Friday, October 21, 2005

TV On DVD - October 18, 2005 - Or At Least Thereabouts

Apologies all. This is very late thanks in no small part to a very stubborn and exasperating Internet connection that has been driving me up the wall. Lots of kidvid, but there are a some real nostalgic gems from the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

The Adventures of Superman: The Complete First Season
- Superman is an American icon and when you think of the TV version it's the George Reeves version from the 1950s that you think of rather than Dean Cain's version in Lois And Clark or Tom Welling's Clark Kent in Smalville. The show was done on a shoestring budget, and a pretty frayed shoestring at that, and used a lot of stock footage not to mention scripts that were actually worse than those used in the 1950s comic books. The show is worth watching for the cast which included Jack larcenies as Jimmy oleaginous, and both Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill as Lois Lane. However the key is Reeves as Superman. You might be able to see that Clark Kent is Superman, but Reeves looks equally good in the form fitting Superman uniform or Clark Kent's suit and snapped brim fedora. And as dramatic as the opening was on radio it was even better with a visual component.

Atomic Betty, Vol. 1: Betty, Set, Go!
Atomic Betty, Vol. 2: Betty to the Rescue

- I don't know much about the Atomic Betty animated series, so I've had to do a little research. It's produced in Canada for the Cartoon Network and Teletoon, and is about a girl from Moose Jaw Heights Saskatchewan(!) who is an ordinary Earth kid who just happens to be famous throughout the rest of the galaxy as a member of the Galactic Guardians. According to Wikipedia the series has unimaginative plotting but "an unusually strong sense of continuity for a show of its genre, and it is generally considered to have excellent character design." Done with Macromedia Flash animation.

Batman vs. Dracula
- This is part of a larger release of Batman material including the 1943 serial time to coincide with the release of the recent Batman Begins movie on DVD. I have seen parts of a few episodes of the current The Batman series and while it lacks some of the retro feel of the previous Batman cartoons, which worked to create an artistic impression not unlike the Fleischer Superman cartoons, this series does work. The Batman Vs. Dracula is actually a 90 minute feature produced for the direct to DVD market and not only features Dracula but many of The Batman's most famous enemies.

Braceface: Turning 13
- Another animated Canadian series that I know little about, this one produced by and starring Alicia Silverstone as the voice of Sharon Spitz. Apparently it ran for only two seasons to uniformly low ratings.

C.S.I. New York: The Complete First Season
- While I don't like CSI: New York as well as I like the original CSI, it is far closer to the original in style than CSI: Miami and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Gary Sinese doesn't dominate the show in the same way that David Caruso does the Miami version. There is always the sense in this version of the franchise that while Sinese's character of Mack Taylor is in control, everything doesn't revolve around him. The first season of the series was criticized for being dark, and as such possibly hurting New York's image. Perhaps, but it is in keeping with creating a mood that fits the particular setting.

Dark Shadows: The Revival, The Complete Series
- Noting the continued popularity of the original Dark Shadows series, in 1991creator Dan Curtis revived the show as a prime time series. Despite a strong cast which included Oscar nominee Jean Simmons and Chariots of Fire star Ben Cross, the series lasted a mere 12 episodes. While it has its adherents it is not nearly as popular as the original series.

Garfield Prime Time Gift Set
- These were the prime time specials which led up to the creation of the Garfield and Friends TV series, brought together on a three DVD set. It's hard to explain just how anticipated these specials were at the time, given the slide in popularity that the comic strip has undergone in recent years.

Ghost Hunters: Complete First Season
Ghost Hunters, Vol. 1: Very Best Of - Most Bizarre

- I haven't seen this series which airs on the Sci-Fi channel in the United States. It has been dubbed a "docu-soap" whatever the heck that means. Apparently it features two real-life plumbers who are also investigate the paranormal, which is to say ghosts. Scary stuff for Hallowe'en.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Season One, Volume 1 (Collector's Edition)
- He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe existed for one thing and one thing only - to sell toys - and no amount of tacking on those little morals or public service type messages to the end of each episode could change that. Worse still it came from Filmation, a studio where the motto always seemed to be "if you can't do it fast and cheap don't do it at all." The worst of Hanna-Barbera was better than the best of Filmation.

The Hilarious House of Frightenstein
- The labelling on this set is misleading. Empire Pictures, which is releasing this boxed set is playing up the presence of Vincent Price, however Price was just a small part of the show, serving as its narrator. The real star of the show was the legendary Canadian comedian Billy Van, who got his start in show-business as a Frank Sinatra imitator. Van played most of the characters on the show which was an hour long and produced at CHCH-TV in Hamilton Ontario - which probably explains why I never saw it, since CHCH was a major independent station and guarded the rights to their own programming dilligently.

Mister Peepers
- Mister Peepers was one of the legendary TV series of the early days of television, and has been mostly unseen since it was first aired. Perhaps that explains why it is so poorly rated on The problem was that two-fold. The series was originally only intended as a summer replacement in 1952, but a series called Doc Corkle performed so poorly that Mister Peepers was revived. The series was done live and was distributed to the west coast using kinescopes - basically a 16 mm film camera filming the studio monitor. The kinescopes were never meant to last and mostly they didn't. Also the show was shot in New York so they weren't able to adapt as readily to the three camera technology pioneered by Desi Arnaz around the time that Mister Peepers debuted. Still the cast was outstanding, and included not just Wally Cox, who became a star as a result of this show, but also Tony Randall, Jack Warden, Arthur O'Connell and Marion Lorne.

Pet Alien: Atomic Tommy
Pet Alien: Aliens Unleashed

- Yet another Cartoon Network series that I've never seen and have no idea what it's about.

Saved by the Bell - The New Class: Season 5
- This series, which Ian J. Ball tells me was vastly inferior to the original, just kept going and going and going, changing kids as needed.

Strawberry Shortcake: Dress Up Days
- Like He-Man the primary objective of this series was to sell toys. Unlike He-Man the vapid stories are at least supported by tolerable animation.

Legend of Zelda: The Complete Animated Series
- These cartoons are from the short-lived live action Super Mario Brothers Super Show series. The cartoons deal with Princess Zelda and her suitor and frequent rescuer Link and tend to be a bit dumb. The DVD does include some scenes from the Super Mario Brothers show which starred former wrestler Captain Lou Albano and veteran character actor Danny Wells which look funny in a strange sort of way.

Twilight Zone: Season 4
- More episodes from one of the greatest science fiction television anthologies of all time - the original series not the 1985 or 2002 revivals. Extras include old interviews with a number of actors who worked during the season including Burgess Meredith and Ross Martin, as well at least one commentary from William Windom. As always with this series, the casts for the individual stories are outstanding, and include Meredith, Martin, and Windom as well as Jack Klugman, Paul Mazursky, Robert Duvall, Dana Andrews and Martin Balsam.

- I've never seen this HBO series created by George Clooney and Steven Soderburgh. This is described as an "improvisational dramedy" which implies that the actors involved are given situations to deal with within the context of the show but aren't working with a script. I've never seen it but it sounds as if it could either be very good or very bad. At the very least it seems to be an interesting experiment.

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