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Clifford: Best Buddies
Clifford is possibly the most gentle, consistent cartoon ever produced. If you've seen one, you've seen them all, yet in their harmless, kind-hearted way, they are all gems. If you don't know, Clifford is a red dog as big as a house. He spends his days playing with his dog friends Cleo and T-Bone in an idyllic island town, while his youthful owner Emily Elizabeth plays with her friends or scrubs Clifford with a push broom. Best Buddies collects six ten-minute episodes of no particular thematic similarity, save that Clifford, Emily Elizabeth, etc. spend time with their friends and generally try to be nice to each other.
Present are: Cleo Comes To Town in which Clifford and T-Bone reminisce about meeting Cleo for the first time, and Ears Have It, which details Cleo and Clifford's efforts to get T-Bone used to loud noises, so he can enjoy a fireworks display. Also, there is A Ferry Tale, which shows Clifford competing with Jetta's dog Mac for a chance to be on a magazine cover, and Jetta's Sneak Peek, that finds Emily Elizabeth's friend Jetta peeping into her diary, and jumping to a silly conclusion. Lastly, we get Promises, Promises, about Jetta ditching on Emily's planned visit to Seal Cove in favor of a better offer - and suffering the consequences, and Saturday Morning, in which T-Bone loses out on his usual Saturday fun with his owner Sheriff Louis, but finds other fun with Clifford.
Of course Clifford never got to run the full course, with the untimely death of Clifford's voice buddy John Ritter, (note that I do not know whether the series wrapped prior to Ritter's death, regardless, no-one could ever have filled his shoes) so many, if not all, of these episodes will be familiar to even the most casual Clifford viewer. There really isn't anything tying these stories together, either, other than the concepts of friends treating each other with dignity, and accepting their faults as they become apparent. To that end, every single episode of Clifford deals with the same concept, though in later practice adults have to sometimes accept that they can't deal with their friends' faults any more, and often move on. That said, you can't get a better animated foundation for human relations than you can from watching a giant red dog (who's really verrry gentle) as he plays with his friends.
This collection is nothing special, save for the fact that Clifford is very special, and if you've really got a bead on your kids' quirks, and their interpersonal lives - plus a photographic memory - you may be able to translate events from their lives into corresponding episodes of Clifford, screening relevant episodes to help you teach life lessons. As for me, I'll simply always love the strangled syntax of the Clifford theme song, and feel something akin to righteousness whenever I let my daughter watch this DVD.
Presented in their original fullframe broadcast ratio of 1.33:1, these episodes (depending on your screening gear) look about as good (plus or minus) as they do on the old TeeVee. By my lights, I'm spotting more aliasing on these episodes than I'm aware of when watching them over the air, plus my DVD player I think tends to blow out Clifford's shiny red coat a bit. Everything else looks fairly spiffy.
Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio is crisp, clean, clear and well balanced, free of any defects, and free of the zazzle you might expect from the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Extras are limited to a Spanish 2.0 Audio Track, Closed Captioning and six animated Speckles Stories, which are the bedtime stories Emily Elizabeth reads to Clifford sometimes. These stories are painfully cute, and about 90 seconds each.
You can't go wrong with Clifford, and your preschooler, even if unborn at this reading, already loves him, so get used to it. These six 11-minute episodes don't cohere around a particular theme other than "be nice to each other," so even despite a huge raft of extras or anything, I can award this nothing less than a Recommended rating.