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April 10, 2010
Stephen Fry in America Blu-Ray Review
TV Air Date Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
200818/8/2009MadmanVarious
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0MStephen Fry

THE MOVIE
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Stephen Fry visits Sin City, Las Vegas.

Gamers would know him from voiceovers in games such as LittleBigPlanet and Fable II, people in their 40's would know him from British TV including Blackadder as well as British Radio and Theatre. Stephen Fry is one of the most well known comedians and presenters the world over and in this series he tours the United States of America visiting all sorts of locations and people.

Stephen Fry's journey across the vast country in a black English cab takes him to a whiskey distillery in Kentucky, lava fields in Hawaii, an Amish community in Wisconsin and a brothel in Nevada, as well as hunting in New York State, sailing on an America's Cup boat in Rhode Island, basket weaving with Navajo Indians and meeting environmental activists in Oregon. Stephen is shown the country by its proud citizens as he drives across the continent uncovering the idiosyncrasies that makes each state individual and the similarities that make America distinct.

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Mount Rushmore makes an appearance...
There are a few positives and negatives to Stephen Fry in America. First of all Stephen Fry is a natural, likable person. Even when he's interviewing people or is situations he isn't comfortable with he still comes across as someone trying not to offend - take the hunters for example they go out hunting, and he politely mentions that the only thing they will shoot with is their cameras if that's alright - I don't think the hunters were prepared for that but they accepted it. Another aspect that makes this series so interesting is that Stephen Fry doesn't just visit the "tourist" locations in America, and indeed he skips many of the larger ones, but manages to focus on some of the more unique elements in the country.

In terms of the negatives, the biggest is simply that the series, with a runtime of just on 6 hours, is too short. There are so many topics here where you could spend so much more time and while there are some great questions and gorgeous footage - even with the limited camera options available - you simply want more time with those being interviewed and more depth. Another issue we had, although this is very minor, is simply that while this documentary is presented as a 6-week journey across America we're not too sure how accurate that is. At the start of the third episode Stephen Fry broke his arm and was placed in a sling as a result, but soon after the sling is gone, and so are the effects.

Admittedly this isn't the greatest documentary but with the very likable Stephen Fry hosting the series, and some unique locations visited it's for this reason we recommend this series to those that either love to travel, or those with an interest in America.

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Yes, Stephen Fry actually caught that.. thing..
VIDEO
Stephen Fry in America is presented at 1.78:1 which will fill the screens of HDTV's. The video has been encoded in the AVC MPEG-4 codec and is presented in 1080i (interlaced) which is a little disappointing however we suspect the series was filmed on a 1920 x 1080i handheld camera given the quality. Indeed there were moments, particularly those taking place outdoors, which looked pretty nice with rich colours and plenty of detail and sharpness.

Scenes filmed indoors however, obviously in artificial light, are extremely grainy and noisy and it is actually a distraction from the show itself. As a TV series it's passable, but don't expect greatness from this Blu-Ray disc.

AUDIO
There is only one audio option on these two discs - DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 which has its good and bad points. Firstly it's a little disappointing there are no surround sound channels and at times it's a little hard to understand what is being said, but that's more to do with some accents then anything else. Having said that the lossless audio track is quite clear with clear narration which is the most important part of any documentary.

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Paying a visit to Morgan Freeman.
EXTRAS
Besides the brilliant TV series there are a couple of deleted scenes on this set worth checking out. Let's get to it then...

"Left Right Center" Dice Game in Eastport, Maine (1:56/HD): This is a brief look at a dice game played in Eastport.

Whale Talk with Author Nethanial Philbrick in Nantucket, Massachusetts (2:39/HD): A brief segment which looks at whaling in Nantucket.

Pilgrim Father on the Mayflower in Plymouth Rock Massachusetts (5:05/HD): This deleted scene looks at Plymouth Rock and Mayflower ship. It's the longest but the least interesting of the three deleted scenes on Disc One.

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The thrills of the College Football game.
The Peabody Duck Hotel, Memphis Tennessee (1:43/HD): A rather amusing clip showing some ducks living in a hotel. Why? Who knows, just enjoy.

Judd's Winery, Napa Valley, California (4:55/HD): A visit to a garage sized winery. This is a fairly interesting clip.

Oyster Fishing with John Tesovic in the Bayous of Louisiana (4:55/HD): In this deleted segment Stephen Fry is Oyster Fishing.

OVERALL
Despite the occasional poor video quality this is an interesting series which gives some great insight into various locations around the United States. We recommend fans of interview styled documentary travel shows check this out. It's interesting.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
7/10
THE VIDEO
6/10
THE AUDIO
7/10
THE EXTRAS
2/10
OVERALL
6/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Madman. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.