Friday, October 28, 2005

TV On DVD - October 25, 2005 - Late Again

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Another late list. I had a few things on my plate and I managed to injure my knee on Sunday which has been causing me a lot of pain and made it hard to sit down for extended periods of time. In addition it's a long list , and a lot of it is stuff that I've had to look up since it's for shows I don't watch or haven't watched. There are a handful of gems and at least one warning.

3rd Rock from the Sun - Season 2
- I'm not a big 3rd Rock From The Sun fan. In fact by the second season I wasn't watching it at all - probably as part of my withdrawal from sitcoms. I think what turned me off of it was probably what other people found so appealing - John Lithgow's perpetual pomposity, and French Stewart on general principle. The idea of aliens living as humans and discovering what it means is similar to Mork And Mindy which I mostly liked, even though I think this series did it much better because it could explore a wider range of experiences. Still I just never got into it.

Alias: Season 4
- Another current show I don't watch, mostly because it coincided with stuff I did like and because the premise - a college girl spy who turns out to be working for the wrong people - just seemed too out there for me. Still you can't argue with success and the series has survived despite - or perhaps because of - the far out nature of the plots.

The Ambassador
- I've never heard of this one, but IMDB tells me it's a 12 part series about the new British ambassador to Ireland and the obstacles she faces in trying to make the Anglo-Irish relationship less adversarial. The big attraction here isn't the show so much as the star, the always good Pauline Collins.

American Gothic - The Complete Series
- This show is something of a cult classic, just perfect for Hallowe'en. I never joined the cult but that has a lot more to do with the fact that I'm not really a horror movie fan than it does with the show itself. Certainly the show has the appropriate pedigree with both Sam Raimi and his partner Rob Tapert - the creators of The Evil Dead - as Executive producers, as well as series creator Shaun Cassidy. Cassidy has stated that this show and his current hit series Invasion are really about families, which causes us to wonder what things were really like at the home of Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones.

Bewitched: The Complete Second Season [Color]
Bewitched: The Complete Second Season (B&W)

- I don't suppose I need to tell you to buy the Black & White edition do I? Colorization is the bane of human existence. Season two was mainly focussed on Samantha's pregnancy (Elizabeth Montgomery was herself pregnant with her second child) and the complications that arise with a pregnant witch. There's some very funny stuff here. Bernard Fox appears in one episode but not as Dr. Bombay, and the season marks the first appearances of Paul Lynde as Uncle Arthur and "Pandora Spocks" as Sam's identical cousin Serena. (Ivan has pointed out that he preferred I Dream of Jeannie. Well different strokes for different folks. I've always preferred Bewitched because Liz Montgomery was the better actress and it was always fun seeing Sam's relatives. Only in later days have I realized a reason that my prepubescent self wouldn't have understood - I wanted to sleep with Samantha a lot more than I wanted to sleep with Jeannie. Actually I'd rather sleep with Serena - in latter days she seems like she'd be more...inventive and fun.)

Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, Volume Three
- Strictly speaking not a TV show, although the two previous volumes of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection have included material made for TV, mostly interval scenes from the old Bugs Bunny Show. The big thing though is that as much as possible these cartoons are as they were when they were released in the theaters (in Volume Two there were a number of older cartoons without their original credit sequences - presumably lost after the pre-1947 cartoon library was sold), which as we'll see isn't always the case. It has to do with which part of Warner Brothers Home Video is releasing it. What is absolutely clear is that this set is a must have for anyone with even a passing interest in animation.

Danger Mouse: The Complete Seasons 3 & 4
- Can't comment since I've never actually seen this British animated series.

Degrassi Junior High: The Complete Collection
- All three seasons collected in one box. If you don't have any of the previous releases this might be a way to go, otherwise you're probably safe to pass on it.

