The MLB Network's "Prime 9" series has two likely audiences: the most casual fan and the hardcore devotee. Assembling nine episodes of the series, "Prime 9: MLB Heroics" offers viewers a chance to take a trip down memory lane through themed best-of lists, each running 20-24 minutes a piece. While the hardcore devotee will enjoy "Prime 9" for the discussion value amongst friends (the intro hints at the idea of the episodes inspiring debate), the casual fan will take away a nice, lean compact historical perspective on a variety of feats as well as players.
The most entertaining episodes of "Prime 9" come centered around momentary feats, specifically "Greatest Home Runs," "All-Star Moments," "Plays at the Plate," "Regular Season Catches," and "Comebacks." In these episodes moments of athleticism are put on display spanning decades of baseball history. Seasoned fans will likely be able to predict certain moments that make the list (the famed "shot heard 'round the world" being the most obvious), but there are some inclusions that wind up being real head scratchers, even for a casual fan like myself, most notably the moment picked as the greatest catch, which compared to the two preceding moments (by Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr., respectively!) just doesn't seem that special. Nitpicking aside, these types of episodes are fun diversions, not meant to be taken seriously.
Rounding out the set are more generalized comprehensive themes, such as "Hitting Seasons," "Best World Series," and "Pitching Seasons." Here, "Prime 9's" use of a variety of commentators, from journalists to historians, to the players themselves, is the highlight, as each group gives their own perspective for the selection. The most exciting inclusions are from baseball's past, when viewers are treated to rare footage of greats like Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth, as well as interviews with surviving players of the 40s and 50s. Of all the episodes, these will likely draw the greatest sources of debate, with team allegiances clouding decisions and differing viewpoints taking weight, however, one remaining episode, stands out as the highlight of series.
"Unbreakable Feats" is a truly unique episode and makes up for the complete omission of the controversial but fun "Greatest Players" lists. Here, "Prime 9" examines great baseball records and offers commentary on why some will never be broken. Cy Young's career wins, Nolan Ryan's career strikeouts, and Rickey Henderson's career steals are just three of the nine records examined, and for the most part, it's hard to argue with the selections. "Unbreakable Feats" allows commentators to analyze how the game has changed, rendering some of these records nearly impossible to match and in the process gives a light education of how the game of baseball has changed over the years.
While ultimately lightweight and lacking much replay value, "Prime 9: MLB Heroics" is a fun three-hour collection of baseball memories and history that has something for everyone. As a very casual fan it was a treat seeing the famous Walter Fisk Game 6 home run immortalized in "Good Will Hunting" covered as well as some legendary moments in otherwise mundane games of decades gone by. Not a home run release, but a solid base hit.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is all over the board. Interview footage filmed for the series is average for a television production, with reasonably natural coloring and minimal compression issues. Post 2000 footage looks the best, but compression rears its ugly head slightly, but nothing as bad as 70s-90s footage, which is often a mess of digital noise and annoying heavy edge enhancement. The black-and-white footage of baseball's heyday actually looks the best, although many fans will be annoyed at the cropping for widescreen presentation. For the most part the action isn't affected but a handful of clips suffer from some very awkward framing in post game interviews.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is solid, with well-balanced narration and archival footage sound. The oldest footage doesn't sound as bad as one might expect, with pops and hisses kept to a minimum.
In good faith, I can't recommend anyone run out and purchase "Prime 9: MLB Heroes." While I had a blast watching it, save for one or two episodes, I can't see much reason to revisit it. Now for the hardcore baseball fan, it makes a nice addition to a decent collection of baseball films and documentaries, but that is where its long-term appeal will end. Add to that, the sub-par archival footage for the 70s-90s era of baseball, and "Prime 9" is a one-and-done affair. Rent It.