Thursday, February 09, 2006

TV ON DVD - February 7, 2006

Having made all of those statements yesterday about getting stuff out on time I still managed to get this out two days late. The more things change...

I really shouldn't be writing much this time around. This week's list consists of a lot of shows which I haven't seen, either by choice, by scheduling conflicts, or because - to the best of my knowledge - they haven't been shown here. If I only discussed what I'd seen this would be a very slim list.

Inspector Alleyn Mysteries: Set 2
- I've been a huge fan of Dame Ngaio Marsh's character Inspector Roderick Alleyn in no small part because the character took the genteel tradition of the English drawing room mystery and combined it with a variant of the police procedural of the sort developed in the the John Creasey's "Gideon" mysteries. This series produced by the BBC was actually the second attempt to do a series of Roderick Alleyn mysteries (the first was a series of films done in New Zealand which I saw in 1982 and which got me interested in the character; this series seems exceptionally obscure) and starred Patrick Malahide as Alleyn. A weakness of this series (in my opinion of course) is that the series is tied to Britain, while some of Marsh's best stories were set in her native New Zealand. Nevertheless the packaging of this series - one 90 minute episode per disc with a biography of Mash and filmographies of most of the actors as extras - is first class.

The Batman: The Complete First Season
- The Batman is the current anime inspired version of Batman. It is highly different from the acclaimed 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, both in look and interpretation of the characters, with Bruce Wayne as a younger starting his career as a vigilante. I haven't seen much of the series so I'm not in a position to comment but the look is definitely interesting.

Blue Collar TV: Season 1, Vol. 2
- I have to confess, Blue Collar TV never sounded appealing to me. I was slightly familiar with Jeff Foxworthy's comedy act "You might be a redneck..." and I saw the first episode of his disastrous sitcom. I was not familiar with either Bill Engvall or "Larry The Cable Guy". The show was inspired by the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" which in turn inspired Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie. It is interesting that this was an attempt by The WB to create a prime time sketch comedy series. Apparently you either got the joke and liked the show or you didn't and hated it.

The Best of the Electric Company
- Another show I never saw even after we got PBS on cable. CBC spent a huge amount of its Children's Programming budget on Sesame Street which scarcely left any money for domestic production let alone buying another series from the same producers, and by the time PBS became available here, the show was already gone. The show had a spectacular cast which included Oscar winners Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman as well as Bill Cosby. This set includes twenty episodes of the show from each of the six seasons, which sounds like a lot until you realise that the show produced 780 episodes.

Emergency!: Season Two
- A very barebones presentation of the second season of the 1970s classic. By the second season the viewers were getting familiar not only with the primary characters - Paramedics Gage and DeSoto, Nurse Dixie McCall and Doctors Brackett and Early - but were also getting to know the crew at the Fire Station, many of whom had worked for Jack Webb (who created the series) for a number of years. The format didn't change much over time but it was an enjoyable format.

Grounded for Life: Season One
- Another one I didn't watch (I know, I missed a lot of TV). The first two seasons of the show were on Fox before it moved to The WB. I didn't watch it on Fox and I was even less likely to see it on The WB. The show was a mid-season replacement and ran fifteen episodes in the first season. The DVD set actually includes those fifteen episodes but also nine episodes from what was nominally the second season

Growing Pains: The Complete First Season
- One of those family comedies that took off from the success of Family Ties and a host of others. Again, I never watched this show but this was because of a dislike of one of the stars of the show. I didn't like Alan Thicke as a performer or as a talk show host. Turns out that the one who was the real problem with the show was Kirk Cameron, although that didn't really surface until later seasons when his religious conversion cause conflicts among cast and producers - at one point he called the producers "pornographers" when they were inserting themes that he regarded as too "adult, and he had the actress playing his fiancee fired because she had once been a Playboy Playmate.

Hearts Afire: The Complete Third Season
- Now this series I saw and enjoyed. Apparently I was the only one, and apparently I was the only one who preferred the first season - when the show was set in Washington - to the second and third seasons when it was set in a small town newspaper office. A very appealing cast included John Ritter, Markie Post, Ed Asner (in the last two seasons he played Markie Post's father) and a rather heavier Billy Bob Thornton. There was a tremendous chemistry between Ritter Post and Thornton and it really amazes me that this show never really found an audience. There are only fourteen episodes in the third season.

