The Olympics are coursing through my veins like a really serious (but really good) drug, which has kept me from doing a lot of things that I want to do - like writing for this Blog or playing poker (although I played a ring game for an hour tonight and won a little cash). Bear with me because all you might get for the next week is DVD listings and an occasional obituary. Oh and maybe another post or two about the Olympics. CBC is doing something that I'm not too sure I like. But that's a story for another time.
This week seems to be full of family sitcoms, with a couple of "only in Canada" sets for good measure. There's a couple of interesting items, not the least of which is season 1 of the new Doctor Who. There are also a couple of mysteries but you'll find that out in a minute. Finally I'd be remiss in not mentioning that the listing was compiled by TVShowson DVD.com.
The Andy Griffith Show: The Complete Fifth Season
- Even the worst of The Andy Griffith Show is better than the best of a lot of modern sitcoms, and no matter what some people say this was scarcely the worst season of The Andy Griffith Show. Sure it was the last season in Black & White, something that made the show seem somehow more accessible than it was when it was in colour, and sure it was the season in which Barney Fife (and Don Knotts) drifted slowly away, but still the elements that made it special remained. It was never cruel, never went for the cheap laugh, and worked as both a comedy and a story about a family. Great TV.
Ballykissangel: The Complete Series Four
- A well loved show which I don't think I've ever been able to see (the Detroit PBS station that we get here seems obsessed with Are You Being Served and Keeping Up Appearances virtually to the exclusion of anything else) so I can't tell you much about it beyond the fact that the fourth seasons saw major changes in the cast with Stephen Tompkison leaving the show to be replaced by Don Wycherley. The show was one of Colin Farrell's first major acting roles.
Charles in Charge: The Complete First Season
- I remember the first season of Charles In Charge. That was when the show was a network series featuring "teen heart-throbs" Scott Baio and Willie Aames, with Julie Cobb and James Widdoes as the Pembrokes, who hired Charles to look after their kids. It was an innocuous enough little show, and I was neither surprised nor outraged when it was cancelled. Sitcoms are like streetcars; miss one and another one comes along pretty soon - although like streetcars there aren't nearly as many around as there used to be. Anyway no big deal. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the show had actually lasted four more seasons, until 1990, in syndication. Of course I wasn't surprised - or enamoured fo the original - enough to actually watch the thing, but there you go. If you liked it a whole lot more than I ever did you might consider buying it but the truth is that there's so much stuff that's just plane better available.
Doctor Who (2005): The Complete First Series
- This is the new Doctor Who of course, the one which my American friends won't have seen yet (snicker snicker). I know a lot of you may be reluctant to buy Canadian, but on this one you should since I'm convinced that the SciFi Channel will edit this to death. And besides I know you want to see it before anyone else. Believe me it's well worth the trouble. The show takes the Doctor, updates him and makes him a sadder figure somehow. Well actually I know how. As is usual with at Doctor Who DVD there are plenty of extra features including commentaries on all thirteen episodes by cast and crew. That may explain why the thirteen episodes are on six disks and why the price is in the vicinity of a Star Trek set...and probably worth it!
Farscape: Season 3, Collection 2 (Starburst Edition)
- Short and sweet regurgitation of what I've said before - too many different formats for Farscape DVDs, smells like money grab, can someone explain. Nuff said.
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air: The Complete Third Season
- There are two undeniable factors about this series. One is that while Will Smith might have been an untutored actor when Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air premiered he was an incredibly charming performer who learned to be an actor, who during the hiatus between the third and fourth seasons earned critical acclaim for his major supporting role in Six Degrees of Separation. The other thing is that while Smith worked well with all of the show's cast members, his chemistry with his costar Alfonso Ribiero was palpable. Ribiero's character of Carlton, superior "stick up his butt" who a perfect country club kid was a brilliant contrast to Smith's street wise diamond in the very rough. James Avery as the "gentrified" Uncle Phil (he's on top now and maintains a veneer of respectability but he remembers how hard he had to work to get there) and Joseph Marcell as the "smarter than the lot of them" butler Geoffrey is icing on the cake.
