Three high profile television shows have debuted on high definition home video this holiday season. In November, Paramount’s Star Trek The Original Series: Season One HD DVD set broke banks but put a smile on fan’s faces heading towards season two sometime next year. Earlier this month Universal, the other HD DVD exclusive studio, finally released the long-rumored first season of Battlestar Galactica to an uproarious cry of “so say we all” amongst the show’s devout followers. Both of those HD DVD releases allowed preexisting fans to relish their show in high definition audio and video, while leaving the door open for a broader high-def fan base to test out a new show from the beginning they may have previously passed on.
With Lost’s debut on Blu-ray Disc this month, Buena Vista Home Entertainment shoved aside potential new fans by starting with the most recent season, three. A serial written with the plot and character complexities of Lost demands one’s full attention from day one, making Buena Vista’s decision difficult to stomach ” especially since Paramount and Universal got it right with their A-list shows. But what’s done is done, so anyone even slightly contemplating visiting Lost for the first time with this Blu-ray Disc set needs to seriously reconsider.
Reliving season three is a reminder that it offers up some of the best and worst storytelling in the series. The worst comes first after the poor decision by the show’s creators and marketing staff to break the season into two parts; the first, a six-episode arc focusing on Jack and Kate in captivity with The Others while neglecting the other survivors, and the second a series of standalone episodes providing more questions than answers. Many fans bailed on the series roughly halfway through season three fearing the writers had no clear direction, and given the softness of several episodes failing to offer anything substantial to solving lingering island mysteries, they can’t be blamed.
Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and the rest of Lost’s creative team dropped anchor and turned the ship around amidst the fan rebellion with their pen and their voices. First, they announced a definitive end-date for the series and assured fans they had the main mysteries already worked out. To back this up, the season finale proved to be one of the best episodes of the series thus far, with numerous twists and a cliffhanger almost as good as “what’s in the hatch?” Despite these late season revelations, the third season of Lost won’t go down as the series” best; that honor remains with season one. It will, however, be remembered for offering the episode when the series” dynamic was struck with its most dramatic change thus far.
Buena Vista presents Lost: Season Three on Blu-ray in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer as “lush” as the Hawaiian island’s where the show is filmed. Since season one, Lost has stood out on broadcast HD thanks to the spectacular colorful scenery of Hawaii and the attention to shooting in high definition by the creators. On Blu-ray, Lost looks better than it ever has, as promised by Lindelhof and Cuse during a brief introduction prefacing the episodes on disc one. Colors are brighter, detail is sharper, and there’s far more depth than ever seen over the air ” despite a bitrate that hovers in the upper teens. As anticipated, the darker interior scenes are a step back from the gorgeous exterior scenes. Grain is more prevalent and darks don’t hold up as well to gradation changes. Despite this minor gripe and viewed as a whole, Lost: Season Three is the best looking TV show to appear on high-def home video to date.
Musical cues and things that go bump in the dark are as important to Lost as scenery, which is why the PCM 5.1 uncompressed 48kHz/16-bit soundtrack is a welcome addition to the series. It doesn’t take long for the audio to “shake” thanks to a recreation of the initial plane crash and hatch awakening in the season premiere. Action sequences such as these benefit the most from the jump in audio resolution as dialogue and non-action moments lean heavily towards the front soundstage. The mix is certainly in the upper tier for television shows, but falls short of equaling bigger budget mixes found in feature films.
Aside from four episode commentaries and a brief Blu-ray introduction by Cuse and Lindelhof on disc one, all of Lost’s bonus features are housed on disc six and viewable after skipping through four Buena Vista trailers. With a huge bounty of behind-the-scenes material available, it’s easy to get “lost” picking through hours upon hours of footage, interviews, and more.
The Blu-ray version benefits from a pair of exclusive special features along with BD-Java scripted episode “memory” that remembers which episodes you’ve viewed. Both Blu-ray exclusive features, and the remaining features shared with DVD, many of which are presented in HD, are detailed below.
