Most helpful critical review
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Proceed With Caution!
on 27 December 2014
These comments are regarding the 21-DVD set, not the Blu-ray edition. They pertain to the product - the discs, packaging, special features, etc. - and not to the series itself, which I would rank at 4 stars.
After thoroughly reviewing all of the customer comments on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, and Amazon.de (I live in a German-speaking country), I ordered - with trepidation - from Amazon.co.uk, which has by far the best price.
The packaging is every bit as dismal as many others have stated. The discs just don't stay in the little slits in the cheesy cardboard sleeves. I am considering replacing them with standard hard plastic "slimiline" DVD cases which hold two discs each. There is nothing in the packaging that is really worth keeping. The case which holds the six individual sleeves sounds like it's about to crack each time I open it. This set was NOT built to last!
I also agree with the customer who opined that at least 80% of the "More Than 50 Hours Of Bonus Features!" are meaningless drivel, some of them totally unwatchable. The audio commentary is among the worst I have ever heard on a DVD for a TV series or film.
The 5.1 Dolby mix is dreadful! I have a surround sound system, and all the dialogue, sound effects, and music played in context of an episode (that is, for example, on a radio) are crammed into the front center speaker: it may as well be in mono. The other speakers are used only for soundtrack music (original scoring) and the front and end credits. This is yet another huge blown opportunity. They could have done so much, but it seems they were just interested in getting product onto the shelves as quickly as possible. My "gold standards" for 5.1 mixes on TV series are "Twin Peaks" (where you can almost always hear the distant roar of the waterfall or the wind in the trees coming from the side and rear speakers) and "Mad Men" (where the ambient office noises and traffic are coming at you very subtly from all around).
And what is up with each season coming with totally different sets of audio tracks and subtitles? I believe two or three offer German audio (which comes in handy since - as I mentioned before - I live in a German-speaking country) while others offer only French or Spanish, and the subtitles are a total free-for-all. This also indicates to me that the set was thrown together with no regard for consistency. This is also supported by the fact that some of the discs - but not all - make you watch a brief animated "Thank you for supporting the British TV and film industries." Again, there is no consistency, even within a single season.
Finally, Amazon's mailing container was so slipshod and loose that the DVD box just slid out of the Amazon packaging cardboard sleeve! I am amazed that no one ripped it off! If there was a packing slip, it fell out of the package in transit. Also, even though the Amazon box fit quite comfortably in my mailbox (I tested it when I got home), I received an e-mail from my post office directing me to go there to collect it. Amazon could not provide a reason for this when I contacted them to complain about the poor packing and my reticence to remove the shrinkwrap from the DVD box and open it, since there was no packing slip - hence no proof of purchase - and given the number of complaints I read about the discs, I feared that I might have to return it. (Amazon advised me to open the box and test the discs.)
All that being said, I have been - so far! - pleasantly surprised that the discs are playing as well as they are. I have to say that, despite the crummy packaging, of the 16 DVDs I've watched so far, only the very first disc gave me trouble: when choosing the "Play All Episodes" function, it rendered my remote control useless. Even hitting "Stop" did nothing. I had to manually turn off the player, turn it on again, and remove the DVD. (For the record, I have a top-of-the-line, code-free Pioneer DVD player, less than one year old.) This disc did, however, play just fine and allowed the use of the remote when I played each episode individually. This has been the only glitch to date. Five more discs to go: let's see what happens!
P.S. I have now watched all 21 DVDs. The same problem which occurred with Disc 1 of Season 1 occurred with Disc 1 of Season 5: if I select the "Play All Episodes" function, it renders my remote control useless and the DVD player must be shut down and the disc removed. It does, however, play and the remote functions if I watch each episode individually. I've also tried listening to some of the commentary tracks and they are largely nothing but as many as six people all congratulating themselves. If I heard Vince Gilligan start another insipid sentence with "I just love how..." I was going to scream. A major lost opportunity.