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January 07 2006

So in this episode . . . what show is this again? Article talks about the current popularity of TV shows on DVD, all the offer, and why people want them. Including the mention of "Joss Whedon for his near-scholarly comments on his own episodes."

Joss' commentaries are my favorite and always wish that he would comment on ALL episodes whether he wrote them or not. Obsessive? Perhaps... that a problem?
There are some people who should not be allowed to do commentary tracks such as David Greenwalt. That said I do enjoy listening to Joss explain the ideas behind the episodes and discussing the production process.
I agree, some commentaries were doomed from the start. I for instance loved the Angel episode "Billy", but Tim and Jeff's commentary put me to sleep.
I know this is a Canadian publiciation, and I thank RavenU for linking to it for us, but is anyone else put off by the snotty remark at the end of the article? It's this that I'm referring to:

But whether they (TV-on-DVD features) are insightful or frightful, they all serve one useful purpose. Without them, TV writers would never have a chance to let the public know who they are.

I don't see the logic in that, nor is there any evidence to support this contrived theory so abruptly ending an otherwise interesting and amusing article. This just doesn't seem likely or believable to me, that "the public" would have no idea of who writes for their favourite television shows without a DVD release and the requisite special features.
Actually gorramit, a lot of people never knew Larry David was associated with Seinfeld until the DVD's came out. That goes for a lot of other shows. I know we can name writers in the verse but can you do that for shows like Friends or 24 or even the X-files. I don't think he meant it as an insult but more as a statement of the facts as he sees it.

Just ask your friends if they know who writes for their favorite shows and you will see what I mean, this is for the non-verse fans.

[ edited by RavenU on 2006-01-08 01:15 ]
My top favourite commentators:

1. Joss Whedon (Buffy/Firefly)
Joss is insightful, funny, and he talks *a lot*, and always talk about stuff that we really want to hear.

2. David Chase (Sopranos)
Although he lacks the humour of #1, David is a frighteningly brilliant man, and delves *deep* into the episodes he's commenting on. If there's one man who knows every single layer of The Sopranos, it's this man.

3. Michael Imperioli (Sopranos)
Occasionally funny, but always very interestsing. Also, best accent ever!

4. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David (Seinfeld)
The commentaries from Jerry and Larry are pure laughs, even if they're not saying anything. It's just a thrill to sit down with your favourite Seinfeld-episode and laugh along with the guys who created the series; as if they're in the room with you. :) (Side-note: all the other commentators on these DVD-packs are either boring, just not there (Julia, Jason and Michael rarely say anything) or just plain praise.

5. Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings)
Although this doesn't qualify as television, I felt I should mention it nonetheless. Unlike the cast-commentary for these movies, there's actually some stuff in here that's not "Oh my God. I love these people, and they are so perfect." He has some interesting things to say about the process of making the best movie ever.

Although he hasn't done it yet, I sincerely hope Steven Bochco sits down to do an AC for the upcoming season 3 DVD box set of NYPD Blue.
And for the umpteenth time, I nominate Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's commentaries on Spaced and on Shaun of the Dead for being excitable founts of information, gossip, bitching, and hilarity. And all those Freaks and Geeks commentaries deserve a mention too - how many other shows have had fans come in and do episode commentaries?
Loved the Buffy, Angel and Firefly commentaries, some, obviously, are better than others, but all of them are pretty interesting.

I really enjoyed the Futurama commentaries too, some of them are really very funny.
The Futurama commentaries are small classics of comedy. Including the one where the writers eat crisps all the way through.
My feeling is that prior to TV-on-DVD taking off, "the public" still stood a rather good chance of familiarity with some television writers (though I will admit, likely a greater familiarity with television series creators rather than any particular member of a writing staff). Certainly TV-on-DVD has given (and continues to give) TV writers greater exposure than before and I don't mean to diminish that; but it's simply not a case of them never having a chance to let the public know who they are.

