MUST-SEE TV DVDs OF THE WEEK:
Dog Whisperer, Season 4: Volume 1 (Screen Media)
Details: The set includes half of the episodes from the National Geographic Channel show’s fourth season, but it’s a fun collection that, as always, finds doggie do-gooder Cesar Millan helping dogs and dog lovers co-exist more happily by providing training for even the most out of control pooches. PS – Did you know Cesar has his own lifestyle magazine?
Bonus Features: The show’s 100th episode (which features a big reunion of dogs and owners who were featured in previous eps), bloopers and unaired segments.
Doctor Who: Dalek War (BBC Warners)
Details: The two-disc set features the third Doctor Who, Jon Pertwee, in Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks, two 1973 gems that find Who arrested as a spy and landing on the unfriendly Spiridon planet. Pertwee, by the way, played Who for five seasons, a relatively long stint in Who-ville.
Bonus Features: Audio commentaries, making-of featurettes, Easter eggs, photo galleries, features on Pertwee and the Daleks and a documentary about the process of re-colorizing the third episode of the Planet of the Daleks series, which had previously only been available in black and white.
Doctor Who: Remembrance of the Daleks: Special Edition (BBC Warners)
Details: The seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, stars in this tale, as Who and his new companion, Ace, battle the Daleks, who are trying to get control of the Hand of Omega device.
Bonus Features: Audio commentary by McCoy and Sophie Aldred (who played Ace), a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, trailers and photo galleries.
BEST OF THE REST:
Alice (SyFy 2009 miniseries) on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)
Details: Kathy Bates as the Queen of Hearts, Tim Curry, Harry Dean Stanton, Colm Meaney, Zak Santiago, Philip Winchester and Caterina Scorsone as the titular 21-year-old Alice star in this fun and visually incredible SyFy network spin on Alice in Wonderland.
TV Screener Tidbit: Scorsone, who also starred in the Lifetime series 1-800-Missing, will play the little sister of Patrick Dempsey‘s McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy.
Designing Women: Season Three (Shout! Factory)
Details: The original cast was still intact for season three, which included Charlene’s road trip to Graceland, Bernice taking the women on a wilderness survival course outing and Mary Jo considering – gasp! – breast implants!
TV Screener Tidbit: Season three was the first season that earned the show an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nomination (DW lost the statue to Cheers).
Have Gun Will Travel: Season Four, Vol. 1 (Paramount)
Details: The 1957-63 drama followed Paladin (Richard Boone), a nattily-attired gunfighter who graduated from West Point, ate gourmet food, wore fancy duds, lived at the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco and hired himself out as a gunfighter with his business card, which featured a graphic of a chess piece and the words “Have Gun, Will Travel … Wire Paladin, San Francisco.”
TV Screener Tidbit: A big-screen movie version of the series has languished in development hell for several years, and at one point, was set to star Eminem – yes, that Eminem – as Paladin.
Poldark, Season 1 (Acorn Media)
Details: The British historical drama was dubbed the British version of Gone With the Wind, as it followed Capt. Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis) when he returned home after the Revolutionary War and found that his whole life had spun out of control in his absence.
TV Screener Tidbit: Ian McShane, our beloved Al Swearengen from Deadwood, was originally offered the part of Ross Poldark, but turned it down.
AND THE REST …
The Beiderbecke Connection (Acorn Media)
Matlock: The Complete Fourth Season (Paramount)
King Arthur and the Knights of Justice: The Complete Animated Series (Image Entertainment)
Poltergeist: The Legacy, Season 2 (MGM Home Entertainment)
TVScreener.com will resume with weekly TV-on-DVD columns (every Tuesday) next week, and in the meantime, here’s a little catch-up of must-see February releases:
MUST-SEE-TV DVDS OF THE WEEK:
Nurse Jackie: Season One (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
Details: Nurse Jackie (Edie Falco) leads a dangerous double life: she’s a caring, competent nurse, wife and mother on one hand, and she’s a pill-popping adulterer on the other. She managed to juggle all her secrets in the show’s dramatic, often darkly funny first season, but a season finale cliffhanger promises much, much more drama and upheaval ahead for Jackie.
Bonus Features: Cast commentaries, an “All About Edie” featurette, real-life nurse stories and a making-of featurette.
Jersey Shore Uncensored: Season One (MTV Networks)
Details: If you’ve already seen it, trust me, it doesn’t get any less fascinating upon repeat viewings; in fact, someone should, and probably will, teach a sociology class that will dissect the show and its characters, er, stars. And if you haven’t seen it yet? You really should; not because Snooki, The Situation or DJ Pauly D and their overly-coiffed hair and overly-tanned bods are going to be around past the 15-minute mark, but because the show’s pop culture impact is likely to live on, in infamy, for quite a while.