Doris Day Show: Season 2
- The first season of the show hadn't exactly set the world on fire - it was #30 for the year - so the producers decided to revive the premise. Doris went to work as a secretary at a magazine in San Francisco while still commuting back to her father's ranch. This meant that she was not only interacting with her father (Denver Pyle) and kids but also a new cast in the city - Maclean Stevenson and Rose Marie. This seemed to perk up the ratings, bringing the show up to 10th for the year. Still there's nothing that really stands out about the show in any of its seasons beyond the fact that Doris Day is very nice looking 40ish woman.

Hamish MacBeth: The Complete First Season
- I've tried to watch this series on occasion but I've never really stuck with it. Too bad since it sounds like the sort of show I'd like. Set in an isolated Scottish village it is the story of the local constable, played by Robert Carlyle, and is full of eccentric characters giving full vent to their eccentricities. One day maybe I'll make the effort.

Hart to Hart: The Complete First Season
- Hart To Hart can best be described as an attempt to take Nick and Nora Charles and update them for the 1970s - which is to say with all the love but none of the booze. Sometimes it seemed like only half the wit too but that's another issue. The two principal stars, Robert Wagner and Stephanie Powers were incredibly attractive and had a considerable amount of chemistry between them. The show also had a comic relief element in the form or Lionel Stander as Max. The show was proof positive that you don't need unresolved sexual tension for this sort of show - the Harts were resolving their tension at every possible moment. Not as good as Remington Steele would be, but still enjoyable.

In Living Color: Season 4
- The fourth season of the Wayans family sketch comedy show. In fact this is the last season in which any of the Wayans family participated in the show after Keenan Ivory Wayans left the series in a dispute with Fox over censorship. It was on and gone before I was ever able to see the Fox Network.

Invasion: Earth
- A BBC mini-series produced in cooperation with the American Sci-Fi Channel, this was the forerunner of the current spate of alien invasion series. A mysterious group of aliens is attempting to take over the Earth and use it as a breeding ground. This series also aired on Space: The Imagination Station here in Canada and while I saw parts of a number of episodes and even tried to watch more than once it was just too convoluted and confusing for me to follow.

The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Season 3
- Kids In The Hall is yet another example of the sketch comedy tradition in Canada that goes back to at least Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. The name comes from Jack Benny's mythical replacement writers, the kids in the hall who were waiting for one of his current writers to be fired. The show was an acquired taste which I never managed to acquire. But Dave Foley certainly looked good in a dress. Actually, so did most of the cast.

The L Word: Season Two
- There are shows that I think I should see, but can never make time for so I usually only see snippets of them and as a result wonder what all the fuss is about. The L Word is one of those. I mean I know that the show, which is shot in Vancouver, is about the lives of a number of lesbians who live in West Hollywood and their various relationships, personalities and attitudes. The trouble is that it's hard to become involved in in a series like this which emphasises relationships if you haven't been able to see it from the beginning so eventually you end up saying forget about it.

Little House on the Prairie: Season 9
- The final season of this classic family series rested almost entirely on Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler. In fact it even had a revived name: Little House on the Prairie: A New Beginning. Charles and Caroline Ingalls have been written out of the series as major characters although Michael Landon made a couple of appearances, and even Allison Arngrim - the notorious Nellie Olsen - makes an appearance. It wasn't enough to save the show although there were three TV movies made later, including the last one in which all of the sets were blown up.

MADtv: The Best of Seasons 8-10
- I have to say that I've only ever really seen the first season of MADTV and while there were some good cast members in that season, notably Nicole Sullivan (who I remember fondly as the Vancome Lady) and Phil LaMarr, if you had bet me it was going to last ten seasons I would have been happy to put up most of my savings. Amazingly it has not only lasted but prospered. Indeed some people are willing to argue that it's been better than Saturday Night Live for much of its run. It's hard to know if this is based on how good MADTV is or how bad SNL has become.

Beverly Hillbillies/Petticoat Junction: Ultimate Christmas Collection
- This is scarcely the "Ultimate" Christmas Collection of the Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. It's a single DVD with three episodes, two of them from The Beverly Hillbillies and there isn't much in the way of extras. Disappointing is putting it mildly.

