Police Squad(Paramount Home Entertainment, 11.7.2006)
In English and IN COLOR. On November 7th, the entire series that inspired the Naked Gun trilogy arrived on DVD. That's right, every single episode, filmed in 35mm on the Paramount lot, fully uncut and in glorious '80s color. Fans have had to wait a full seven years (not in Tibet) since the release of the Naked Gun trilogy on DVD, but it was worth it. The wait had nothing to do with music clearance or unpaid royalties and everything to do with the general indifference toward this brief, 6-episode series. The truth really hurts, but not as much as jumping on a bicycle with the seat missing.
In 1982, the filmmaking team of the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams (aka ZAZ) -- of the highly successfull Airplane -- decided to take a stab at network television. The show was ahead of its time and was unceremoniously cancelled after only 6 episodes due to low (not Leslie) Nielsen ratings. They recruited the other Nielsen (Airplane alumni Leslie Nielsen) and he plays his part with the perfect blend of deadpan delivery, finesse, and ease. However, the supporting cast is different from the films. For example, O.J. Simpson's character is played by Peter Lupus, the muscle man from the original Mission: Impossible TV series. He's utterly charming in his own clumsy way, complementing O.J.'s infamous interpretation.
The episodes are shot more like mini films than episodic television. Visual gags and puns run amok and, as a result, some episodes may require multiple viewings. The show is played straight and not as self-reflexive comedy. Each episode opens with the simultaneous introduction and death of the main guest star (ie. William Shatner, Lorne Greene) and ends with a freeze frame, delivered on set by the actors (some of them, anyway). Some of the show's jokes were recycled in the films, which is understandable as the producers were well known environmentalists.
The transfers look gorgeous and can melt a cheese sandwich from across the room. You can watch it new remixed 5.1 or original momo mix, both of which sound excellent. This disc also includes three commentary tracks, which are informative and fun. They also serve as a secondary laugh track. It's a pity Leslie Nielsen didn't participate in the commentaries, but he does give a new interview in which he explains why the show tanked. According to Nielsen, the problem is that TV viewers tend to watch while engaged in other activities and most weren't willing to drop everything and pay close enough attention to get the jokes.
While the extras are an improvement over the The Naked Gun discs, they're still a let down. The holy grail of The Naked Gun legacy is the footage shot with John Belushi for Police Squad. When Belushi died before the show could air, the footage was pulled from the episode and it never re-surfaced. I was hoping it might appear here, but no such luck. Other than the episodes themselves, the highlights of this disc are a 5-minute blooper reel and the entertaining interview with Leslie Nielsen. -- King-Wei Chu