Bonus Features: The reunion special, the cast’s Guido makeover of Michael Cera, deleted scenes and style tips from Snooki (now you too can get the Guidette hairdo without a Bumpit!).
BEST OF THE REST:
Army Wives: The Complete Third Season (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Details: Joan’s promotion … Denise and Frank’s marriage woes … Claudia Joy’s issues with daughter Emmalin … the show’s third season was another great one, and the Lifetime drama continues to be a timely look at military families as their real-life counterparts continue to feel the impact of so many American men and women being deployed around the world. Army Wives‘ fourth season, by the way, kicks off on Lifetime on April 11.
Bonus Features: Deleted scenes, bloopers, Webisodes and a cast-led behind-the-scenes look at Charleston, South Carolina, the town where Army Wives is filmed.
Small Wonder: The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory)
Details: One of the true cheesy, guilty pleasure classics of the ’80s finally hits DVD with this set, which follows the adventures of the Lawson family as they try to pass off their “Voice Input Child Identicant,” i.e. a robot, as a ten-year-old child named V.I.C.I. Madcap hilarity, of course, ensues.
Bonus Features: Commentaries with the cast and series creator, original episode promos and a fan art gallery.
Head Case: The Complete Series (Anchor Bay)
Details: Alexandra Wentworth, a.k.a. Jerry’s “Schmoopie” on Seinfeld, a.k.a. Mrs. George Stephanopoulos, starred in this underrated Starz sitcom about a therapist who works with Hollywood celebs. The real joke, of course, was that the good Dr. Elizabeth Goode was as nutty as any of her patients.
TV Screener Tidbit: Among the many celebs who played themselves as patients of Dr. Goode: Jerry Seinfeld, Hugh Hefner, Tori Spelling, Marc Cherry, Jason Priestley, Ralph Macchio, Jeff Probst, Macy Gray, Andy Dick, James Denton, Greg Grunberg, Sandra Bernhard, Sean Hayes, Tom Sizemore and Larry Miller.
FlashForward (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Details: Now that Lost is winding down to its May series finale, there may be room in your channel surfing sked for another complicated, slowly-evolving mystery series, and FlashForward is a good candidate. The box set includes the show’s first ten episodes (which aired earlier this season), as well as a sneak peek at things to come.
TV Screener Tidbit: The series is scheduled to return to ABC’s line-up on March 18 with a two-hour episode, while the two-hour season finale is scheduled for May 27.
Lincoln Heights: Season 1 (Shout! Factory)
Details: Primetime still has a long way to go in presenting more racially diverse characters, and sadly, this fine drama, about an African-American cop who moves his family back to his tough neighborhood in an effort to help change it for the better, has run its course on ABC Family. And if you missed it during its original four-season run, now’s a great time to catch the first – and best – season on DVD.
TV Screener Tidbit: New York Times reviewer Virginia Heffernan once described Lincoln Heights as aspiring to be a PG-rated version of The Wire.
Gary Unmarried (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Details: Sure, it’s basically a dude version of The New Adventures of Old Christine, but it’s elevated by the charms of Jay Mohr, who has deserved another shot at a sitcom since his clever, biting and all-too-short-lived 1999-2000 Hollywood spoof Action.
Bonus Features: Tours of the Gary set with Mohr and the cast, season one bloopers and Ed Begley Jr.‘s guide to making the Gary set eco-friendly.
AND THE REST …
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths on Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)
Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey: The Complete Season One (A&E Home Video)
Barnaby Jones: The Complete First Season (Paramount)
Adam-12: Season 4 (Shout! Factory)
Cannon: Season Two, Vol. 2 (Paramount)
Night Court: The Complete Third Season (Warner Home Video)
Project Runway: Season Six (Weinstein Co.)
JAG: The Final Season (Paramount)
American Chopper: Honoring the Uniform (Discovery Channel)
Ghost Hunters: Season Five, Part One (Image Entertainment)
My Three Sons: Season Two, Vol. 1 (Paramount)
Mr. Ed: The Complete Second Season (Shout! Factory)
MythBusters: Urban Legends (Discovery Channel)
The clock is ticking down to Christmas, and the big snowstorm in the Northeast last weekend seriously cut into your holiday shopping time? Whether you’re looking for last-minute gifts (pair several of these together for a great DIY box set) or just some good stuff to watch while curling up on a warm couch, here’s a list of more than 30 awesome Christmas-themed TV series and specials on DVD …
The Original Christmas Classics (Classic Media)
Details: It’s a box set full of holiday fun, including three beloved TV specials: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Great songs, great characters and heartwarming storylines made these three perennial favorites and they’re collected here together with four more sweet specials: The Little Drummer Boy, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth and Frosty Returns.
