Wednesday, August 24, 2005

TV On DVD - August 23, 2005

ABC Afterschool Specials Collector's Set
- This is a complete 13 disk set of ABC's After School Specials, 26 episodes in a rather nice looking box that is designed to look like a school bus. Presumably the bus home so you can watch the specials. I may mock (a little) but in all honesty this was an effort to program for teens and pre-teens and that's a lot more than any network is doing today.

Adam-12: Season One
Emergency!: Season One
- Say what you want about Jack Webb as an actor, as producer he created some pretty interesting concepts. Adam-12 and Emergency! were two of his innovative concepts from the 1970s even if execution didn't always match up with the idea. Who built a dramatic series around uniformed beat cops before Webb? For that matter, who has done a series exclusively around beat cops since Webb. The concept was simple: two guys in a car dealing with calls and using their training and instincts to deal with situations. Rather than featuring an episode long story like Dragnet, Adam-12 lived with vignettes strung together is a "day in the life" style. Supposedly the most realistic cop show ever, although a common complaint was that Reed and Malloy pulled their guns a little too often. The supporting roles in the series, notably Sergeant MacDonald (William Boyett) and Officer Wells (Gary Crosby) are enjoyable, and of course there's the every present voice of Shaaron Claridge as the Dispatcher (she was a real LAPD dispatcher who retired in 19xx). Look for a couple of appearances by Foster Brooks before he started his "drunk" act.

As ground breaking famous as Adam-12 was, Emergency was possibly more innovative. The show about paramedics was looking at the recently introduced paramedic program which had been introduced in LA County around 1970 (the series ran from 1972-1977) and it is credited with making the concept of paramedics not only well known but acceptable. While Adam-12 focussed on a single car, Emergency! was focussed on a two-man paramedic team supported by the emergency room staff at Rampart Hospital, played by Robert Fuller, Julie London and Bobby Troup (as is well known, London was Jack Webb's ex-wife and was married to Troup until his death). The show tended to adhere to the "day in the life" formula, and while the supporting cast - mostly the fire fighters at station 51 - was a little less well drawn in this series than they were in Adam-12, on the whole this was a very enjoyable series.

Alf: Season Two
- It seems as though this coming TV season has ET coming to earth and getting ready to kick our collective ass. With this in mind it is comforting to remember that there was a time when the greatest danger from an Alien Life Form - if you weren't a cat - was that he might be too obnoxious to live with. That of course was the premise behind ALF and it worked surprisingly well. ALF, aka Gordon Shumway, was obnoxious, sort of like an uncle who came to visit and stayed and the contrast between him and the incredible uptight Willie Tanner (played by Max Wright) is the source of the humour. In the end ALF is family, something even Willie is willing to admit.

Boy Meets World: The Complete Third Season
- Boy Meets World ran for seven years. Oddly enough it felt like more. Perhaps this is because they took the lead character and his closest friends from being an 11 year-old in elementary school to a college student, and throughout he has the same teacher - George Feeny (played by William Daniels for whom I have a considerable soft spot). There's a certain charm to the series but I've only seen occasional episodes and most fo those were in the later seasons, which may explain why I've never been fully able to enjoy it.

Codename: Kids Next Door
- I'm sorry I have no idea what this Cartoon Network series is about.

Cyberchase - Ecohaven CSE
- I've seen parts of some episodes of this although not enough to know what this PBS series is trying to teach - apparently it's mathematics - but what I can say is that Gilbert Gottfried has found his acting niche as a wise ass bird. First there was Iago in Aladin and now Digit in Cyberchase opposite Christopher Lloyd as Hacker. I don't know the details about the particular shows on this DVD of course.

Futurama: Monster Robot Maniac Fun
- I suppose that the best way to describe this disk is as a sampler. It contains four episodes from the Futurama series, all of which have appeared in the season box sets. Of course if you're one of the numerous fanatics that they show has created you'll buy it because it's Futurama and you want to show those network weasels that they were wrong to cancel the show. Otherwise, the sets are a better way to go.

