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China Beach: The Complete Series (DVD Review)

9 Jun, 2013 By: John Latchem

Available via TimeLife.com
Time Life/StarVista
$199.95 21-DVD set, $274.95 Collector’s Edition
Not rated.
Stars Dana Delany, Marg Helgenberger, Michael Boatman, Robert Picardo.

Time Life has done its typical bang-up job delivering a long-awaited TV classic to DVD, overcoming whatever obstacles it took to bring it out.

Usually, such a delay is a result of music-rights issues, and “China Beach” must have presented a doozy of a challenge for whatever legal department was tasked with clearing the episodes.

The 1988-91 series, which examined the Vietnam War through the experiences of women serving in it, relied heavily on period music to set the tone of the era. This is evident at the start of every episode, with The Supremes’ “Reflections” serving as the perfect main title music to transport the viewer back to the late 1960s.

The show focused on the lives of military personnel and a few civilians working around an Army field hospital in Danang. While the show never attracted strong ratings, it built a loyal audience and earned critical acclaim and several awards. The fourth and final season broke format a little with a flashback structure that began to explore the characters’ lives years after the war, as they returned to civilian life.

The Time Life set is elegant in its simplicity, with a handsome outer case for the four season sets and a pair of bonus discs containing a 25th anniversary cast reunion.

The extras for the individual seasons are great too, with several retrospective featurettes about the making and legacy of the series, new interviews with the stars, and commentaries on key episodes.

For a few extra bucks, true fans can splurge a bit to upgrade their set to a collector’s edition that includes three commemorative scripts from the series.

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