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Must-See-TV DVDs: November 2, 2009

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 ColantoniVeronica 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)

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