Must-See TV DVDs: April 2010

Must-See TV DVDs: April 2010

I’ll have a full Mother’s Day Gift Guide next week, but take note of the DVDs with three pink asterisks after the title, as they’re definitely good choices for Mom’s Day gifties …

MUST-SEE TV DVDS OF THE MONTH:
Dallas: The Complete Thirteenth Season (Warner Home Video)***
Details: The penultimate season of the classic primetime soap found ol’ J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) up to more shenanigans, though he also had plenty of people plotting against him, including his son James and his old nemesis, Cliff Barnes, who was moving on up in the political world. In fact, James turns out to be a mini-J.R. all the way, as the season’s cliffhanger involves James doing something so dastardly that … well, that his papa would be proud, if he wasn’t the one on the receiving end of James’ doubles dealings.
TV Screener Tidbit: Season 13 also marks the end of Barbara Bel Geddes‘ run as Miss Ellie, J.R. and Bobby’s mama. Ellie and her hubby Clayton head off to the Orient, where they’d be away from the ongoing machinations of power-mad J.R.

Party Down: Season One (Starz/Anchor Bay)***
Details: Season two, with new cast member Megan Mullally, premiered last week, and now the first season (which featured Glee scene stealer Jane Lynch) of the clever Starz comedy about a group of Los Angeles party caterers hits DVD. Filled with lots of jabs at the Hollywood scene (most of the characters are aspiring Hollywood types) and lots of celeb guest stars (Ken Jeong, Ed Begley Jr., Steven Weber and Kristen Bell were among the season one guests). Veronica Mars and Cupid creator Rob Thomas created the series, and Paul Rudd is among the series producers, and the cast includes comedy standouts like Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan and my favorite Freaks and Geeks alum, Martin Starr. Bottom line: Quite the collection of talent, on-screen and behind-the-scenes.
Bonus Features: Outtakes, a gag reel, audio commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The Hills: Season Five, Part Two (MTV)***
Details: The new, and final season starts April 27 (10PM ET), so here’s a chance to look back at the last episodes leading up to it, when Kristin Cavallari returned and stirred up trouble for Audrina, Justin Bobby, ex-boyfriend Brody and Brody’s then-girlfriend Jayde. Oh, and it’s the last chance to see Heidi Pratt before she went and plasticized herself.
Bonus Features: Deleted scenes, The Hills After Show remixes and a featurette: “The Bitch Is Back” (referring, of course, to Kristin)

The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie! (Comedy Central)
Details: When Foxxy Love notices that she and her cohorts can suddenly curse all they want to, she soon realizes why: their show has been canceled! But the gang wants to get back on the air, so they travel to Make-A-Point Land, where depravity of a new (uncensored) level ensues as they try to regain their timeslot.
Bonus Features: Audio commentary, minisodes, deleted scenes, interviews, a feature on the 3-D sex scene in the movie and instructions on how to make your own pair of 3-D glasses.

Murphy’s Law: Series 2 (Acorn Media)***
Details: James Nesbitt is back as undercover Irish cop Tommy Murphy in this fantastic, gritty drama. Murphy employs six different disguises to track down a serial killer, a fellow cop’s death and the real story behind a suicide in a convent, all while using his quirky charm and rogue ‘tude to try to forget his tragic past: his daughter was murdered by the IRA.
TV Screener Tidbit: Author Colin Bateman adapted his novel, Murphy’s Law, as a TV show specifically for Nesbitt, who had become a star on the British dramedy Cold Feet.

Pride and Prejudice Restored Edition (A&E Home Video)***
Details: This 1996 BBC miniseries adaptation of the Jane Austen classic is considered by many to be one of, if not the, best Austen flick of all. Why? Beautiful scenery and a faithful adaptation, sure, but most of the credit has to go to stars Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (sigh … Colin Firth), as Mr. Darcy, in what was really his star-making performance.
Bonus Features: A behind-the-scenes feature on the movie itself, and one of the technical process of restoring the flick.

Falcon Crest: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video)***
Details: Swap in Jane Wyman for Larry Hagman and move the action from a Texas oil company to California wine country, and you’ve got Falcon Crest, the primetime soap that followed Dallas on CBS’ Friday night schedule in the ’80s. In other words, totally worth checking out if you don’t remember it, even though it is responsible for unleashing Lorenzo Lamas on Hollywood.
TV Screener Tidbit: Oscar nominee Barbara Stanwyck was offered the role of matriarch Angela Channing, but turned it down before ex-Mrs. Ronald Reagan Wyman took it on.

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Set 2 (Acorn Media)
Details: This collection of the 13 episodes from the show’s clever second season in 1973 features classic British TV stars like Derek Jacobi, Poldark‘s Robin Ellis, Inspector Morse‘s John Thaw and Jean Marsh from Upstairs, Downstairs, as well as To Sir, With Love‘s Judy Geeson.
TV Screener Tidbit: For those who haven’t seen the show, the focus is on the “rivals,” not Sherlock Holmes. The series is made up of mystery and crime stories by other famous authors who were contemporaries of Sherlock Holmes writer Arthur Conan Doyle, like Arthur Morrison, Max Pemberton and Guy Boothby.

