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MonsterQuest - Season Two
If you're a fan of ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night (and day), History Channel's MonsterQuest is probably one of your favorite shows. The first season of the series set up an agreeable enough premise--actual scientists would attempt to investigate various sightings of supposedly mythical beasts, as well as provide information about various real life predators that roam the wild amongst us often clueless humans. Season Two of the series has both its pluses and minuses, the former being investigations into more paranormal phenomena like the haunting of the Lizzie Borden house, and the latter being a mind-boggling array of coverage of various forms of Big Foot, who seems to be everywhere all the time, just not when there are any cameras present.
Shows like MonsterQuest definitely play better as a once a week or so viewing habit rather than swallowing them whole, so to speak, in one fell swoop. History Channel has its modus operandi for most of its recurring series, and MonsterQuest is certainly no exception. First, we get the set up for whatever the episode is covering, usually including some "eyewitness" accounts (some of which can be unintentionally hilarious), as well as a brief snippet of scientific data. Then we get intercut segments featuring the putative eyewitnesses, the scientists who are investigating, and various "field research" shots as well as dramatizations. It's a boilerplate series, and your tolerance for going through "been there, done that" will probably influence how much you ultimately enjoy the series.
I gave the first season of MonsterQuest a "Recommended" rating, and that was due in part to two things--the series and its premise were new, and the first season was only about half as long as this current one. There's ample evidence now that the show has moved into its sophomore year that there just isn't enough variety out there to sustain the series' concept. Therefore you see episodes that, while compelling, can't really be called "monsters" in the sense that the first season posited (e.g., the Borden episode). More troublingly, you get a full five episodes (out of 20 for the entire season) devoted to Bigfoot AKA Sasquatch AKA a host of other names, all seeking to describe a hairy half-man, half-ape creature that supposedly haunts the forests of most of the United States. The "fear factor" the propelled the first season of MonsterQuest seems pretty anemic in this second outing, despite some individually good episodes. While I commended the first season of the show for actually coming to conclusions about various beasts at least some of the time, the second season is hobbled by a frustrating inability to ever just come right out and say whether something is true or not.
Among the various creatures and phenomena explored in the second season of MonsterQuest are Mega Hogs (one of the more probably unintentionally funny episodes due to the bucolic eyewitness segments), Vampire Beasts (including some pretty graphic imagery of dead animals who supposedly fell victim to the title creature), Giant Killer Snakes, Super Rats, Giant Bears, Giant Squids, and Monster Spiders. In fact when listed out this way, it becomes apparent that for the second season of MonsterQuest, size is indeed important.
The curtain is pulled somewhat now that MonsterQuest attempts to sustain a second year, and we see the machinations behind the sometimes fun façade. This is a series that relies too much on the same setups, the same approaches, and, way too often in this season, the same subject matter. If this series is to live long and prosper, it needs to do a better job of finding unusual subject matters and deal with them in a more innovative manner.
Well, if you've read any of my many other History Channel DVD reviews, you know what you're about to get: yet another epic rant on why every show is released in an unenhanced 1.78:1 transfer. As I mentioned in another review, a History Channel producer actually emailed me and said it was because they needed to cater to the "lowest common denominator." How does that make you feel, buying public? Be that as it may (I'm trying to keep from continually going on about it), the image here is acceptable, nothing more. While colors are fine and contrast generally good (some of the night and underwater scenes are hard to make out), there's nothing remarkable here at all. Occasional compression artifacts also hinder the image, only made worse if you attempt to overcome the nonanamorphic image by using your zoom feature.
The standard stereo soundtrack is nominally better, with excellent fidelity helping to reproduce various creature sounds. Dialogue and narration is always front and center and easy to hear. No subtitles per se are available, though closed captioning is.
A few brief featurettes dot the five discs included in this set. Two extras on Cryptozoology and a museum devoted to the science are on Disc 1. Disc 2 offers Hybrids, not the latest Prius, but man-animal combos that pop up in various mythologies. Disc 3 features Bigfoot (as if we hadn't had enough of him already) and Mermaids. Disc 4 goes underwater for two featurettes devoted to denizens of the deep. Disc 5 rounds things out with Dragons and Thunderbirds.
MonsterQuest may have worn out its welcome. My kids were still fitfully entertained by this season, though even they started to complain by the third or fourth Bigfoot episode. Catch the occasional episode on History Channel if you're curious. Otherwise simply Rent It.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet