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TV DVDs

The latest titles from TV series and TV specials range to hit the shelves and online stores

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Parks and Recreation - Season 1 on UK DVDAlready in its fifth year in the US, the first season of hit comedy Parks and Recreation finally comes to DVD, having recently aired on BBC4. Creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, both well known for the American version of The Office and Saturday Night Live, have crafted another fabulous fly-on-the-wall mockumentary about some inept but lovable local government workers in the fictional, Indiana town of Pawnee.

Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, “Blades of Glory”) stars as Leslie Knope, the town’s Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation. When Leslie learns about a local man (Chris Pratt – “Moneyball”) breaking his legs after tumbling into a disused pit, she hastily promises his partner Ann (Rashida Jones – “The Social Network”) that the council will convert the dangerous eyesore into a fantastic new park. Sadly for Leslie, she does not anticipate the resistance from within and without she will encounter.

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Mr Rose - Series Three out now on DVDThe enduring character of Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Rose was first introduced in The Odd Man and It’s Dark Outside, Granada’s cult crime series of the early 1960s. In this sequel, reaching its third and final series with this DVD release from Network, we continue the acerbic detective’s adventures within a rather restless retirement.

This is the final run of stories to feature the character. It is again set against the backdrop of his city flat, very out of character as it is very minimalist and futuristic, and we watch him tackling crimes ranging from blackmail to murder, art theft to protection rackets. His aide, John Halifax, is away for the duration of the season, so brought into play, to prod Rose to finish his second book of memoirs, is publisher’s assistant Robert Trent, played by Eric Woofe.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

It's Dark Outside - out on DVDIt's Dark Outside is the second series in Granada's cult crime/suspense trilogy featuring the character of Charles Rose. In this format, we see William Mervyn reprising the role of the charismatic Inspector, first introduced in The Odd Man. Although two series of It's Dark Outside were made, the second was thought completely lost until research for this release unearthed two episodes, which still existed on film. Newly transferred, these episodes have been included alongside all those from series one.

Here, we follow the sharp-witted and memorably prickly detective as he tackles a fresh batch of cases. Assisting Rose in Series One is the more amenable DS Swift (played by a sprightly Keith Barron), with John Carson as solicitor Anthony Brand and June Tobin as Brand's journalist wife, Alice. For 1960s television, the subject matter is very edgy, touching into the arenas of racism, wrongful hanging of innocent people, cult sects and gambling addictions. There is even the spectre of adultery, as Swift and Alice find themselves tragically attracted to each other.

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Monday, 18 March 2013

Malcolm in the Middle - Series Four out on DVDHere we go again with season four of this excellent sitcom. If you are new to Malcolm in the Middle let me introduce you to the family. Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) is the genius son and brother in a fraught American family. He is frequently the instigator of plans to make life better for himself and his brothers in a continual war with their parents. Malcolm’s intelligence is also often used to get the family out of tricky situations.

Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) is the youngest and probably wisest brother. He can turn on the charm when puppy dog eyes are required or speak reason to his panicking father. Reece (Justin Berfield) is the second eldest and least understood brother; he occupies a world of his own where simple things amuse him. He is both tormentor and occasional saviour to his younger brothers.

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Monday, 11 February 2013

Malcolm in the Middle - Series 3 on DVDMalcolm in the Middle is one of those series (of which there are seven to enjoy) that is so easy to watch that before you know it you have watched quite a few and missed the release deadline and find yourself writing a review a day late. It’s a bit like doing your homework in detention, except this is easy detention where you get to mess about because no teacher has turned up to supervise.

In this third series of the highly enjoyable peek at the lives of Malcolm and his family we are treated to Reece (Justin Berfield) going to high school, Francis (Christopher Masterson) leaving Military School and running away to Alaska, and Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) looking after the school hamster ‘Bernard’.

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Wednesday, 06 February 2013

LA LAW - Season Four on DVDSeason 4 of this Los Angeles-based legal drama sees the tone take a slightly more serious and personal tone, though the traditional mix of major and mad-cap trials remains. Tensions threaten to boil over within ‘McKenzie Brackman’ as the firm experiences a troubling dip in revenue and the staff try to turn things around. Diana Muldaur (Dr Pulaski in Star Trek: The Next Generation Seasons 2-3) is hired as a ‘rain maker’, with very challenging consequences.

