ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)

ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)Alex Haley spent 12 years combing through historical records in order to trace find his lineage all the way back to before his ancestors were stolen from Africa and enslaved.  This was an incredibly difficult task due of course to the fact that once an African was enslaved and taken to America, they were given a new name and were violently tortured if they were ever found engaging in activities from their native culture such as language, religion, or music.  Fortunately for all of us, he became the first African American to find to be able to trace his lineage back to it’s point of origin.  Roots chronicles the life of Haley’s ancestor Kuna Kinte from his birth in Africa all the way through his life as a slave into old age.  We witness through all these years, thorough the beatings, the mutilations and humiliations how he still fought to hold onto his given name and heritage.

ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)

This is one of those rare shows that for historical and social reasons it is imperative that all Americans watch even just a FEW episodes this series at least once in their lives.  But at the same time, it is executed and performed so wonderfully that you’re still entertained while being educated.  There are far to many people who still feel that slavery is something that we as a nation “just need to get over”.  And in a way, yes, it IS something that we still very much need to OVERCOME, but it should never be something that we forget.  Not just because of what happened to those who were enslaved at the time, but also because of how slavery has effected our lives today, for better or worse.  The repercussions of slavery did not simply become washed away after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted.  They continued to permeate throughout our nation for decades to come, and we still struggle with those effects today.

I love how frank and casual the slave drivers are when discussing how to wrangle blacks from their homes and the best ways to store them in the ship so as not to damage the merchandise.  They don’t come off as the type of people who if you saw them on the street you’d instantly assume they were friggin evil!  They have big smiles on their faces and aside from enslaving and torturing human beings, generally seem rather pleasant.  It’s nice to see these people represented in this way.  It reminds us just how commonplace it was to treat other human beings with such little regard and disdain.  They speak of blacks as if they are some sort of sub-species of humanity.  That their brains are less developed than the white man and are therefore more suited to subjugation and servitude.

They spend a surprising amount of time with Kunta Kinte’s (LeVar Burton) Mandinka tribe as he goes through his right of passage on his way to becoming a man.  They also explore the tribes culture, religion and general way of life.  As far as pacing goes, these scenes kinda slow things down a bit.  But at the same time, these moments afford us the opportunity to get to know Kinte as a person before he became property.  It’s not until the second episode when the series really seems to hit it’s stride.  When Kinte arrives in America, we see how the buyers prepare their newly acquired slaves to be shown at auction.  This is another instance that sets this series apart from other stories of slavery in America.  Educated and wealthy plantation owners, in addition to thoroughly examining the new arrivals, also discuss the differences between the mind of a white man and “the black beast”.  Their conversations are so eloquent that it again reminds us of just how commonplace the idea of owning another human being and treating them as less than animals it was, in what we call the land of the free.

When my parents rented this on VHS for me to watch as a kid I remember thinking even then that it was amazing that any TV network in the 70’s would allow this much nudity and graphic violence on the air.  But at the same time I’m glad they did, or else it would’ve have marginalized just how horrific the life of a slave really was.  The 70’s were a time that came fresh after the effects of Civil Rights.  Black Americans were just starting to take pride in who they were and believe that they too were a beautiful aspect of the human race.  Up until then, being Black was thought of as a disability or some sort of birth defect.  That the darker you were, the less respect you deserved.  Being White was seen as something for Blacks to aspire to.  So when Roots came out everything shifted.  Seeing a Black man take charge or his heritage and publicly show that Black people have a rich and vibrant culture that goes far beyond our days in chains.

 ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)


Disc 1:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Disc 2:
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Disc 3:
Episode 7
Episode 8


Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (16.93 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Clarity/Detail: The series has been remastered from it’s original release and they did an excellent job.  It’s still holds the feel of something that was made in the 70’s while showing vast improvements since it’s release on VHS when I first saw it.  I’m really glad that they chose to keep it in it’s original aspect ratio. If they would have tried to format it into a widescreen it would’ve looked bizarre.
Depth: The depth is pretty decent, considering the time it was made.  But it’s shot in a very “TV Show” sort of way. So there aren’t too many big sweeping shots.
Black Levels: HA!  It would be too easy to make a joke here. But suffice it to say, the blacks are rich and vibrant.
Color Reproduction: Excellent. The entire palette of color is wonderfully represented.
Flesh Tones: I was surprised at just how much detail their were able to achieve in this area.  Very well done.
Noise/Artifacts: This was made in 1977 so there is a reasonable amount of grain to the image.  But it serves to remind us just how long this series has been around.
ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit), French: Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese: Dolby Digital 2.0, Note: Japanese is hidden…
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Italian SDH, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Dynamics: There isn’t very wide dynamic range.  Though the sound is quite clear, it tends to sit in rather small perimeters.
Low Frequency Extension: Though there are a lot of opportunities to showcase this attribute, it still has the “canned” sound of the 70’s and never really takes full advantage of it.
Surround Sound Presentation: N/A
Dialogue Reproduction:  Clear and articulate.  Never a word missed.
ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)
  • Photo Booklet – Also included with the discs is a booklet that contains episode descriptions, pics of the cast, and media coverage from the time of it’s original release in 1977.
  • ROOTS: The American Story Continues – Celebrities, historian and others reveal why the 1977 miniseries was not only a game-changing chapter in U.S. history: it’s relevance continues in our lives today. Interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Blair Underwood, James Earl Jones, Debbie Allen, Christopher Haley, Al Sharpton and more.
  • ROOTS: The Cast Looks Back – The stars of the originally miniseries share emotional memories of ROOTS’ filming, it’s impact on their lives, and on figures such as Barack Obama and it’s continuing importance.  Includes LeVar Burton, John Amos, Louis Gossette Jr.,Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Ed Asner, Sandy Duncan, and more.
  • Crossing Over: How ROOTS Captivated an Entire Nation – The above mentioned actors and celebrities continue to discuss the massive cultural impact that ROOTS had on the entire nation.  How it caused both Blacks and Whites to look at themselves in a different way.
  • LeVar Burton: Original Screen Test
  • Alex Haley Interview by David Frost – In this 1970’s interview with Haley, he explains the importance of researching his ancestral history all the way back to Africa.  At the time he was the first Black American to do this.
  • ROOTS: One Year Later – This documentary which served as a commemoration of this landmark series, which came out one year prior, shows us emotional footage of Haley visiting his ancestral tribe in Africa.  Plus much more great footage from that time.
ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)


I really can’t emphasize enough just how important this series was, and is, not just Black Americans, but the entire nation as a whole.  We need to be reminded of just how much was taken from the Africans that were stolen from their homes.  That when Black people arrived in America they were systematically positioned to be less than the “White Man”.  From generation to generation it was taught that the “Black Beast” was never to become more than a living tool to be used for whatever purpose the “White Man” choose.  I’ll be honest, this series isn’t an easy watch.  But the filmmakers do offer some moments of levity in between Kinte’s seemingly unending fight for freedom.  But thankfully those moments still hold true to the story at hand.  There is a scene that takes place between a plantation owner, his employees and and relatives where they discuss what potential, if any, the African Brain could posses.  It’s fascinating and intriguing while still being infuriating all at the same time.

Roots: The Original Series is now available on Blu-ray!

ROOTS: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray Review)


Writer, Musician, Composer, Singer and Dancer. To sum up: I like to get jiggy with it!

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