique insight into the production process, changes in response from the audience and the committment from ABC. I'm thinking about preparing some commentary tracks on my own for a few friends that I had planned on recording as podcasts with trivia with the time and production information on the series and the actors for the final episode of season two featuring Duel and the first episode of season three.It was extremely difficult for fans to watch the lighthearted series in the wake of Duel's tragic suicide. ***

Sadly, the first season set didn't sell as well as Universal had hoped so they licensed it out to another company giving them access to the transfers that they had prepared for seasons two and three. One of the problems with a show licensed from a studio is that there isn't much money (or the company releasing it doesn't feel as if it is worthwhile to spend the money since they don't own the show)to clean up the series for home video. The third and fourth season slipped under the radar without much fanfare and less publicity than the first set (and no review copies being sent out). As a long time fan of the show I didn't even realize the series had been completed three years after the first season was released on DVD. ---

Image & Sound:

Even though I'm disappointed in the presentation of the series on DVD for seasons two and three, the show looks pretty good for its age. For example the 70 minute season opener looks extremely soft and there are occasional problems with jitter that could easily have been corrected during the transfer process given the time and money. The good news is that the quality improves but it is variable between episodes (and sometimes WITHIN an episode). Adding insult to injury to make the set cost effective, Timeless has shoe horned six episodes per disc for most of the second and third season. Personally, I would have preferred to pay a bit more and seen the second and third seasons released separately with some extras. ***

While Universal has often been sloppy with their TV on DVD releases, image quality hasn't been their weak suit for most of these releases with good presentations. They never treated their vintage shows with much respect though (unlike Warner, CBS-Paramount or even Sony for some of their shows) even failing to research and include vintage extras that may exist within their vault. This popular 70's series did deserve better but that won't stop fans from enjoying the series.

Special Features:

Nope and that's a pity. As I stated in my first season review I had hoped to see commentary tracks (one each if possible) from Murphy and Davis for seasons two and three and, perhaps, a featurette on Duel's short life. Any chance of that galloped off into the sunset when Timeless licensed this set from Universal. It's a missed opportunity (although I recorded two podcasts for friends on CD for the series for friends as additional gifts). ---

Final Words:

I'm happy to see seasons two and three of "Alias Smith and Jones" ride into town I just wish that they had been given more fanfare. It's rather like the way they first appeared on TV--they rode into town with promise deftly entertaining us and then just disappeared into the sunset without so much as a goodbye.

 

 
 
 
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