Bonus Features: The box set includes a bonus CD with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Burl Ives, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Bobby Rydell, “Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives, “Let It Snow” by Chicago, “Winter Wonderland” by Jewel, “Merry Christmas, Baby” by Otis Redding, and, a tune that’s on my all-time top 10 Christmas songs list, “Silver & Gold” by Burl Ives, from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
A Charlie Brown Christmas on Blu-ray (Warner Home Video)
Details: Hands down, my most favorite holiday special of all time, and I know I’m not the only member of that club. And the only thing that could possibly have Charlie Brown Christmas better? A crisp Blu-ray DVD transfer.
Bonus Features: A making-of featurette, a digital copy of the special and a bonus ‘toon, It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Blu-ray (Warner Home Video)
Details: He’s still as cuddly as a cactus, as charming as an eel, a nasty, wasty skunk whose soul is full of gunk, but now he’s all those things on Blu-ray.
Bonus Features: Audio commentary by the special’s voice artists, the Dr. Seuss and the Grinch: From Whoville to Hollywood featurette, an interview with the special’s musical composers, a featurette on the special, hosted by the late Phil Hartman, and a Who’s Who in Whoville gallery.
The Year Without a Santa Claus (Warner)
Details: Santa may be the guy in the title, but when you think about this Christmas special, isn’t it really all about Heat and Snow, the Miser brothers?
Bonus Features: Featurettes on stop-motion animation and profiles of holiday classic filmmakers Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass.
AND THE REST …
A Miser Brothers Christmas (Warner)
Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas (Universal Home Entertainment)
Elmo’s Christmas Countdown (Sesame Street)
Elmo Saves Christmas (Sesame Street)
Thomas & Friends: Holiday Express (Lyons/Hit Entertainment)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: It’s a Very Sunny Christmas (Fox)
Details: As The Gang celebrates, sorta, Christmas, flashbacks provide us with insight into how and why they became, uh, the way they are. Plus, Danny DeVito gets way naked.
Bonus Features: A Sunny sing-along, a making-of featurette and deleted scenes with Young Mac and Young Charlie.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All (Comedy Central)
Details: Funny guy Stephen Colbert gives his own best review, calling the special “the greatest newsman-hosted holiday special since A Walter Cronkite Tet Offensive.”
Bonus Features: Alternate endings, a books-roasting-on-an-open-fire Yule log and a live-action Colbert advent calendar.
Saturday Night Live – Christmas (Lionsgate)
Details: It lacks more recent classics like “Dick in a Box,” but the DVD does include Eddie Murphy‘s Mr. Robinson’s Christmas, Adam Sandler‘s original “Hanukkah Song” performance, Alec Baldwin‘s Schweddy Balls and Ana Gasteyer‘s Martha Stewart Topless Christmas Special.
Merry Sitcom! Christmas Classics from TV’s Golden Age (Shout! Factory)
Details: Holiday-themed eps from sitcoms like Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, McHale’s Navy, Bewitched, That Girl and The Flying Nun.
TV Sets: Holiday Treats (Paramount)
Details: Christmas episodes of I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Brady Bunch, Taxi, Family Ties, Frazier, Wings and The Andy Griffith Show make up a DVD that any true TV sitcom fan will love.
Holiday TV Comedy Collection (Universal Home Entertainment)
Details: Awesome: Christmas episodes of The Office, 30 Rock, House, Monk and Psych.
AND THE REST …
Holiday TV Classics (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Johnny Carson Celebrates Christmas (Respond)
Christmas with SCTV (Shout! Factory)
A Christmas Story on Blu-ray (Warner Home Video)
Details: The leg lamp, Flick’s tongue on the flagpole, Ralphie’s Red Ryder … they’re all a part of this goofy, but charming family holiday tale that just gets better each time you watch it.
TV Screener Tidbit: It’s a must-own for your holiday DVD collection (especially on Blu-ray), but you can also catch A Christmas Story on its annual 24-marathon loop on TBS, beginning at 8PM ET on Dec. 24.
It’s a Wonderful Life on Blu-ray (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Details: OK, so it’s not technically a TV show or special, but, like The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life has become, for most of us, something we look forward to watching on TV every year at Christmastime. To finally be able to watch the movie on a great Blu-ray transfer is reason to watch it yet again, with a whole new appreciation for how a relatively simple story – the movie wasn’t a huge hit in its original release and won no Oscars – has had such a huge impact on movie fans for decades.
Bonus Features: A making-of featurette.
