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"Hey Dude" Season 1 DVD Review

Hey Dude: Season 1 DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Hey Dude: Season One (1989)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Dee LaDuke / Developers: Brown Johnson, Debby Beece, Geoffrey Darby

Executive Producer: Geoffrey Darby / Supervising Producers: Ross K. Bagwell, Sr., Ross K. Bagwell, Jr.

Writers: Alan Goodman (also story editor), Michael B. Kaplan, Graham Yost, Clifford Fagan, Mark Cerulli, Judy Spencer / Directors: Ross K. Bagwell, Jr., Fred C. Keller

Starring Cast: David Brisbin (Mr. Ben Ernst), Kelly Brown (Bradley Taylor), Debrah Kalman (Lucy), David Lascher (Ted McGriff), Christine Taylor (Melody Hanson), Joe Torres (Danny Lightfoot), Josh Tygiel (Buddy Ernst), Cassie (Cassie)

Guest Stars: Robert Mammana (Bill), William Kiehl (Hank Sears), Richard Milenkovich (Mel Trout), Kari Ann Kulvinskas (Kimberly Carroll), Robert Morningstar (Mr. Satkina), Paul Elia ("Fast" Eddie Good)

Running Time: 312 Minutes (13 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio); Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
Season 1 Airdates: August 6, 1989 - October 29, 1989
Suggested Retail Price: $19.93 / DVD Release Date: July 19, 2011
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Clear Keepcase

Buy Hey Dude: Season 1 on DVD from Amazon.com

Nickelodeon launched with that name in 1979. The former Pinwheel of the pioneering Ohio-based cable system QUBE, commercial-free Nick started small, needing content from what would become A&E to fill a full 24 hours of daily air. It struggled early on, losing $4 million by 1984.
Then, a leadership change and rebranding efforts turned the channel into cable's go-to destination for children's programming.

Having had success with game shows and acquired animated series, Nickelodeon would delve into the world of original sitcoms in 1989 with "Hey Dude". This laugh track-free program depicts summer at Tucson, Arizona's Bar None Ranch, primarily from the perspective of its four teenaged staff members.

Ted McGriff (David Lascher) is a schemer cut from the same cloth as Mike Seaver and Zack Morris. As far as we see, though, Ted doesn't do as well with the ladies, his conceit cancelling out his cuteness for the two female staffers, new riding instructor Brad (Kelly Brown) and easygoing lifeguard Melody (Christine Taylor). Rounding out the group is Native American teen Danny (Joe Torres). Supervising the kids is the Rick Moranis-esque Mr. Ernst (David Brisbin), the square, divorced new owner who hails from New Jersey, along with his young son Buddy (Josh Tygiel) and his dog Cassie. There is also Sue Sylvesterian ranch hand Lucy (Debra Kalman), who dispenses advice but doesn't turn up too often.

"Hey Dude" is uttered as its title logo appears twice near the start of every episode. The four teenaged staff members of Bar None -- Danny (Joe Torres), Melody (Christine Taylor), Brad (Kelly Brown), and Ted (David Lascher) -- react to news of Buddy's disappearance.

Seeing "Hey Dude" for the first time in 2011 is to be reminded of just how long ago 1989 was. The show's original viewers are all grown-up now, some old enough to not even be considered "young" adults. The lead actors are entering middle age; Taylor turned 40 over the weekend and the others are either already there or soon to follow. The fashions -- acid wash jeans and tie-dye t-shirts -- are far enough removed to grant this a period feel (which isn't that strange, since shows made ten and fifteen years later already feel somewhat dated). The technology and sensibilities with which the show was shot bear little resemblance to those of today's television. This is as old now as the latter seasons of "Leave it to Beaver" were in the mid-1980s. "Hey Dude" even predates political correctness, something noticed in a couple of passing ethnic references to Danny that would simply never fly in a current kid's show.

From a critical point of view, "Hey Dude" has its failings. The acting is crude all around. Torres is particularly stunted; hardly a line from him is delivered naturally. The direction is largely unremarkable and the writing not too special. But the whole thing is just so much fun that you're able to forgive any technical and professional shortcomings. Not very didactic, the show has a great sense of humor and an appealing cast of immediately distinctive characters. I probably just make the cut-off for the show's original target demographic, so if you are younger or much older than me, you might well be less taken. And while it's tough to put into words why, I find this so much more enjoyable than "Hannah Montana" and its modern ilk. I can think of two kid-friendly contemporaries I prefer to "Hey Dude", but they are shows that would almost certainly make my all-time top ten TV shows list and, for not having childhood attachment, this came unexpectedly close to delivering similar pleasures. (If you don't already know from my many past references to them, the two in question are the diametric "Saved by the Bell" and Nickelodeon's "The Adventures of Pete & Pete".)

