Friday, March 17, 2006

TV On DVD - March 14, 2006

Before I start with this weeks DVDs I'd like to say a little bit about AOL's In2TV service which came out of Beta on Wednesday. Actually a little is about all I can say. When I heard that it was now available I decided to try it out. As you might be able to tell from a couple of buttons on this blog I use Firefox and In2TV requires the installation of the Mozilla Active X Plugin to operate. Since not having Active X is one of the best reasons for having Firefox (Active X has the potential to be a major security hole as people like Leo Laporte keep reminding us), I wasn't about to install that plugin. Next I tried Opera. To access material using that brower I had to install Windows Media Player 10...despite the fact that I already have Windows Media Player 10. When I did what I was told, I was prompted to install Windows Media Player 10, again. Finally I tried Internet Explorer. It mostly worked. The commercial that I saw was as crisp and clear as you might expect, and certainly better than Google Video. Unfortunately I couldn't get anything else to play. It turns out that, buried in the System Requirements section is this statement: "In2TV video is only licensed for viewing in the United States." They could have saved me a lot of time if they had put this on the main page or at the very least popped it up when it detected that I was in fact someone from outside the United States. It's a pity really; there are some shows available from In2TV which at least for the moment aren't available on DVD including The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Maverick, Head Of The Class, Perfect Strangers, Falcon Crest, Eight Is Enough and V. If you're in an area where you can use In2TV, give it a try and let me know what you think.

While I can't honestly say that the lineup on In2TV is better than the material on this week's DVD list I will say that it isn't the best list we've ever seen. Don't get me wrong, there's some excellent material here but comparing some of the stuff that was released on Tuesday with shows that are currently only available on In2TV makes one shed a few tears of pure frustration. As always the list of DVDs is originally from, although the opinions expressed are mine alone.

All Dogs Go to Heaven - The Series: Dogs Undercover
All Dogs Go to Heaven - The Series: Friends to the Rescue

- Okay, I was actually vaguely aware that there was an All Dogs Go To Heaven TV series. Not that I've watched it of course but there have been days when I've been idly channel surfing to find something that I want to watch and there it would be. Of course it wasn't interesting looking enough - for me - to stop and watch for more than the second it took to push the channel up button again. Still I'm sure that if you're in the target audience you might find something in this expansion of an original animated film (starring Burt Reynolds) into a series that sounds as if it was the canine version of Touched By An Angel. I just don't need to know.

Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers
- I had initially thought that this was a boxed set with selected episodes from the Babylon 5 series packaged in a similar way to the X-Files "Mythology" sets or last week's Start Trek: Borg Fan Collective set. Turns I was wrong; this is a Babylon 5 movie which I've never seen or heard of before (I don't think Space: The Imagination Station ever played it although I'm sure Tim will correct me) and which may have been intended as a pilot for a new series. Didn't work in that role and since I've never seen it I can't tell you if it worked in any other way.

Columbo: The Complete Fourth Season
- Ah, another season of Columbo. Good quality as always, probably because the NBC Mystery Movie concept meant that they had considerably more time to write and shoot each episode. In a four show rotation - which by this time was the norm for the series - they had the luxury of crafting their stories in a way that shows which have to crank out one a week don't. The result was that the murder plots that are always intricate. The identity of the murderer was never in question - we saw the crime at the start of the episode - the question was how Columbo working alone, or sometimes with occasional interjections from Sergeant Kramer (usually played by Bruce Kirby) as a sort of doubting Thomas, would unravel the strands of the seemingly perfect crime. And because the shows were so good, they got good quality actors to play the killers. Season four includes Robert Conrad, Robert Vaughan, Jose Ferrer, Dick Van Dyke and of course Patrick McGoohan in the first of his four appearances as the killer on the series (he would also write, produce or direct a number of episodes in which he did not appear). Great stuff.

I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete First Season (Black & White)
I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete First Season (Color)

- When the first two seasons of Bewitched was released on DVD the offered it in both the colorized and black & white versions. Initially at least the black & white versions sold better than the colorized, although apparently the reverse is now true - at least according to's sales ranks for the sets. I just checked the sales rankings from this new release of I Dream Of Jeannie and the ranking for the black & white episodes is higher (638) than for the colorized episode (1,381). My guess is that the people who want to see the show as it was originally made buy early but for long term sales you need to release the colorized version for morons who think that anything in black & white can't be any good. It was good, and colorization is crap, but for the studios, releasing both makes for a good bottom line. As for the show, it was fun but it always seemed to me to be a lesser program when compared to Bewitched. Maybe I liked the domestic aspects of the latter to Jeannie's reliance on the plot of Jeannie being so desperately in love with Tony that she'd do anything - and everything - for him in hopes that he'd eventually marry her. Plus, with respect to Bill Daily and Hayden Rorke, the supporting cast on Bewitched was far better, even in the first season.

