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The Complete Series
Running Time: 514 minutes
Starring: Kevin Allison, Michael Ian Black, Robert Ben Garant, Todd Holoubek, Michael Patrick Jann, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Michael Showalter and David Wain
Retail Price: $79.99
Features: Audio Commentaries, Interviews, Outtakes, Pilot Episode, Unaired Sketches with Optional Commentary, Special Appearances, Promos
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Stereo, English Closed Captions, Episode Selection, Chapter Stops, Five-Disc Set
Released: July 14th, 2009
All the episodes feature English Stereo tracks, just as they aired. There's not too much to say about how the episodes sound, since the stereo tracks are rather limited. Still, the audio for the show sounds clean overall — I did not hear any sound defects or any distractions throughout the episodes. All the dialogue is clear and easy to hear, sound effects are audible (even if they don't always pop) and the music — be it the theme or what's featured in sketches — sounds good, and has a bit of a presence. I don't think remixes would have added much: what's here is just fine, and how most viewers of the set will have remembered the show (and newcomers won't really know better).
Also included are English closed captions through your TV.
Not only is it exciting to have the entire series on DVD in a collection, but all the members of The State contributed heartily to the supplements in the collection. First up, every episode features Audio Commentary with a mix and match of all the members: Kevin Allison, Michael Ian Black, Robert Ben Garant, Todd Holoubek, Michael Patrick Jann, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Michael Showalter and David Wain. I listened to snippets of commentaries throughout the seasons, and there's a lot to take in here. There's a lot of entertaining stories about the creation of sketches, behind-the-scenes info, references and plenty of joking around. The writers/performers have a lot of great stuff to share about background details and incidents while filming, but there's also discussion on writing and performing. There also seems to be an excellent balance of serious insight and fun comments, and it's clear they're all having a great time re-visiting the series. I'm sure all the die-hard fans of the series will listen to every single one of the commentaries. This is really quite a treat. (Too bad though that expletives are bleeped out.)
Spread throughout the discs are Outtakes from each season (which are often quite funny), and Interviews. Each disc features interview segments that run a few minutes each, and focus on a different topic — all featuring archival footage right from MTV of the troupe members. Topics include how they formed, original critical feedback on the series, memorable characters portrayed and catchphrases, the specific roles members play and their work process. On the fourth disc, Michael Ian Black gives a short set tour of Kaufman Astoria Studios.
And then of course, we have the fifth (bonus) disc. This is the stuff fans of the show will probably want to see the most. First up is the show's original Pilot episode. It's a must watch, if only to see the very first incarnation of the show. Some sketches and characters did make appearances in the actual series, but otherwise, there's some very entertaining material here.
The real treasure trove just might be the 43 Unaired Sketches. As you'd expect, some are hit and miss, but there's still some pretty inspired stuff here. Unaired sketches that were produced, but not included, in the pilot are here too.
The pilot and unaired sketches also features Optional Commentary with Kevin Allison, Todd Holoubek, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Patrick Jann, Ken Marino, Michael Showalter and David Wain. The commentary here is really a must listen for fans. There are interesting thoughts and anecdotes on the unaired sketches and their production, but the commentary on the pilot and the unaired sketches from the pilot are must listens. A lot of background information can be gleamed — namely how the show came about, and what changes were ultimately made when the show went to series (namely, the sketches became less connected). Wain, per usual, seems to be leading the conversation and offers a lot of technical details. Lots of asides and fun comments are shared, too. Again, lots of insightful, fascinating and entertaining thoughts and a lot to take away from the commentary.
More Outtakes can be found on the bonus disc — all from the pilot and unaired sketches. The Special Appearances section is another excellent inclusion — it's downright entertaining to see these vintage clips, let alone have the cast hawk the series in different ways. The appearances are as follows: on The Jon Stewart Show (just look how young Stewart was!), MTV's Shut Up and Laugh from Panama City (ooh, a younger Norm MacDonald), Spring Break Safety Tips and the MTV Christmas Party video. Rounding out the exhaustive set are six Promos. Ah, more nostalgia through advertising.
Finally, on a different note, some viewers should be aware that some of the music has been replaced throughout the series (something we should all be used to by now thanks to insane music licensing fees for DVD). But the good news is that series composer Craig Wedren has helped to replace certain musical tracks. Rock on.
"The State" is arguably one of the most anticipated TV-on-DVD releases ever, and this set does not disappoint in the least. The episodes look and sound good, but the real enjoyment comes from having the entire series in a single package. Making it even more appealing are all the extras, including commentary on every single episode, outtakes, interviews, promo material and unaired sketches — it's like a complete archive for the series. In short, the long wait was worth it — especially since all the members of the troupe helped put this excellent package together. For fans of sketch comedy and Gen-Xers, this is a must buy.