Little House on the Prairie – Christmas (Lionsgate)
Details: The DVD includes two Little House holiday episodes: Christmas at Plum Creek and A Christmas They Never Forgot. The first one is the Little House take on The Gift of the Magi, as Laura trades her beloved horse Bunny for a brand new stove for Ma (‘fess up – this one makes you cry!). In A Christmas They Never Forgot, the Ingalls fam is snowed in at Christmas, and they take the opportunity to share stories of Christmases past, including Caroline’s tearjerker about the year she finally accepted her stepfather into her family.
The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (Paramount)
Details: It’s the 1971 TV movie that introduced us to the Walton family, including most of the cast that would go on to star in the series based on Earl Hamner‘s autobiographical writings about his fam. John Boy? Check. Grandma and Grandpa Walton? Check? Even the Baldwin sisters and Ike Godsey pop up in the story, as mom Olivia sends oldest son John Boy off to find his missing dad on Christmas Eve.
Chris Isaak Christmas (Koch Vision)
Details: No musician puts on a more fun show than Isaak and his band, and it’s truly a rockin’ show as Isaak and pals Michael Bublé, Brian McKnight and Stevie Nicks run through Christmas gems like “The Christmas Song,” “White Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Santa Bring My Baby Back,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and the Isaak holiday original “Christmas on TV.”
The Judy Garland Holiday Special (Classic World)
Details: The 1963 Christmas episode of Garland’s TV show includes guest appearances by her daughters Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft, as well as her pal Mel Torme, and Garland closes the episode with an amazing performance of “Over the Rainbow.”
TV Screener Tidbit: Among the holiday tunes performed during the episode: “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night,” “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
My Christmas (Philips)
Details: Andrea Bocelli, David Foster, Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole and Reba McEntire perform beautiful versions of Christmas classics like “What Child Is This,” “Blue Christmas” and “The Christmas Song” in this live PBS concert, taped at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles.
Ring Christmas Bells (Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
Details: Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell has the perfect voice to accompany the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in this annual concert event, and Gilmore Girls fans will be thrilled, and moved, by Edward Herrmann (a.k.a. Richard Gilmore) and his narration of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
AND THE REST …
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes (Time Life Entertainment)
Happy Holidays with Bing & Frank (Arts Alliance)
Brian Setzer – Christmas Extravaganza (Surfdog Records)
A VERY CHRISTMAS CAROL CHRISTMAS DVD LIST
A Christmas Carol (Turner Home Entertainment)
Details: Patrick “Capt. Piccard” Stewart is one of, if not the, best Ebenezer Scrooges ever in this 1999 made-for-TV TNT adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic.
TV Screener Tidbit: More great casting: The Wire‘s Dominic West as Scrooge’s nephew Fred.
Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas (Warner Home Video )
Details: Daffy Duck is the greedy manager of the Lucky Duck convenience store, and he’s denying his employees Christmas say vacation and discounts on toys for their kids. But when Bugs Bunny pops in for some last-minute shopping, he and the store’s employees – Porky Pig, Marvin the Martian, Yosemite Sam and Speedy Gonzales – plus the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future team up to convince him his money-minded ways are bad.
TV Screener Tidbit: The ghosts: Past (Tweety and Granny), Present (Yosemite Sam) and Future (Tazmanian Devil).
A Flintstones Christmas Carol (Warner Home Video)
Details: Guess which Bedrockian is the Scrooge in this version? Yep, it’s Fred, who’s taking his role as Scrooge in the local theater production of A Christmas Carol a bit too seriously. In fact, he’s become so bitten by the acting bug that he forgets to buy his fam gifts for Christmas!
Bonus Features: The DVD includes “Christmas Flintstone,” an episode from the fifth season of The Flintstones series, in which Fred gets a job as a Macyrocks Santa and has to take over for the real Santa when he gets too sick to work on Christmas Eve.
AND THE REST …
Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure (Nickelodeon Home Entertainment)
Barbie in a Christmas Carol (Universal Home Entertainment)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (Disney)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Disney)
The best TV DVDs of the last few weeks …
MUST-SEE-TV DVDS OF THE WEEK:
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory)
Details: What, you don’t remember It’s Garry Shandling’s Show? It’s only one of the most influential comedies in recent memory, though, sadly, many viewers aren’t familiar with Garry Shandling‘s 1986-90, pre-Larry Sanders Show series. The one-time sitcom writer for shows like Sanford and Son and Welcome Back Kotter had chucked his TV writing career to become a stand-up comedian, and his success there led to an offer to become the permanent fill-in guest host for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. But Shandling turned that down – along with an offer to do a network TV sitcom – to launch this Showtime cable series that was both groundbreaking in its premise (Shandling was essentially playing himself, in a meta world where he and all those around him knew he was starring in a sitcom) and in its format: Shandling often broke the fourth wall and talked to the studio audience and viewers (a precursor to shows like Malcolm in the Middle and The Bernie Mac Show), and even included the studio audience in the show (like in the hilarious episode where he told the audience to make themselves at home and they ended up throwing a party).
