The first season of Holliston is a strange combination of horror cheesiness and quirky humor, set within the confines of a traditional sitcom. The driving force behind Holliston is Adam Green, a minor horror auteur mostly known for his feature films, Hatchet and Frozen. He stars as the lead character in Holliston, while also handling the writing and directing duties. It’s a challenge he mostly pulls off, though its comedic material is so narrowly focused that many will miss its charms. The show was produced for broadcast on the niche horror cable channel, FEARnet.
Holliston as a concept is so old that Green originally sold it to UPN, a defunct network. Set in Holliston, Massachusetts, the series has a basic sitcom framework. Adam Green and his good friend, Joe Lynch (another veteran of the horror genre), live together as aspiring horror movie directors. To make ends meet, they work for the local cable access station under their boss, Lance Rockett, played as an aging Rock-lover by Twisted Sister’s Dee Snyder. The two friends have their own low-budget cable show with “The Movie Crypt,” a talk show devoted to horror movies.
Rounding out the main cast are Joe’s girlfriend, Laura Ortiz, and Adam’s ex-girlfriend which he constantly pines for, Corri English. Breaking out of the regular sitcom mold, Adam has an imaginary friend that occasionally shows up to provide him advice, Oderus Urungus. Oderus is an odd character that appears as a monster dressed like an Oakland Raiders’ fan, in full battle gear.
All of the characters are funny and likable, though some of the sitcom conventions tend to drag the comedic potential into the ground. The laugh track, more obnoxious here than anything I’ve seen made in the past three decades of television, is a send-up of older shows. The funniest bits are all grounded in knowing a respectable level of information and trivia about horror movies. There are a number of cameos from minor celebrities in the genre and one episode is entirely built around the antics of Tony Todd, the star of such films as Candyman. It is the funniest episode from the first season, but I am not sure how funny it would be to someone unfamiliar with Tony Todd’s long career in horror.
Holliston is a crazy, over-the-top sitcom that revels in its low-budget production, often breaking the fourth wall and stepping out of character on the show. It has a manic energy and Laura Ortiz delivers most of the best lines as the slightly insane, devoted girlfriend. The show does have a heart at its core, as this first season is built around Adam’s romantic pursuit of Corri, who simply wants to remain friends with Adam after breaking up with him three years ago. Much of the humor is slapstick and gross-out in nature, so fans of the Farrelly brothers should know what to expect from Holliston. It’s crude at times and some of the comedic acting could be better, but Holliston makes for decent entertainment for the appropriate audience.
The first season of Holliston was shot using extremely pristine digital video, using RED cameras. It has a clean, anti-septic appearance so common to modern digital shooting. The six episodes, totaling 223 minutes, are included on a BD-50 at moderate video bitrates. The AVC video encode handles the clean video footage without a hitch or artifacting. Holliston is presented at a resolution of 1080p, in its native aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
Given its RED pedigree, Holliston displays a generous amount of detail and a clarity that can only be achieved by filming interiors on a production stage. Being a sitcom, the vast majority of scenes take place in a few interior sets like Adam’s apartment and the local diner. The aesthetic is overwhelmingly bright for a sitcom based around the horror field, occasionally producing blown highlights. Black levels are typically very strong, though they are a tad elevated at times due to the overall brightness of the picture. Primary color saturation is deep and vivid, as reds and blues pop off the screen.
A hint of ringing is evident, likely due to the RED cameras which tend to produce a slight amount of aliasing and ringing. Considering the Blu-ray was produced from the raw digital files, it’s unlikely any type of sharpening or filtering was applied in postproduction. A touch of video noise intrudes in the few establishing shots filmed outside the main sets. If the pink flesh-tones weren’t washed out, it’s possible this transfer might have deserved five stars.
Make no mistake this Blu-ray has a far superior presentation of Holliston than its original broadcast on FEARnet, a channel most cable systems don’t even carry in HD.
The first thing that stands out about Holliston’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is the canned laugh track from a fake studio audience. Holliston is a sitcom, beyond the pale of normal sitcoms of course, but the uproarious canned laughter becomes obnoxious over the course of six episodes. There is a reason most networks have moved away from laugh tracks and Holliston is way over the top in its use. It sounds mixed a little too high in volume in comparison to the dialog. It would have behooved Image Entertainment to offer viewers the option to turn the laugh track off on this disc.
The sound quality is fine, if a bit conservative, befitting a sitcom. The show is driven by dialog and it’s perfectly clear and easy to understand at all times. There are some surround cues used, mostly for comedic effect. It’s not an ambitious mix, but there are a couple of surprising moments where the sound design positively adds to the experience. No one will confuse this soundtrack as demo material, but the overall sound quality and design are satisfactory for a sitcom from a niche cable channel.
No subtitles have been provided by Image Entertainment on this disc. On rare occasions, a few jokes have forced subtitles due to the context of the scene.
Image Entertainment has loaded this first season up with extra features, more than most shows these days typically get on home video.
Audio commentaries on all six episodes – The four principal cast members have fun over these commentaries, light and jovial in nature but still imparting a great deal of insight into the series. These commentaries are the clear highlight of the extra supplements.
The Road to Holliston Promos – Six different short promos for the series in HD, these are all spoofs of behind- the-scenes featurettes, made in the humor of the show.
Deleted Scenes – Three scenes in 1080p that didn’t make the final cut. The most important one is an alternate ending to episode 4, which would have served as closure to the show if it had not been renewed for a second season.
Behind The Scenes – Seven short featurettes detailing the production behind the scenes. There is nothing earth-shattering or particularly new here, but solid information for those desperate to know the inner workings of Holliston.
Sneak Peek TV Special (19:51 in 1080i) – A decent preview of the series, having originally been a promo piece run on FEARnet.
Bloopers (5:30 in 1080p) – Some funny outtakes and flubbed lines.
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