Thursday, January 12, 2006

TV On DVD - January 10, 2006

A little late but I had to deal with some browser troubles earlier on Tuesday so I'd like to think I'm excused. Another week with a small but interesting list. Of particular note is the fact that over half of the sixteen titles this week are British series, some of which appear to have had either limited release in North America or none at all. Some of them seem rather interesting.

Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda: Season 5, Collection 3
- By the time Season 5 of Andromeda appeared I had dropped the series, and although I've seen some episodes from Season 4 I've felt no reason to pick it up. What I find of interest in this package is two things: the cost and the fact that for the price you're only getting four episodes. The price is the equivalent of what you'd pay for a full season of something like NYPD Blue so the question becomes what makes this "worth it"? The fact is that there doesn't seem to be a really good answer that I can find. Assuming that this season is collected in a boxed set as the other seasons have, you are probably better off to wait for that to happen as the price appears to be significantly better than buying the season bit by bit, even if you do apparently have to deal with "flippers".

As Time Goes By: Reunion Special
- PBS has apparently decided to move quickly to release the As Time Goes By Reunion specials to DVD in the United States. These originally aired in Britain at the end of December 2005, so this is quick work. Worth buying? Well if you're a fan of the show or if your a fan of either Dame Judy Dench or Geoffrey Palmer, then I'd say most definitely.

Black Books: The Complete First Series
- Another British series, and one which I can't recall having seen, or even heard mentioned until this DVD release (which I suppose should indicate that it has aired her and I've just missed it). About "a foul mouthed, eccentric, misanthropic Irish drunkard" who owns an independent book store despite the fact that he doesn't like the people who buy books and frequently directs his insults at them. Oddly enough this sounds more interesting than some of the stuff I have seen from Britain recently.

The Flash: The Complete Series
- I loved this show, and surprisingly I didn't like it as much as my brother did. In part I loved the series because it was self-referential and often seemed to overindulge in "in jokes" like the time when The Flash raced by a theater showing a double bill of Superman and Batman, or an address being at the corner of Carmine and Infantino (or was it Infantino and Giordano?). Comic geeks got jokes like that. The series also had some great villains played by surprising people - Mark Hamill as "The Trickster" in two episodes, and David Cassidy as "The Mirror Master". The series never caught on with the general public however and was cancelled after one season. The DVD set includes the pilot however one weakness is that it contains no extras at all. Still a must have for fans of the comic book or the series. That means YOU Greg.

Hee Haw, Vol.5 (Dolly Parton)
- Hee Haw was never loved by the sophisticated audience or the urbane urban audience but it had something going for it - corny (in every possible way) humour. In what seems to be a single episode, Volume 5 features Dolly Parton, and regular cast members Lulu Roman and Barbi Benton.

The House Of Eliott: Series Two
- I remember liking the first season of The House Of Eliott but as it continued it increasingly became essentially a period soap opera. It's another one you should buy if your a fan.

Men Behaving Badly: The Complete Series, Vol. 3
Men Behaving Badly: The Complete Series, Vol. 4

- Men Behaving Badly is another of those British series which is impossible to recreate in America... and they did try. There are a lot of reasons. For one thing it was nearly impossible to recreate the chemistry that leads Martin Clunes and Neil Morrisey had with each other, and for another thing I don't think the American producers ever let their characters be as thoroughly loutish as the British characters were. Tony and Gary are about as far away from anything you'd want your son to be - or worse, your daughter to be sleeping with - but of course that's part of what made the show wildly successful. In fact in 1996, during BBC Television's 60th anniversary, it was voted the corporation's best sitcom ever.

Nighty Night: The Complete Series
- Another British "comedy" that I don't know has ever been released here in North America. Julia Davis plays Jill Tyrrell, a who isn't about to let a little detail like her husband being cured of cancer interfere with her being a "cancer widow". This allows her to gain the sympathy of her employees, have an affair with the husband of her neighbour (who has multiple sclerosis), and troll dating services for wealthy men to possibly marry. To say that this is dark is probably an understatement given the number of murders and affairs that go on. Still, it's the sort of thing one can readily imagine from the British.

Red Dwarf: Series 7
- Red Dwarf is one of the great comedic science fiction series. The circumstances surrounding the seventh season which was made four years after the sixth were rather complicated. Craig Charles (Lister) had been accused of rape and exonerated, while Chris Barrie starred in The Brittas Empire, which explains why, when the series eventually returned, Rimmer wasn't always present. There were a number of other changes including bringing back a version of Kochanski (although played by Chloe Annett rather than Clare Grogan). Indeed much of the conflict in this season of the series consists of battles between the mechanoid Kryten and Kochanski over their relationship with Lister. I found it harder to get into than previous seasons, although nowhere near as difficult as Season 8.

Rising Damp, Series 1
- Considered one of the greatest British comedies of all time, Rising Damp is yet another one that I've never seen, although I'm sure it has been available in North America at some point, so the problem has obviously been my inability to find it. The series was adapted from a play called The Banana Box and starred three of the original cast members. It dealt with the inhabitants of a decaying townhouse that had been turned into a rooming house by its miserly owner. The newest tenant is a man with a "posh" who rented the apartment over the phone - he turns out to be black and claims to be an African prince (the play had been inspired by the story of a black man who lived for a year in a hotel by pretending to be an African prince to avoid discrimination).

Strong Medicine Season 1
- I'm pretty sure this one has aired in Canada, on the W Network, but their website doesn't list it as being on their schedule, but if it was there, it explains why I've never seen it - W Network is very much like the show's originating network in the US, Lifetime in that it tends to be aimed at women. Obviously, since I haven't seen it I can't judge.

Urban Gothic: Season 1
- Another British series, this time for Channel 5, which apparently was seen on Bravo here in Canada (which is very different from Bravo in the US), although I have no recollection of it. Beyond the fact that it was a half hour horror anthology from a network that isn't renowned for good or polished programming, I can't tell you much.

Viva la Bam - The Complete Fourth and Fifth Seasons
- Yet another series that I've never seen and again I'm not sure it has ever aired in Canada - if it did it was on the short lived MTV Canada. These are the last two seasons of the show.

Mutual of Omaha's: Wild Kingdom Hunters of the Sky
Mutual of Omaha's: Wild Kingdom African Wild 2

- Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (to give it the full title) was for many years a staple around our house, and who cares about Johnny Carson's old gag about Marlin Perkins sipping martinis back at camp while Jim is out wrestling alligators - it was a funny bit but you (and Johnny) knew that old Marlin was out there too. These two sets from Brentwood Video offer ten episodes each; based on price alone this must be a single "flipper" disk. Even so, probably worth it if you're into this sort of wildlife programming.

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