Gimme a Break! Season 1
- I never watched this series, mainly because I was never a huge fan of Nell Carter's, and the whole thing seemed a bit formulaic - widowed/divorced man with kids needs a woman's (non-romantic) help to raise them; a clash of attitudes ensues. It's a formula that would be twisted around somewhat with Who's the Boss? but it's still a sitcom standard.
Golden Girls: The Complete Fourth Season
- The thing about sitcoms is that it often seems like they don't progress. The Golden Girls was like that. Sure there were occasional times when the show would undertake story arcs - in the fourth season Sophia (Estelle Getty) gets married to her late husband's former business partner, played by the always wonderful Jack Gilford. Still, the "Girls" always end up in the kitchen eating cheesecake and talking out their problems. It just doesn't change.
Grey's Anatomy: Season One
- I don't think we can call Grey's Anatomy one of the best shows on TV, but it seems to me to be more than what I described it as in my initial review of the series - the TV equivalent of comfort food. The show is a delicious mixture of humour and drama with both being played on the light side. Added to the mixture is more than a touch of soap opera as the doctors have more than their share of complicated romantic relationships. At nine episodes, the first season was a short one although longer than ABC executives expected. They were prepared to use it as a short term - 6 episodes - replacement for Boston Legal. It hit, probably because it is well written and well acted by a cast that works together extremely well as an ensemble.
Hardcastle & McCormick: Season 1
- Now here's one I don't get: Hardcastle and McCormick is only available in Canada. Why? The show has no special ties to Canada, and surely the market is bigger in the US than in Canada. The show is one of those '80s action shows with the flashy car (although unlike KITT in Knightrider the Cody Coyote doesn't talk), and the Reagan era fantasy of "getting" all of the criminals who got away with their crimes on technicalities thanks to inconvenient details like Miranda Rules. The redeeming factor for this series is Brian Keith who plays Judge Milton "Hardcase" Hardcastle with a sense of humour and a certain amount of panache. It's a long way from Family Affair (and an even longer way from his 1972 series The Little People) but Brian Keith was a versatile actor. But I still can't figure out why it's only available in Canada. Pity. (And apparently there's some sort of complication based on what's one the Amazon.ca page.)
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Season 1, Vol. 2
- I can't figure out why this has a cult following. The animation was bad, the stories almost as bad, and in the end it was just a big toy commercial. I don't get it.
Living Single: The Complete First Season
- This series was already well established when we finally got the Fox Network in Saskatoon. I never saw it. I was undoubtedly watching something on the Big Three networks when it was on and it was a sitcom (I was pretty much off of sitcoms by this time). Still, and interesting cast, including Facts Of Life star Kim Fields and and future Oscar nominee Queen Latifah.
Overhaulin: The Complete Second Season
- I've seen parts of a couple of episodes of this and it's okay but it doesn't really grab me. Probably because I'm not a car guy.
The Pretender: The Complete Third Season
- The Pretender was another of those shows that I didn't watch but in this case I was eminently aware of it. Part of the problem of course was that The show was part of that last gasp of networks (in this case NBC) programming Saturday nights with new programs that people might actually want to watch. I was watching something else. Still you couldn't miss the absolute passion that people posting to rec.arts.tv had for the show.
NBA Shaq TV Reality Series
- Okay, I have never heard of this but with a name like Shaquille, and in fact even TV.com doesn't list it. Mystery!
Significant Others: The Complete Series
- A series from Bravo - the American Bravo not the Canadian one - that of course isn't seen in Canada. In fact when I was looking this up I found and thought that it would be the Jennifer Garner series from the 1990s. The concept sounds interesting - an improvised sitcom about couples in therapy - and being on cable means that it wasn't restricted by the strictures of network TV, like producing thirteen episodes and waiting for a back half. I don't know if it would have flown on network TV, but it went for two six episode seasons on Bravo for whatever that's worth.