I took last week off on this one simply because I had too much outside of my blogging life to get done and not enough time to do it all in. Something had to suffer and it wasn't going to be the other stuff. So what about this week? Well there are some new series premieres to review – or not but beyond that the decks are mostly clear for some serious writing. As always, while the comments are my own, the list comes from TVShowsonDVD.com without whose hard and diligent work I wouldn't be doing this piece. By the Way, my links come from Amazon.ca. In recent days the value of the Canadian dollar has reached par with the US dollar. Unfortunately Canadian prices on merchandise such as DVDs do not at present reflect this, including merchandise sold by Amazon.ca. In other words, they tend to be priced higher than they would be from Amazon.com.
Oh by the way, why is absolutely no one voting in the poll this week? Okay, Toby voted, but where are the rest of you?! I'm asking for predictions or at least wild assed guesses. Or maybe I'm just a little premature on when I'm running it? Is that it? At the very least give me a little feedback!
My Pick Of The Week
Johnny Cash TV Show 1969-1971:
I literally grew up listening to Johnny Cash. In fact the first record I ever owned myself was a 45 of Johnny Cash singing the theme from the TV series The Rebel and a "B" side featuring the Civil War ballad Lorena. (Actually it may have been some sort of bastardized version of an LP because I also remember him singing Remember The Alamo on that record. I'll have to see if I can find it.) The Johnny Cash I remember was the guy who put "Spanish" trumpets on Ring Of Fire (that was the description he used; he didn't know the terms but he knew what he wanted). And who sang "Because you're mine, I walk the line." And a few years later he was also the guy who sang Folsom Prison Blues, A Boy Named Sue, and Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down and with his new wife June Carter sang the line "We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout. We've been talkin' 'bout Jackson ever since the fire went out." That was the guy who hosted what I still consider to be one of the best music shows ever on American television.
I say "one of the best music shows" on American TV because it wasn't just country music nor was it a variety show. The list of people on this DVD crosses genres. There's Johnny's old Sun Records buddy Roy Orbison, but also Bob Dylan and Louis Armstrong (in a duet with Johnny!). There's the Statler Brothers and Waylon Jennings, but there's also Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell. There's Neil Diamond and Neil Young. Johnny and Chet Atkins even perform a little classical music, "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" by the 19th Century Spanish guitar composer Francisco Tàrega as well as sitting down with Derek and the Dominoes featuring a guy named Clapton who you might have heard of For me, a definite, absolute must have.
And now the rest of the week's DVDs.
Ballykissangel: Complete Series Six
Ballykissangel: The Complete Collection
If I admit that I've never seen Ballykissangel does that make me a bad person? Because I haven't. Series, or Season 6 was the show's last. I can't say much more about it except that it is described by TV.com as "one of the best British primetime shows ever seen on British television." Even with the redundancy in the quote, it's a pretty strong endorsement.
Blade: House of Chthon (Pilot Episode)
This is the pilot episode for the abortive attempt to bring Marvel Comics' Blade to TV. The story had successfully made the transition from comics to film in the form of three movies with Wesley Snipes and Jessica Biel. And indeed Snipes and Biel were the first choices to recreate their film roles in the series which was originally intended for the Showtime network. For a variety of reasons the two actor pulled out which led to the series being cut back in terms of budget and distribution – instead of Showtime, a premium cable channel which frequently features more "adult" content, the show went to the basic cable Spike network – and starring a largely unknown cast. Even though this episode was #1 in cable audience on the night it debuted, the series didn't hold its audience and was cancelled at the end of its first, twelve episode, season. This show isn't my sort of thing and the descriptions of cast and the effects of the diminished budget would make me a bit wary if it were a genre I was interested in.
Boston Legal: Season 3
I'm not a Boston Legal fan. In fact I can count in the thumb of one hand the number of episodes of the show that I have watched, but that episode, Son of the Defender is on this set and it is good, making effective use of a 1957 episode of Studio One featuring series star William Shatner and the great Ralph Bellamy. I can't effectively judge the show based on that but that episode at least was worth the time it took me to watch it.