It’s Garry Shandling Show also featured several appearances by celebs playing themselves, including Tom Petty, Soul Train host Don Cornelius, Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner, Red Buttons, Dan Ackroyd, Martin Mull and, in her last TV appearance before her 1989 death, Gilda Radner, who made a joke about her cancer in the episode.
Bonus Features: Outtakes (unique because they are the product of the producers’ habit of letting the camera continue to roll between takes); more than a dozen commentaries (from the likes of Shandling and other producers, including Al Jean, now a producer on The Simpsons, and writer Tom Gammill, who went on to produce and write for Seinfeld); promos; “The Shandlines,” the show’s backstage newsletter; and five featurettes that cover everything from the show’s inspiration and the cast’s remembrances to interviews with Shandling and the producers and writers.
Futurama: The Complete Collection: 1999-2009 (Fox Home Entertainment)
Details: Originally released exclusively at San Diego Comic Con last summer, this special collection – with the first four seasons of Futurama, as well as the movies Bender’s Big Score, The Beast With a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder – is now available via retail.
Bonus Features: A numbered letter from Futurama and The Simpsons papa Matt Groening, as well as commentary from various cast members, deleted scenes, an interactive still gallery, blooper reels, Easter eggs and how to draw the Futurama characters galleries, and, of course, the cool Bender head packaging.
Transformers: 25th Anniversary Matrix of Leadership Edition (The Complete Series) (Shout! Factory)
Details: It’s an incredibly-packaged collection of all 98 episodes of the animated series that has been a major part of the toys/comics/big-screen movie pop culture phenomenon. The action unfolds across 16 discs that come housed in an appropriately Transformer-ing box that includes restored versions of the Autobots vs. Decepticons battles.
Bonus Features: And how. Bonus goodies include a 60-page book, Autobot and Decepticon magnets, retro Hasbro toy commercials, Transformers PSAs, a fan art gallery, two concept art galleries, a voice cast reunion, exclusive interviews and five featurettes.
Black Adder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition (BBC Warner)
Details: No period of English history was safe from the hilarious mocking of Rowan Atkinson (pre-Mr. Bean) and cohorts in this Britcom classic series, with Atkinson as the Edmund Blackadders (different characters, all related and with the same name), who, through various generations, remain weasels.
Beginning with Middle Ages Blackadder, moving on to the Elizabethan era, the late 1800s, Victorian London (the Christmas special) and through to World War I, Atkinson’s opportunistic, frequently doofus-y royal encounters included pairings with House star Hugh Laurie (as George and Prince Regent) and Miranda Richardson as “Queenie,” Queen Elizabeth I.
Bonus Features: New interviews (with Atkinson, Laurie and Stephen Fry) and audio commentary by Atkinson, Fry and writer Richard Curtis (who also wrote one of the all-time best holiday movies, Love Actually), a documentary that marks the show’s 25th anniversary, Baldrick’s Video Diary, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol and a featurette on the show’s costumes with Miranda Richardson.
BEST OF THE REST:
On the Road with Charles Kuralt, Set 1 (Acorn Media)
Details: CBS newsman Charles Kuralt pitched the idea of travelling America and looking for unusual stories along the way as a three-month project, but the beloved segment on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite quickly became a popular feature that would run for more than two decades. Kuralt covered all 50 states, wore out six RVs and earned Emmy and Peabody Awards as he visited with regular people doing interesting things, from an elderly man who fixed bicycles for local kids and an elderly woman who ran a private, 24-hours-a-day library to the people who built the Golden Gate Bridge and people who worked as lace makers, bullfighters and cymbal makers.
Bonus Features: A biography of the late Charles Kuralt, updates on Road stories and a featurette on the show.
Peanuts 1970s Collection: Vol. 1 (Warner Home Video)
Details: The set includes six Peanuts tales, including A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (one of my all-time faves) and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, as well as two ‘toons that make their DVD debut: It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown (Snoopy’s on the trail of Woodstock’s MIA nest) and Play It Again, Charlie Brown (Lucy tries to woo Schroeder by arranging a PTA concert for him).
Bonus Features: The Woodstock: Creating Snoopy’s Sidekick documentary, a fun look at Snoopy’s BFF/comic foil.
Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered (BBC Warner)
Details: One of the most beloved Britcoms of all time made its impact in just 12 episodes, which are collected here and sound and look better than ever in their remastered form. The show, based on a real-life hotel operator John Cleese encountered while working with the Monty Python gang, follows the hilarious exploits – clever writing, great comedic performances – of outrageous hotelier Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil, maid Polly, waiter Manuel and chef Terry.
Bonus Features: Exclusive new commentary from Cleese, new cast interviews, outtakes, director commentary, a short documentary and the “Cheap Tatty Review.”
Top Chef: New York (Season 5) (A&E Home Video)
Details: No spoiling the winner, but this fantastic season featured contestants like Fabio, Carla, Hosea and Stefan, a memorable ep with the Foo Fighters (fans of the show) and the infamous dessert challenge where the contestants weren’t allowed to use sugar.
Bonus Features: Cooking demonstrations, recipes, extended interviews and never-before-seen footage from the “stew room.”
Plastic Man: The Complete Collection (Warner Home Video)
Details: Joining Plas in his 1979-81 superhero adventures, as he, sidekick Hula Hula and girlfriend (and future wife and baby mama) Penny take on evil doers like Weed, Half-Ape, The Clam and Disco Mummy.
Bonus Features: The unaired pilot episode and a retro featurette on Plastic Man.
Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season (ABC Studios)
Details: Just in time for the second season premiere later this week, this first season box set introduces viewers to woodsman Richard Cypher (Craig Horner), who becomes the magical leader The Seeker, who pairs with the mysterious Kahlan Amnell (Bridget Regan) to thwart the evil, mankind-conquering plans of Darken Rahl (Craig Parker).
Bonus Features: Audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette at the show’s New Zealand set and a conversation with author Terry Goodkind, whose Sword of Truth novels are the basis for the series.
The Hunger: The Complete Second Season (E1 Enntertainment)
Details: David Bowie hosted (and Tony and Ridley Scott produced) this late ’90s British horror anthology series, which was all about vampires before Twilight and True Blood set off the current vamp rage. Among season two’s guest cast: Jennifer Beals, Giovanni Ribisi, Eric Roberts and Anthony Michael Hall.
Bonus Features: “Mr. Skin’s” top 10 scenes from the show’s frisky seasons.
Flashpoint: The First Season (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Details: The underrated Enrico Colantoni – Veronica Mars‘ papa to most – stars in this underrated Canadian police drama about an elite police unit that handles extreme situations other cops are trained to handle, like hostage situations, bomb threats and uber-armed baddies. The show, by the way, will return for a third season on CBS in 2010.
Bonus Features: A pair of featurettes on the show, and commentary on the series premiere by director David Frazee.
The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Vol. 1 (E1 Entertainment)
Details: Before she was Big Valley matriarch Victoria Barkley, big-screen legend Stanwyck won an Emmy for hosting and starring in this anthology series. Fifteen of the series’ best episodes are included in this set, which features guest appearances by Milton Berle, Lee Marvin, Vic Morrow and Ralph Bellamy.
Bonus Features: A booklet with contributions by TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne, the unaired pilot episode and Stanwyck’s 1961 Emmy acceptance speech for the show.
AND THE REST …
Monty Python: The Other British Invasion (A&E Home Video)
Married … With Children: The Complete Eleventh Season (Sony Home Entertainment)
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Series (Repackaged) (A&E Home Video)
Hawaii Five-O: The Seventh Season (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The L Word: Final Season (Showtime/Paramount Home Entertainment)
Vega$: The First Season, Vol. 1 (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Lovejoy: The Complete Collection (BBC Warner)
Battlestar Galactica: The Plan on Blu-ray (Universal Home Entertainment)
Dogfights: The Complete Series Megaset (A&E Home Video)
The Fugitive, Season Three, Vol. 1 (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The Guardian: Season 1 (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Looney Tunes: Spotlight Collection, Vol. 7 (Warner Home Video)
Girlfriends: The Complete Seventh Season (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Mannix: The Third Season (Paramount Home Entertainment)
The best TV DVDs of the last two weeks …
MUST-SEE-TV DVDS OF THE WEEK:
The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray (Warner Home Entertainment)
Details: OK, so technically, it’s not a TV thang, but those of us under the age of 80 probably associate The Wizard of Oz with TV, as we’ve been watching it on the tube since we were kids. Even if you’ve been watching it every year since you can remember, though, you’ve never seen Dorothy, Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion and their cohorts like this, in full Blu-ray glory.
What was a painstaking process – the box set is a celebration of the movie’s 70th anniversary, after all – of restoration led to a print that is vibrant, sharp and even more fun in its new Blu-ray state. This new print, in fact, is the best reason so far to start a Blu-ray collection if you haven’t yet. Bottom line: You need to see Munchkinland in Blu-ray. You just do.
