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Coach - The First Season

Universal // Unrated // June 13, 2006
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Lombardo | posted June 27, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Opening Thoughts: I'll be honest, for some reason I never watched Coach when it was originally broadcast or in syndication. I'm pretty sure my blind love of Seinfeld had something to do with it. Any way, if there's one thing I've discovered with TV on DVD, it's the joy of finding a show you passed up and now have the opportunity to experience. I'm hoping Coach will be one of these TV shows.


Coach follows Hayden Fox (Craig T. Nelson), the head football coach of the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles. The primary location of the show is Hayden's office, where we usually find him and two of his coaches Luther Van Dam (Jerry Van Dyke) and Dauber Dybinski (Bill Fagerbakke). Both coaches are hilarious in their own way and always seem to have something to say. Assistant coach Van Dam is pessimistic at heart and is always expecting the worst. Quite the opposite, coach Dauber is basically your dumb jock stereotype. A former player at Minnesota State, Dauber is in his seventh year at MS and still trying to graduate. Then there's Hayden's daughter Kelly (Clare Carey), who decided to attend Minnesota State as a freshman. Hayden finds himself constantly trying to re-establish his relationship with Clare now that she's back in his life. Due to his divorce, Hayden didn't spend much time with Clare when she was growing up and now feels he has a second chance. Finally to round out the main cast we get to Christine Armstrong (Shelley Fabares), Hayden's girlfriend. Christine is a local news reporter who Hayden' usually spends his weekends with, but finds himself becoming closer to every day.

Coach comes off a winner largely because of the show's great cast and setting. Craig T. Nelson plays Coach Fox as a "man's man" and makes it clear that you know that. He has great comedic timing and a wide range of expressions to help him pull off the lead role. Jerry Van Dyke and Bill Fagerbakke are Nelson's comedic sidekicks and they do the job wonderfully. While Fagerbakke plays dumb with the best of them, Van Dyke's humor is usually well placed and more subtle. This really delivers a great one-two punch behind Nelson. The two ladies of the show, Shelley Fabares and Clare Carey, do a great job keeping the show grounded. Both provide plenty of story material that helps flush out the show and do an excellent job holding their own with Craig T. Nelson.

Of course the show's setting is the other big factor in Coach's success. College football is a huge force in American culture and head coaches are often elevated to iconic levels. With Coach you have a fairly big state school, but not a huge powerhouse football school like USC, Florida or Ohio Sate. This presents plenty of problems for coach Fox to deal with like recruiting, fund raising and administration. The show's physical setting in Minnesota also gives it a unique feel. Coach Fox's cabin has a great feeling to it and provides a great alternative set for the characters to inhabit. All these elements come together and make Coach a very funny and unique sitcom. That alone is an accomplishment in itself.

Here are the Season One episodes of Coach and a brief summary of each (as per the DVD liner notes):