When a TV writer or exec producer has a new series coming out, be it a spin-off or wholly original creation, it's often marketed as 'from the creators of' whatever his or her previous successes or known commodities may be. For example, take Darren Star: Beverly Hills, 90210, then Melrose Place, Sex & The City and most recently Kitchen Confidential (the latter of which was marketed, in part, as a new series from the creator of Sex & The City). Then there's David E. Kelley: L.A. Law, Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, to name a few.
When Curb Your Enthusiasm was beginning, there was no hesitation on HBO's part to associate it with Seinfeld and raise awareness of Larry David's new show. Even Joss, most notably with Fox's (attempt at) marketing Firefly - there was often a mention of 'from the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer', as there was with Universal's marketing of 'Serenity'.

Granted, I freely admit that the few names I've mentioned are by no means Hollywood lightweights or great unknowns in their industries, but neither were their names and accomplishments great mysteries until the TV-on-DVD sales explosion of recent years. It's absolutely the lesser-known (for now, at least) talents of folks like David Fury, Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard (among many others on many other shows) that receive greater exposure from audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes and the like, and more power to 'em, I say.
If this issue is a dead horse (or was ever a living horse to begin with), I will beat it no longer; also, I've got a bus to catch. Goodnight all!

SoddingNancyTribe, agreed on the Pegg/Wright/Frost triple whammy, always worth listening to.

David Koepp did quite an entertaining and insightful one for 'Stir of Echoes' (writer/directors are usually more interesting - or adaptor/director in this case). The commentaries i'd probably most like to hear (apart from Joss on everything) would be from M. Night Shyamalan but he doesn't seem to do them (presumably for some artistic reason).
M. Night Shyamalan but he doesn't seem to do them

He'd just tell you how clever he is and how he's going to be the next Speilberg (whatever that means exactly).

Oh, wait, he does that in interviews anyway.
I am a commentary nut. I'll take as many as I can get. If they can give just a little bit more insight into the episode, it's worth it. Though, in a perfect world, every episode of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly would have commentaries. And they would be by Joss. ;)
I hate it when directors talk about camera angles all the time and don't have a single good thing to say about their actors. With Joss you get the feeling that he really likes the people he works with.
Sarah Clarke did a commentary for a 24 S3 episode and managed to talk all the time even though she only appears in the last few minutes of it :)
I hate it when directors talk about camera angles all the time and don't have a single good thing to say about their actors.

I'd say that was rare though. So much of the time commentaries are directors gushing about stars or stars gushing about each other. It's rare to find a good commentary that focuses on the craft of making the film - even from good filmmakers.

In fact, it frightens me the number of great filmmakers who can't talk their way intelligently through their films - which gives me even more respect for those who politely decline to do them; at least they aren't wasting my time.

With Joss you get the feeling that he really likes the people he works with.

But can balance his commentaries between intelligent discussion of his craft with that of the actors. Or, in the case of Firefly comms, in concert with other people - Tim or the actors.

Commentaries, back in the days of laserdisc, were a true extra; if a filmmaker agreed to do one, they had things to say about the film. More precisely, only directors that had something to say were even approached to make commentaries.

Now commentaries are everywhere, standard issue. And I'll basically only listen to them if I already know that person can do a good commentary. If I don't know whether they can or not, I'm much more selective; I won't sit listening to a commentary in the vain hope it gets better. More likely I'll skip to scenes where I hope to hear something interesting about them (more often than not, though, these scenes aren't commented on, or nothing is said beyond what I already know).
"how many other shows have had fans come in and do episode commentaries?"

Alias Season 3 has the TWOP moderator Erin do commentary. Best thing about the box set. I wish they'd get her to do more.
I don't just like commentaries for being insightful. I like commentaries where the actors, directors, producers, etc. interact with each other, because it's fun to get a sense what these people are like when they're not playing their characters on TV. I also like commentaries that are funny as well as just telling us about the episode.
SoddingNancyTribe wrote
And all those Freaks and Geeks commentaries deserve a mention too - how many other shows have had fans come in and do episode commentaries?

Ooh, I haven't seen those yet. The only F&G commentary I've watched so far was the one where the two teachers and the guidance counselor commentate - in character. It's hilarious, especially all the stuff about the hotel room in Hawaii.

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