Guest stars include Kathy Bates (“Misery”, “Titanic”), Carl Lumbly (Cagney & Lacey, Alias), David Rappaport (“Time Bandits”; sadly this was to be his third and final appearance on the show) and Amanda Plummer (“Pulp Fiction”). The hit series continued to garner major awards, including Emmys for ‘Outstanding Drama Series’, ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series’ (Jimmy Smits), and the BMI TV Music Award for the ever-dependable Mike Post.

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Monday, 28 January 2013

Mr Rose - series 2 on DVD from NetworkJust the six episodes in this second run of episodes from 1968. Mr Rose continues to be plot and character driven in a mainly studio-bound setting. William Mervyn again plays Rose, now a published author with some margin of fame, uprooted from his country residence to a posh town flat, incongruous with his classic character. Donald Webster returns as manservant John Halifax - think Gambit in The New Avengers for his character’s place within the series. No return for Personal Assistant Drusilla, so much of the subplot of these episodes is the struggle to find her successor, needed to assist Rose in the continuation of his memoirs

Like the first season of 13 episodes, this second batch is again brought to us by Network. Rose was a character who had worked through the ranks to finish up with his own self-titled show. A former Scotland Yard Chief Inspector, Rose was first introduced in The Odd Man and then It’s Dark Outside (this one due imminently on DVD), a pair of cult crime series from the early 1960s. This self-named continuation sees the former detective foregoing a restless retirement to take on a further series of cases, in a personal capacity.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Tour of Duty - the final third season out now on DVDBravo Company returns to the fray for their third and final season of physically and emotionally fraught conflict in the Vietnam War. Over 21 episodes, story arcs feature high calibre guest stars such as Carl Weathers (“Rocky”, “Predator”), Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Fall Guy) and Greg Germann (Ally McBeal, “Quarantine”). The guys are transferred to a new base and become part of a Special Operations unit called Team Viking.

Two new characters join the ranks: peacenik medic Pvt Hockenbury (John Dye – Touched by an Angel) and later on, Pvt William Griner (Kyle Chandler – “Super 8”, Friday Night Lights, Early Edition). Alongside the thrilling combat sequences, plots cover such heavy-duty subjects as a civilian massacre, drug abuse, the inability to adapt to a normal life, army cover-ups and the repercussions of soldiers going AWOL.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Malcolm in the Middle - Series 2 comes to DVDWhen I was supplied with a review copy of Malcolm in the Middle – The Complete Second Series, my partner and I thought it would be a good idea to watch the first series as well, as a bit of a primer. Just to get an idea of what was going on. He had never seen Malcolm in the Middle before, but was a little intrigued as Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad fame) plays the father, Hal, in the show.

We settled down to watch... and were soon laughing out loud and enjoying predicting what the next predicament Malcolm and his family would get into. It is clear right from very early on what sort of show this is. No perfect family life. No tidy sprawling home with a lovely back yard to play in. No neighbours popping round with freshly baked muffins. No, no, no. The family, just about, sticks together. The home would barely get through a health and safety check. And the neighbours, well, they just steer clear.

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Tuesday, 06 November 2012

End of Part One - comes to DVD at last!There aren’t many shows which have become the stuff of legend. Little shards of memory amongst our collective consciousness, with the series title having been lost in the ether, seemingly forever.  For those of a certain age, who would tune in to ITV broadcasts on Sunday afternoons in 1979 and 1980, hopefully the penny will drop as we recount some of the sketches within the series known as End of Part One. Media Studies lecturers should be making it essential viewing for students, as it catches the zeitgeist of the real and perceived notions of quality within TV output of the time.

From the combined pen of Andrew Marshall and David Renwick – now the equivalent of ‘rock gods’ within the comedy writing profession - this was their partnership debut on television. The idea was to take their genre-busting comedy from BBC Radio 4, in “The Birkiss Way”, and add pictures. The satire on popular culture would become even more biting, while the impressions of celebrities were in the style of - rather than direct mimicry - and were all the better for it.  And for those of us who ‘get’ the references, the show is more laugh-out-loud today than it has ever been.

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Monday, 05 November 2012

Doctor Who - Ambassadors of Death restored on DVDTechnology combined by hard work and dedication is the backbone to the remastered release of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who Season Seven classic “The Ambassadors of Death”. Utilising advances in computer wizardry, now all of the episodes – including those that have been seen up until now partially in black and white – have been restored, and are supported by an extensive collection of bonus features.

