Thursday, August 16, 2007

TV On DVD – August 14, 2007

After a week's hiatus I'm determined to get this one out as quickly as possible while still maintaining some semblance of standards. Well at least I got the standards part mostly right. As always, the original list comes from the TV Shows On DVD website. There's a couple of bits of editorializing on value for money – just a warning.

My Pick of the Week
The Fugitive: Vol. 1, Season 1
One of the truly legendary television series of the 1960s. The show is really an anthology series but with a continuing storyline based on Victor Hugo's Les Miserable. David Jansen, whose face always possessed a world weary quality is well cast as Richard Kimble while Barry Morse (a Brit who is a naturalised Canadian – yes, he's still alive and kicking) took the thankless role of Lt. Philip Gerard, Javert to Jansen's Jean Valjean. By having the lead character being a man on the run the audience is given an entry point into various stories that make the series an anthology. While Kimble's search for the "one armed man" and Gerard's pursuit of Kimble are always there, they are only rarely the central aspect of the story.

So why is this my prick of the week? Well, a big chunk of it is nostalgia. It was something that I watched as a kid (and was angry when the local station lost the rights to the series before the finale which I only saw around the time that the movie came out). The other part though is that the series was well done. The anthology aspect of it was a logical outgrowth of Kimble chasing and being chased. As much as I enjoyed Andrew Davis's movie version it lacked the time to develop the characters that the TV series had and – obviously – the opportunities to tell stories about the people that Kimble had an impact on during his time as a fugitive. (The less said about the 2000 series with Tim Daly and Mikelti Williamson the better. The producers of that fiasco just didn't get it.) Even without special features, this is a set to get.

All Creatures Great and Small: The Complete Series 7 Collection
All Creatures Great and Small: The Complete Collection
Series 7 was the last for this great British series, and I'm sad to say that it isn't one of my favourites. By this point the series has long since abandoned James Herriot's original stories and in the seventh season they seem to have tried to recapture the magic of the series by bringing Peter Davison back to the series as Tristan Farnon. By this time Davison had of course played The Doctor on Doctor Who as well as starring in Campion and A Very Peculiar Practice. So twelve years after the series debuted (and after about fourteen years and a World War had passed within the continuity of the series) Davison was basically back playing a Tristan who was little changed by his experiences (in the books, Tristan never returned to the practice and instead worked for the Ministry of Agriculture after being an officer during the war). Of course I never got over the replacement of Carol Drinkwater as Helen by Lynda Bellingham who always looked too old for the part though she and Drinkwater are the same age. Still even poor (in my opinion) episodes are better than a lot of shows that are on TV today.

Avatar Last Airbender V4 Bk2
I willingly admit to my ignorance. I have absolutely no idea of what this animated series is about. I do know that it is supposed to be quite popular with both critics and viewers, but while I'm sure it airs on some cable station in Canada (probably YTV) I've never seen it and given that the storyline appears to be quite complex I have no doubt that to fully appreciate it I'd have to start at the beginning.

Baby Looney Tunes, Vol. 4
Some ideas seem like a good thing at the time but turn out to be bad later. I can't believe that this isn't one of them. The concept of the classic Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies characters as infants is less appalling than the idea behind the series Loonatics, but really not be that much. Save your money for the next edition of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and see the characters as they were meant to be seen.

Doctor Who: Robot
Doctor Who: Survival

Two serials from the classical era of Doctor Who. Robot is the episode which introduced Tom Baker and I hate to say it but it isn't a particularly great episode, being rather derivative of King Kong in places (mostly the final episode where a giant robot menaces a village while carrying Sarah Jane in its hand). Still, any episode with Sarah Jane, the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton and Harry Sullivan can't be all bad. I confess to actually enjoying Survival almost as much. It was the last episode of the series' first run, which means Sylvester McCoy as The Doctor and Ace as a companion who was nowhere near as intelligent as Sarah Jane but would sooner kick an enemy in the bollocks than scream. I liked Ace and have always wondered about her final fate. The episode also marks the final appearance of Ace as a companion who was nowhere near as intelligent as Sarah Jane but would sooner kick an enemy in the bollocks than scream. I liked Ace and have always wondered about her final fate. The episode also marks the final appearance of Anthony Ainley as The Master, and quite honestly it looked like the character might have made his final appearances as well (but of course you can't keep a good villain down – death is at best a minor inconvenience). I also find the Cheetah people a far more interesting menace than the robot and the collection of vaguely mad boffins who created it. That said, like every Whovian worth his grotzits, I believe that Sarah Jane is The Doctor's greatest companion.

Dynasty: Season 2
The second season of Dynasty was when the series really came into its own with the introduction of Alexis Carrington, played with a delicious wickedness by Joan Collins who plays wickedness with the energetic delight of someone who may have just a touch (or more) of it in herself. Before the arrival of Alexis, Dynasty can probably be summed up as a fairly poor Dallas knock off. With Alexis it developed an incredible over-the-top quality that no other show matched. You'd believe the most outrageous things with Alexis. Annual cat fights with your ex-husband's new trophy wife? I believe it. Screwing your boyfriend to a heart attack and then literally marrying him on his deathbed? It was absolutely believable on this show, if it was Joan Collins doing it. She made the word Bitch practically an honour that you had to be worthy of.

