2013 Shout! Factory boxed set (complete series)

Here are some links to reviews of the 2013 Shout! Factory complete MH2 DVD set.  There aren't many showing up yet, which is presumably due to the fact that there are so many hours to watch before a critic can offer a truly informed judgement, even if he or she is already familiar with the series from its original run. For reviews of the 2007 Sony's obsolete 2007 DVD release, click here.

In order of descending usefulness (most useful reviews first):

The Onion AV Club makes up for its rather superficial review of the 2007 Sony set with this extremely well researched and sympathetic write up of the show for their "100 episodes" series.  Strangely, there is no mention at all of the new DVD set, but it's clear that this article could not have been written without it (the author plugs the set only in the comments section). 

Traditionally, MH2 is described as a soap-opera parody. . . some people watch the series for the stories, propelled by dramatic excitement, and others watch for the comedy, all straight-faced exaggeration. The idea was to serve both audiences, and in so doing, the writers trap Mary in the tension between the soap and the satire, between the life she’s been sold and a greater awareness. In that opening scene, what’s obvious to Cathy is something that Mary can barely discern. A nightmarish close-up shows Mary staring directly into the camera, into domestic spaces across America, searching for signs of gunk on society. “It is a little yellow, isn’t it?”

More than anything, MH2’s mixture of involving melodrama and absurdist detachment laid the groundwork for its closest successor, Twin Peaks, making Mary a spiritual ancestor of the turn-of-the-century renaissance in TV drama. Ultimately the legacy of MH2 is self-consciousness, its awareness of itself—of life—as a ridiculous soap opera that must still be taken seriously. 

One of the few sites to give the 2007 release a fair shake, here's another well written and insightful review of the new set which confers DVD Talk's highest honor, "DVD Talk Collector Series" status:

. . .in the eyes of most home video producers, MH2 was marginal yet voluminous. . . . Usually described as a parody of then-popular, network-produced "daytime dramas" but really an almost indescribable subtle satire of suburban American blandness and consumerism, MH2 was genuinely subversive. . .

MH2's success lay in its utter deadpannedness. It plays like a parody of soap operas because it follows the form so exactly, to the point where those not in on the joke might at first mistake it for a genuine article.

Well-informed user review by Richard Gallagher on the home theater forum called, well, Home Theater Forum. While an extremely useful, thorough examination of the technical aspects of the DVD set, this post offers only a bare bones critical overview of the series itself. 

First things first - the Shout! Factory box set of MH2 appears to have rectified all of the problems which plagued the 2007 set of the show's first 25 episodes, several of which turned out to be edited. . . . The missing scenes have been restored and the duplicated kitchen scene appears only in episode 23. . . . we have learned from knowledgeable HTF members that two episodes - #174 and #204 - had to be cut because of music clearance issues. That is unfortunate but apparently unavoidable.

Fans of MH2 will be thrilled to see the show look so good on DVD, and they will be even happier to know that all but the aforementioned two episodes appear to be complete.

Written by a loyal viewer of MH2's original run, and it shows. This is an enthusiastic, intelligent love letter that reads almost as a plea to readers to rediscover this neglected classic. By Jeff Burger of The Morton Report.

 Lasser has suggested that people are wrong to call the show ahead of its time. In fact, she says, it was instead an excellent mirror of society when it first aired in 1976 and 1977 and it remains so today.  I take her point, but as a television show, it was definitely a leap ahead when it debuted, and in some ways it still is. .

MH2 rang true because it reflected so much of what we saw in our everyday lives—consumerism, sensationalism and absurdity are three words that come to mind. But what exactly was this show? It was too funny to be a soap opera, too serious and poignant to be a sitcom..

It can take a little while to get sucked in and to understand just what Lear and his writing team are up to here. Lasser says even she didn’t “get it” until sometime after they’d shot two pilots. But hang in there. You’ll find that like The HoneymoonersMary Hartman manages to shift gears effortlessly between hilarious and poignant moments.

Relatively short, but still well worth a glance. Written by Mike Gencarelli of Media Mikes. I disagree with his criticism of the picture quality, which is far superior to DVD releases of other Norman Lear sitcoms of the era, and a bit of an improvement over the Sony 2007 set.  Also, the fact that we get any bonus features at all is a gift horse whose mouth I wouldn't look too deeply into.  The two documentary features included are excellent, and we also get 10 episodes of the spin off series, Fernwood 2 Nite. Sony gave us nothing! Still, you don't have to agree with every point made to see this is a worthwhile review.

 I never caught the show in its original run but it is still as entertaining as it was when it first aired. A must have for any fan of the series! 

I would love to say that the episodes look pristine and are perfectly restored but I wasn’t terribly blown away with the DVD transfer of the episodes. They are not terrible just show their age a bit. In terms of special features, I was a little bit last down with the lack of commentary tracks.

Not much longer than a capsule review, and not too much content that you can't find in any of the more in-depth reviews. By Sean Axmaker of Cinephiled.

. . . [MH2] developed a loyal following and critical acclaim and 35 years later feels all the more contemporary and prescient. 

The series holds up surprisingly well, thanks to smart writing, a superb cast, and its perfect evocation of the soap opera style. There’s not even a laugh track, which might have confounded some viewers who didn’t pick up on the tongue-in-cheek treatment, but it fits right in with the modern trend of TV comedies. 

This essentially worthless article was initially full of obvious errors until I posted a nasty comment calling them out. To the site's credit, the errors have all since been corrected-- the only problem is that now I can't delete my nasty comment, which references all kinds of things that aren't there any more.

Well, it's no longer factually a mess, but it is still, unfortunately, essentially worthless. The author very likely put this together with little (if any) viewing of the shows themselves. I'm not even including pull quotes, it's that useless. Included only because I'm trying to make this list as complete as possible.