Brothers and Sisters: The Complete First Season
Last season ABC seemed to be all about the relationships. Their new schedule featured shows like 6 Degrees, The Nine, and Men In Trees with nary a police procedural in sight. A lot of these shows died a quick and relatively unnoticed death. Men In Trees survived but was ill treated by the network. The big success from this list of relationship shows was Brothers And Sisters. It deserved to survive. Billed as Calista Flockhart's return to network TV what it actually had was a superb ensemble cast that included two time Oscar winner Sally Field and Oscar and Emmy nominee Rachel Griffiths. Unsurprisingly, both Griffiths and Field were nominated for Emmys while Flockhart was not. The show is concerned with the dynamics of a very complex family but one which rises above their various problems. Worth seeing just to watch Field who as usual is great (as long as she's not making an acceptance speech ;-) ).
The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, Vol. 1
When Casper the Friendly Ghost debuted as a cartoon character for Paramount back in the late 1940s he rapidly became one of the most boring and repetitive characters to come out of that boring and repetitive studio (although the studio wasn't anywhere near as boring and repetitive as Terrytoon). I really doubt that the character has changed much over the decades.
Corner Gas: Season 4 (3DVD)
Thanks to Superstation WGN, Americans are getting to see what Canadians have known for a while – you can do a very funny comedy based out of a small town southwest of Regina. Brent Butt and his little gang of actors are a talented ensemble who have done a show that is equal parts Seinfeld (its a show about nothing) and Northern Exposure (Gabrielle Miller as Lacy Burrows is very much an urban fish out of water in a town that prefers gas station cookies to fresh biscotti). The show is a 'Rider lovin' comic gem and deserves all of the success that it can get. (That last sentence means a lot in Saskatchewan, trust me.) The season finale features a cameo from Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Ninth Season
Well strictly speaking no, not everybody loved Raymond. I for example couldn't stand it though I will confess to finding Brad Garrett's character Robert funny and probably the best thing in the whole show. Otherwise I could never muster up much enthusiasm for the series and wouldn't want anyone to buy me this set. That said, I know that I am almost certainly in the minority in holding this view given the ratings that it pulled when it was on and how it does in syndication. I can't recommend it but I am scarcely in a position to tell you not to buy it either.
Family Guy, Vol. 5
Another show that I can't whole heartedly recommend because I don't watch it and the subject matter doesn't really appeal to me. On the other hand the PTC loathes the show which is on the plus side for me. On the other, other hand I do wonder sometimes if the show's producers use the fact that the show is animated to go a bit farther than they might otherwise – the PTC's Misrated section this week brings up a couple of points about violent content in the show not being treated (or at least rated) the same as it would be in a live action show that might actually be valid. On the other other other hand this is the PTC we're talking about, I haven't seen the sequence in question and they do tend to overreact more than a bit. And if I grow any more hands I'll officially qualify for godhood in India.
Playboy: Foursome Season 1, Part 2
It comes from Playboy and the cover describes it as "The TV dating show that shows everything." Offhand I'm guessing this isn't a show you're going to want to watch with the kids on a snowy Saturday night.
Gene Simmons: Family Jewels Seasons 1&2
Okay, I think I've mentioned this more than a few times in this blog and elsewhere: Shannon Tweed, who is Gene Simmons's lady friend and the mother of his two children, and I went to Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon back in the early to mid-'70s. She was a year behind me, I never met her and for the most part we didn't travel in the same circles, although I did know one guy who knew her back then. And that extremely tenuous connection is not why I like this show. Amazingly the woman who I always thought did her best acting when she whipped her top off in all those awful erotic thrillers has at age 50 revealed a real talent for doing comedy or at least being funny – sort of like Pamela Anderson but with brains. Gene Simmons can be funny too. I'm treating this show like a comedy when of course it's a celebrity reality show, but the fact is that this is a funny show about two people who have a reputation for being outrageous but in fact seem very well grounded. I guess you could say I'm something of a fan which surprises and sort of shocks me because I didn't expect it.
The Ghost Whisperer: Season 2
I watched an episode of this show when it first appeared. I didn't like it. I was unimpressed by the acting abilities of Jennifer Love Hewitt and I found the whole "helping dead people to the other side" business to be both boring and opposed to the rational side of my being. It amazes me but I actually liked Medium better than this show if only because that show had both dramatic tension and significant characterization both of which I found lacking in this series. Now things may have changed since I watched that first episode, but it would take wild horses (or the promise of a night of exceptional passion afterwards) to get me to watch this so that I could find out.
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: The Complete Season 1
A Cartoon Network show and as usual one that I have no exposure to. Apparently it's popular enough to spawn at least one movie, but I know so little about it that it's really not fair for me to write about it.
