Tuesday, May 31, 2005

TV on DVD - May 31, 2005

A rather slow week, with some items delayed for a week or two. On the other hand there are a couple of real gems in this weeks listing.

Combat: Season 4 - Conflict 1
Combat!: Conflict 2: Season 4

- Combat! was one of the great series of my youth and it holds up. Season 4 was the last season shot in Black & White. In my opinion B&W was the right style for World War II series like Combat! and 12 O'Clock High but the nature of the television at the time meant that every series was going to go into colour or be cancelled. The DVDs contain a number of extras including commentaries, but the episodes don't appear to be in order on the disks. Still it's always fun to see Rick Jason and V*c M****w. (Special joke just for Tom Sutpen.)

The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Series (All 5 Seasons)
- This is a massive package consisting of all five seasons of what was on of the seminal series of the 1960s, all of which have already been released on DVD, but wait. If you haven't bought any of the earlier releases of single season boxed sets, this might indeed be the way to go. Based on the Amazon.ca price of $194.95 (Canadian) for the five season set and the price for each of the single seasons - $79.95 (Canadian) - this five season set is priced at slightly less than two and a half single season sets. Of course if you are a fanatic for the Dick Van Dyke Show you've already trudged to the store to get each set as it was released.

Danger Mouse: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2
- Okay, this is another one that I never saw. In my defense it was a little later than my prime cartoon watching era and I don't know if it was even shown on a station that I had access to. Now Secret Squirrel I remember.

Dark Shadows: V18 Collection
- I live in a part of Canada that is rather unusual: it is more than 100 miles from the US border. Most Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border and as a result in the 1960s had easy access to cross border broadcast TV signals. They saw Dark Shadows, I didn't. The series only lasted from 1966 to 1971 but it developed a cult following (appropriate term that). It spawned a rather tepid 1991 remake starring Ben Cross which ended up as a casualty of the Gulf War (or more likely poor casting and network weasels), and there was talk of another remake on The WB in 2004 which didn't get off the ground. But the fans are loyal to the Jonathon Frid version with the sort of devotion that you'd expect of followers of a cult. Certainly it is likely the only daytime drama - soap opera really - that is likely to be released on DVD. Volume 18 collects the episodes from December 5, 1969 to February 2, 1970 on four discs, with bonus interviews on each. Now if only someone would do something with The Edge of Night (my favourite soap opera).

The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Third Season
- Here's a bit of trivia. Of the main actors on The Dukes of Hazard - John Schneider, Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach, Denver Pyle, and Sorrel Booke - none was born in the south. That's neither here nor there. The Dukes of Hazard was fluff, never meant to be taken seriously but just good clean car jumpin', cop humiliatin' fun. There's little to distinguish most season from each other except for the 13 episodes where Schneider and Wopat sat out for a raise and were replaced by Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer as Coy and Vance Duke. It took that long for the producers and the network to realise that Dukes weren't interchangeable. The show featured a lot of country singers in performance and this season was a gem for that, including Tammy Wynette, Hoyt Axton, Dottie West, Freddie Fender, and Roy Orbison. Whether music clearances will allow those performances to be included on the DVDs is another question.

Moonlighting: Seasons 1 & 2
- The series that marked the supposed revival of Cybill Shepherd's career and also the breakout role for a guy named Bruce Willis. It very quickly became apparent that the series wasn't just an ordinary detective show. It should also have become apparent that it wasn't going to be a smooth run. The first season consists of just six episodes while the second season had 18. Which may not seem like a lot but it was the most episodes that the show would ever produce in a single season. What made the show work was the personal chemistry and sexual tension that existed between David & Maddy, which is ironic given that Shepherd and Willis hated each other. Just one down note on the set: it is brought out by Lion's Gate Films and while the company has a good reputation as a film maker they have a rather poorer reputation when it comes to DVDs of TV series. Apparently they release shows which have been cut for syndication without restoring the cuts and this appears to be the case on this set.

Rifleman, The Set 4 Rifleman Box Set Collection 4
- Another blast from my childhood. Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain was one of the great western heroes. The series was created by Sam Peckinpah and had a distinguished list of directors including Peckinpah, Ida Lupino and William Conrad. An IMDB reviewer described it as a "Western noir". I'm not sure about that but that may be because I haven't seen the show since I was 6.

This Is Your Life: Ultimate Collection
- This Is Your Life was one of the legendary series of the 1950s which lasted nine years in its first incarnation, and was revived a number of times since it left the air in 1961. Amazingly the British version which started in 1955 lasted until 2003. This set of three disks features 18 episodes of the American series from 1953 to 1987 and includes guests as diverse Milton Berle, Johnny Cash, Shirley Jones, Jesse Owens and Betty White. Perhaps the gem of the disc is the episode featuring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Stan didn't want to talk much because he didn't want to make their first TV appearance on an unscripted show; he wasn't going to put on "a free show for them." However Stan suffered a stroke soon after the show was broadcast and by the time he was able to perform again Oliver Hardy's health had deteriorated. Thus, this one episode of This Is Your Life is the only TV appearance they ever made. (Thanks to Mark Evanier's New From Me for this story.)

The Tomorrow People: Set One
- This is a British Science Fiction series from the 1970s about teens with superpowers including telepathy and teleportation. It's classified as a "children's series" but apparently it's a children's series in the same way that its contemporary Doctor Who was a children's series. I've never seen it although apparently it was shown in the United States on Nickelodeon. Produced by ITV it reportedly was done on an even smaller budget than Doctor Who if you can believe it.

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