TV on DVD: Head of the Class: The Complete First Season (DVD)/Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet – Season 12 [Blu-Ray]

After the end of the seventies series “WKRP In Cincinnati,” star Howard Hesseman went on to more downbeat fare that, while formula, was at least a different direction. “Head of the Class” is a childhood favorite, a series I fondly remember watching as it came to a close, and then re-watching in reruns. I loved the show then, and years later it’s perfectly fine. As an eighties multi-camera prime time sitcom, it’s a serviceable and occasionally funny series about a substitute teacher who manages to take charge of a group of mismatched students with high IQ’s.

Made on the cusp of the introduction of shows like “Saved by the Bell” and “Full House” which would become the gold standard, Head of the Class: The Complete First Season is basically the same lather, rinse, repeat form of sitcom storytelling many were used to in the eighties. There’s a good diverse cast, a large group of characters we can relate to, and as an out of the ordinary curve ball, these students are exceptional, and not slackers or under achievers.

Most, if not all, of the episodes are set within the confines of the school as main character Charlie Moore struggles to get his class to work together, and experience childhood outside of the class.

Among the large roster, there’s Arvid (Dan Frischman), Darlene (Robin Givens), Simone (Khrystyne Haje), Alan (Tony O’Dell), computer geek Dennis (Dan Schneider), Sarah (Kimberly Russell), Janice (Tannis Vallely), Jawaharlal (Jory Husain), Eric (Brian Robbins) and Maria (Leslie Bega). The collective cast are all very good in their respective characters, and while the show is a decent eighties artifact, it’s more famous for the legacy it left.

Three of the cast members went on to be executives, and bit players at Nickelodeon, and of course, Robin Givens was a tabloid darling for most of the late eighties and early nineties. There isn’t much to the DVD beyond the studio putting all of the episodes on DVD for collectors of physical media. There isn’t much restoration, and the episodes are frankly only one small step above VHS SP recordings off of Television.

The DVD set has zero extras, unfortunately. But if you absolutely must collect the series (I wouldn’t hold my breathe for a Blu-Ray/4K Edition any time soon), this is a good step in the direction of owning the whole series.

After much earned resurgence, Mystery Science Theater 3000 managed to make a roaring comeback with new episodes, new movies, and a hilarious new host. Jonah Ray Rodriguez as new human sidekick Jonah Heston is a welcome breath of fresh air, adding the sarcasm and wit of Mike and Joel, while also injecting the Millennial self awareness that’s frankly hysterical.

Mix that with the return of Tom and Crow, and the legions of MST3K fans were in hog heaven. Despite a rocky season eleven (seriously those celebrity cameos became very tedious, very quickly), Netflix allowed the series a season 12 entitled Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Gauntlet which continued a small story line involving villain Kinga Forrester and her search for a husband with Max: TV’s Son of TV’s Frank.

Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt are always great, and they do a bang up job in their respective roles as the conniving villains. Heston returns with the bots once again to deliver a banner line up of some of the best modern episodes of the series by far.

Among the highlights are the absolutely hysterical riffing on “Mac and Me,” the 1988 “E.T.” rip off that stars a creepy alien, and embarrassingly blatant product placements for MacDonald’s. “Atlantic Rim” takes the Asylum mockbuster to the chopping floor, riffing on the ridiculous “Pacific Rim” wannabe, with raucously funny results. I’m also a big fan of “Ator, The Fighting Eagle,” the 1982 Conan rip off. If anything season twelve is unique in carrying the theme of skewering and mocking cinematic rip offs of more successful blockbusters.

It’s a welcome treat to see them mock knock offs of “Jaws” and “The Abyss.” The twelfth season has less filler, less padding, and so much more energy. Not to mention it introduces a few new great robot pals on the Satellite of Love (how can you not love M. Waverly and Growler?) that deserve their own Funko figures to go with Crow and Tom Servo, without a doubt. Sadly, Netflix axed the revival shortly after it ended, with much disbelief and anger from the fans. But it’s thankfully a good season to go out on, ending the series’ television legacy and giving us another line of outstanding episodes to re-visit for years. Pre-tty nice!

Sadly there aren’t any bonus features in the “Gauntlet” DVD set from Shout Factory. While previous DVD set releases (including the Rhino releases) included some top shelf material about the making of the actual movies or some extra stuff from the MST3k cast and crew, this is sorely lacking. I wish we’d gotten so much more, at the very least, I wish they’d included the live show with Jonah riffing alongside the cast and crew from the classic episodes.

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