The Munsters: The Complete Second Season
- It's hard to remember that both The Munsters and The Addams Family only lasted two seasons each. The shows are both icons of their time. I've seen The Munsters far more and I'm far more familiar with the cast. Indeed they always seemed to function more as a complete ensemble than the cast of The Addams Family. The set included four documentaries, three of which focus on the major performers; Fred Gwynne, Al Lewis, and Yvonne DeCarlo. Both series were great and I'd say were cut down way before their time, but The Munsters were always closer to my heart.

Planet's Funniest Animals, Vol. 1
- Think America's Funniest Home Videos - complete with a Tom Bergeron type host spouting corny gags - but with clips of animals instead of people. If this is the sort of thing you like or you like animals this is for you, otherwise stay away.

Point Pleasant: The Complete Series
- I sometimes get the feeling that the Fox network tests TV shows like people test spaghetti, throw something against a wall and see if it sticks, except in the case of TV shows the wall is the audience. If the show is immediately popular it stays, if not it goes. This one didn't, probably predictably since one of the creators - Marti Noxon - worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and we all know how Fox treats shows created by people who worked on Buffy, including Joss Whedon himself. Another one I missed because I was too wedded to another series on the same night. The DVD set had all 13 episodes which were shot, although only eight aired.

Puppets Who Kill: The Complete Second Season
- I've seen bits and pieces of this series, which is made in Canada and stars Dan Redican from the old comedy troupe "The Frantics". Most of the stars are puppets, who are actually beings with their own personalities - usually at odds with their supposed personalities on TV and the movies - which have gotten them in trouble with the law. They live in a halfway house as a last ditch attempt at rehabilitation. From what little I've seen, it isn't working but like Drawn Together it's the divergence in personalities from what we see to what's real which makes the show funny.

Tales from the Crypt: The Complete Second Season
- More scary stuff for Hallowe'en courtesy of the animatronic Cryptkeeper. Horror in the EC manner, but with a requisite dose of profanity and nudity thanks to having been on HBO.

Tom and Jerry: Spotlight Collection, Volume 2
- This is what I was referring to in the comments on the Looney Tunes collection. In an article in Jaime Weinman's blog Something Old, Nothing New Jerry Beck explains that all of the Warner Brothers Animation releases except the Looney Tunes Golden Collection material falls under Warner Home Video's "family entertainment" division rather than the "library product" area where the Looney Tunes fall. I guess the big difference is that for the Tom and Jerry releases, Beck - who is a well known animation expert - can advise but didn't get to consent about the material on the final release. In this set there are three cartoons where the voice of the "Mammy Two-Shoes" character (the black maid who is usually only seen from the knees down) is not the original but a version used for British audiences. This is a step up from the first set in this series, where the character was almost completely cut out, but not the way the cartoons were originally presented, which for the most part is what you have in the Looney Tunes set. Apparently there's a fight going on for a Tex Avery set (probably the old MGM material) to be released by the "library product" team. One can only hope.

Tripping the Rift: Season One
- In their assessment of the worst TV shows for family viewing, the Parents Television Council attacked several of the animated series on Fox, making the incorrect assumption that anything animated is "for kids" (the animators at Warners in the 1940s said that they didn't make cartoons for kids or adults, they made them for themselves). It's clear that if the PTC were willing to attack American Dad and Family Guy as being "smutty cartoons" they never say Tripping The Rift on the American Sci-Fi Channel. The cartoon is produced in Canada by Cine Group and Film Roman using CGI techniques, and features the voice of Stephen Root as Chode, the captain of the smuggling ship Jupiter 42 and - in the first season - Gina Gershon as his Science Officer android 6 of 1. 6 of 1was designed to have a lot of sex, and Chode is perpetually horny (and stupid). The PTC would have a collective if they saw this - let's send them a copy. Muahahaha

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