MacGyver: The Complete Fifth Season
- I think it's fairly true that while everybody may not have loved MacGyver they will recognise that it was an immensely popular show. By the time the series reached its fifth season I wasn't watching. It was on a Monday night and I had been bowling Mondays for a couple of years by then which means that these episodes are new to me. It doesn't of course mean that I couldn't appreciate the show - in fact missing MacGyver was one of my huge regrets when I started bowling. I'd love to see this show again.

The Jimmy Timmy Power Hour 2
- Take two shows with totally different premises - the "scientific" Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and the magic oriented Fairly OddParents - mix them together and shake well, add a couple of episodes from the regular runs of the two shows to fill the DVD and you get The Jimmy Timmy Power Hour 2. I assume the kids it's intended for will enjoy it.

Murder, She Wrote: The Complete Third Season
- Rule #1 of survival - never move to or visit Cabot Cove Maine. Rule # 2 for survival - if you hear that Jessica Fletcher is coming to visit you town, get far far away; I hear the Falkland Islands are lovely this time of year, that should be far enough. Rule #3 of survival - if someone tells you that they are close personal friends with Jessica Fletcher do not under any circumstances either kill them or attempt to frame them for murder. Season 3 of the series contains at least one interesting anomaly. The show crossed over with Magnum P.I. for one episode which occurred during the latter show's seventh season. Apparently it was an procedure that Angela Landsbury was quite vocal about not liking. Of course this boxed set only includes the Murder She Wrote episode. The season also contains a number of very interesting episodes. There's one show with Jerry Orbach's private detective Harry McGraw, who was so popular with fans that he'd eventually get his own series, but perhaps the most interesting was the episode "The Days Dwindle Down" which was a "completion" of the 1949 feature movie Strange Bargain and featured three members of the original cast - Harry Morgan, Jeffrey Lynn and Martha Scott - playing their original roles aged 30 years. Oh yeah, and George Clooney appears in one epiosde. He now has more Oscars than Angela Landsbury, which is wrong in so many ways.

Naked City: Box Set 3
- "There are 8 million stories in the naked city." Well strictly speaking there are 99 hour long episodes made between 1960 and 1963 in addition to 39 half hour episodes with an entirely different cast. This set includes episodes from the fourth and final season including the last four episodes of the series. As always a great cast list, this time including Tony Franciosa, Christopher Walken, Eddie Albert, and Robert Culp. The one thing I find maddening about Image's release of this series is that they aren't offering shows in sequence but seem to be picking and choosing episodes. It makes things very confusing.

A Perfect Spy
- I was first introduced to the writing of John LeCarre with the TV version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In contrast to the James Bond films (the stories are different of course) LeCarre's novels and their adaptations for film and TV have always had the air of someone who knows what the real life of a spy is like. Of course he did, having been an agent of MI6 until his cover was blown to the Russians by Kim Philby. A Perfect Spy is a very personal piece of work for LeCarre - the character of Magnus Pym is based very much on LeCarre's relationship with own father, who Le Carre's biographer has described as "an epic con man of little education, immense charm, extravagant tastes, but no social values." I haven't seen it but the description sounds fascinating.

She Spies: Season 1
- I hate to say it because I'm sure this show had its fans, but if A Perfect Spy is the sublime, this is the ridiculous. The plot description (I never saw the show when it was briefly on NBC and as far as I can tell, when it went into first run syndication I don't think it aired here) resembles a number of other series, several of them better. On TV The idea of one or more criminals with "special skills" getting a special deal from a shadowy government organization goes back to at least It Takes A Thief (and why isn't it on DVD) and is part of a genre which includes La Femme Nikita and Once A Thief, which in many ways shared She Spies humourous qualities. This first season DVD includes the three episodes that ran on NBC as well as the first season of the syndication run.

The Simple Life 3: The Interns
- I never watched any season of The Simple Life and I'm not apologetic. In fact I'm proud. PROUD do you hear!!!

Sleeper Cell
- I've seen a lot of praise heaped on this Showtime series, but as yet it hasn't aired in Canada so I can't say anything original about it. The concept at least sounds interesting and exciting.

Speed Racer, Vol. 4
- Speed Racer is one of the earliest examples of Japanese animation to reach North America. By standards of people raised on Warner Brothers and Disney animation or even Hanna-Barbera it looked primitive but what it did have was excellent story telling. This collection is a little odd in that, while there are eight episodes in the set, one of them seems to be out of sequence. My suspicion is that the episode "The Terrifying Gambler" is either listed out of sequence on the episode list or aired out of sequence in the United States.

V.I.P.: The Complete First Season
- It sometimes seems as though V.I.P. is unavoidable - no matter how much I want to avoid it. Whenever Spike TV announced that they had a series of Bond movies scheduled, Canadians knew that there would be a V.I.P. marathon coming. The show starred Pamela Anderson and so of course was a heavy dose of comedy and camp mixed in with whatever storylines there may have been. It's another series which I have made serious efforts to avoid seeing for longer than it took to change the channel.

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