Elvis: The Mini Series
This is the CBS miniseries from a couple of years ago that starred Jonathon Rhys Meyers as "The King." I`ve never seen it; I confess to never having been a huge Elvis fan – or even a small Elvis fan. Apparently it was quite good, with Meyer's portrayal of young Elvis being good enough to win an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries (yet another example of a British – well Irish – actor taking the bread out of the mouth of a deserving Canadian actor who could have played the role ;-) ). However, as I say, I am in no position to judge.

Home Run Derby, Vol. 2
Hmm. This is an interesting sounding show that I've never heard of before. Basically Major League ball players in 1959 came to the Los Angeles Wrigley Field (former home of the Pacific Coast League's Los Angeles Angels an occasional home of the Dodgers before they moved into Dodger Stadium) and participated in a head-to-head home run hitting contest. There'd be nine "innings" and each player would get three outs per inning – an out being defined as any hit that was not a home run or any pitch not hit that was in the strike zone. The winner of each game would win the princely sum of $2,000 with a bonus of $500 for any player who hit three straight homers, an extra $500 for the fourth homer and $1,000 for every consecutive homer after that. The winner would also return to "defend" his title. In the days before free agency when player salaries were a lot lower than they are today, that was a pretty good supplement to a player's income. The series was apparently popular but was cancelled in 1960 when host Mark Scott died suddenly of a heart attack at age 45. This set focuses on the show's biggest money winner, Henry Aaron who won six straight "games" and $13,000. Certainly an interesting relic of the period.

The Kids in the Hall: Pilot Episode
The pilot for the legendary Canadian comedy series never before released on DVD; who wouldn't want that? Well apparently, Canadians. It is not available from Well at least they don't make it easy; searching the site with either a partial or complete title reveals nothing but entering the ASIN # obtained from the website produces a page for The Kids in the Hall: The Pilot Episode! Certainly it's a bit of absurdity worthy of the Kids in the Hall (or at least Dave Foley in a dress).

Loonatics Unleashed: The Complete Second Season
The horror, the HORROR. My recommendation on Baby Looney Tunes ("Save your money for the next edition of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and see the characters as they were meant to be seen.") applies here as well except that it should be done as a form of penance for even thinking of buying this abortion. What were they thinking and/or smoking when they came up with this idea?

Masters of Horror: Valerie on the Stairs
Masters of Horror: We All Scream for Ice Cream

I'm not entirely familiar with this Showtime series, but the quality of the writers (Clive Barker for Valerie On The Stairs, John Farris for We All Scream For Ice Cream), directors (named here) and actors (William Forsythe, and Christopher Lloyd among others) in these two discs promises a great deal. These are Season 2 episodes; coming in a couple of weeks will be a boxed set of the Season 1 discs which had been released in the same manner. Based on price and the fact that the Season 1 set includes a previously unreleased disc of extras, you would probably be better off to wait for the eventual release of a complete Season 2 set unless you specifically want only specific episodes of the series.

Mcleod's Daughters:Season 3
Apparently this Australian series airs in Canada on the non-denominational religious channel Vision TV, and on the digital specialty channel One - the Mind, Body & Spirit Channel, all of which is by way of explaining why I have never heard of this series until now (Australian, religious channel, "Mind, Body & Spirit Channel" – none of them my cup of tea, except maybe Australian. Apparently the series is one of the most popular shows in Australia and is consistently nominated for and wins "Logies" – the Australian equivalent of the Emmy, named after John Logie Baird (the inventor of the first practical television system, "mechanical television"). Who knew?

Murder City
Why is it that so many cop shows and mysteries feature "two mismatched detectives" who find themselves working together to solve crimes? I don't know, but they do. Murder City features Amanda Donahoe as Detective Inspector Susam Alembic ("perhaps the most talented DI in her department") who is partnered with Detective Sergeant Luke Stone, played by Kris Marshall. Stone is seen by many of his colleagues as "an amateur detective" and by some as incompetent for his mistakes. I haven't seen this show, which airs on BBC America but not on BBC Canada (at least not yet) but I'm interested in anything with the alluring Ms. Donahoe, who I loved in LA Law which was before I saw her in Lair Of The White Worm where she was literally bewitching.

Overhaulin': Season 3 Vol. 2
Cars, many of them classics, overhauled for unsuspecting owners. It undoubtedly helps if you're a car guy, which for the most part I'm not.

A Pup Named Scooby Doo, Vol. 7
I'm not sure that I need to say it, but I've never been a fan of anything to do with the Scooby-Doo franchise except of course with the original link to Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is a cultural reference (which morphed when Sarah Michelle Gellar took the role of Daphne in the live action movie). Even so the notion of the adventures of Scooby-Doo as a puppy somehow seems wrong to me. On the other hand it does seem to give some background to the characters but somehow it doesn't seem right to me, Considering that only 29 episodes of this show were ever made, seven volumes seems like a lot. What it is is an effective way to get money out DVD buyers who would probably be paying less if a season set or complete series set were offered. It is, I'm sad to say, a rather common and annoying practice for the producers of DVDs aimed at kids and paid for by their parents.

No comments: