Judge Clark Douglas, DVD Reviewer.
Her courage forged a new vision for the old west.
During the 1990s, my grandmother used to watch two shows on a regular basis. I mention this because she did not watch much television. She had a degree in English literature and spent much of her free time reading books by southern writers such as Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner. As I said, there were two shows that she took time to see each and every week. Both of them began on CBS in 1993. The first was Walker, Texas Ranger, which offered a weekly demonstration of Chuck Norris beating up bad guys. The second was Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, which starred Jane Seymour as a doctor living in 19th Century Colorado. I don't know why she was so fond of these programs, particularly the former. Perhaps she had a secret love for shows with titles that offered a character name followed by a job description. I can only recall one comment she made about Dr. Quinn at one point: "I'm very fond of it. There's always something interesting going on."
I never was a hardcore fan of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, but there were quite a few viewers like my grandmother out there. In fact, the viewers like my grandmother proved to be the ultimate problem for CBS. As the show progressed, it continued to gather female viewers who were 40 years of age and older, while the teenage crowd found other things to do with their time. When the show was cancelled after six years, the protest was long and loud. CBS would eventually provide two made-for-television movies to help wrap things up, but those didn't do a whole lot to satisfy fans of the show. Most fans felt that the program had been taken before its time.
The show has been described as being something akin to Little House on the Prairie, but I'll admit that it's a little bit more than that. The show frequently examined social issues in its own odd way, and offered just a bit more real-life substance than the somewhat soapy quality of the writing and acting would indicate. Over the course of its six-year run, Dr. Quinn tackled such topics as gun control, sexism, homosexuality, racism, and many other relevant social issues. Granted, the show has a tendency to offer an "After-School PSA" tone at times, but I have a small level of admiration for the program's willingness to try and actually make a difference in some way. Is it guilty of indulging in some revisionist history? Absolutely. There is material here that would make any good historian sick to his or her stomach. However, this particular review is not the place for criticisms of that. If you are contemplating a purchase of this expensive box set, then you are evidently a big fan who all ready knows exactly how you feel about the show. I will grant you that Jane Seymour's engaging portrayal of the character surely made Dr. Quinn the definitive role of the actress' career. She even won a Golden Globe in 1996 for Best Actress in a Dramatic Role, and has wholeheartedly embraced the fact that fans will always see her as Dr. Quinn. It's always nice to see an actor or actress embrace the role that fans love them for.
Perhaps this collection will finally give fans of the show reason to celebrate. The lavish set gathers every single episode of Dr. Quinn, along with the two made-for-television movies and a collection of special features. A whopping total of 42 discs offer roughly 120 hours of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The show is packaged in a rather unique and attractive way. We're given a sturdy hardbound book that resembles a photo album, but with 50% less height and 25% more width. When you open the books, you will find cardboard sleeve "pages," featuring episode descriptions and full-color photos. Each "page" holds 2 discs, meaning that there are 21 "pages" total. The book is housed inside a very durable and attractive cardboard box, making it an item that you will want to prominently display in your DVD collection (provided, um, that you actually want everyone to know you watch Dr. Quinn).
The extras are not exactly overflowing here, but there are some supplements worth noting. Disc 5 offers an A&E Biography profile of Jane Seymour, along with an interactive tour of 19th Century Colorado Springs, cast profiles, a photo gallery, and a list of awards the series has won. Disc 8 gives us a Joe Lando commentary on "Best Friends." Disc 12 has a peek at some of the show's guest stars, and a nice making-of featurette called "Beginnings." Joe Lando and Jane Seymour team up to offer a commentary on Disc 20, on the double-length episode "For Better or Worse." Disc 28 has another featurette, "Favorites," in which the cast members pick out their favorite episodes. Disc 31 offers a commentary with Shawn Toovey and Chad Allen on "Legend," while Jane Seymour and James Keach turn in a commentary for "Point Blank" on Disc 39. Finally, Disc 42 offers a trivia quiz. Frankly, the only supplements I found worthwhile were the Jane Seymour Biography episode and the two featurettes. I listened to every one of the commentaries and found them all to be rather stale and bland. There is far too much discussion of trivial odds and ends, and far too little discussion about the themes of the show, the characters, disappointments, moments to be proud of, etc.
The transfers here are perfectly average. The prints are typically clean and pleasant, but not particularly vibrant or outstanding in any way. The show looks just a tad better than it might on television, but not by much. The same can pretty much be said of the 2.0 Stereo sound, which gets the job done without giving you much to write home about. If you love the show and would enjoy watching it again and again, this really is a beautifully packaged box set. However, if you're the sort of person who really cares about having lots of commentaries, documentaries, and behind-the-scenes info in your mega-sets, then proceed with caution. There supplemental goodies here are not substantial enough to add anything of real value to the basic package.
Not guilty, by just a hair.
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