Accountant turned ranch owner Ben Ernst (David Brisbin) unveils Bar None salad dressing, among other short-lived merchandise. Buddy, Ted, and Melody break into a guest's room to confirm their suspicions that he's in the mob.

Shot on location at Tucson's real Tanque Verde Ranch (some of the regular cast members are locals, who have no further TV or film credits), "Hey Dude" ran for 65 half-hour episodes, all of which aired by the summer of 1991. Some online episode guides pin the first season at 26 episodes and indeed that many shows apparently debuted over the course of 28 weeks from August 1989 through February 1990 (with only Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve off).
But Shout Factory!, hoping to make Nickelodeon catalog DVDs work for them as they apparently did not for Viacom video unit Paramount Home Entertainment, recently released Season 1, consisting of thirteen episodes on two discs. That points to a symmetrical 5-season run, a belief supported by the fact that a 13-episode Season 2 is also currently available to download on Amazon.com and iTunes.

Shout! has managed to make a go of various TV shows dropped or denied by their owner studios. With an Amazon sales rank in the 1,000 range two weeks after release, hopefully "Hey Dude" is one of them. Solid sales numbers could pave the way for other live-action childhood favorites to come to DVD, things like "Salute Your Shorts" and maybe even the unreleased seasons of "Pete & Pete" and "Clarissa Explains It All" (though none of those have yet been confirmed to be licensed to Shout!).

Let's take a closer look at the Season 1 "Hey Dude" episodes, each of which runs 24 minutes practically on the dot.

Danny (Joe Torres) and Ted (David Lascher) explain breaking in clothes to Bar None's gullible new owner in the very first episode of "Hey Dude." Young Mets fan Buddy Ernst (Josh Tygiel) runs away with his newly befriended pony Goldilocks.

Disc 1

1. Day One at the Bar None (24:01) (Originally aired August 6, 1989)
The new and returning ranchers settle in at Bar None, along with lost new owner Mr. Ernst.

2. Battle of the Sexes (24:01) (Originally aired August 13, 1989)
To determine which is the better sex, the boys and girls compete in riding, cooking, and fishing. Also, Ted and the others pretend not to notice Danny's birthday ploys.

3. Goldilocks (24:01) (Originally aired August 20, 1989)
After learning his father has sold the pony he's bonded with, Buddy runs away with the horse. Brad needs waitress training.

4. Ted's Saddle (24:01) (Originally aired August 27, 1989)
To raise the money to buy a saddle once owned by John Wayne, Ted gets his fellow ranchers to do his work for him while he does odd jobs. Mr. Ernst plans to add a golf course.

Melody (Christine Taylor) gets through her date with collegiate Bill (Robert Mammana) by forgetting Ted's "Rehearsal for Romance" advice. Something fishy's going on with this gold watch-wearing snob (William Kiehl) and another guest in "Perfect Father."

5. The Competition (24:02) (Originally aired September 3, 1989)
Feuding Brad and Melody vie to lead overnights, with Ted overseeing various challenges. Meanwhile, Danny helps Mr. Ernst construct an advertisement for airplane travelers.

6. Rehearsal for Romance (24:01) (Originally aired September 10, 1989)
Nervous for her date with a college guy (Robert Mammana, the first guest we see), Melody turns to Ted for advice. Mr. Ernst has unflattering Bar None merchandise made and requires the staff wears it.

7. Perfect Father (24:00) (Originally aired September 17, 1989)
Mr. Ernst is sad to see Buddy admiring a paternal guest. The items in Buddy's prank and spy kits are put to use.

Mr. Ernst (David Brisbin) fashions himself a movie director in "The Good, The Bad & The Obnoxious." Bunk beds prove to be difficult for Ted and Brad to sleep in whilst handcuffed to one another.

Disc 2

8. The Good, The Bad & The Obnoxious (24:02) (Originally aired September 24, 1989)
Brad is riled by the presence of boyfriend-stealing snob Kimberly Carroll (Kari Ann Kulvinskas) as a Bar None guest. Mr. Ernst tries to film a promo for the ranch.

9. Rainmen (24:01) (Originally aired October 1, 1989)
Faced with drought, Bar None has to rely on a limited backup water supply, prompting everyone to brainstorm solutions.

10. Ted & Brad Get Handcuffed (24:01) (Originally aired October 8, 1989)
A magician skips out from Bar None, leaving his case of tricks behind and leading Ted and Brad to be handcuffed to each other with no key or locksmith in sight.

Mr. Ernst (David Brisbin) hopes to motivate his staff with the site of an Employee of the Week plaque. After a ladder fall, Danny (Joe Torres) takes things easy with comics, cola, cassettes, and the company of friends.

11. Suspicion (24:01) (Originally aired October 15, 1989)
Ted is convinced that a conference taking over the ranch is a front for mob criminals. He snoops to confirm this.

