Remember when Garfield mania swept across North America in the eighties? I sure do. In fact, my best friend hit an unprecedented height of popularity in the third grade when it was determined that he could draw Garfield better than any of the other kids in our class. This made him 'the man' for about two months, as he'd sketch Jim Davis' cantankerous creation on binders, book covers, pencil cases and desktops across Martha Culimore Elementary School. Those were the days…
After a few cartoon specials, Garfield got his own Saturday morning show in the form of Garfield And Friends. Fox, to cash in on the recent release of Garfield – The Movie has released the entire first season to DVD, spread out with eight episodes per disc, twenty-four episodes in total. Each episode consisted of two Garfield sketches and one U. S. Acres. This lesser known property was kinda-sorta based on Orwell's Animal Farm, but not really. It was essentially a bunch of talking farm animals getting into trouble and the hi-jinks that ensued because of it.
At any rate, the show ran from 1988 until 1994, when it was cancelled as Garfields popularity began to wean. Looking back on the show, I remember it being cleverly written and much funnier than most of the television fodder that was fed to use at the time. Much like in the comic strip and collections thereof, Garfield was a sarcastic cat with a mean streak in him who only really thought about himself. Having had six cats in my lifetime, most of them shared these traits and while none of them talked or scaled buildings for lasagna, they did like to sleep a lot and were prone to slapping the family dog around every once in a while, just to keep him in check.
Part of the reason for the shows success and by Saturday morning cartoon standards, long lifespan, was due not only to the respectful adaptation of the source material, but also to the witty writing of chief writer Mark Evanier. Mark's name might sound familiar to anyone who read Groo The Wanderer, a comic book that was published by Pacific and then later by Epic (a division of Marvel Comics). Evanier is a talented comedy writer and was the perfect choice to flesh out the brief ideas that Davis had thought up for his strips. Sure, they added some characters and made a few changes for television, but in order to bring something that happens in three to six panels to animated life, this is to be expected. Thankfully though, the animation studio that was chose to do the work retained the look and the feel of Jim Davis' simple style, making the end result truly feel like his strips brought to life.
Here are the episodes contained on the set, and the titles from each of the three sketches contained therein:
Episode 1 - Peace And Quiet, US Acres: Wanted – Wade, Garfield Goes Hawaiian.
Episode 2 - Box O' Fun, US Acres: Unidentified Flying Orson, School Daze.
Episode 3 - Nighty Nightmare, US Acres: Banana Nose, Ode To Odie.
Episode 4 - Fraidy Cat, US Acres: Shell Shocked Sheldon, Nothing To Sneeze At.
Episode 5 - Garfield's Moving Experience, US Acres: Wade – You're Afraid!, Good Mousekpeeing.
Episode 6 - Identity Crisis, US Acres: The Bad Sport, Up A Tree.
Episode 7 - Weighty Problem, US Acres: The Worm Turns, Good Cat Bad Cat.
Episode 8 - Cabin Fever, US Acres: Return Of The Power Pig, Fair Exchange.
Episode 9 - The Binky Show, US Acres: Keeping Cool, Don't Move!
Episode 10 - Magic Mutt, US Acres: Short Story, Monday Misery.
Episode 11 - Best Of Breed, US Acres: National Tapioca Pudding Day, All About Odie.
Episode 12 - Caped Avenger, US Acres: Shy Fly Guy, Green Thumbs Down.
Episode 13 - Forget Me Not, US Acres: I Like Having You Around, Sales Resistance.
Episode 14 - Pest Of A Guest, US Acres: The Impractical Joker, Fat & Furry.
Episode 15 - Rip Van Kitty, US Acres: Grabbity, The Big Catnap.
Episode 16 - The Great Getaway, US Acres: Scrambled Eggs, Hansel And Garfield.
Episode 17 - The Sludge Monster, US Acres: Fortune Kooky, Heatwave Holiday.
Episode 18 - One Good Fern, US Acres: Goody-Go-Round, The Black Book.
Episode 19 - The Legend Of The Lake, US Acres: Double Oh Orson, Health Feud.
Episode 20 - Binky Gets Cancelled, US Acres: Show Stoppers, Cutie And The Beast.
Episode 21 - The Lasagna Zone, US Acres: Sleepytime Pig, Yojumbo.
Episode 22 - Pros And Cons, US Acres: Rooster Revenge, Lights! Camera! Garfield!
Episode 23 - Polecat Flats, US Acres: Hogcules, Brain Boy.
Episode 24 - Maine Course, US Acres: No Laughing Matter, Attack Of The Mutant Guppies.
This DVD maintains the original aspect ratio of the original television broadcast, fullframe 1.33.1. Picture quality suffers from a tiny bit of print damage in the form of dust speckles and a bit of grain, as well as some mild edge enhancement in pretty much every episode. This is fairly common in older animated shows, but regardless, it's here and you can't help but notice it in a few spots. Other than that though, the colors are really reproduced quite nicely, and there's not much to complain about as far as evidence of MPEG compression goes.
You have your choice of watching the show in Dolby Digital mono in either the original English language, or dubbed in Spanish. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also included. There aren't any problems with this track, it sounds as good as it ever did on TV and while it is mono, therefore lacking any channel separation or anything like that, it is a clean track with well balanced levels and decent sounding dialogue.
Sadly, the only extra feature at all on this collection is the trailer for Garfield – The Movie, which can be found in all its CGI badness on the second disc in the set.
Despite the lack of any real extra features, Garfield And Friends – Season One looks and sounds good enough. The show holds up better than I thought that it would and while I did enjoy it more when I was younger than I did recently, its still got its share of clever humor and oddball characters. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.