One of the longer stories in the entire series, “Ambassadors” has all the ingredients which the Pertwee era stamped out as its trademarks. Aliens becoming the enemy within, political wrangling not being for the greater good, and the Doctor’s ongoing battles and alliances with the military – with Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) integral to the plot. And YES, dammit, that’s what UNIT stands for, and to hell with the UN demanding that we now call it something else!

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Overseas Press Club - Exclusive! - out now from NetworkThis is an anthology of thirteen individual dramas dates from 1957, based on the adventures of famous foreign correspondents. They were witnesses to some of the most extraordinary stories of the twentieth century. Unseen for over fifty years, Overseas Press Club – Exclusive! is a lost treasure. Online and learned reference book accounts of the series are patchy, if there is any mention at all, and the on-screen opening credits only use the word Exclusive! as the show’s title.

The print quality of these monochrome adventures is excellent, and followers of Cult TV cast members are in for a treat with some very early performances, some little more than walk-on parts, for what would become household names. We’re talking the likes of Richard O’Sullivan, Peter Wyngarde, Frazer Hines, Roger Delgado, Nigel Stock, Anton Diffring, Alfred Burke, Stratford Johns, Dick Vosburgh and Leonard Sachs (twice!). Release label Network know the magnitude of the little gem they have unearthed!

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Tales from the Darkside - Season 4 on DVD nowGeorge A Romero’s Tales from the Darkside returns for a fourth and final time with a slightly shorter but no less ghoulish, 20-episode run. Spread across four discs, this season features the usual mixture of chilling and entertaining tales about monsters, demonic forces, death, sin and punishment, and the occasional left-field story for good measure. Be warned, though, as there is always time to squeeze in one more episode…

The impressive list of contributing writers includes Stephen King (“The Shining”), Clive Barker (“Hellraiser”), Robert Bloch (“Psycho”), Michael McDowell (“Beetlejuice”) and SF author Lois McMaster Bujold (the “Vorkosigan” saga). Actors include Deborah Harry (aka Blondie), Stephen McHattie (“The Fountain”), Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5), Barry Dennen (“Jesus Christ Superstar”), Divine (“Hairspray”) and Arthur Taxier (“Donnie Darko”).

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Monday, 08 October 2012

Automan finally makes it to DVDAutoman has gained cult status since its original broadcast on BBC1, and so it’s long overdue to finally see it released on DVD. It’s what’s deemed a ‘high concept’ show, produced by Glen A Larson (Knight Rider, Magnum PI, Manimal) along with the original producers of the “Tron” movie. The show has never received a DVD release owing to music rights issues, which have now been resolved - so you now get the full four disc series as the director intended. It’s been expected to arrive on DVD for virtually the whole of 2012 (it was certified back in March 2012), but finally it’s here!

Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnaz Jr) is the Police Department’s resident computer geek. His immediate superiors think Walter’s place is behind a desk and not on the streets, but that doesn’t stop Walter dreaming of getting in on the action. Walter’s expertise in computer programming is unparalleled and he creates a special program, ‘Automan’ (Chuck Wagner) an artificially intelligent computer hologram that looks real, sounds real and given enough power can physically exist in the real world.

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Monday, 08 October 2012

Nash Bridges - Season One out now on DVDCharisma, guile, audacity and plenty of recklessness; Inspector Nash Bridges (Don Johnson – Miami Vice, “Machete”) has each of these in spades, and they get him out of a lot of tricky situations. Bridges works for San Francisco’s Special Investigations Unit, solving some of the most dangerous cases nobody else wants to touch. Drug dealers, mobsters, bank robbers and other undesirables think they can control the city, but they have simply not factored Bridges and his team into their plans.

As successful as he is in his work, Bridges’ home life is a train-wreck. Both of his marriages ended in divorce, firstly to Lisa (Annette O’Toole – Smallville, “It”) with whom he has a teenage daughter called Cassidy (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe – Prison Break), and then to Kelly (Serena Scott Thomas – “The World is Not Enough”), a rich woman who still finds herself in Nash’s bed occasionally! Add in a father suffering from dementia, and our hero’s life is never easy.

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Monday, 17 September 2012

LA LAW - Season 3 out now on DVDThe third season of LA Law represents a continuation of the same keen blend of law-room drama, office politics, romance and comedy, with some seriously weighty issues to consider along the way. Created by Steven Bochco and produced by David E Kelley, TV titans by anyone’s standards, this season was the proud recipient of two Emmy awards in 1989, including ‘Best Drama’ and ‘Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series’ for Larry Drake.

