Over There: Season One

Over There: Season One (2005)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Josh Henderson, Luke MacFarlane, Erik Palladino, Keith Robinson, Kirk "Sticky" Jones, Jimmy Pinchak
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Documentary, Featurette

Since the series "Over There" is set during the Iraq war, a subject that does not sit well with many in the world today, I am not going to attempt to delve into the politics behind the actual war itself. So with that in mind, here is my take on the DVD set for the complete series of "Over There".

"Over There" comes from legendary producer Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue) who co-created this series with writer and producer Chris Gerolmo (Mississippi Burning, Citizen X), Chris also takes the credit for writing and performing the main title song featured in the series.

"Over There" features a great lineup of guest directors that include; Mikael Salomon (Band of Brothers), Greg Yaitanes and Nelson McCormick, who both actively work on hit series such as "House, M.D.", "Alias" and the various incarnations of the "CSI" franchise. Due to budgetary constraints, "Over There" features a cast of virtual unknown actors as far as "star quality" goes, but in the exact words of Steven Bochco, television has a way of creating its own stars. Given the producers experience at spotting talent, you tend to believe him when he says that. I am not one to admire an actor based on celebrity status alone, if you're good, then that's really all that matters and I think this cast proves their professionalism from the opening shot of the pilot episode.

Set during a current and ongoing war involving the United States, "Over There" offers the viewer an intense and emotionally charged presentation, unlike any scripted television series has ever produced before. "Over There" possesses a good dose of authenticity as the show opens with an army unit on their first tour of duty in Iraq, then follows the lives of the soldiers as they face everything from the deadly consequences of suicide bombers and open gun battle to various humanitarian efforts. Providing equal attention to the stories from the battlefield as well as the personal relationships between the soldiers and their loved ones back at home, "Over There" attempts to open our eyes to just a handful of the sacrifices that are made for our personal freedoms each and every day, which I felt was admirably achieved.

The extremely well written and acted situations within the series works rather effectively to put a brave human face on the daily bloodshed, without touching on the subjects of political agendas. "Over There" exercises the best of storytelling by choosing to focus on eight main characters that are moving through and responding to some rather complex moral issues, without trying to answer the big questions such as why we went to war in the first place, etc.

Although I enjoyed the entire series of "Over There", there were a couple of episodes that stood out ever-so-slightly ahead of the rest. "Embedded" shows us just how easily the dynamics of a situation can be altered through clever editing for broadcast news, simply to place blame on innocent parties or individuals, this one sure had me thinking. "Suicide Rain" pits the soldiers against an armed civilian who takes one of them hostage and threatens to kill him, unless they send in a medic to help save the life of his injured son, another well made yet disturbing episode.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment brings the complete series of "Over There" to DVD in fine form, displaying an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Color saturation is well reproduced to exhibit natural flesh tones when placed against the dusty beige tones of the desert landscape. Black levels are rich and deep, capturing great detail and shadow delineation during evening and night scenes. The intentional stark contrast between the lush color pallet of scenes that take place in the United States and the drab and depressing locals of Iraq is terrifically balanced throughout the entire series. All 13 episodes remain free and clear of dust or dirt particles, with some very minor "mosquito" effect visible as a symptom of video compression. The clever use of colored filters and scenes featuring a soldier's perspective of "night vision" goggles provides the production with even more visual tension and realism.

The available Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack offers a good balance that utilizes all appropriate channels with ample amounts of smooth bass during battle scenes. Vocals are natural in reproduction and are easily audible without any distortion whatsoever. I like the way the final five minutes of each and every episode winds down with the theme song "Over There" playing in the background as the action or drama for that episode winds down, taking the viewers to the final credits. I like this fresh approach to end the show this way; it helps you to reflect on the harsh realities of war, especially when the conflict is still very much alive.

This DVD set of "Over There" presents the option of viewing select episodes with audio commentaries that feature various participants. Available under the special features section of disc one is the technically informative featurette titled "Weapons Debriefing". The thoroughly in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary "Tour of Duty: Filming Over There", which has a running time of just over 80 minutes, takes you along on the filming of the 13th and final episode to the series. Offering detailed interviews with cast and crew on the set, the documentary touches on various informative technical aspects from behind the scenes as well as personal input and thoughts on the production. This has to be one of the better documentaries that I have had the chance to experience during my more than 100 reviews of DVDs. You really don't want to miss out on this production after you have viewed the entire series of "Over There".

I don't typically consider myself a die hard fan of the war genre; I did however thoroughly enjoy "Over There". I dare not say that the subject matter provides for good television as war is something that is overall not pleasant, no matter how it is depicted or exhibited. The real life feel of this series should easily appeal to anyone wanting a well executed story with good direction and solid performances. You don't have to be a fan of this genre to appreciate the brilliant storytelling that showcases the brutal effects of war. "Over There" comes highly recommended.