Wednesday, January 04, 2006

TV On DVD - January 3, 2006

One of my goals (I don't make resolutions) in the new year is to get these DVD articles written and online in a timely manner which I wasn't always able to do last year. It helps that this week's list is a very compact one. It is however one with considerable value for money. At least one very definite must have on this list.

Alien Nation: The Complete Series
- Alien Nation was one of the best shows that the Fox Network had in its first season (1989-90). So naturally it was cancelled after one season, thereby establishing a tradition which continues to this day at the network, although reportedly in this case the show was dropped because of a cash crunch at the network. I never saw the series when it ran initially - my local cable system didn't pick up Fox until 1995. By this time Fox had begun airing a series of made for TV movies based on the series and I only saw the actual series a number of years after that. The trouble is that even the best made for TV movie can't deliver the character development that a well thought out series is capable of delivering. While the series at first seems like "just" another cop show with a rather unique hook, it is in fact a rather cleverly delivered allegory on various forms of prejudice and bigotry. Definitely worth seeing

All in the Family: The Complete Fifth Season
- The fifth season of All in the Family features a couple fo rather unique events. The season starts with a four episode arc featuring Archie's union going out on strike, and later there's what amounts to a three episode arc in which Archie goes missing while on the way to a union convention. Along the way there's the usual friction between Archie and Mike, and Archie and the Jeffersons, who move on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky during this season (the episode "The Jeffersons Move Up" served as a pilot for The Jeffersons), with Mike and Gloria eventually renting the Jefferson house at the end of the season. At the time, one was supposed to feel sympathy for and side with Mike in his battles with Archie, but it's hard sometimes because he can be such an intellectual snob - as pointed out when Gloria feels like an outcast during this season's episode "Mike's Friend". Finally, the fifth season features a retrospective on the first five years of the series hosted by Henry Fonda.

Gunsmoke: 50th Anniversary Edition, Volume 1
Gunsmoke: 50th Anniversary Edition, Volume 2
Gunsmoke: 50th Anniversary Edition, Volumes 1 & 2

- One of the most beloved TV series - and certainly at twenty seasons one of the longest running series of any type - Gunsmoke was the great survivor of TV history. The show was cancelled in 1967 and then reborn for another eight seasons. (One story has it that it was "Babe" Paley's favourite show and she persuaded her husband Bill Paley - who was also a fan - to bring it back; Reflections In A Bloodshot Eye simply says that Paley was simply unhappy about the state of the Monday lineup and cancelled Gilligan's Island and new series to make room for it.) The series proved highly adaptable, forced to change from black & white to colour, half hour to hour formats, James Arness's health problems (Arness apparently had back problems as a result of wounds he suffered during the Anzio landing), and the anti-TV violence activism of the early 1970s. The huge number of episodes - and seasons - might explain why Paramount is releasing the series in this two volume form. As I understand it Volume One contains 17 of the half-hour black and white episodes on three discs, while Volume Two has 12 one hour colour episodes, mostly in colour. This is a mere sampling of the total 233 half-hour and 400 hour episodes produced. If you are going to buy this set, and as a fan I'm prejudiced enough to recommend it even if I think the decision not to offer it on a season basis is short sighted, I'd suggest buying the box set which contains both Volumes 1 and 2. You're going to want them both and the price is very attractive compared to buying separately.

Have Gun Will Travel Complete Third Season
- In comparison to the Gunsmoke sets, the people who own the rights to Have Gun Will Travel have decided that releasing the series on a season by season basis. It helps that there are only six seasons compared to twenty for Gunsmoke, but on the whole I think this is the approach to take. As for the series itself, Richard Boone's articulate and urbane gun for hire is one of the signature figures of the 1950s. More than most series on TV Have Gun Will Travel was very dependent on the ability of the actor to carry the lead role, and Richard Boone was ideally matched to the part.

Hunter: The Complete Third Season
- I wasn't a big enough fan of Sgt. Rick Hunter and Dee Dee "the Brass Cupcake" McCall to have really made it to the third season. On the whole it was workmanlike stuff, and my grandfather was a big fan, but it simply didn't retain my interest and there was stuff on that I preferred (for example Spenser For Hire).

Silk Stalkings: Season Four
- A USA Networks series which I don't think ever aired here, at least not on a channel I'm able to see. Basically I have no opinion on this one.

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