Power Rangers: Zeo, Volume 1 (DVD)
Shout! Factory / 1996 / 480 mins
As much as I love to gloat that we kids from the 1990's had so many memorable TV series that stood the test of time, not all of them held up. Case in point, Power Rangers Zeo is a show I look back on with my face firmly in palm. It doesn't mean it's a particular bad show, but this is now such a goofy and dated show that it makes me feel silly watching it again. Still, it does have a certain nostalgic wonder to its adventure formula.
This was the first Power Rangers series that felt like a complete passing of the torch to a new incarnation. The teenagers chosen by Zordon to be spandex-wrapped heroes with giant robots must deal with all that being taken away from them. The command center blows up and everything is rebuilt anew. Zordon actually states that the old designs of the Rangers are gone forever and that the new versions are far better. On a similar note, the old villains Rita and Zed literally move out of their evil fortress to make room for the new mechanical baddie, King Mondo, and his Machine Empire.
After the changing of the guard, it's back to business as usual for the Power Rangers. The regular formula centers around fighting goofily dressed henchmen and battling giant monsters with giant robotic vehicles while still trying to maintain a teenage lifestyle. This includes dealing with peer pressure, cheating on tests and the usual high school problems acceptable for a kid's TV show.
In comparison to the previous series, Zeo is not as strong. The villains, though more detailed in design, don't really have the likable character traits and chemistry as Rita and Zed. The "teenage" actors are about as decent as the previous cast, but Zeo just has to keep reminding you of the old guard. Billy (former Blue Ranger) keeps popping up as he's working with aliens and Kimberly (former Pink Ranger) breaks up with Tommy offscreen in the form of a letter. That's a pretty awful way to end a relationship for television. Why not just go darker and say that her plane was shot down over Japan with no survivors?
Watching this series several years since its first broadcast is a bit of an embarrassment. It's very dated in both its special effects and concepts. Just try not to laugh when the characters are pretending to fall in front of a green screen or preventing a computer virus by putting in a floppy disk and slapping a few keys. And I'd rather not go into the ridiculous nature of Tommy going on a vision quest while seeking the help of Native American Sam Trueheart. Also, some of the giant robots the Rangers use are just plain silly as one is practically a giant hamster wheel.
But for all its cornball, Zeo still has an enthusiasm with great intentions you just don't get from children's television today. It's still a hokey hunk of dated nostalgia from the 1990's, but there is a certain ironic charm. I had a few laughs, but I'm not really inspired to seek out the continuation of the series. To be honest, this was the point in my childhood where I stopped watching as I was starting to find the show much more silly and ridiculous. That's not to say kids were stupid for digging it; it was just the point where I outgrew the series. And for many who decide to rediscover this show all over again, they'll know why as well.
As with most bulky re-releases from Shout! Factory, there wasn't really any remastering which means the transfer really displays its age. There is lot of video grain and some blurry quality to many scenes. It's not the worst transfer I've ever seen and, honestly, it's about what I expected for a TV show this old. The standard stereo audio track stands up a little better than the video so the show at least sounds good.
There are no extras present as this is a budgeted release with 25 episodes for $20. However, those seeking special features should invest in the much pricier Power Rangers: Season 4-7 boxed set.
Power Rangers Zeo is so dated and silly that I can only recommend it to those with an uncanny taste for the ironic and the "hardcore" Ranger fans. And, yes, old school Ranger fans do exist (do not ask how I know). However, most will probably invest in the big Season 4-7 boxed set for the special features. The special effects and stories are far too out of date for today's children to look past for the entertainment (unless your kids really dig old school Doctor Who). Ultimately, this set is only worth it for the camp value.