To help with a burgeoning case load, legal firm McKenzie Brackman takes on another new associate this year: the no-nonsense Dorothy Wyler (Nancy Vawter – Admiral Blackwell in Star Trek: The Next Generation – “The Pegasus”). Otherwise it is business as usual for the loveable lawyers, as they tackle cases for all manner of unsavoury, oddball and earnest people whilst trying to keep their own lives on track and in perspective.

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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Manimal comes to DVDManimal came to UK shores just at a time when our family had invested in its first ever VCR – those heady days at the back end of 1983, when despite the outrageous cost of tape at the time, shows like this one, plus The A-Team and Terrahawks, were treasured in never-ending repeat runs, thanks to the latest ‘hi-tech’ device. It was given a prime early-evening slot on BBC1, and therefore got a lot of attention.  For those of a certain age it is well-known, creating something of a rose-tinted vision of how certain shows put fun at the centre of their format.

The Beeb no doubt liked the idea of the male lead being the thoroughly English Simon MacCorkindale, breathing life into playboy-criminologist-philanthropist Jonathan Chase. Little did they realise that Stateside the show found itself up against the then-ratings juggernaut Dallas, so in this little scenario it was JR who shot Manimal, consigning the series to oblivion after just eight episodes. But now, thanks to its DVD release, we get to see what the potential of the show really was.

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Monday, 03 September 2012

Mission Impossible '88 comes to UK DVDIt comes as no surprise in this blinkered and myopic world that there are so many people who think the Mission: Impossible franchise began with Tom Cruise.  Brian de Palma’s 1996 shocking demolition of the format, seeing lead character Jim Phelps stabbing his country - and most of his colleagues - in the back, started with a homage scene to the original, and then proceeded to trample on the enduring memories of what had come before.

The original Mission: Impossible ran from 1966 until 1973, clocking up 171 episodes.  Less well known in the UK is the two-season revival, filmed in Australia, which began in 1988, and was given the impetus to go into production due to an American writers’ strike of the time. Peter Graves was back to lead a new team, with the series given an excellent makeover, and within the run probably some of the show’s best-ever episodes. 

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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

 

War of the Worlds TV Series - Final Season out on DVDSet in the near future, the second and final season of “War of the Worlds” gets off to a shocking start. Two of the regular and much-loved characters are killed off, the team’s base is destroyed and the remaining members go on the run from the aliens. When all seems lost, they bump into John Kincaid (Adrian Paul – Highlander, “Eyeborgs”), a well-connected freedom fighter who dwells in a secret industrial basement. Our heroes get a brief chance to regroup and live to fight another day.

Meanwhile, a new race of aliens is in town – the dastardly Morthren. Their goal is the same as the last bunch of bug-eyed extra terrestrials, only this time they have the benefit of living amongst a human civilisation that is decaying rapidly. Undesirables rule the streets, government troops gun down innocents and every man, woman and child is left to fend for themselves. With mankind divided and in disarray, it is an environment ripe for an alien invasion.

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Thursday, 02 August 2012

 

Undermind - an archive classic comes to DVDIt’s not often that a long-lost series can have an impact upon its first-ever DVD release.  So I hope is the case with crime drama come science fiction mystery Undermind, a chilling and intriguing series made by the long-defunct British ABC Television. First broadcast in 1965, it stars Jeremy Wilkin (second voice of Virgil Tracy in Thunderbirds and featured in various Gerry & Sylvia Anderson shows) as personnel manager come saviour of the world Drew Heriot, with Rosemary Nicols (Annabelle Hurst in Department S) as his avenging sister-in-law Anne.

Detective Sergeant Frank Heriot (Jeremy Kemp) is healthy, happily married, and has a secure job. What has made him cold and distant towards his family, in particular wife Anne? Why is he now plagued by searing headaches? Is he mentally ill, or is something far more sinister playing on his mind? Gradually, the answer becomes clear - Frank is the victim of an unknown force seeking to undermine public confidence in the people and institutions that form the backbone of the British establishment. Those familiar with the allegations surrounding charity of today “Common Purpose” may suddenly feel contemporary alarm bells ringing.

