A slow week in terms of quantity, but maybe the best week since I've been doing this in terms of quality. Some truly memorable favourites from the 1970s came out this week including one that is truly lives up to the claim "entertaining for the whole family." A very good week.
Columbo: The Complete Third Season
- Say Columbo and you immediately think of Peter Falk. In fact the character of Sgt. - later Lt. - Columbo actually originated in an episode of the 1960 series Chevy Mystery Theater" called "Enough Rope" starring Bert Freed. The episode was expanded into a stage play in 1962 which starred Thomas Mitchell - best known today as Gerald O'Hara in Gone With The Wind - as Columbo. The stage play was made into a 90 minute movie for TV in 1968 and the producers wanted Bing Crosby for the role. He refused and they reluctantly gave Peter Falk (who was much younger than what they really wanted) the role he's been playing off and on for nearly 40 years. The third season features the usual run of familiar faces, including John Dehner, Robert Culp, and Jack Cassidy. As well there are appearances by Jose Ferrer and Lew Ayres, but my favourite "guest murderer" in this season is Johnny Cash as a gospel singer who murders his wife (Ida Lupino) and makes it look like a plane crash. Johnny Cash might not have been the best actor in the world, but he was better than he was frequently given credit for. Oh, by the way, somethin's bothering me: for some depressing reason they decided to include a "bonus" episode ... from Mrs. Columbo (the Kate Mulgrew series).
Dallas: The Complete Third Season
- Dallas was the pioneer for the nighttime soap opera trend of the 1980s. It directly spawned Knots Landing (during Season 3 as a matter of fact) and was duplicated (but not nearly as well) by Falcon Crest and Dynasty. Truth is that there was never a lead character as vile as J.R. Ewing who was also so dammed charming. He wasn't immoral, he simply had no morals at all despite the moral compass that should have been supplied by his mother, the beloved Miss Ellie, and even his father Jock. Season 3 starts with the kidnapping of J.R.'s newborn son (or is he Cliff's son) includes the arrival and seduction of Sue Ellen's sister Kristin (Mary Crosby), the usual assortment of shady business deals and people who can't keep their clothes on, and culminates with J.R. getting shot by.... Well even though they didn't show you in the episode, the documentary that is included as an extra tells you. Best of all (apparently) are the commentaries from the stars of the show.
Farscape: Season 2: Starburst Edition, Vol. 2.2
- I mentioned in relation to an earlier release of Farscape that the system they are using to release episodes of this show - or rerelease them as the case may be - seems more than a little complicated and, dare I say it, mercenary. Objection still holds.
McCloud: Seasons 1/2
- With the releases this week you can recreate the feeling of the first season of NBC's old Mystery Movie series. All that's missing is the original introductory footage with the great Henry Mancini introductory music (done on a synthesizer). The show actually started in 1970 with a two hour pilot called "Portrait Of A Dead Girl" which was almost a complete remake of the Clint Eastwood movie Coogan's Bluff released not quite two years before. It then became an hour-long series in NBC's Four In One "wheel" series (one of the other series in this group was Rod Serling's Night Gallery) before expanding to a 90 minute series in its second season. It was a great series with some truly enjoyable work from Dennis Weaver as the supposd misfit New Mexico Marshal and J.D. Cannon as his departmental nemesis Chief Clifford. The way those two worked together was truly amazing.
McMillan & Wife: Season One
- The third element of the original NBC Mystery Movie wheel was McMillan and Wife. It was also the only one specifically created for the series. The show is essentially a modernized take on the characters of Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man series of movies (minus the alcohol) combined with Mr. and Mrs North and perhaps just a touch of I Love Lucy - one sometimes expects Rock Hudson to say "Sally, you got some 'splainin' to do." The chemistry between Hudson and Susan Saint James is tangible, and when you add in Nancy Walker as Sally's maid (and frequent partner in her escapades) Mildred and John Schuck as Stewart MacMillan's trusted, if sometimes slow-witted, aide Sergeant Enright you have a winning combination.