Bonus Features: There’s a watch in this box set … a watch. And not the plastic, cereal box kind; it’s an actual timepiece, a stylish watch with a color photo of the cast on the rectangular face, crystals and an emerald green faux leather wristband, packed in an embossed Wizard of Oz tin. Other goodies in the set: a replica of the original movie budget; a reproduction of the 1939 campaign booklet, full of suggestions for how theaters could promote the movie (including coloring pages contests and ideas for displaying the Oz book inside theaters); a digital copy of the movie; and a 52-page coffee table book, Behind the Curtain, packed with photos and interesting tidbits on the movie and its stars (didja know The Wicked Witch was a kindergarten teacher in Cleveland?).
As for bonus video material, there’s two discs worth, including a new sing-along track, commentary by Oz stars and their offspring, music and special effects track, multiple making-of features, the 2001 TCM documentary Memories of Oz, the 1990 TV special The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic, the home movies of Oz composer Harold Arlen, deleted scenes, outtakes, a featurette on the movie’s tornados, radio shows, photo galleries and six movie trailers.
This Blu-ray edition also comes with two bonus discs of material that aren’t in the two-disc special edition release, and those discs include new-to-DVD features Victor Fleming: Master Craftsman, Celebrating Hollywood’s Biggest Little Stars, The Dreamer of Oz TV special (with John Ritter starring as Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum), The Magic Cloak of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz and the MGM: When the Lion Roars documentary.
Ally McBeal: The Complete Series (Fox Home Entertainment)
Details: It’s 32 discs worth of McBeal, including all five seasons of the 1997-2002 Fox dramedy. From career breakout performances by Calista Flockhart, Portia di Rossi and Jane Krakowski and memorable turns by Robert Downey Jr., Josh Groban and Taye Diggs to great comedic performances by Peter MacNicol, Lucy Liu and Greg Germann and quirky touches like the Barry White tunes, the Vonda Shepard theme song and, of course, the dancing baby, Ally McBeal was not only an Emmy/Golden Globe/Screen Actors Guild/Peabody Award-winning series, but one of the biggest pop culture TV hits of the last few decades, and now it’s available on DVD, with all the original music intact.
Bonus Features: A best-of Ally McBeal soundtrack disc; a new featurette, Bygone Days: An Ally McBeal Retrospective, with the cast; the Life and Trials of Ally McBeal TV special; a behind-the-scenes featurette and the 1998 episode of The Practice that featured an Ally crossover.
BEST OF THE REST:
Cagney & Lacey: The Menopause Years (S’more Entertainment)
Details: A collection of four Cagney & Lacey reunion flicks, beginning with 1994’s Cagney & Lacey: The Return, and also including the reunion movies Cagney & Lacey: Together Again (1995), Cagney & Lacey: The View Through the Glass Ceiling (1995) and Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions (1996).
Bonus Features: Interviews with Emmy-winning stars Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly, and producers Barbra Corday and Barney Rosenzweig, whose 2007 memoir Cagney & Lacey … and Me: An Inside Hollywood Story OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blonde is a must-read for Cagney & Lacey fans. PS – Rosenzweig is also married to Gless.
Day Break: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Details: Try as networks might, they still haven’t found the perfect vehicle for Taye Diggs (and I’d argue that Private Practice still isn’t it). This short-lived, 2006 ABC drama was yet another attempt, with Diggs starring as Brett Hopper, a detective who’s framed for the murder of an assistant district attorney. The show unfolded with a Groundhog Day-ish gimmick, wherein Hopper keeps reliving the day he’s framed for the murder, trying to ferret out more and more clues each time and change the outcome. The box set contains all 13 episodes of the show, including the six that aired before ABC yanked it from its schedule and the seven remaining installments that were available at ABC.com.
Bonus Features: Audio commentaries for each episode, interviews with cast and crew and behind-the-scenes features.
How I Met Your Mother: Season Four (Fox Home Entertainment)
Details: That Supporting Actor Emmy still eludes him, but season four of HIMYM provides yet more evidence of why Neil Patrick Harris keeps earning the nominations, with his scene-stealing role as ladies man Barney Stinson. Among Barney’s season four storylines: He realizes he has feelings for Robin, he gets a new assignment working for GNB bank, he sleeps with his 200th woman and Robin finds out he likes her and returns his feelings.