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Monday, 09 July 2012

Astronauts finally makes it to DVDA forerunner to Red Dwarf, Astronauts is stellar sitcom written by Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie of The Goodies fame. An all-British team of two men, one woman and a dog is dispatched to a very cramped space station to perform a series of scientific experiments, whilst under constant observation by Mission Control. It is not long before the crew start getting on each others’ nerves and going stir crazy.

The Mission Commander is Malcolm Mattocks (Christopher Godwin – “Scoop”, The Bill), a prim and proper Southerner with a penchant for technical jargon. Technical Officer David Ackroyd (Barrie Rutter – Fat Friends) is a disobedient Northerner who loves to needle Mattocks. Dr Gentian Foster (Carmen du Sautoy – “The Man with the Golden Gun”) is an ultra-posh scientist and medic who seeks refuge in yoga when things get stressful. Bimbo is their shaggy canine companion.

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Monday, 02 July 2012

Famous Five - Season 2 out now on DVDEnid Blyton’s Famous Five Series 2 is out now on DVD, and the release includes the final 13 episodes of the 1970s TV variant on the popular book series.  This season was originally broadcast on ITV across 1978 and 1979, which led many to believe it was two separate seasons, which was not the case. 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the first release of the “Famous Five” books, so it’s perfect timing to see these episodes finally release.  Many feared the worst for the show, as the Southern Television archive has not been the most well-curated over the years, but now its fans can breathe easily.

Based on the best-selling Enid Blyton series of books, this second series features the guest starring talent of the likes of Patrick Troughton, Brian Croucher, Alfie Bass, Kenneth Cope, Mona Bruce, David Rappaport, Stephen Greif, Leslie Schofield, Rita Webb, Kenneth MacDonald, and Rupert Graves in a very early role (only preceded on his CV by a walk-on part in an episode of Return of The Saint).

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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Mr Rose - Series 1 comes to DVDMr Rose is a very highly regarded series, quite studio-bound and in glorious monochrome, the first season of which was aired on ITV in early 1967. Like many dramas of its time, the episodes are plot and character driven, and despite the less than perfect recordings from the archives, this is a series which is wonderfully endearing. William Mervyn plays Rose as a character that comes across as Jason King for the blue-rinse brigade; no doubt at the time he had the same knee-trembling effect on those in their fifties upwards as Wyngarde’s author-come-detective had on those of a younger disposition.

This first season of 13 episodes is brought to us thanks to Network DVD. Rose was a character who had worked through the ranks to finish up with his own self-titled show. A former Scotland Yard Chief Inspector, Rose was first introduced in The Odd Man and then It’s Dark Outside, a pair of cult crime series from the early 1960s. This sequel sees the acerbic detective emerging from a restless retirement to take on a further series of cases.

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Monday, 25 June 2012

 

Centennial comes to UK DVDCentennial is a twelve-part, twenty-hour miniseries based on James A Michener’s mammoth book of the same name. It charts the turbulent development of Centennial, a fictional town in dusty Colorado, from the mid 18th Century to the 1970s. The broad history of the American West is covered, including the fortunes of Native Indian tribes, pioneering whites, hunters, cattle ranchers and cowboys, gold diggers, law makers and law breakers.

Amongst roughly a hundred speaking parts, the stunning cast includes Timothy Dalton, Raymond Burr, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad, Donald Pleasance, Dennis Weaver, Lynn Redgrave, Robert Vaughn, Sharon Gless, Mark Harmon and narration by David Janssen. The epic $25 million-budgeted series was nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes, and won several other prestigious awards.  Centennial is one of those series that educates and entertains in equal measure, though one gets the sense that the balance between the two shifts back and forth as it plays out.

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Friday, 22 June 2012

Earth 2 finally comes to UK DVDWhen I first watched this show in 1994, I had mixed feelings. A good premise, certainly, but the execution was uneven, but I still watched. My opinion probably hasn’t changed. It seems that consistency wasn’t paramount to the story they needed to tell, so plot holes would come up from time to time – like, if it was a penal colony, where were the rest of the prisoners? And although there were some plot threads that ran from show to show, they also seemed inconsistent and slow moving. Would you really leave behind your only doctor when you can barely survive as it is?

Beyond the plot and writing in general, Earth 2 was reasonably well done. Shot primarily outdoors, the visuals are generally nice, and appropriate. I can’t think of landing in a bleaker location. Rocky terrain, cold weather; not exactly an agrarian paradise to start off a new colony. The special effects, at least in the two-part opener (they aren’t needed as much in the rest of the series) were pretty good for their time as well.

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