Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Each of the Bear In the Big Blue House DVDs tries to stick to a theme, and the newest one is no exception. On Visiting With Doctor, we find three shows that deal with the medical concept and try to set kids’ minds at ease in that regard.
Each episode of the series follows a pretty standard format. At the very start of the program, we enter the Big Blue House and meet our host Bear (voiced by Noel McNeal). He tells us how we smell - in a more pleasant way than one might fear - and enter the show’s theme. At some point, we almost always see an encounter between Bear and Shadow (voiced by Tara Mooney), and the episodes always end with a chat between Bear and Luna (Lynne Thigpen), the moon, who settle us down for the evening.
While Potty Time With Bear offered a more vague examination of toilet-training habits, Visiting With Doctor takes a stronger look at that area. “Picture of Health” finds Bear as he informs the other inhabitants of the Big Blue House about the importance of exercise and proper diet. He educates mouse Tutter (Peter Linz) and otters Pip and Pop (Linz and Tyler Bunch) about these areas.
In “That Healing Feeling”, Tutter injures his tail. Bear takes him to see Ol’ Dog Hog (Bunch) to fix things. Despite some misgivings and fears, Tutter discovers that going to the doctor is a positive experience.
Lastly, during “The Big Blue Housecall”, all of the inhabitants get checkups. Dog Hog comes to the abode and he meets with each of them to examine their general health. Some additional fears precede his arrival on the premises, but Bear and kindly Doc Hog do their best to ease the folks’ qualms and show that regular check-ups are a necessary part of good health.
Because my childhood days are long gone, I can't really estimate Bear's appeal to that crowd, but I'd guess it should play well. The characters are sweet and friendly and all offer distinctive and gently witty personalities, and the shows encompass a small scope but keep the pace moving at an acceptably quick pace.
All three shows are pleasant and charming. Although the proceedings remain low-key for the most part, they provide some fun and laughs for kids throughout the program. The scripts are relatively clever and even though the songs are very derivative, they still have some bounce and spark. Will I ever watch Bear again? Not a chance, but if I had kids, I'd be more than happy to let them view the show; it seems like a very well produced children's program.
Curiosities: of the nine Bear episodes I’ve seen, I believe that “Big Blue Housecall” is the only one that doesn’t feature Shadow. However, it’s been almost two years since I inspected the three shows on Party Time With Bear, so I could be mistaken. Also, “Health” and “Healing” both feature identical Shadow segments in which she tells the same story! I guess maybe they should call this Budget Cutbacks In the Big Blue House.
The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio C+ / Bonus D
Bear in the Big Blue House: Party Time With Bear appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although it betrayed some flaws at times, the DVD offered a pretty good picture.
Sharpness seemed consistently fine throughout the program, with very little softness on display. Moiré effects never caused a problem, but I did notice a number of examples of jagged edges throughout the shows. Since the program comes from videotape, no grain or other print flaws appeared, but the original material seemed just a bit flat.
Colors were a strong point of this DVD; as one might expect from a kids' show, hues were fairly bold and brilliant, and they looked quite nice. Only the semi-drabness that resulted from the original videotape kept them from being absolutely top-notch all the time. Black levels were adequate, and shadow detail looked pretty appropriate. All in all, the DVD looked very good.
The stereo soundtrack of Bear was decent but fairly unambitious. Most of the audio seemed virtually monaural, with almost all dialogue and effects emanating from the center channel. Music spread nicely to the side speakers but still remained pretty centered.
Quality was adequate, with clear and relatively natural speech most of the time. During a few episodes, I heard some mildly edgy speech, but lines remained easily intelligible and they were usually fine. The modest effects came across as clean but a little thin, and the music sounded acceptably broad. As a whole, the track lacked much depth, which was a minor disappointment. Party Time offered similarly lackluster tones, but the newer Potty Time With Bear provided surprisingly robust bass. Unfortunately, those elements weren’t reproduced here. As with the others, I remain surprised that the Bear programs don’t include any form of surround track, but what I heard seemed acceptable for the material.
Visiting With Doctor tosses in a few extras, but not many. We get trailers for Dragontales, Bear In the Big Blue House, Trumpet of the Swan, and Jay Jay the Jet Plane. In addition, we find Sing-Along Songs for “Picture of Health”, “Everybody Say Ah”, “Goodbye Song”, and “Hello Doctor”.
On its own, Bear in the Big Blue House: Visiting the Doctor With Bear doesn't hold much appeal for adults, but it seems like a lot of fun for kids, and adults who want to watch along with their little ones will probably find the experience to be enjoyable. Picture and sound are both good, though the DVD lacks substantial extras. Overall, the Bear series remains a good choice for younger viewers and those terrified of porcine physicians.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6666 Stars|| Number of Votes: 6|