Thursday, February 23, 2006

TV On DVD - February 21, 2006

As I've never been shy about pointing out, I am a Canadian. Consequently Wednesday was not a good day. We may have 18 winter Olympic Medals, tying us with the United States, and we may have won four medals in Cross Country Skiing, Speed Skating, and Short Track Speed Skating on Wednesday and there are more medals expected in the the next few days, but it doesn't matter. We may be having our best Winter Olympics ever but Canada as a nation is in a combination of mourning and "righteous" indignation. Our men's hockey team has been shut out of the medals and not even the fact that the Americans aren't in contention either will rouse us from our national funk.

This week's DVD list is dominated by animated series including a couple of shows from Disney. There's something for adults here too though, and by adults I mean people who aren't going to boycott things simply because of nudity or cussin'. Finally there's just a touch of nostalgia to spice things up. Not a spectacular week but if you pick your spots, not bad. As always the comments are mine but the list comes from

3rd Rock from the Sun: Season 3
- Another show that I wasn't a fan of. Sure, Lithgow was brilliant and it did have Jane Curtin which is always a plus, but the show just never excited me. It does present a skewed view of the foibles of humanity by viewing them through alien - and innocent - eyes but what others found brilliant I found irritating. But of course that's just me.

Action: The Complete Series
- The biggest problem this series faced wasn't that it was on Fox, a network notorious for having a quick trigger finger when it comes to cancelling new shows at the drop of a ratings point, but rather that it was on a broadcast network at all. If this show had been on a cable channel like HBO or even FX where the writers would have been free of restrictions on language and nudity it would have been big. Apparently there were problems with the show on the inside, mostly concerning Ileana Douglas who played Wendy the former child actress turned adult prostitute. The extras include a commentary in which the writers take particular care to rip into Douglas at any opportunity. Worth watching, particularly (but not only) because it was Buddy Hackett's last on-screen acting work.

Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin, Vol. 1: The Journey Begins
Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin, Vol. 2: The Journey Continues

- The only time I found this stupid toy worth watching was the legendary E.F. Hutton Commercial with John Houseman in which the bear gave Houseman's famous last line "They earn it." I can't imagine watching a cartoon about this thing, let alone two DVDs worth of it.

Dick Cavett Show: Comic Legends
- This is Dick Cavett doing what he did, this time with true comedic legends. Cavett's strength was in having erudite conversations with people. And what a group of people are to be found on this four disc set (14 hours!): Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Woody Allen, Lucille Ball, Bill Cosby, Mel Brooks and some guy called Groucho. All of this was in addition to whatever guests happened to be on that night. One of Groucho's appearances - when he really was grouchy - featured Truman Capote. They aren't all gems (because some of these people weren't funny without their writers) but the talent is certainly there.

Goof Troop, Vol. 1
- Back in the early 1990s Disney made a serious effort to bring some of their characters back into the public eye through the medium of a two hour syndicated animation block. Goofy was one of the characters that they wanted to use. I've seen parts of some episodes and obviously it doesn't have the sophistication in either writing or animation that the original cartoons, or even the cartoons of the 1950s had. The decision to make Goofy into a "sitcom dad" - widower with a son and funny neighbours in the form of Pete (a non-villainous version Black Pete or Pegleg Pete from the old cartoons) and his familly - is questionable, but still it's an okay show for the kids and probably better than a lot of shows from lesser companies.

Irish R.M.: Series 3
- A highly thought of British series from the 1980s, The Irish R.M. (the R.M. stands for "Resident Magistrate") is an adaptation of the series of books by "Martin Ross" (Violet Florence Martin) and Edith Somerville which deals with an retired British Army officer played by Peter Bowles who is appointed to be a judge in rural Ireland and has to deal with the differences in attitude of the local inhabitants. The series, set in the early years of the 20th century, doesn't touch on the political situation of the period and instead bases its rather gentle humour on the relationships between people.

NYPD Blue: Season 3
- It's been over eighteen months since the first two seasons of NYPD Blue were released on DVD. Apparently the poor sales of those two sets delayed this set. It also resulted in a much reduced package. Instead of six discs this set has four and the number of special features has been reduced. This doesn't alter the fact that this series was one of the watershed programs of American TV in the 1990s. It is definitely a series that should be seen as it was shown and not in the bowdlerized form that sometimes appears on TV in the United States (Canada's Bravo TV shows every bare buttock and expletive of the original). By season three the cast is relatively settled although it's in this season that Gail O'Grady leaves the series. Buy this if for no other reason than it will encourage Fox to release future seasons.

Quack Pack, Vol. 1
- So around 1996 some genius at Disney decided that what the world needed was a TV series about Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie but with the nephews as teenagers. It only lasted one year, so apparently they were wrong.

Brian Jacques' Redwall: Season One
- Okay, I know that this was produced by Nelvana Productions of Canada and Alphanim from France, and that it is based on what is apparently a well known children's fantasy series by Brian Jacques (I say apparently because I've never heard of it).

SpongeBob Squarepants: Lost in Time
- I'm just going to say it straight out - I have never watched an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants and that's a record I intend to maintain. Sorry but if you want any more depth of analysis go elsewhere.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season One, Volume One
- One of the bad things of growing up in a one TV station TV market like Saskatoon in the 1960s was that you didn't always see extremely successful series if the local station didn't buy it. Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea was an Irwin Allen creation from the early 1960s when he was taking a break from cheap but slick looking movies like The Lost World, Five Weeks In A Balloon and the original film of Voyage, and the two movies which would make his reputation as the "Master of Disaster", The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno. The period gave birth to four cult classics: Lost In Space, Time Tunnel, Land Of The Giants and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea which was the first of Allen's TV series. This show ran for four years - longer than Star Trek - and to this day I have never seen an episode (the same is true of Land Of The Giants but it had a shorter run) because as far as I've been able to tell it hasn't been repeated on a station that I've had access to. It does have a good solid cast of character actors anchored by Richard Basehart and David Hedison

What's New Scooby-Doo?, Vol. 8: Zoinks, Camera, Action!
- I never liked Scooby-Doo and those meddling kids. This is from the series that debuted in 2002 (which fed off of the popularity of the movie) and at lest it's mercifully Scrappy-Doo free. If you like Scooby-Doo in any form you'll probably like this.

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