Survivors: The Complete Original Series (BBC Warner)***
Details: Created by Terry Nation (who’s most famous for creating Doctor Who baddies the Daleks), this 1975-77 hugely popular British TV series was a post-apocalyptic drama about a group of British citizens who’ve survived a devastating worldwide plague. Most of the planet’s population has been wiped out, in fact, and this small group of people have to learn how to forge a new community out of what and who remains, and, eventually, dealing with other possible survivors from around the world (hint, hint).
Bonus Features: The BBC documentary The Cult of Survivors and a photo gallery.

BEST OF THE REST:
Simon and Simon: Season Four (Shout! Factory)***
Details: The brothers Simon — A.J. (Jameson Parker) and Rick (Gerald McRaney) — are up to more P.I. work in this season, which includes Rick being accused of murder, A.J. reuniting with his high school sweetheart and the brothers having to rescue their mom from a kidnapper.
TV Screener Tidbit: In a 1995 TV reunion movie, we find out A.J. has gotten married and moved to Seattle, where he works as an attorney.

Emergency!: Season Six (Universal)***
Details: Rampart, Rampart! This is Squad 51 … the fourth season of the great NBC drama about the Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics of Squad 51 and the Rampart General Hospital medical staff included guest appearances by Mark Harmon, Adam West, John Carradine, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, soap star Linda Dano, Erik Estrada and Olympic gold medalist swimming legend Mark Spitz.
TV Screener Tidbit: Series stars Bobby Troup and Julie London, who played Rampart employees Dr. Joe Early and Nurse Dixie McCall, were married in real life before they were cast in the show, and were married until Troup’s death in 1999.

Eyes on The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 (PBS)***
Details: The PBS documentary series, first broadcast in 1987, includes episodes on Montgomery Bus Boycott, Central High School and the Little Rock Nine, Nashville sit-ins and boycotts, the March on Washington, Medgar Evers, the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama and, of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.
TV Screener Tidbit: The series won Emmys and a Peabody Award, and one episode, “Bridge to Freedom,” was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar.

Bump in the Night: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory)
Details: All 26 episodes of the ABC claymation show’s two (and too short) seasons are included, detailing the adventures of Mr. Bumpy, who lives under the bed and snacks upon dirty socks, Squishington, the bathroom monster who’s a neat freak, and Molly Coddle, the comforting doll. And yes, the set includes the best episode of all, the truly awesome “Night of the Living Bread.”
Bonus Features: The set includes the gem “‘Twas the Night Before Bumpy,” the hour-long Christmas special.

Haunted: The Complete Series (Phase 4 Films)
Details: This is what Matthew Fox did between Party of Five and Lost. He plays ex-cop-turned-private-eye Frank Taylor, who, after a near-death experience, discovers he can see and communicate with the ghosts of murder victims who want him to solve the mysteries surrounding their deaths.
TV Screener Tidbit: Guest stars in the series include Blink-182 rocker Mark Hoppus and Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong.

The Bill Cosby Show: Season Two (Shout! Factory)
Details: Before The Cosby Show, there was The Bill Cosby Show, the comedian’s first comedy, in which he played cool, Los Angeles high school gym teacher Chet Kinkaid. Season two’s guests include Cosby’s fellow comedy heavyweights Don Knotts and Dick Van Dyke, while Quincy Jones did the show’s music.
Bonus Features: A new interview with Cosby.

Merlin: The Complete First Season (BBC Warner)
Details: John Hurt, Anthony Head, Michelle Ryan, Eve Myles and Santiago Cabrera are among the fine cast of this clever BBC retelling of the Arthurian legend, which is currently in its second season in America on SyFy.
Bonus Features: Making-of featurettes, wallpapers, video diaries and a photo gallery.

Perry Mason: Season 5, Volume 1 (Paramount)
Details: With Della and Paul’s help, Perry (Raymond Burr) continues to win the hopeless cases in season five, which includes 15 episodes, including The Case of … the Jealous Journalist, the Impatient Partner, the Missing Melody, the Malicious Mariner, the Crying Comedian, the Meddling Medium, the Pathetic Patient, the Travelling Treasure, the Posthumous Painter, the Injured Innocent, the Left-Handed Liar, the Brazen Bequest, the Renegade Refugee, the Unwelcome Bride and the Roving River.
TV Screener Tidbit: Perry Mason was among the 20 shows honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a 44-cent stamp last year.

AND THE REST …
MythBusters: Collection 5 (Discovery/Gaiam)

Tom and Jerry Tales: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video)

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Season One (Universal)***

Xena: Warrior Princess Season One (Universal)***

Ghost Hunters Season Five, Part Two (Image Entertainment)

It’s Garry Shandling’s Show: The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory)

Sherri: The Complete Season One (A&E Home Video)***

I Love Lucy: The Movie and Other Great Rarities (Paramount)***

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