Simply the best single-season series, ever! by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
Brisco County Sr. was arguably the best lawman of the west. He single-handedly (or so some would have you believe) rounded up John Bly and his gang, but there was a train accident, the gang was freed, and County Sr. found himself starring down the barrels of many, many guns. The Robber Barons (a group of men that were wealthy, and suffered at the hands of Bly and his gang) needed to find someone to round up Bly and his gang; their money was at stake. Enter Brisco County Jr, a Harvard-educated lawyer looking to strap on his father’s gun and hop in the saddle. His liaison would be Socrates Poole, a lawyer hired by the Robber Barons to protect their interests and handle their affairs when it came to County Jr. Brisco had some competition though - a big, mean bounty hunter named Lord Bowler who wanted to collect the bounties on Bly and his gang. It sounds straight forward, except for the orbs that give people super-human strength, rockets that go along train tracks, and Comet, Brisco's horse that's a lot smarter than he looks. The Adventures of Brisco Count Jr is a comedy/western/sci-fi/romance/drama, and it's damn good!
I became a fan of Bruce Campbell back in 1992 when my brother and I had a day off school and our dad took us to see a movie. We opened the paper and saw an advertisement featuring a guy holding a chainsaw being attacked by skeletons while he protected a beautiful woman. The movie was Army of Darkness, and I loved it! A year later I read about upcoming shows for the fall season and came across The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., which starred "that guy from Army of Darkness" - Bruce Campbell. We didn't have the Fox network yet (remember, I'm in Canada), but luckily a local station aired Brisco. I loved the show part-way through the pilot; it was a wonderful mix of action, humor, sci-fi and silliness, though nothing over the top, just a notch below. I watched every episode of the show, and I mourned the loss when it wasn't renewed the next season. I caught Campbell in some other shows, but he was never as good as he was in Brisco.
I started TVShowsOnDVD.com purely for selfish reasons; I wanted to see some of my favorite shows on DVD. Family Guy was released, and I consulted on Kids in the Hall, but Brisco still eluded me, and I was determined to change that. The journey was a long one, but it makes for a good story, which you can read a little later on in the review.
Sometimes it can be dangerous to watch a beloved show many years later; memories can betray you. The jokes can seem old, the action isn't as good as you remember, and the story may be full of holes. I kept that in mind when I sat down to watch Brisco for the first time in 13 years.
This massive 8 disc set holds the TV movie, and 26 hour-long episodes.
Disc 1 (3:03:29)
Socrates' Sister (45:13)
The Orb Scholar (45:13)
Disc 2 (3:01:34)
No Man's Land (44:34)
Brisco in Jalisco (45:29)
Disc 3 (3:00:28)
Senior Spirit (45:23)
Brisco for the Defense (45:35)
Deep in the Heart of Dixie (44:51)
Disc 4 (3:00:45)
Crystal Hawks (45:06)
Steel Horses (45:07)
Mail Order Brides (44:39)
A.K.A. Kansas (45:53)
Disc 5 (3:02:29)
Bounty Hunter's Convention (45:35)
Fountain of Youth (44:51)
Hard Rock (46:52)
The Brooklyn Dodgers (45:11)
Disc 7 (3:02:57)
And Baby Makes Three (45:55)
Bad Luck Betty (45:22)
High Treason Part 1 (46:43)
High Treason Part 2 (44:57)
I had a good idea what to expect when I sat down to watch these DVDs, so I wasn't surprised by anything I saw. The episodes contain some dust specs here and there, but nothing that's horrible. The colors look good, though the night scenes are a tad dark at times. There are chapters placed after the opening of each episode, and each disc features a "play all" option. The episodes are presented in production order, at the request of Carlton Cuse (creator/executive producer).
The release contains a fairly basic Dolby Stereo soundtrack. I don't have any complaints with the soundtrack for Brisco, except for some slight popping during one of the episodes (unfortunately I didn't make note of which one). The dialog, with the one exception, sounds fine, and the music is great. Think you've heard the Brisco theme before? You're right - it's the theme to NBC's Olympic coverage. The episodes are subtitled in French and Spanish, and Closed Captioned in English.
Commentary on the Pilot
Carlton Cuse and Bruce Campbell provide an entertaining and informative commentary on the pilot episode of the series. Bruce is always entertaining on his commentary tracks, and this one doesn't disappoint.
Brisco's Book of Coming Things (5:59)
Brisco kept a journal of the "coming things" he came across, and he reads his entries to us.
The History of Brisco County (30:07)
A wonderfully produced featurette on the history of the series, from the origins, to the cancellation. Carlton Cuse (creator/executive producer), Bruce Campbell ("Brisco County Jr"), Julius Carry ("Lord Bowler"), Christian Clemenson ("Socrates Poole") and Kelly Rutherford ("Dixie Cousins") are interviewed for the piece.
Tools of the Trade (11:42)
An interesting series of featurettes that cover the tools of the trade on the series.
A Reading from the Book of Bruce (7:29)
Bruce Campbell reads a chapter from his book, If Chins Could Kill, related to the series.
A Brisco County Writers' Room (42:59)
Ah, this is pure gold! Carlton Cuse, Tom Chehak, John Wirth, David Simkins, Brad Kern and John McNamara are interviewed for this featurette that reveals tons of behind-the-scenes trivia about the show. These guys have great chemistry and are very entertaining. I have more to say about the featurette later on.
Brisco Booklet (30 pages)
This 30 page booklet contains episode synopses by Bruce Campbell (which means they're entertaining to read) as well as production photos from the series.
