Wednesday, August 31, 2005

TV On DVD - August 30, 2005 - Just a Bit Late

Okay, well that was interesting. I mentioned last night that had a bit of a problem with their Associates page when I wanted to do this Tuesday evening. Well that lasted until about 2 a.m. and then reverted to normal, so I'm doing the Amazon connections right now and eh comments on Wednesday morning when hopefully I'll be less tired (and less irritable).

As Time Goes by: Complete Series, Vol. 8 and Vol. 9
- As Time Goes By is one of those British series which is totally safe from being stolen and revised for the American market. Not only would it be impossible for the Americans to replace the amazing Judy Dench or Geoffrey Palmer (who always reminds me of a Basset Hound, which is of course part of his charm) but American television would never believe that a show about two people older than thirty could ever be interesting to anyone in their "key demographic". The fact is that this is a sweet comedy about two people who have found each other again at the time in their lives when they needed to find each other again. While the show ended with in 2002, two specials have apparently been shot and will air later this year.

Chef! - The Complete Collection (Series 1-3)
Chef: The Complete First Season
Chef! - The Complete Series Two
Chef! - The Complete Series Three

- This is another case of my not understanding what the people who are marketing this material are doing. There were three seasons of this show, a grand total of 20 episodes, so why are they selling separate first second and third seasons in addition to the complete series collection? Don't get me wrong, Chef! is one of my favourite Britcoms (and I happen to be deeply in lust with Caroline Lee-Johnston who played Janice and whose absence for most of the third season is detrimental to say the least). Lenny Henry is magnificent as Gareth Blackstock, a man who has a colourful way with using the English language and the various profanities found therein. Let's just say that Gareth's managerial style in the restaurant bears a shocking resemblance to Gordon Ramsay's but came years before Ramsay got his own restaurant. Definitely buy the complete set though.

Clifford: The Doggie Detectives
- Oh dear, my complete lack of knowledge and concern with pre-school television rises to the surface again as I am unable to tell you anything about this DVD.

Combat!: Season 5, Invasion 1
Combat!: Season 5, Invasion 2

- These are the final sets in the DVD release of one of the best military series of all times. As usual I think the decision - which was inevitable - to shift Combat! to colour from black & white hurt the show simply because we tend to think of World War II as a being in black and white (in more ways than one). The shift to colour hurt the almost documentary feel that some earlier episodes had. That said, the show is a prime example of the sort of casting that could be achieved during the period when the last of the studio contracts were expiring, with guest stars including Telly Savalas, Wayne Rogers, Ted Knight and Gavin McLeod (mot in the same episode though), Mike Farrell, James MacArthur, and Tom Skerritt.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fourth Season
- This show has been available here but I've never really gotten into Larry David's particular brand of insanity. The concept of the show just doesn't appeal to me. I won't say it's too sophisticated for me but all of the commercials and previews and Emmy clips that I've seen just come across as something that doesn't appeal to me, despite the fact that it sometimes sounds as though he's channelling part of my life. I just wish I had his.

Fairly Oddparents: Scary Godparents
- Apparently four episodes from the Nickelodeon series (plus two bonus episodes), with a scary sort of theme. I'm not sure of exactly what we're getting here though.

Garfield and Friends: Volume 4
- The Garfield comic strip has been going downhill for a considerable length of time. The TV series based on the strip managed to maintain a higher quality, the nature of the strip being well suited to the format that was adopted for the series - I don't think the character would have worked well in a full half-hour episode format, but it works well in short vignettes. Not a big fan but probably worth it for those who are.

H.R. Pufnstuf: 4 of Sid and Marty's Favorites
- This is a rather interesting idea. It is what amounts to a sampler of four episodes - described as the favourites of series creators Sid and Marty Krofft - from a series which only ran 17 episodes and for which a complete series set has already been issued. I remember seeing the series when I was kid, probably slightly older than the original target audience and I have to confess that I wasn't overly impressed but I know that there are those who are fanatical fans (The Banana Splits is a fonder memory for me).

Highway to Heaven: Season Two
- I think I mentioned when Season 1 came out that I was never a fan of Highway To Heaven. The series has Michael Landon as an angel sent to earth to do good deeds as he wanders around America, and if nothing else shows that Landon was almost physically incapable of not working on TV. Still I am not a fan of this sort of series particularly since its story lines are fairly simplistic even when compared with something like Touched By An Angel.

House, M.D.: Season One
- I think that 2004-05 will go down as one of the better TV seasons and one of the best new series to emerge in this season was House. The best reason - in some ways the only reason - for the show's success is just how well Hugh Laurie delineates the title character. Gregory House is by most standards not a sympathetic person, and indeed he sometimes seems to be barely a functional person, but Laurie's portrayal makes hime one of the most compelling characters on TV. It is a credit to him that while the other major hits of 2004-05 - Desperate Housewives, Lost, and arguably Battlestar Galactica - have on the whole been ensemble pieces, House rises and falls on Laurie's crafting of the role. A great first season.

Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge: The Collection
- I admit that I have never heard of this before. Apparently Alan Partridge is a character created by Steve Coogan through a series of TV series which chronicle the character's rise and fall and presumably his attempts to rise again within the television industry.The very concept sounds intriguing, but it seems not to have reached North America until now so I don't know how well it will be accepted. I don't know what to think.

World of Sid & Marty Krofft: Land of the Lost 'Stak Attack!
- Another sampler from Sid and Marty Krofft, this time for their mostly live action series Land Of The Lost. This one features four episodes built around the show's resident monsters, the Sleestaks. About the only extras is comentary track for one episode one from "Sleestak 2".

Married With Children: The Complete Fourth Season
- For years Married With Children was cited by critics as an example of the Fox Network pandering to the lowest aspects of public tastes. And it did, but it lasted longer than most series that aimed higher - or indeed aimed at the same level. It was a popular show. Season Four saw the departure of David Garrison as the relatively normal Steve and the arrival of Ted "show killer" McGinley as Jefferson. and so probably marks the point wheree it began to hit its comedic high point.

Mind of the Married Man: The Complete First Season
- I'm sorry but I've never even heard of this short-lived HBO series before it actually came up in this list. I'm sure that, being from HBO it was reasonably funny and probably quite adult - in content if not in attitude.

My Favorite Martian: Time Travelers Favorites
- My Favorite Martian was of course a staple of early 1960s television. This DVD focuses on four time travel stories. Stories involving time travel were very rare for this series, so it begs the question of why this DVD is being released instead of the anticipated third (and sadly final) season.

Nip/Tuck: The Complete Second Season
- I know that Nip/Tuck airs in Canada on the W Network, which probably explains why I've never seen it - the "W" in the network name stands for "Women" and I tend not to linger there. (If you're interested, Canada also has a Men's Network, although it's on digital cable and doesn't seem to have the same quality of programming. I don't like it either.) Even with sex and glamour, a series about plastic surgeons (plastic, if the comments found in various places are to be believed, in more ways than one) just doesn't seem my style.

Petticoat Junction: Ultimate Collection
- Of the three rural comedies created by the legendary Paul Henning, I think that Petticoat Junction is the one which always gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop, even at the time (recasting one of the daughter roles was the subject of an infamous CBS memo which included the phrase "bigger tits" according to Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye). It is true that it was never as out there as either The Beverly Hillbillies or Green Acres (although to be fair Green Acres was never as much Henning's show as the other two). The fact is that Petticoat Junction was a tremendous family sitcom which also introduced one of television's greatest characters, Homer Bedloe, created by the legendary Charles Lane. The DVD has a number of interesting features, not the least of which is the chance to see the earlier actresses who played Billy Jo (Jenine Riley and Gunilla Hutton) and Bobby Jo (Pat Woodell). Riley and Woodell aren't normally seen in the show's syndication runs because they were in the black and white episode which have been seen in years. The set has 20 episodes as well as a number of features including episode introductions from Linda Kaye Henning, a feture length documentary with cast members including Henning, Hutton, Lori Saunders and Charles Lane, and period commercials. It sounds like a great package although I would have preferred a season by season release.

The Complete Ripping Yarns
- A couple of weeks ago we saw the release of some "pre-Python" shows featuring the Monty Python cast. This set is an example of "post-Python" featuring Michael Palin and his writing partner Terry Jones. Palin is front and center in this nine episode series, which draws inspiration from various schoolboy annual type stories. Jones and Gilliam provide commentaries for each episode.

Roseanne: The Complete First Season
- I have never seen an episode of Roseanne because I have never been able to stomach Roseanne Barr even - perhaps particularly - in her stand-up act which I unfortunately saw excerpts from before this series debuted. Too bad because with the exception of the aforementioned lady there are some really good actors in this series, with particular attention going to John Goodman. Goodman, like Ed O'Neal in Married With Children has unfortunately suffered a certain amount of type-casting as a result of being on such a major hit, something which he is only starting to emerge from.

Saint: Set 2: Early Episodes
- Roger Moore as Simon Templar - The Saint (da doo wee a do wa doo) - is the epitome of cool. In fact he makes Moore's James Bond look practically uptight and gives Connery's Bond a bit of a run for his money. Unfortunately there's no indication as to which sixteen episodes are included on this four DVD set from A&E. Well at least it isn't Dog: The Bounty Hunter.

Strawberry Shortcake: Moonlight Mysteries
- Strawberry Shortcake is representative of the absolute nadir of American television animation. It, like so many similar series of the period (the 1980s) was created purely to sell toys to kids. They were half-hour commercials and in the case of Strawberry Shortcake sickly sweet ones with little (like an actual plot) to hold anyone's interests. As you can tell, I'm not a fan.

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