12. Employee of the Week (24:02) (Originally aired October 22, 1989)
After Mr. Ernst introduces an employee of the week incentive, efforts to win with niceness divide the staff.

13. Pain in the Neck (24:00) (Originally aired October 29, 1989)
Ted's preoccupation gets Danny injured, but he gets a little too comfortable with being worked for and waited on.

Watch a clip from Hey Dude: Season 1:

The girls are not happy to find Ted's odd job offers filling the Bar None bulletin board while they do his regular duties for him in "Ted's Saddle." Bar None Ranch is home to Bar None Lodge as the signage of this oft-used establishing shot indicates.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Hey Dude" was shot on video, which limits how good today's technology can make it look. Retaining the show's standard original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the picture ranges from just okay to pretty good. The appearance is always a bit softer and blurrier than desirable, but more specific shortcomings, like a handful of brief video glitches, are rare. In some ways, Shout! Factory is to yesteryear TV what Criterion is for classic cinema, but without the stunning restorations of the prestigious latter line. That's seemingly not because a lack of trying. I doubt "Hey Dude" would look better in the hands of another studio and suspect it'd look quite worse in some. Still, it's a little unfortunate that cost-effective production methods grant the series such an aged and underwhelming DVD presentation.

Likewise, the Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack isn't very clear. There are definitely two distinct channels and though hazy, dialogue remains intelligible throughout. But the show's sound equipment was clearly not top of the line even at the time. In scenes with Cassie, the dog's panting is oddly loud. Other random noises are also prominently picked up, most noticeably the authentic desert sounds. They paint the setting as genuine and the show slightly amateurish. Surely, when it was being produced, no thought was given to how the audio would compare to other TV shows being sold on DVD over 20 years later. The lack of both subtitles and closed captioning is unfortunate, but not unusual for Shout!, who has convincingly cited the features as cost-prohibitive, even when converting from broadcast captions. Given the choice between no DVD and an uncaptioned DVD, which fan would chose the former?

Christine Taylor looks back at her first professional acting credit in this all-new interview on "Hey Dude." Simple yet satisfying, the main menu expands and borders the cover's cast shot.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING, and DESIGN

There's just one bonus feature here but it's a great one. Disc 2 holds a new 17-minute interview with Christine Taylor. The cast's most famous alum, you may recognize Taylor as Ben Stiller's wife or as Marcia from the '90s Brady Bunch movies. You might doubt she has enough interesting recollections to sustain this piece's length, but she definitely does.
She recalls auditioning for Brad, the experience of shooting in the Arizona desert as a 17-year-old high school senior, the fashions, cast squabbles, and the show's two contrasting directors. Grounded, Taylor acknowledges the show's low-quality look and doesn't overstate its achievements, but does recognize how "Hey Dude" changed her life and has endured now that its young fans (including Paris Hilton) have grown up. Tautly edited and peppered with appropriate clips, this informative and highly enjoyable retrospective adds great value to this set. It'd be very cool if Shout! could catch up with a different cast member on every season set.

The discs' simple, sufficient main menu plays the theme music over the cover's cast photo, animating only the title logo at its start. While there are no set up options, you do have the standard choice to play all or the episode of your choosing. Episodes are divided into four chapters, with stops timed to the infrequent commercial fadeouts

"Hey Dude" is packaged in a standard clear keepcase, with the first of the two colorfully and compatibly labeled discs placed on a swinging tray. The reverse side of the cover art features pictures and welcome episode synopses. An insert promotes Shout! Factory's other Nickelodeon DVDs.

Brad (Kelly Brown) taunts a messy Ted (David Lascher) after the cooking portion of their "Battle of the Sexes." Mr. Ernst (David Brisbin) struggles in his escape demonstration.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The summer of 1989 offered children a treasure trove of delights at their local movie theaters, between Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II, Batman, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. "Hey Dude" debuted on Nickelodeon just after business began to trail off for all four of those films. Kids then, now in their late 20s and early 30s, might well consider "Hey Dude" as sacred as those blockbusters (and possibly more than some of them). This sitcom's means and motives are much more modest and its simplicity and lack of polish stand in stark contrast to the films. But it holds up as a funny and endearing show, one that paved the way for a beloved tradition of original live-action comedy that Nick continues to this day.

If you didn't grow up in the late '80s and early '90s or at least on television from then, "Hey Dude" might not do much for you. If you did, I am certain you'll get some enjoyment out of this. Shout! Factory's Season 1 DVD is basic but satisfying. Picture and sound quality are limited but adequate, the excellent bonus interview is something no other studio would bother getting, and the price is reasonable. All of that is enough to warrant a recommendation and the hope that this is just the start of Nickelodeon's prized vaults coming to DVD in generally pleasing fashion.

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Reviewed August 1, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1989 Cinetel Productions, MTV Networks, and 2011 Shout! Factory. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.