Cartoon Network: Grossest Halloween Ever
- Well not really. Should more accurately be titled "Five Halloween Episodes From Cartoon Network Shows (and four bonus toons) That We Think We Can Sell You By Labelling Them Gross But Are Nowhere Near As Disgusting As Some Of The Stuff We Don't Own And Couldn't Show You Anyway Because You're Too Young". But no one ever went broke by bending the truth in labelling laws.
The Muppet Show: Season One (Special Edition)
- "It's time to put on make-up, it's time to light the lights, it's time to get things started on the Muppet Show tonight!" One of the great theme songs to a show which seemed like it was a kid program but was so very much more. The show was the perfect marriage of performers to medium and it established the Muppets as being something that wasn't just for kids in a way that Jim Henson's other projects of the 1970s - Sesame Street and some fairy tale projects he did with the CBC - like Hey Cinderella and The Frog Prince among others - never did. The guest stars in the first season were weaker than they would be in later years, although they did include a few gems like Candice Bergen (who knew what it was like to be upstaged by a puppet) Ethel Merman, Peter Ustinov and Vincent Price. As well some of the gag material hadn't quite hit its stride, but if nothing else the first season showed the direction the program was going in, and it still attracted fans of all ages. If you buy no other series on DVD get this one.
Profit: The Complete Series 1
- A series which I totally missed, which apparently wasn't hard. Eight episodes were made including a two hour pilot, but only four were actually seen before Fox pulled the series just before May Sweeps in 1996. Co-creator and writer David Greenwalt would go on to better (or at least longer lasting) things as one of the principal writers on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel.
Roswell: The Complete Third Season (The Final Chapter)
- Roswell wasn't easy to see on Canadian TV which may explain why I came to it very late. The first season was seen on CTV - but not by me - largely in odd time slots. The second and third season rights were owned by Toronto's CITY-TV and seen nationally on the Space cable network. I saw some of the episodes at the time but I can't recall much of the continuity. Space no longer airs reruns of the series, preferring to show every series of Star Trek except the animated version instead. Even in the U.S. its status was variable. The first two seasons aired on The WB which cancelled it after the second. When UPN took over Buffy The Vampire Slayer after its fifth season they also revived Roswell. It was probably a mistake. I seem to recall that people who had been generally positive about the series even in its second season were quite negative about the UPN episodes. Not that it mattered apparently - if anything the ratings at UPN were even worse than those at The WB, and the series was cancelled there too, although at least they had the opportunity to do a series finale episode.
T.J. Hooker: The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons
- Ah yes ... William Shatner in ... his other iconic ... television ... role! Heather Locklear, who played Officer Stacy Sheridan was splitting her time between this series and Dynasty and the combination of the two series probably made her a star. There's also Adrian Zmed and actor/singer James Darren who appeared in season 2 and was attempting an acting comeback at the time. The first season was truncated - only five episodes - and I don't know if this box set includes the original pilot movie, although I would expect it too. At the very least there's Locklear in a tight uniform and of course Mr. ... William ... Shatner.
Thundercats: Season 1, Volume 1
- Can't tell you much. This is a six disk set featuring the first 33 episodes of the series (the two seasons had 65 episodes each). Amazon doesn't have their usual listing of what's on each disk so I can't give you any detail on extras but they appear to consist of "super-fans" like Will Wheaton giving "their memories and support to this animation classic." I never saw it.
What's New Scooby Doo, Vol. 6: Monster Matinee
- Why is it that the whole Scooby-Doo franchise refuses to die. This version dates from 2002 and features Mindy Cohn (Natalie from Facts Of Life) as Velma alongside veteran voice actor Frank Welker as Shaggy and of course Casey Kasem as Scooby. Presumably the single disk in this "Volume" deals with movie monster cases. Just a guess because Amazon doesn't list the episodes.