Moonlighting: Season 3
- Ah Moonlighting, the series that created the myth that having the characters actually sleep together ruins a series in which a man and a woman have a romantic/sexual bond. I say myth because anything can work well if the writers are willing to work with it. Witness what happened after Joel and Maggie did the deed on Northern Exposure - it didn't destroy the chemistry between the two it just got the sex out of the way so that the relationship could be developed further. The writers and producers of Moonlighting weren't willing or able of something to get beyond. There were lots of reasons why Moonlighting had troubles - the fact that Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd hated each other, the fact that the show never seemed able to produce more than 18 episodes in a season (and only did that many once), and the clumsy way they dealt with Cybil Shepherd's real life pregnancy in Season 4 (which was the reason why Dave and Maddie had sex in the first place). When it was on this show was on, and the third season has some prime examples of this including Atomic Shakespeare, It's A Wonderful Job (a take off on It's A Wonderful Life of course) and The Straight Poop which featured then hot gossip columnist Rona Barrett and a guest appearance by Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele. And yes this is the season in which Dave and Maddie do it.

The One Step Beyond Collection
- A contemporary of the far more famous Twilight Zone this series was a paranormal anthology hosted by actor and director John Newland. There are a lot of DVDs of One Step Beyond on the market because the show has something of a cult following and the series has fallen onto the public domain. Thus I can't really speak to the quality of the prints that were used for this set except to say that it comes from Passport Video, so you'll have to base any decisions on how good you feel the company's other sets are.

Pet Alien: Spaced Out
- Four episodes from the Cartoon Network series. Can't comment except to say that these animated series all seem to dribble out in an apparently cheap but actually expensive manner. Can you imagine putting a sitcom out like this instead of on a season by season basis?

Poltergeist: The Legacy - The Complete First Season
- I've seen moments of this and it does feature Helen Shaver who I've always found incredibly hot (even when she played a transsexual in The Education of Max Bickford) and that has nothing to do with seeing her in Desert Hearts or In Praise Of Older Women - she was fully clothed and hot in Who Has Seen The Wind playing a 1930s school teacher. Still I've never watched a complete episode, probably because I'm not a big fan of horror/paranormal series and the title seemed to promise just that.

Sex and the City Essentials: Breakups
Sex and the City Essentials: Lust
Sex and the City Essentials: Mr. Big
Sex and the City Essentials: Romance

- Having released the complete series in a number of combinations, the show is now offering what might best be described as "samplers", labelled as "Essentials". I don't know the show well enough to speculate on contents, but I'm willing to bet that the Lust volume features a lot of Samantha while Romance has a lot of Charlotte. Each disc has three episodes of a half hour each (approximately) and no extras. For the price of these four you can buy a full season set and get change along with continuity. I can't imagine this as being anything but a disjointed sampling of the show intended to get people to buy season sets. I don't think so.

Simpsons: Kiss and Tell
- A single disc with four episodes focussing on the relationship between Homer and Marge. Another sampler but at least these episodes aren't out on DVD yet.

Survivor Pearl Islands Panama - The Complete Season
- The debut of Rupert, America's Favourite Survivor - so proven by a vote in the Survivor: All Stars series (for the record I voted for Rudy Boesch) - as well as the only guy who seems to have set out to be hated, "Johnny Fairplay" aka Jon Dalton. Featured the first person to quit the series (Osten Taylor, who so disgusted the producers that his final words weren't shown) and a couple of the greatest gimmicks the show has ever used - the purchase of supplies (which lead to Rupert "pirating" the other team's shoes) and the return of the outcasts. Probably one of the best casts ever and as I've said before casting is key in a reality series.

Teen Titans: The Complete First Season
- The thing about the Teen Titans TV series is that someone made the unwise decision to make the characters very obviously children, and anime children with big eyes at that. If you were a fan of the old comic books from the 1980s (a high point for the Titans) this would be totally foreign to you. They really weren't Teens (there was a copyright dispute with Neal Adams which forced them to use the descriptive "Teen") but were college age or so. Robin and Starfire were having sex - every time they could - and Wonder Girl (a character not seen on the series) even got married and pregnant (in that order smut brains) and either divorced or widowed or both. Still, for what the animated series is it's alright.

Touched By An Angel Season 3 Volume1
- I never liked this series - which presumably makes me a bad person - but it always seemed very "preachy" to me and Della Reese's repeated interviews about it being a "God thing" irritated. People loved it though.

Wildfire: Season 1
- I don't believe that this ABC Family series has been shown on Canadian TV, at least not yet. The show features some good adult actors as seems to have the prerequisite teen relationship aspects covered. Plus: Horses! so it's bound to be a hit with teenaged girls.

Wire in the Blood: The Complete Third Season
- I haven't seen this BBC series, but I will recommend it sight unseen for one reason - the presence of Robson Green in it. He is one of the best actors working on British TV today. There have only been fourteen episodes of this show in three seasons. The one reservation I have is with presentation. This four disc set has one 69 minute episode per DVD (which covers the whole season) and there are extras on each disc (biography and filmograhy of the actors, weblinks and something about the author and the production company) but they're the same thing on each one! Maddening! Surely there's a better way to present the show than this.

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