Wednesday, August 03, 2005

TV On DVD - August 2, 2005

I'm running a bit late again thanks to Monday's Civic Holiday in most of Canada. I had stuff to do which didn't allow me to keep up with things. I also had a huge headache for most of Monday so everything got pushed back a bit. Including this week's listing of TV shows on DVD.

Arthur's First Crush
Arthur: Nerves of Steal
- More episodes from the Arthur animated series for kids.

Austin Stevens Snakemaster, Vol. 1
- Here's how obscure Austin Stevens and his Animal Planet series are: they aren't listed in the IMDB and doesn't have any episode listings. They don't even have a cast list even though the show has apparently been running since October 2003. Just a guess, but I suspect that the star is someone named Austin Stevens, and that he does something similar to what Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter does or did.

Berenstain Bears: Bears Out and About!
- Apparently there are two very different series of this children's show, from 1985 and from 2003 (the latter was made by in Canada by Nelvana Productions and airs on Treehouse TV up here). These episodes are apparently from the 1985 series.

Blue's Clues: Blue's Room - Alphabet Power
- Every so often does something that makes me want to rip my hair out (and I can't afford to do that!). There are plenty of times where a series his listed as being available in a few weeks in Canada when it's already out in the US, and occasionally they just don't list it, but this one takes the cake. They list the release date for this DVD correctly... and immediately tell us that it's "Out Of Print - Limited Availability". Almost makes you want to weep.

Candid Camera: 5 Decades of Smiles
- They bill this as being "Five Decades of Smiles" and I guess they're technically right except one would assume five contiguous decades, which as George Gershwin put it "Ain't Necessarily So". The ten disk set lists the 1949 premiere episode and then skips the entire 1950's period (admittedly the show only had a brief run then) to reach the 1960s. What amazes me even more is that they found enough material from from the 1970s and '80s to fill three disks. This was a very poor period for the Funts and at one point Alan Funt was reduced to doing the show for the Playboy Channel, where the gags usually involved topless women. Hopefully the DVD set has some of the episodes that Buster Keaton did for the show in the early 1960s.

The Cosby Show: Season 1
- It's hard to remember now but at the time that The Cosby Show debuted the media were in one of their periodic "is the sitcom dead" phases. Bill Cosby not only revived the family sitcom with this show but he gave us an affluent but hard working family to watch. It was incidental that they were African-American although there were a few groups who claimed that The Cosby Show didn't really represent African-Americans, apparently because they were upper-middle class and living in a town house in Brooklyn rather than working class (or worse) and living in the projects. Cosby never downplayed the African-American aspects of his characters but never made it the only thing about them either. The list of guest stars throughout the run of the show is impressive, both in terms of established performers and people who would become famous. This first season included Dizzy Glillespie, Lena Horne, Sheldon Leonard (Bill Cosby's old producer on I Spy), Iman, Alicia Keyes, Terry Farrell and Angela Bassett. And this was just the first season.

Dragon Tales: Sing and Dance in Dragon Land!
- Apparently these are musical excerpts from the popular PBS -Sesame Workshop children's series.

The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Fourth Season
- On the good side this was still before the ill-fated attempt to replace Schneider and Wopat as them Duke Boys. The fourth season does have to survive without Sonny Shroyer as Enos, and unlike previous seasons there aren't as many guest appearances by notable country music acts of the period, but that really wasn't why we watched the series in the first place after all. The plots are absurd, the chases are almost worthy of a Roadrunner-Coyote cartoon, but in the end that's what allows the series to endure and be better than any movie version that Hollywood can throw together. Intellectuals hated it, but there are times when you just don't want to be intellectual and want to watch cars jumping creeks and dumb cops proving that they're dumb.

First World War: The Complete Series
- If this was the series that was on PBS a couple of years ago, then I heartily recommend it. World War I was the event that defined the 20th Century. Without that war at that time there would have been no Hitler, no Communist Russia, a later decolonization, a larger number of monarchies in Europe, and a huge number of technologies would never have advanced as fast as they did. The series that I remember made fascinating use of first person accounts, photographs and film archives. Highly recommended.

Hearts Afire: Season 1
- Sometimes there are wonderful series which just never catch fire with the public. This was one of them, and I can't explain why. It certainly wasn't the cast, which featured John Ritter, Markie Post and some guy named Billy Bob Thornton. The first season is primarily a political satire, with the main characters working for a conservative - if somewhat befuddled - southern Senator played by George Gaynes from the Police Academy movies, who kept his even dumber mistress (Beth Broderick) on the payroll as his secretary. I was a big fan of the first season of this series, and felt that the decision to move the series to a small town newspaper. The show was never a big winner in the ratings but what can I say, I liked it.

Jeff Corwin Experience: Out on a Limb - Monkeys, Orangutans & More!
- Okay, I'm not a big fan of this sort of nature show, so I tend not to watch. I may have seen part of an episode but nowhere near enough to comment on it.

Over There
- Wow, that was quick! The pilot episode of Steven Bochco's latest series Over There aired on July 27 and it's already available on DVD. Since the History Channel here in Canada will begin airing episodes starting in September, I haven't seen the series but it says quite a bit about it that the producers and the originating network (FX) were so enthusiastic that they decided to release the DVD of the pilot so close to the original air date.

Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss - The Cat, The Gink and Other Furry Friends
- I'm going to be brutally honest here and let you know that this sort of rubs me the wrong way. This Jim Henson Prductions project for Nickelodeon ran during the 1996-97 season and used the characters from the Dr. Seuss but in stories not written by Theodor Seuss Geisel (which would have been difficult what with him being dead for five years and all). Call me old fashioned but I kind of don't want my Dr. Seuss written by people who aren't Dr. Seuss. He was unique and I don't think other people could write his characters as well as he did.

The X-Files Mythology: Vol. 2 - Black Oil
- This is the second of three sets from the "alien abduction" mytharc in The X-Files which was the part of the series which was always just below the surface of all the stories. This particular collection covers seasons 3 and 4 and two episodes from season 5. Packaging the episodes in this manner is a fascinating approach both in terms of keeping interest in the show active and catering to a portion of the audience who wants to see these episodes collected. It doesn't hurt that it's a big and complex story that is involving and well written.

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