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|Canadians get lucky with this one!
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
Milton C. Hardcastle is a retired judge from the Los Angeles Superior Court. Mark McCormick, an ex-race car drive turned thief, was Hardcastle's last case. McCormick has been placed into the judge's custody, and together they're going after 200 cases that walked out of Hardcastle's courtroom on technicalities.
The opening of the show gives a brief summary of the series, though the story is a bit longer than that. Sure, McCormick went to jail, but he argues that he was innocent of the crime, or at least he should have been. Too bad he drew "Hardcase" Hardcastle as his judge. Hardcastle takes McCormick into his custody, and the two team up to right some wrongs, and help bring justice to the streets. They also have a pretty sweet ride to use, the Coyote, a prototype car that McCormick's friend designed before he was murdered. The Coyote is a blast to drive, especially for a former race car driver.
The first season of Hardcastle and McCormick comes from a studio most of you probably aren't too familiar with; VEI. They're fairly new to TV-on-DVD, and they're a Canadian company. They were fortunate enough to gain the Canadian distribution rights to this series, and release it for Canadian fans, and Americans that know about Amazon.ca. I hadn't seen this show before, but I was interested in it because of things I had read in the forums, and because the release was exclusive to Canada.
VEI has put all 22 episodes, including the pilot movie, on 5 discs, packaged in a single slim case (disc 1), or double slims (discs 2/3, and 4/5). I think it would have made a bit more sense to move an episode from one of the discs with 5 episodes and put it on disc 1 (which only has 3 episodes) to spread the load a bit better, but VEI has decided to put 3 episodes on disc 1 (well, 2 episodes, and one is double-length), and then 5 episodes on the remaining 4 discs.
Disc 1 (2:21:38)
Rolling Thunder (1:31:57)
The Man in a Glass House (49:41)
Disc 2 (4:00:41)
The Crystal Duck (47:50)
Goin' Nowhere Fast (48:10)
The Black Widow (48:33)
The Boxer (48:33)
Once Again with Vigorish (47:35)
Disc 3 (4:00:11)
Killers B's (48:06)
Prince of Fat City (48:33)
Hot Shoes (46:56)
Flying Down to Rio (48:23)
Just Another Round of That Old Song (48:13)
Disc 4 (3:58:00)
Third Down and Twenty Years To Life (48:13)
Whistler's Pride (46:18)
Mr. Hardcastle Goes to Washington (48:05)
School For Scandal (48:10)
The Georgia Street Motors (47:14)
Disc 5 (4:00:34)
The Homecoming Part 1 (48:10)
The Homecoming Part 2 (48:08)
Did You See the One That Got Away (48:01)
Really Neats Cars and Guys With a Sense of Humor (48:15)
Scared Stiff (48:00)
I've seen a lot of material from the early 80s, as well as a lot of the Cannell product, and I'd put the quality of this at the nicer end of the scale. The transfer looks nice; very few specs of dust, some minor grain in a few scenes, and a picture that isn't over saturated, or washed out. I found the night shots lacked detail, not only in the shadows (there aren't any), but also in the main picture. It's very hard to see much of anything in those night shots, but that's probably more to do with the source material than the DVD transfer. I was impressed with the placement of the chapters; they've set one after the episode preview, and another after the opening of the show. There's a "play all" on each disc as well.
I noticed something during the opening credits which should be mentioned; they change a few times in the season. There's the standard opening that starts with the motor revving, then there's the opening that uses the shot of the court house with the voice-over from my opening paragraph, and then the 3rd opening has the same voice-over, but it shows Hardcastle and McCormick on the steps of the court. Keep in mind I haven't seen this show before, but it appears as though the opening progressed throughout the first season, and they have the original openings for each episode.
It's pretty hard to get excited about a mono soundtrack, but this one is pretty good. It's worth mentioning that this is a Dolby Digital mono soundtrack, not a stereo mono track like many other releases. If you have a 5.1 setup then you'll only have audio come from your center channel; no other speakers will be used, except for "The Homecoming Part 1," which isn't encoded in the Dolby Digital format for some reason. There aren't any subtitles or captions for the set.
I was very bothered by the audio on the menus for the set; disc 1 is far too loud, and the music that plays when the "play all" is selected is louder than the other music in the menus. I would set my receiver to mute when I was navigating the menus for discs 3, 4 and 5. I'd suggest VEI consider just having the theme song play during the menus; it sounds a lot better than switching the audio each time an episode is selected on the disc.
Cannell is notorious for replacing music in the DVD releases, but I spoke with VEI and they told me that all the music is intact for the set. Hey, that's good news!
Extras - How we rate extras
There aren't any extras for the set, but I wasn't expecting any either. Budgets for a Canadian-only title are much, much smaller than something that would have a Canadian and US release. Remember, Canada has the same population as the State of California.
I was very impressed with this show, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I figured this would be another "the car is the star" type shows, but it's not at all. Sure, they drive the Coyote a lot, but it factors into the series about as much as Magnum's Ferrari does in Magnum, P.I.; not a whole lot. I liked the banter between Hardcastle and McCormick, and it was fun to watch their relationship mature over the season. By the end of the 22nd episode I almost had the feeling that they liked each other.
I wouldn't hold my breath for a US release any time soon, but VEI has put together a decent package with this set, and with a suggested price of $29.00 CAN (about $25.25 US), you can't beat the value; Amazon.ca is selling the set for $20.30 CAN (about $17.75 US). I'm very interested to see what else VEI has in store for us.