I was worried that my memories of this show would betray me, that I wouldn't enjoy it as I had 13 years ago. Well, they did betray me a bit because I didn't remember the show being as good as it is. Maybe now, 13 years later, I'm able to appreciate more of the jokes, more of the witty lines, and more of the story. I loved this show when it first aired, and I love it more now.
The road to getting Brisco on DVD was a rocky one, but the journey was fun. I think it started about 3 years ago when I had a meeting with some executives at Warner Bros. I went there to talk to them about a few shows, and brought up Brisco near the end of the meeting. They didn't seem too familiar with the show, but said they'd look into it. About 8 months later there was a shift at the company and the people I met with had moved on to other positions, and my hopes of seeing the show released on DVD moved with them. I made contact with the new person in charge of their TV titles and started talking up the show. Bruce Campbell has a large fan base, and they love to own his work. I was sure that Brisco would sell well if they released it; Bruce's books and other movies have done quite well. I started mentioning Brisco when we talked about shows that were doing well on the site, and my new friends at Warner Bros started to take notice of the show. Brisco has always performed well on the site, and that helped my case a lot (so thanks to everyone that voted for it).
I bugged them for a few years about releasing Brisco, but it wasn't until last summer that I really stepped up the pressure. I started researching how many copies of his books were sold, and how well his DVDs did. Bubba Ho-tep did okay in theaters, but sold really well on DVD, proving there was a market for Bruce's stuff. I started receiving reports from fans and friends that Bruce was talking about Brisco and Jack of All Trades at his book signings around the US; he wanted the shows released. A week or so later I was talking to my Warner person and they told me they received a call from Carlton Cuse, creator/executive producer of the show. He was wondering if the show would be coming to DVD soon, and this was another nudge for Warner. The timing was perfect because 3 weeks later I was leaving to go to Hawaii for a Lost season 1 DVD release party, and Carlton happened to be an executive producer on the series. My mission, besides hanging out in Hawaii and meeting the cast of Lost, was to find Carlton and tell him that I had been working to get the show released for 2 years. I found him at the party, and, with a few drinks inside me, I decided to go talk to him about the show. I ambushed him as he stood talking with his wife and son, and we started talking about the show and how it should be on DVD. He gave me his email address and we would trade emails whenever there was news to pass on. I think it was a month or so later that I received the semi-official word that the set was going ahead and work had already begun. I was so excited!
In early January I was invited to fly down to LA to attend filming of some bonus material; the "Brisco County Writers' Room." The timing was horrible because I already had a trip with my girlfriend planned, but I figured I could make both trips happen. I flew down on a Friday, stayed the Saturday and then arrived home very early on the Sunday morning. I was home for less than 24 hours before I left on my vacation - it was pretty crazy, but I'm glad I did it. I knew Carlton would be at the "Brisco County Writers' Room" thing, but I had no idea who else would be in the room. I certainly wasn't ready for the group I met! I watch a lot of TV, I always have, and the people that walked into the room were responsible for some of my favorite shows. There was Tom Chehak (Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Alien Nation and Diagnosis Murder), John Wirth (Remington Steele), David Simkins (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Spy Game, Vengeance Unlimited, Roswell, FreakyLinks, Dark Angel, Charmed and Blade: The Series), Brad Kern (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, New York Undercover and Charmed), John McNamara (Profit, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Vengeance Unlimited, The Fugitive, Fastlane and Eyes), and Carlton Cuse (Nash Bridges, Martial Law, Black Sash and Lost). The people in that room contributed hundreds and hundreds of hours to my TV viewing schedule. For three hours I stood there and listened to them talk about the series, crack jokes, and reminisce about the season they worked together. This featurette wasn't planned to be 40+ mins, but the material was so great they made it longer. Sure, the three hours I was there was edited down to 40 mins, but I can't think of anything that's missing from the featurette. These guys were so funny that I almost burst out laughing a few times (and I wasn't the only one), which obviously wouldn't have been a good thing to do while they were recording. It was an amazing day for me, and I've kept in touch with a number of the guys interviewed. Here's a photo I snapped from the event:
You'll likely spot some familiar faces while watching Brisco; there were some great guest stars that appeared in these episodes. The wonderful R. Lee Ermey (who appears in just about every war movie) played "Brisco County Sr," M.C. Gainey went on to Lost, Denise Crosby (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager), Xander Berkeley (24), Janel Moloney (The West Wing), John Hawkes (Deadwood), Andrea Parker (The Pretender), Sheena Easton (the singer), Obba Babatundé (Dawson's Creek), Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender), Richard Herd (Star Trek: Voyager), Casey Siemaszko (NYPD Blue), Debra Jo Rupp (That '70s Show), Timothy Leary (yup, the drug guy), Tzi Ma (24), Terry Bradshaw (ex-NFLer) and Michael Jace (The Shield). I also got a kick out of the writers' subtle nods to various things (casting Timothy Leary; for example), and how characters always seemed to return to the show (Todd is a perfect example).
Brisco may well be the best single-season series ever produced. It's full of episodes that will make you laugh, an excellent cast, and now it's available as a wonderful DVD set. Some people claim the set is too expensive, and while "too expensive" varies from person to person, I think there's a lot of value in the set. 28 TV-hours of material, great bonus material, and a show that is better now than it was when it aired on TV. Don't take my word for it, pick this up and you can see for yourself.
Now I must head to bed because I have an early flight to San Diego to catch tomorrow where I'll take in the San Diego Comic Con, and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. panel they have on Saturday.