I came into this title completely blind. I almost always have some idea what I am going to be watching, but in this case, I truly had none whatsoever. I believe that I might have heard the title of this show before, but that’s about it.
Upon viewing this set, it might be a good thing that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Otherwise, I would have never taken this task on. Put simply, this is not a show that has stood the test of time. True laughs are virtually nonexistent, as almost all of…the jokes in this show are now tired sitcom cliché’s. The funky 70’s duds may have been hip at the time, but they just look stereotypical by today’s standards. As many afros, bellbottoms, and velour as you can stand are crammed into each and every frame.
Other points of contention are the horribly flimsy sets and the poor acting. This seems to be a show that never really “clicked”. Based loosely on the film Cooley High, What’s Happening!! only ran from 1976-1979. The minor commentary on contemporary life in the black community was not nearly compelling enough to make this an important show, the way that All in the Family was.
This review might have been different if it were written by someone who enjoyed the show the first time around. As for me, however, I just can’t see it.
Ahh, the wonders of that glorious television broadcast staple, mono audio. Dialog is clear in these episodes, making it easy to discern every word of this show. Ambient noises are virtually nonexistent, but that is fine. From the canned laughter, it is obvious that this was a show that was filmed on a sound stage, so dialog is really the only important element.
Once I viewed the opening credits for the first episode, I knew I was in for some truly bad video quality. I can honestly say that this is the grainiest picture quality that I have ever seen on DVD. The colors are washed out, the picture is blurry, and the whole piece looks as if it were stored on a shelf in the middle of the Sahara desert.
Luckily, the quality is much improved once the actual show starts. The picture is respectfully sharp, even if the colors are not. The problems are not with the picture quality, as much as they are with the original filming techniques. Shaky cameras were used, and the lighting is absolutely atrocious. Much of the time, shadows have been cast over the main actors, making for an amateur and unprofessional look.
The disc looks acceptable. The filming techniques are not.
The only special feature on this three disc set is a group of three advertisements for other Columbia TriStar television shows that have been given the DVD treatment. Not even a Cast and Crew bio section is included here. These episodes are presented as-is, with no added-value content whatsoever.
I would be very surprised if anyone born in the past 30 years found this DVD set even remotely entertaining. Even Dwayne, on the cover of the packaging, seems to be looking out at the consumer as if to say, “This sucks, doesn’t it? I’ve already condemned myself, and I can’t get out of here… save yourself.”
Yes, save yourself, indeed.
Special Features List