I am such a twat. Firstly, I forget that Just The Shows – Volume 2 was released this Monday and only got round to buying it the following Thursday. Secondly, I slipped on a wet floor and fell over when I entered HMV. THIRDLY, I suddenly realised, whilst buying the DVD, that I was wearing my Red Dwarf ‘Skutters’ t-shirt. I’m afraid the word ‘dweeb’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.
John’s excellent review of Just The Shows Volume 1 is jolly comprehensive and it has to be said that he’s kind of said everything that can be said about these releases. Some may say that writing an interesting or relevant review of the second volume would be impossible… Never the less, I shall attempt it.
I’m incredibly fond of the packaging for Volume 2. The simple reversing of the colour scheme from Volume 1, coupled with the use of my all time favourite publicity shot has won me over pretty comprehensively. If I was in a wanky mood (and, let’s face it, when am I not?) I’d say that the move to a more simplistic design for these releases, as opposed to the original DVDs’ specially created CGI backdrops, reflects that stripped down, extra-less nature of the set. Also: not using new CG backdrops is, more importantly, cheaper.
There’s a lot to be said against cardboard digipacks such as this, though, but when it comes to releasing a six disc set like this is simply makes sense to condense the packaging as much as humanly possible. In this case, the digipack route is the only way to go, and it has to be said that the chunkiness of the whole thing makes you really feel like you’re holding four series of Dwarf in your hands. Which, of course, you are; but it’s important to be able to *feel* that.
So, what differs from Volume 1? Well, the blurb on the back is largely in the same vein, and summarises four series of plot quite neatly. It’s not really worth mentioning but the opening paragraph has been altered from “written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor” in Volume 1 to “created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor” in Volume 2. It makes sense to change it to the only credit in which both writers share for series V to VIII, considering that Grant didn’t write for VII or VIII. Good attention to detail, though.
Eagle eyed, pedantic, twat-heads such as myself will also notice that this box is slightly thicker than Volume 1. “But, why?!”, I hear you bloodcurdlingly yell. Well, series VII and VIII are presented here on two discs to keep that all important bit-rate high, so their sections are ever so slightly thicker, to accommodate the double stacking of the discs. Do you see? It’s a very neat way of doing things, actually, and nicely avoids the volume being hugely thick.
Also included are chapter points secluded behind each disc housing and the usual collection of episode synopses, which fills up the various flaps in a very pleasing way and manages to side-step the issue (and extra cost) of an accompanying booklet.
And, the final test: yes, the volumes look utterly lovely stood next to one another on the shelf.
Each disc is labeled with its series number in the standard roman numerals, and series VII and VIII carry the additional information of disc number. The picture discs reflect what we see on the main packaging, with the series V publicity shot adorning all six discs. If I was being a picky bastard (and I am) I’d say that it would’ve been nice to have seen separate pictures on each disc to reflect which series they belong to, with perhaps even a new shot for series V, just to add some variety. It’s not essential, and it would probably cost loads more money, but it would’ve been nice, you know, even if it did invalidate the whole point of the release, which is that it’s a simple, budget set.
These are hugely lovely and most probably the nicest feature of the whole set. You know the drill, the prettiest model (or CGI) shot is selected from each series and the episode titles are stuck on the top in an appropriate place and BINGO you’ve got yourself a clean, clutter free, easy to use and lovely looking menu. The ‘Play All’ and subtitles options are there, too, so navigation is piss easy.
All this, with the added bonus that endlessly repeating dialogue wont drive you crazy in your sleep if you leave it on over night.
Well, there’s nothing I can say here that you don’t already know. Series V and VI have six episodes each and VII and VIII both have eight episodes that THEY DON’T DESERVE.
As far as I can tell, we’ve neither lost nor gained anything when compared with the original releases. Hardly surprising, but it’s worth mentioning that we could be easily looking at poorer bit-rates for VII and VIII if the decision wasn’t taken to cough up for two extra discs in order to spread them out. And all for the same RRP as Volume 1’s four disc set, too.
FUCK ALL, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU EXPECTING? Oh, sorry, that’s fuck all apart from Interactive Menus and Subtitles, as we all know they’re proper extras, yes.
The cliché that these releases are good because they’re somehow easier to stick in your bag and take round to a mate’s house is clearly bollocks, but there’s still something strangely comforting about owning these releases. The quick access to the episodes, the lovely static menus, and owning of four series in one tightly packed box are all good things, but I’m convinced that any mentally stable individual who already owns the individual releases would get nothing out of owning this set.
However, sales of Volume 1 were apparently excellent and there’s no arguing that there’s a market for these sets out there. I mean, imagine for a second you weren’t a Red Dwarf obsessed spod… if you walked (or, in my case, slipped) into HMV and saw four whole series of a sit-com you have fond memories of on sale for £29.99 (or even the RRP of £34.99) you’d happily snap it up, and it’s not a stretch to imagine a great many people preferring to do this instead of searching out the individual releases. Just The Shows most certainly has a rightful place in the word of Dwarf merchandise, but I’m afraid the best conclusion I can come up with after this torturous waffling, is that if you already own the extras packed releases, then you needn’t bother.