I am one of the few and far between who likes to see how the sausage is made. Reading behind the scenes has always interested me, and thankfully the rise of the dvd brought with it the inclusion of commentaries to explain away how they did it. Favourites of mine, classics, and well loved movies series usually end up with the commentary turned on somewhere along the line.
One fortunate side effect is the learning that occurs with practice. The Lord Of The Rings special editions, which is three movies, four hours each, comes with four separate commentaries. That behemoth took me almost a year top get through, and was worth every moment of it.
One unfortunate side effect is when no knowledge is given, just feeble excuses for poor creative choices. Star Trek Nemesis was an awful travesty of a movie, and the commentary makes this movie even more of a crushing bore. It is the perfect cure for insomnia.
With our recent viewing of the Police Squad! dvd, we were excited to listened to the three episode commentaries included. How short lived that was. What should have been an insightful look at how the show came about, with interesting factoids from the production, and a thoughtful look back at this almost forgotten show, is anything but.
The first commentary has bits from the producers of the genesis of the idea, and the tale of how they sold it to the network, and fights over the inclusion of a laugh track, but after those tidbits it all dries up.
The next commentary is empty of anything useful, and the third one is by a different person, but has the same lackluster results.
So what we anticipated as being something wonderful, actually quickly became a chore.
We also noticed the exclusion of famed Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen, the star of the series and the later Naked Gun movies, and of writer Pat Proft. Booth worked hard in front of and behind the camera, to make this concept work, and we found their non-appearance troubling. Nielsen is just mentioned abit by the producers, who seemed more enamored of their own jokes. The Proft written one is mocked by the producers for not being funny, or for jokes going on too long, all while not naming the man.
Now commentaries where the creators show disdain for each other is not new, and not naming the one you despise seems like business as usual in Hollywood. The Ghost commentary can be very much read between the lines for this, as can the aforementioned Star Trek Nemesis one, where the gentle jabs and outright potshots are rife.
Now we are not so naive as to believe that everyone on a set gets along wonderfully and famously with rainbows and lollipops, but for a dvd commentary that fans are forking out money for, they should try to be as inclusive as possible. Old hatreds and feuds can be alleviated by simply recording the talent on different days or in separate rooms, this is not that difficult Tinseltown.
This exercise in learning will not end for use because of this bad experience. Right now we are ploughing through the Parenthood television dvd’s and fully plan to take in the commentaries when we are all caught up. Our faith that producer Jason Katims will not let us down is unparalleled. We are sure he will do it right. As it should be.
…is currently reading Father Goose by William Lishman.
P.S. For my gushing of the end result that is Police Squad! check out my write-up yesterday.