Huff – The Complete First Season, the Emmy Award-winning series from Showtime, comes to DVD from Sony Home Entertainment, and I have to say I couldn’t be more pleased with discovering it. The one thing I miss about premium channels in my cable package is getting to take part in the onslaught of superior original programming channels such as Showtime and HBO have to offer. Needless to say, Huff is a fitting inclusion to my reasons for jealousy towards all you subscribers out there. It follows the life of…Craig Huffstodt (Hank Azaria), a psychiatrist in need of a few answers himself after witnessing the shocking suicide of a young gay patient during a therapy session. The tragedy reminds him to focus more on his own life, and start actually living it – but as the first thirteen episodes of this season attest, Huff has too much “angel of mercy” in him for such a task to be easy. The show, unflinching in its honesty, examines both sides of the “helping others” coin. Often times, one person helped translates to the neglect of several others much closer to the do-gooder. I enjoyed that aspect of the show, as well as its well-drawn characters.
Hour-long dramas such as Huff are free to create more depth and realism to their characters. In this particular case, it’s like watching a great novel set to film. Instead of telling you what to think or believe about a person or situation – as films do – Huff manages to “let it be,” and allows the viewer to draw conclusions on their own. Azaria has a stellar cast to fall back on, too. Blythe Danner (Huff’s mother); Oliver Platt (his oft-unscrupulous attorney); and Paget Brewster (his wife), put everything they have into their characters; and Bob Lowery (writer and series creator) knows how to present them in a lifelike manner. You don’t just get their shining moments of humanity or inhumanity – you also get to observe these men and women, when life throws them a curve, and they’re forced to walk a different path – unnatural to their basic natures, but realistic to the human condition. It’s a warts-and-all series that, like life, manages lighthearted moments of humor one minute, and heartbreaking tragedy the next. Who knows how long it will last? But with this first season, Lowery and company have built a strong foundation deserving of many more to come.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen shines with its sharp contrast, deep blacks, rich colors, and clean-as-a-whistle image. It looks every bit as good as the newest blockbuster films brought to digital, and it really brings out the flaws in many a more popular series already out on disc. I’ve never had the luxury of seeing the show upon its initial release, but I’m sure this looks every bit as good as the Showtime HD airings.
The 5.1 track trumps even the video presentation in terms of quality. It’s a vivacious number with dynamic emphasis on everything from the boldest series moments to the lowest-key. Bass and dialogue, as expected, carry a high volume, which doesn’t break apart the higher you take it. The smaller accents, most apparent in the abstract show identification to start each episode, are just as bold and well-defined as any other aspect of the soundtrack – again, it reminds you of what other series are capable of, but never fully reach in their DVD presentations.
Three featurettes take you into the development, production, and characters, while the selected commentaries on certain episodes bring you the rest of the way. No overkill here – just good, solid bonus materials as engaging as the series itself. Also – take them or leave them – there are some deleted scenes included, though none are particularly beneficial to the episodes.
Why are theaters not what they used to be, you ask? When one can get superior entertainment from their TV, why bother going? Huff is just one more example in a growing revolution of top-notch home entertainment, destined to hurt the pocketbooks of big-budget features by serving a hot platter of well-drawn characters and engaging situations, along with the depth motion pictures feel we as a country are lagging. Good special features selections, and a mesmerizing A/V presentation, add to the grandeur. Do yourself a favor, and check this one out ASAP.
Special Features List
- Audio commentaries on selected episodes
- Three Featurettes
- Deleted Scenes