- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Here’s a look at a pair of recently released episodic shows with long successful histories available on Blu-ray and DVD formats.

Star Trek: Discovery – Season One (Paramount Home Entertainment, rated TV-14, 671 minutes, 2.00:1 aspect ratio, $50.99) — I did not think it possible, but Paramount has splendidly resurrected Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi universe with a new series that is part of its digital streaming service CBS All Access.

First, here’s the good news. The inaugural season is now available on Blu-ray and collects all 15, roughly 50-minute-long episodes on four discs in glorious high definition.

The story takes viewers into the Trek mythology 10 years before the emergence of Capt. James T. Kirk and features a human Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) raised by famed Vulcan ambassador and father of Spock, Sarek (James Frain), inciting a war between the Federation and the Klingons.

She is on the verge of being court-martialed but gets a reprieve from Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) who helms the ship USS Discovery. Other intriguing crewmates who she works with include First Officer and previous Science Officer of the USS Shenzhou, the Kelpien Saru (Doug Jones); first-year cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman); and schizophrenic security officer Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif).

Fans will also appreciate appearances by characters such as eventual tribble-loving Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) and USS Shenzhou Capt. Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).

By the way, the starship has an organic propulsion system that allows it to teleport in a blink of an eye across the galaxy with help from the body of chief engineer and astromycologist Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and using the fungal mycelium organism network.

That’s a very cool concept, and I’m betting Roddenberry would be proud.

Not only is the action intense and the special effects eye-popping, but the stories mix theoretical science with exploration and some familiar species such as Andorians, Vulcans, Tellurites and the really ferocious Klingons.

Additionally, story arcs such as Discovery getting trapped in a parallel universe loaded with their evil doppelgangers and a jaw-dropping twist near the end of the season were a treat.

Without giving too much away, based on previous characters portrayed by Mr. Isaacs, I was not completely surprised by Capt. Lorca’s destiny on Discovery.

The bad news is the second season arrives this week, and it is again on a pay-to-play digital streaming service that is not really worth the $9.99 a month ($5.99 a month with limited commercials).

Best extras: Each disc contains a small collection featurettes covering nearly every aspect of the show and its production.

All total, 10 segments will chew up 2.5 hours of a viewer’s time as he learns about creating Klingon battle armor, the overwhelming role women play in the series (four female writers), visual effects, alien make-up, building communication badges with uniform ranks, music score and preparing alien food dishes.

Best of the bunch is a 41-minute wrap-up of the first season loaded with interviews of most key cast and crew members including producers Alex Kurtzman, Heather Kadin and Akiva Goldsman; writers Jordon Nardino and Kirsten Beyer; and actors Mr. Wilson, Mr. Rapp, Miss Martin-Green and Mr. Issacs.

Family Guy: 20 Greatest Hits (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated TV-MA, 550 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $39.99) — Seth MacFarlane’s famed dysfunctional family has continued to entertain adults looking for a dose of sophomoric hijinks over the past two decades on the Fox Network in a weekly animated show.

This 3-disc DVD collection offers 20 episodes themed to some of the most ludicrous and emotional musical numbers in the show’s history, featuring members of the Griffin family and their friends.

For example, fans looking for a simply eye-watering, politically incorrect song will appreciate the number “I Need a Jew” sung by dad Peter Griffin from “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein.”

Or, for topical, sing along with “A Bag of Weed,” from episode “420,” sung by Stewie and Brian. It’s a ditty mimicking the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” tune “Me Ol’ Bam-boo” and featuring a quick appearance by Groucho Marx smoking a joint.

Or, the belly laugher “The FCC Song,” from the episode “PTV” and sung by Peter, Brian and Stewie, takes a hilarious shot at the government entity while paying homage to the obscure 1959 Broadway musical “Take Me Along” and the number “Volunteer Fireman’s Picnic.” Man, Mr. MacFarlane really dove down the pop culture rabbit hole for that tribute.

It’s an entertaining collection for sure but delivered in the antiquated DVD format leaves much to be desired in visual quality especially when viewing on a 4K television. The occasional pixilation around the edges of the characters is maddening. A high-definition version of the episodes would have been much preferred.

Best extras: First, appreciate a 15-minute dedication to a 10,000-square-foot mural on the backlot of a Fox sound stage honoring “Family Guy.” It features speeches by CEO of the Fox Television Group Dana Walden, Executive producers Alec Sulkin and Rich Appel and Mr. MacFarlane.

Next, a trio of the songs gets a karaoke-style presentation so the whole family can sing along to “I Need a Jew, “Drunken Irish Dad” and “It’s a Wonderful Day for Pie.”

Finally, the package also contains a 24-page, full-color booklet with lyrics for 18 of the songs featured including “You’ve Got a Lot to See,” “Prom Night Dumpster Baby” and the unforgettable “Poop in Strange Places.”

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