  1. 03/01/89 – The Pilot (aka Love Me Tender): Hayden's fatherly instincts are awakened when Kelly comes back to Minnesota for college. But his relationship with Christine might be in for a change.
  2. 02/28/89 – Kelly and the Professor: Hayden is perplexed when he learns that Kelly plans to go on a date with one of her professors. He gets her schedule, tries to guess which professor it is, and then the meddling begins.
  3. 03/08/89 – Kelly, Meet Christine: Hayden's nerves take over when he introduces Christine to Kelly. The awkward night finally ends, but now Christine is upset that Hayden wasn't more honest with Kelly about their relationship.
  4. 03/15/89 – I'm In Love with A Boy Named Stuart: Hayden hates Kelly's new boyfriend, Stuart, a sensitive theater arts major. But when the team mascot suddenly quits and Hayden must find a replacement, he turns to Stuart for help.
  5. 03/22/89 – The Loss Weekend: It's going to be a great weekend for Hayden! Kelly will be in the stands cheering for his team and Christine is going to spend the weekend with him at the cabin. But the weekend goes up in smoke when his team loses for the third straight time.
  6. 04/05/89 – Gambling for Meat: Hayden's team suffers a humiliating loss, but even worse, Luther bets against the team and wins! To avoid NCAA sanctions, Hayden must suspend Luther… which is only the beginning of his trouble with is assistant coach.
  7. 04/12/89 – 19 Candles: To celebrate Kelly's 19th birthday, Hayden plans the usual – dinner out for the two of them. But when Kelly brings Stuart, Hayden's mood changes and the night disintegrates into anger and tears.
  8. 04/19/89 – Parent's Weekend: Hayden's homely ex-wife, Beth, is coming for Parents' Weekend. Hayden hasn't told Beth about Christine because he didn't want to upset her, but when a newly slim and attractive Beth shows up, Christine is the one who gets nervous.
  9. 04/27/89 – I'm Sorry I Told You My Wife Was Dead: The team's most ardent – and wealthy – fan dies, and Hayden expects a sizable donation form his will. But when the widow decides to give the money to medical research, Hayden begins a series of lies tot get the money donated to the athletic department.
  10. 05/03/89 – Define Romance: Christine invites Hayden to the opera, but he declines, leaving the door open for her to invite someone else. Hayden is jealous, but Christine says she has a right… unless he opts to define their relationship.
  11. 05/17/89 – Whose Team is it, Anyway?: Hayden's team has a chance at a winning season…if they beat their last opponent. But this goal is threatened when their star player decides he is more important than the team and stops abiding by the team rules.
  12. 05/31/89 – Hoot, Hoot Hike: Kelly's new dance instructor creates a ballet around the passion of football and asks Hayden to be her technical advisor. He quickly discovers her ulterior motive for enlisting his participation.
  13. 06/07/89 – Dauber's Blow-Out: It's the end of the season and Dauber plans to hold his annual out-of-control celebration. But Riley Pringle, band director and notoriously prickly head of the Conduct Committee, has an alternative plan to keep everyone in line.


Video: Coach is presented in its original broadcast format of 1.33:1. The picture is rather soft and it lacks a good amount of detail. There is also plenty of grain present and occasionally some small dirt/print damage. On the other hand, colors look accurate and black levels are decent. All these things are pretty typical for a late 80's TV show and are a result of the filming equipment used at the time. Hopefully with subsequent seasons we'll see improvements in the picture quality.

Sound: For the audio on this release, Coach was given a sole English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack. Much like the video from TV sitcom productions of this period, the sound is somewhat lacking compared to today's standards. There's some constant background hissing, but it's not that noticeable. Dialogue sounds somewhat thin, but overall gets the job done. The DVD is also is subtitled in English for the deaf/hard-of-hearing.

Extras: Sadly, this is where the DVD is really lacking. No commentaries, no interviews, no delete scenes, nada. There are only two special features (if you can call them that) and that's it. The first extra is a season two episode entitled "Homewreckers". This seemed like a strange bonus feature to have on this set, especially considering the majority of people who buy this DVD will probably pick up the second season. The other bonus feature on this set is also pretty lame. "The Great '80s TV Flashback" is basically a half hour long promo piece done by Universal to help sell their TV shows on DVD. Not really worth your time unless you never heard of Night Rider, Quantum Leap, The A-Team or Miami Vice.

This is not really an extra, but the limited edition packaging of Coach Season One is very nice. The DVD's come in a small clipboard that looks and feels like a football. Inside the DVD's are housed in two double-sided sleeves and attached to a small ring binder. There is also a "Play Book" that lists all the episodes (with summaries).

Final Words: I'm glad to report that I really enjoyed the first season of Coach. Before I knew it, I had torn through all 13 episodes of Season One. Hopefully we won't have to wait long to see Season Two on DVD, because I'm really looking forward to it. Even though the DVD presentation was somewhat sub par, the quality episodes of Coach Season One makes it well worth checking out. Let's hope we see some improvements in picture quality and extras on the Season Two DVD. Recommended.

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