- The Washington Times
Friday, May 18, 2018

Here’s a look at a couple of TV shows starring eccentric scientists and now available in the DVD format.

Rick and Morty: Season 3 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated TV-MA, 227 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $22.99) — Another too-short season offering the animated adventures of a gaseous, alcoholic genius and his grandson arrives to take viewers on a gut-busting trip through the galaxies.

Demented and often too-clever creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland kept the life of Rick Sanchez, his daughter Beth Smith and her family (husband Jerry and offspring Morty and Summer) as complex as ever with a 10-episode season now available in the visually watered down DVD format.

With storylines dealing with Rick deciding to live as a pickle, the importance of McDonald’s Szechuan dipping sauce, the ramification of a giant-sized Summer, Morty taking control of the Citadel and revelations tied to Mr. Poopybutthole, viewers were mesmerized by the hilarious shenanigans.

Lovers of real and wildly theoretical science as well as bloody action, occasional raunch and a steady stream of belching will find plenty to digest in the season.

Other than a lack of episodes, my only other beef with the set is the subpar quality of watching the shows in a DVD format. Characters are often pixelated around the edges and visuals just lack sharpness, even when watching upscaled on a 4K Blu-ray player.

Best extras: Every episode offers at least one optional commentary track, and often more than one, to hear from tortured artists Mr. Roiland and Mr. Harmon (“we don’t know what we are doing”) as well as such cast and crew members as Chris Parnell (Jerry Smith), storyboard artist Erica Hayes, director Wes Archer and art director Jeffrey Thompson.

Heck, even celebrity fans of the show get to comment as heard when veteran alternative rockers Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson (that’s right) discussed the first episode of season, “The Rickshank Rickdemption.”

The pair occasionally react to the screen and compliment the show but often talk about Mr. Manson’s sexual shenanigans and his fixation on cartoon characters having four fingers and a thumb. It’s pure lunacy from the duo but pretty funny.

Also, comedian Russell Brand offers some insight on one episode (with the creators no less) and even members of the “Game of Thrones” team — co-creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) — get into the commentary fun.

Also, viewers can watch the animatic (the rough, preliminary layout of a show shown in slightly animated storyboards with sound); short, behind-the-scenes interviews for every episode; and an 8-minute look at the origin of “Rick and Morty.”

Genius(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated TV-14, 500 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $29.98) — Creator Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer’s anthology period drama about the life of eccentric physicist Albert Einstein arrives on DVD for fans of science, as well as soap operas, to binge-watch one man’s rocky evolution into one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

The 10-epsiode series, based on Walter Isaacson’s book “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” starred Johnny Flynn as a young Einstein and Geoffrey Rush as the elder Einstein offering viewers the full breadth of his imaginative as well as manic life.

For the science, viewers watch Einstein interact with distinguished researchers such as Max Plank (theoretical physicist who discovered energy quanta), Niels Bohr (physicist who worked on atomic structure and quantum theory) and Marie Curie (pioneer in radiation research) as he formulates his theory of relativity.

For the drama, we get Einstein’s religion and theories under constant attack from some of his peers, including Nazi physicist Philipp Lenard, and learn about the events surrounding his decision to leave Germany just as it started to turn favorable to Hitler’s Third Reich.

For the soap opera, we learn about the tragedy of his first wife Mileva Maric (Samantha Colley). A horribly unhappy human who goes from a potentially brilliant mathematician and physicist to miserable spouse and mother saddled to her philandering and often absent husband.

The series also really highlights the humanity and inhumanity of the times as Einstein lives through two world wars.

On the negative, we meet his friend Fritz Haber (Richard Topol) who was considered the “father of chemical warfare” for his years of pioneering work on weaponizing poisonous gases during World War I, even supervising their effects on the battlefield.

On the positive, we meet American Counsel to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Raymond Geist (Vincent Kartheiser). He secured a visa for the Einsteins (originally rejected by J. Edgar Hoover) and would eventually get over 50,000 Jews out of Nazi-controlled Germany.

Additionally, through some visual-effects wizardry, viewers can watch a bit of what was going on in Einstein’s mind as he continued to refine and formulate his theories.

Despite the riveting subject matter and excellent performances from the National Geographic Channel series, viewing the episodes in the antiquated DVD, 480p resolution format does a great disservice to some of the wonder locations shown in the film, and the excellent period costuming and production design that all would have looked fantastic in the 1080p, high-definition format.

Best extras: First, viewers get seven short vignettes (under 3 minutes each) introducing Albert, Elsa and Mileva Maric through the actors portraying them along with spotlights on Mr. Rush, Mr. Flynn, Miss Watson and Miss Colley that duplicate some of the character segment information.

Next, another batch of short promotional featurettes touch on Einstein’s love life, his escape from Hitler, the costumes and make-up of the series and what it means to be a genius, with interviews with Mr. Howard and the actors.

Now, I would have easily ignored all of the promotional pabulum for simply a deeper documentary on Einstein such as the History Channel’s “Life of Einstein,” which would have been a wonderful companion piece to the DVD set.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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