Spooks: Season 9 DVDs

To get to a ninth series and still be able to make your episodes feel fresh is a grand old trick if you can pull it off.  So was the case with the latest adventures for Spooks, the Kudos TV production which has done more for MI5 recruitment drives in recent times than anything else. The high turnover in characters continues, and this run of episodes saw the introduction of Sophia Myles (the live action Lady Penelope in the Thunderbirds movie) as Beth Bailey, who fits in like she’s always been part of the team.

Also signing up for duty is Max Brown (previous Sam Grey in Mistresses, and Edward Seymour in The Tudors) as new spook Dimitri Levendis. We get to follow the team on a an excellent roster of stories, which include tracking Somalian terrorists, preventing assassination attempts, avoiding bombing efforts and vicious snipers, and through it all facing the personal consequences of working for the secret services.

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Psych: Season 3 DVDs

Psych is one of those shows that falls into that category “Great to watch, easy to miss”.  I viewed it avidly for the first couple of seasons, then just seemed to lose track of it.  It was therefore very easy for me to accept the offer of reviewing the third season, which has just been released on DVD.

With half of his colleagues convinced he is a psychic, James Roday plays Shawn Spencer, who is following in his father’s footsteps with a career in law enforcement, although not as ‘route one’. Through what can only be described as ‘heightened observational skills’, he pulls off the trick of being able to be considered a psychic. Unfortunately, many of those around him are far more sceptical of his ‘spiritual’ skills, and he does have a penchant for rubbing people up the wrong way!

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Audience with Jasper Carrott

Long before he became the presenter of game shows, I’m of the generation who grew up knowing Jasper Carrott as being something of an underground anti-establishment comedy hero. I remember the sixth formers at Highfields School in Wolverhampton all huddling round a record player, in-between after-school drama sessions, playing the 12” slabs of vinyl from Mr Carrott. It was wild, risqué, the sort of humour you wouldn’t then see of the telly.

Having made several appearances on regional television during the mid-1970s, Jasper was launched to a wider audience with his first TV series in 1978. An Audience with Jasper Carrott was a storming success, earning him a Pye Award as ‘Outstanding New Personality’ and turning him into a household name. Now you can see the evolution of one of our greatest living comedians - and bemoan the fact that he's not doing standup anymore but instead doing game shows.

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Doctor Who: The Ark DVD

Materialising in what appears to be a jungle on Earth, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo soon realise that things are not what they seem. The sky is made of steel, and the jungle merely a colossal life chamber in a craft that has embarked on the most important expedition in the history of mankind. Needless to say, this is “The Ark” of this story’s title, and here we have an example of Doctor Who exploring more serious elements of Science Fiction.

It is ten million years in the future, and the Earth is soon to be engulfed by the Sun in a catastrophic explosion. The gigantic space ark has been launched to take the last humans to a new life on the distant planet of Refusis. Serving the Guardians of Earth are the Monoids, mute reptilian aliens, who are about to reveal their true colours.

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Shadow Squad & Skyport

There are some series that were very popular of their time, but have almost completely been erased from collective memory and the history books.  One such is Shadow Squad. Its longevity and popularity provided a training ground for key television writers of the 1960s and 1970s, including BAFTA-nominated Julian Bond and Coronation Street creator Tony Warren. 179 episodes were transmitted between June 1957 and June 1959, but only four now remain in the archive. The show was a series of two-part stories, showing episodes less than a week apart.

The theme makes you expect Quatermass, all doomladen and full of menace – not quite matching what was to come. And in terms of setting precedents, it is well worth noting that this show was one of the first to lead to a ‘spin-off’ - in this case the airport-bound Skyport, which carried over the popular Cockney wide-boy character of Ginger Smart as an airport security guard. And in this new Network DVD release, you get to savour the ONLY surviving episode of Ginger’s 52 further adventures.

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