Access Granted (50:00, Blu-ray exclusive, HD) ” Lindelholf and Cuse sit down and address 20 questions via a data bank selection screen. The information accessible varies from Dharma films to Richard Alpert to Polar Bears to Walt’s Psychic Powers. Each entry has multiple snippets selectable via a control panel, up to six per entry. It can become addictive picking through each entry and its subsequent snippets of additional and relative information.
Blu-Prints (16:31, Blu-ray exclusive, HD) ” The packaging makes this seem like a fancy interactive feature where viewers can explore the island. Visiting the feature is a big letdown as it’s merely six short featurettes of crewmembers showing behind-the-scenes access to important sets. Other than being presented in high definition, there’s nothing presented here that couldn’t have been presented on standard DVD.
Lost: On Location (58:18, HD) ” Ten short featurettes deconstruct specific scenes to expose new character developments presented in season three. Nikki’s integration into the pilot is intriguing for revealing how the crew re-created the initial crash site and shot it from different angles.
Crew Tribute with Evangeline Lilly (7:18, HD) ” Evangeline is apparently well liked amongst the crew as she has a blast introducing them to us.
Lost in a Day (25:35, HD) ” February 21, 2007. A multi-man crew records 14 hours of filming featuring scenes from 7 different episodes. The coverage jumps between on location in Hawaii and post production teams in LA., including the writers. What makes this feature work and worth watching is how the screen splits to show what’s going on in L.A. and Hawaii simultaneously at the exact same time.
The Lost Flashbacks (HD) ” All-new flashbacks have become a signature feature of Lost home video sets. This time, three of them have been included.
Deleted Scenes (17:21, HD) ” Nine deleted scenes offer additional insight into characters, much like the lost flashbacks. A great introduction to Nikki and Paulo having sex in their tent is the gem worth finding.
The World of the Others (14:12, HD) ” This featurette is a roll call of the main Others” characters, stations and their barracks home. Nothing new is offered in terms of character traits, but it’s a good refresher heading into season four.
Terry O-Quinn: Throwing From the Handle (1:41, HD) ” Terry offers lessons at knife throwing. For someone who never threw a knife before the show, he’s become quite adept at it. He even nails a dollar bill on a tree from a pretty long distance in a friendly bet with crewmembers.
Lost Bloopers (6:35) ” Six minutes of some chuckles on set, but most are actors forgetting their lines and bursting out in laughs. Where are the practical jokes?
Lost Book Club (8:12, HD) ” This featurette delves into the purpose of each book appearing on camera. Definitive answers are offered to several books seen in season three.
Cast in Clay: Creating the Toys (5:13, HD) ” Todd McFarlane discusses creating the action figure line for the show. Only they don’t look like there’s much action involved.
The Next Level: Inside the Video Game (4:04, HD) ” The show and game creators at Ubisoft discuss the objectives of the game. Players will step into the shoes of a new passenger on the island that lost his memory. Little footage of the actual game is offered, though they hype up an “awesome” ending worthy of the show.
The Orchid Instructional Film (2:10, HD) ” Watch the film uninterrupted in its entirety, including footage shot before and after what’s seen in the show.
Although universal and Paramount made the right decision to start their A-list television shows on HD home video with season one, Buena Vista trumped both in the packaging department. Nowhere to be found are flimsy slipcovers or prongs that won’t hold their discs safely in place. Instead, Buena packaged Lost: Season Three on Blu-ray in a thick jewel case, which is then packaged inside a thick cardboard “book” case. The extra money and effort put into the packaging ensures these discs will remain safe, even if slammed against a wall. The same can’t be said for Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: The Original Series.
The writer’s strike has pushed up the debut of Lost: Season Four to the end of January, still leaving plenty of time to catch up on season three on Blu-ray Disc. Lost fans will need the time to soak in not only the episodes, but the hours of bonus footage as well. Thanks to those extras and an exemplary high definition presentation for a television show second to none, Lost: Season Three is hands-down the best “bang for the buck” high-def TV box set available on either home video format. Now lets cross our fingers Buena Vista will release season one and two on Blu-ray before season four’s time comes in fall 2008.
– Dan Bradley