Bonus Features: Audio commentaries, gag reel, the Barney music video and the A Night With Your Mother panel discussion from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
C.S.I. NY: The Complete Fifth Season (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Details: Includes all 25 episodes from season five, including Lindsay and Danny’s pregnancy, Stella’s trip to Greece and the show’s clever 100th episode, “My Name Is Mac Taylor,” where Mac and team had to rush to find a killer whose victims were all named Mac Taylor. Guests for the episode included Chris Daughtry, Scott Wolf, Julia Ormond, Nelly and Rumer Willis. Other season five guest stars: Pete Wentz, Maroon 5, Devon Gummersall, Mykelti Williamson, Ed Asner, Charles S. Dutton, Mare Winningham, Thad Luckinbill and Craig T. Nelson.
Bonus Features: A featurette on celebrating the show’s first 100 episodes, and features on the pre-production, production and post-production process of a murder scene.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Details: The collection features all 39 episodes of the fantastic 2002 restart of the 1980s ‘toon.
Bonus Features: Morals for each episode, interviews with toy artists, audio commentaries, episode scripts and a PDF comic book for the unproduced 40th episode.
Life on Mars: The Complete Series (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
Details: The ABC remake of the British series lasted, sadly, for just 17 episodes, but it is good enough and different enough to warrant a look on DVD. Jason O’Mara, as NYPD detective Sam Tyler, who gets hit by a car in 2008 and is sent time travelling back to 1973, led an excellent cast that also included Harvey Keitel, Michael Imperioli, Jonathan Murphy, Maggie Siff, Lisa Bonet, Dean Winters and Gretchen Mol.
Bonus Features: A tour of the set with Lee Majors and Jason Mara, bloopers, deleted scenes, audio commentary and featurettes on the show’s set and time-travelling storyline.
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Special Edition on Blu-ray (Warner Home Video)
Details: This gem, based on the opening arc of the Superman/Batman comic, features the best superhero voice talent – Tim Daly as Superman, Kevin Conroy as Batman, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor and John C. McGinley as Metallo – in the story of President Lex Luthor! Yep, Lex has been elected POTUS, and his first order of business is to turn the country against superheroes Superman and Batman. He puts a bounty ($1 billion) on Superman’s head, and with the other superheroes all on Lex’s payroll, will this finally spell doom for the Man of Steel, or has Lex ensured his own doom by pushing Superman too far?
Bonus Features: A digital copy of the movie, bonus cartoons, a sneak peek at Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths and featurettes A Test of Two Minds: Superman and Batman, a dinner with DCU and Kevin Conroy, behind-the-scenes of Blackest Night and a look at four other DC Universe animated flicks.
Medium: The Complete Fifth Season (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Details: All 18 episodes of the show’s fifth season are included in this five-disc set of Medium‘s final season on NBC (season six is airing on CBS’s Friday night line-up). Changes for season five: Psychic mom Allison is back working with D.A. Devalos and Detective Scanlon, hubby Joe has started his own company and Allison’s oldest daughter, Ariel, started to have trouble with the “gift” she inherited from her mother, as she started to have troubling visions about her schoolmates.
Bonus Features: A Jake and Patricia Q+A and featurettes The Making of Medium: Season 5, Script to Screen: Apocalypse … Now? and Curious Maria.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show – The Complete Fifth Season (Fox Home Entertainment)
Details: Gems of the season: “Neighbors,” in which Mr. Grant becomes Mary’s neighbor when he moves into Rhoda’s old apartment; “An Affair to Forget,” in which Ted tells everyone he and Mary are dating, and no one will believe her when she denies it; and “A New Sue Ann,” in which a fan of Sue Ann’s (Betty White) goes all All About Eve on her.
TV Screener Tidbit: This season of the classic sitcom won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, while Ed Asner won the Supporting Actor Emmy, Betty White won the Supporting Actress Emmy and the show won the Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series Emmy for the season premiere installment, “Mary Richards Goes to Jail.”
AND THE REST …
Stargate Atlantis – The Complete Series Collection (MGM Home Entertainment)
The Unit: The Complete Giftset (Fox Home Entertainment)
Kings – Season One (Universal Home Entertainment)
Man vs. Food: Season 1 (Image Entertainment)
Mister Ed: The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory)
The Patty Duke Show: Season One (Shout! Factory)
Bones: Season Four (Fox Home Entertainment)
The Hills: Season Five, Part One (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Nip/Tuck – Season Five, Part Two (Warner Home Video)
Prototype This: Season One (Discovery Channel)
The Real Ghostbusters: Complete Collection (Time Life)
Traffik: Remastered 20th Anniversary Edition (Acorn Media)
Ultraman: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Charlie Sheen, Russell Brand and Louis C.K. are getting most of the attention, but I’m most excited that one of the best new shows of last TV season — Wilfred — returns for its second season on FX tonight (10PM ET). Season one of the series ended with a cliffhanger — had Ryan (Elijah Wood) […]