Josie and the Pussycats: The Complete Series
Now this one I do know a little about. An attempt to recreate the buzz that surrounded the cartoon adaptation of Archie and the musical group The Archies with another Archie Comics character Josie by making the series about a girl band Josie and the Pussycats. The show lasted two seasons, which in the Saturday animation climate of the early 1970s is a fairly good run. Interestingly it was the first Saturday morning cartoon series to feature an African American character as a regular (apparently it took a lot of persuading to get Hanna-Barbera to accept that, according to the Wikipedia article on the show).
Married... with Children: The Complete Seventh Season
You can't deny the success of Married...with Children. You can try – lord knows I have – but any show that rumbles on for eleven seasons has to have something. Season 7 had Seven who was five. Seven was a character on the show, a child added for no apparent reason and removed from the show after eighteen episodes because 80% of the viewers loathed him. Interestingly, the character was funnier after he left the show than he ever was when he was on it.
Masters of Horror: Sounds Like
Masters of Horror: The Washingtonians
Single episodes from the second season of the excellent Masters of Horror. Don't buy them. You may want them but unless one or both of these are the only episodes you want to see from the entire season, you are better off waiting to buy the complete season set which, if the Season One set is any indication, will undoubtedly be cheaper than buying episodes individually.
Babylon 5/La Femme Nikita: Season One Starter Pack
Gilmore Girls/Veronica Mars: Season One Starter Pack
Smallville/Supernatural: Season One Starter Pack
I have absolutely no idea of what these contain, and Amazon is no help. I assume they are complete first season sets of the series listed (interestingly paired don't you think) but beyond that I have absolutely no idea.
Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive, Vol. 1 - Brownbeard's Pearl
Power Rangers: Operation Overdrive, Vol. 2 - Toru Diamond
You really don't want to know just how much I loathe and despise the Power Rangers in any known version of the series. In my very humble opinion they are and have always been the worst of television aimed at kids and have forced out other better shows. This is apparently the most recent "story" but let's face it, it's probably interchangeable with every other "story" since this show was created.
Smallville: The Complete Sixth Season
Smallville: Season 6 [Blu-ray]
Smallville: Season 6 [HD DVD]
This was for the most part an enjoyable romp of a season though there are a lot of people who disagree. More super-powers than ever with the return of Bart Allen, Victor Stone and the introduction of Oliver Queen, and the creation of The Justice League aimed at bringing down Lex Luthor. There's romance between Ollie and Lois Lane, and Chloe Sullivan and Jimmy Olsen. And let's not even mention the marriage of Lex Luthor and Lana Lang – I mean please, let's not mention it. Lynda Carter, TV's original Wonder Woman, makes an appearance as Chloe's mother. There's a film noir style episode that's a lot of fun, and the season culminates with the apparent death of at least two of the show's major characters. Just remember, we're talking comics here – even if you see the corpse it doesn't mean they're really and truly dead.
Stargate Atlantis: Season 3
I've never been more than a casual follower of the two Stargate series. I've seen some episodes of Stargate: SG1 but far fewer of the second series Stargate: Atlantis which of course is now the only Stargate series. I can't say much about the series though beyond the expectation that if you liked Stargate: SG1, you'll probably like Stargate: Atlantis... eventually.
This really isn't part of the Superman animated series that ran between 1996 and 2000 though both were created by Bruce Timm. This is closer to a movie for DVD and details on of the most memorable Superman stories of the past twenty or so years, 1993's Death Of Superman. While I haven't seen the movie (but I want to get it) reaction from those who have seen it – many at the San Diego Comic Con – has generally been extremely positive. To quote from Wikipedia, "Many agreed that the first of DC's line of animated films was better than what Marvel did for theirs as the film uses whatever it takes to make a PG-13 rated movie feel like one with the blood, the battles, and it's matured themes and story."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 1 - Part 2
This is the first season of the 2003 series which is closer in tone (dark) to the original comic book version of the characters than the version that ran during the late '80s and early '90s. I've never been interested in any variant of the Turtles ("heroes on a half-shell," which I think probably would better apply to oysters) but then I wasn't the target audience at any time.
Upright Citizens Brigade: Season 2
When I first heard the title of this I immediately thought it was a satire of the Parents Television Council. Obviously I was wrong. It's improvisational sketch comedy held together by a central theme running through the episode. Or something like that. As you can probably guess this is not something that would interest a guy who was brought up watching Wayne & Shuster.