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Showtime presents
Huff: The Complete First Season (2004)

"I don't know if I can do what I do anymore. When this kid killed himself, after the shock wore off, I just felt so useless all of a sudden. I mean, here I am, I've lived at least half my life, probably, and everything leading up to this just feels like nothing now. Like I've been asleep or something for 42 years. I'm awake now. And I don't think I like what I see."
- Huff (Hank Azaria)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 19, 2006

Stars: Hank Azaria
Other Stars: Paget Brewster, Blythe Danner, Anton Yelchin, Andy Comeau, Oliver Platt, Kimberly Brooks, Lara Flynn Boyle, Swoosie Kurtz, Annie Potts, Bob Saget, Misti Traya, Nichole Robinson, Nancy Linehan Charles, Faith Prince, Liza Lapira, Hal Linden, Jack Laufer, Jewel Staite, Noel Fisher, Robert Forster
Director: Scott Winant, Paris Barclay, Tucker Gates, Mark Richard, Dan Lerner, Matt Shakman, Ellen S. Pressman, Sarah Pia Anderson, Martha Coolidge

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, sexuality)
Run Time: 11h:35m:00s
Release Date: March 21, 2006
UPC: 043396104341
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+A-A- B+

DVD Review

Huff is a Showtime original series—one that delicately straddles the line between comedy and drama—about a psychiatrist and his family, but this ain't Bob Newhart.

Far from it, and that's where the freedom of being on a premium cable channel allows a series like Huff to rise above the kind of safe, network pap that usually passes for entertainment. It's a piece of strong, multi-faceted television that is superbly written, created by Bob Lowry, and follows Dr. Craig "Huff" Huffstodt (Hank Azaria), a well-to-do psychiatrist who comes to a point of having to re-evaluate his life after a troubled patient commits suicide right in front of him.

There's a rich tapestry of supporting characters for Azaria's troubled doc to interact with, from his loving wife Beth (Paget Brewster) who is continually crossing swords with Huff's opinionated mother Izzy (Blythe Danner, who garnered an Emmy for her role), who lives in the guest house. There's Byrd (Anton Yelchin), the Huffstodt's booksmart 14-year-old son who is starting to cross that path between boy and man, Teddy (Andy Comeau), Huff's institutionalized younger brother who is a regular sounding board and Russell Tupper (Oliver Platt), the manic, drug-addicted family lawyer with a penchant for prostitutes and general excess. Add to this mix some strong secondary characters, such as Lara Flynn Boyle as a psychotic former patient and Kimberley Brooks as Huff's outspoken secretary and the series is awash with engaging players.

And having the show air on Showtime allows for stronger dialogue that adds a natural realism to the flow of the way people speak in real life, so when Paget Brewster's flummoxed Beth confronts her son Byrd about his involvement in "bl**j** parties" (in Lipstick on Your Panties), the comic smack of her repeatedly using the phrase seems genuine, and not watered down as it would have to be on normal network television. Obscenities flow with regularity, too, but they're not overused for simple shock value. I'm not saying that swearing makes a show better, but it does add a level of realism so that when a character utters "f***" it's not just a cheap trick because the writers can use the words.

This four-disc set carries all thirteen episodes of season one, and if you're like me and didn't see the series during its original run, then this release will give you a second chance to get caught up. There is quite a bit to take in here, with the careful meshing of genres—there are equal shares of laugh-out-loud comedy and heavy drama—some very clever visual scene transitions, and let's not forget one of the most surreal (and lengthy) title sequences ever done for a television series.

Huff is a winner.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: All 13 episodes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the transfers here are terrific. Colors are bright and vivid, and the level of detail is first rate throughout, giving this the look and feel of a feature film at times. A few instances of edge enhancement are extremely minor.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in highly effective Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. The things you would expect—such as dialogue—is reproduced very cleany, with a rich tonal quality, but the mix excels by creating a very spacious soundstage, utilizing all speakers to convey directional movement and depth.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 78 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dawson's Creek, Newsradio, TV Action Favorites, Fun With Dick & Jane
1 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
4 Feature/Episode commentaries by Bob Lowry, Scott Winant, Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: This four-disc set comes house in two thin ThinPak-style cases (two discs per case) inside of a thick cardboard slipcase. Each disc includes the Play All option, as well as the ability to play episodes individually.

There are four commentary tracks, one per disc, and all feature creator/executive producer Bob Lowry and director Scott Winant on episodes Pilot, Is She Dead?, Christmas Is Ruined and Crazy Nuts and All F**ked Up, where they are joined by actors Hank Azaria and Oliver Platt. Lowry and Winant provide a lot of background on the show's development and distinctive visual approach (most notably on the pilot episode), including discussion of the unusual title sequence that was considered "too long and too bizarre".

Disc one also contains Behind the Therapy (29m:45s), a pleasant EPK featuring copious scenes from the show, as well as comments from the production team and cast. Disc two carries some previews for other Sony television releases and a set of three slightly fuzzy deleted scenes (05m:54s). A pair of brief making-of pieces are also found on disc two, with Character By Design (03m:30s) featuring production designer Joseph Lucky and Lens of Truth (05m:09s) looking at the intriguing transitional sequences used in the series.

Each episode is cut into six chapters, with optional subtitles in Spanish or Portuguese.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

This is the kind of show that could make me swear off commercial television for good and just stick with Showtime. The cast here is outstanding, there's smart writing and the mixture of comedy and drama is blended together exceptionally well, so much so that it's difficult to properly categorize Huff. It's solid, well-acted entertainment.

Sharp, funny and clever always works for me.

Highly recommended.

 


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