Good Times Complete Fifth Season
- Good Times is another one of those shows that I never got into. A big part of the problem for me was the character of "J.J." played by Jimmie Walker. Apparently it was a big problem for series star Esther Rolle who at one point said "Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child." Rolle had left the series at the end of season 4 - in a manner that Rolle didn't fully approve of - so season 5 focusses entirely on the kids and neighbour Willona who adopts a girl played by Janet Jackson. Rolle would eventually return to the show for it's sixth season...but probably wasn't happy about it.

Kung Fu: The Complete Third Season
- I remember watching the first season of this series but I eventually drifted away. A big part of the reason for this is that I rapidly came to dislike series star David Carradine. By the time the third season rolled around things were becoming rather difficult on the set. For one thing Carradine, who was in a relationship with Barbara Hershey was also entering into a relationship with actress Season Hubley. According to IMDB he was also suffering a number of injuries during the making of the series which made it impossible for him to continue in the role. The final series had Caine finally meeting his long lost half-brother and resolved most of the situations. One thing I didn't know about htis series is that Bruce Lee was turned down for the role of Caine (supposedly because of his accent but probably as much because the officials at ABC didn't feel the American public would accept a Chinese leading man) but he credited as co-creator based on a script he wrote called The Warrior.

Life As We Know It: The Complete Series
- Some series are, in the words of the old song, "born to lose". Life As We Know It is in that category. What else is there to say about a show that goes up against CSI and The Apprentice? Interestingly enough the last two episodes aired this past May...but only in Europe. It's unfortunate that the show was up against powerhouses on CBS and NBC because people who actually bothered to watched the show actually rated it extremely highly. Given the nature of the show - another tean-angst series - it may not be my personal preference, but it's still bad to see a show like this being sacrificed the way this one was.

The O.C.: The Complete Second Season
- I've never watch an episode of Fox's hit series The O.C.. I think it's mainly because the show comes across very much as the sort of teen-angst show that The WB is famous - or infamous - for without the often unique twists that the WB shows frequently put on that format. I guess I'm just a little too old for unmodified teen angst.

Once and Again: The Complete Second Season
- I never watched Once And Again much past the first episode. The show was everything we were supposed to want in TV - romance, family, and interpersonal relationship - and none of the things we're not supposed to want - violent and full of indiscriminate sex - but it didn't really catch fire despite being on for three years. The fact that his happened was largely because of a devoted fanbase. I hate to say this but the show was TV's answer to a "chick flick" even though guys frequently liked it, mainly because Sela Ward is an extremely beautiful woman.

Six Feet Under: The Complete Fourth Season
- I'm making the assumption that the release of the fourth season of Six Feet Under the Tuesday after the show left the air forever was not a coincidence. I haven't seen this season of the series (because I'm too cheap and too broke to splurge for the premium cable) but the series has been uniformly praised throughout it's existence as quality programming. The fourth season gets deeper into the dysfunctional relationships of the Fisher Family and particularly Nate's relationship with Brenda.

That's My Mama Complete First Season
That's My Mama Complete Second Season

- Before I talk about the show I have to say something about the marketing which takes a 39 episode series and sells it as complete seasons. That said, I was very fond the series when it originally ran, and when I heard reviews of The Barbershop the descriptions immediately reminded me of this show. The relationship between Clifton and his mother Eloise is warm, and the characters in the barbershop, including Jester Hairston, Teddy Wilson and Ted Lange had a comfortable camaraderie about them. As I recall the series ending was not entirely caused by bad ratings but by Davis's own personal problems which eventually led him to becoming an ordained minister and in turn led to his second hit series Amen, which also costarred Jester Hairston.

Whats Happening Complete Third Season
- This is another show that flew completely under my radar, probably because it started to air just before we got American stations here by cable and I didn't get into it by the time we actually got cable. Still a lot of people speak fondly of it even though it didn't air that long. The third season apparently shakes up the show's basic premise somewhat, perhaps in an effort to attract viewers.

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