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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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Sunday, 25 April 2010

TV icon Robert Hardy is back in his dual role in Andrew Marshall and David Renwick’s razor-sharp satire of the ongoing shenanigans of the day-to-day running of a tabloid newspaper. Co-starring Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave) as former TV presenter Dicky Lipton – the latest dupe employed to clean up the Daily Crucible – Hot Metal was a cult success on its initial transmission and remains an outstandingly clever and wickedly funny comedy 22 years on.

Twiggy Rathbone (Hardy), newspaper tycoon and owner of Rathouse International, has relaunched his Crucible newspaper, once a broadsheet ‘paper of integrity’ as a downmarket, sex and sleaze-centric tabloid. To aid him in this crusade he brought in South African newspaper editor Russell Spam (also Hardy), whose job is to deflect the complaints of the ‘old guard’ and re-employ bottom-of-the-barrel sacked reporters such as Greg Kettle, who in the first season used a medium to ‘interview’ victims of capital punishment.

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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Written by Johnny Speight, creator of Till Death Us Do Part, and based on an idea by Spike Milligan, Curry & Chips proved to be one of the most controversial situation comedies ever made. Originally screened in 1969, the series featured Milligan as Kevin O’Grady, a man of mixed Asian and Irish descent who has just started his new job at Lillicrap Ltd, manufacturer of cheap novelty items and seaside souvenirs.

Inevitably, he soon becomes the butt of jokes from his resoundingly intolerant workmates. Speight’s determined attempt at confronting racism with its own conventions polarised critical opinion, although it was extremely popular with the viewing public and ended up in the ITV Top Ten. The character of O’Grady actually made his first appearance in an episode of Till Death Us Do Part.

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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Fury is a horse that no-one has yet been able to tame. Much like Black Beauty, he is a magnificent, fiery black stallion, but this one has a temper as hot as the desert sun. Joey Clark is a young orphan with no ties to anyone or anything, who finds himself accused of wrongdoing wherever he goes – mainly by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meeting on the ranch owned by widower Jim Newton (whose wife and son were killed in a road accident by a drunk driver), horse and boy both share a rebellious spirit, but together forge a bond of trust.

Set amid the rugged range of California and featuring action-packed storylines that emphasised the importance of doing the right thing, this much-loved children’s series was a success on both sides of the Atlantic. Fury was the first show produced by the newly created TPA (Television Programs of America) and the show’s rights were later bought by Lew Grade’s ITC.

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

This is a very difficult format to explain to those who have not seen it. From the combined pens of iconic TV scripters Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, the former most famous for 2.4 Children, the latter for One Foot In The Grave, took a look at world affairs, and came up with something that is both completely hilariously surreal and remarkably timeless.

If you were to say Monty Python’s Flying Circus meets “Doctor Strangelove” you would be in the ball park inhabited by Whoops Apocalypse! The idea was initially a six-part Sunday night ITV series, and then a trans-Atlantic movie. The series has a cast list which is monumental and remarkable, while the feature film stars the likes of Peter Cook, Loretta Swit, Richard Wilson and Graeme Garden.  If you’ve not seen this show, you are missing a real treat.

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Forty years since its inception, creation, popularity and success, Network DVD has released Catweazle – 40th Anniversary Edition. This five disc set is out now. This release includes more special features than the previous Catweazle releases, along with all the episodes that were made.

Catweazle for two blocks of thirteen episodes banished the boredom of Sunday afternoons on ITV, with the whimsy of the show making it essential viewing, and the talk of many a playground with its mixture of fish-out-of-water aspect and pure magic. From the moment Geoffrey Bayldon makes his appearance in the first episode, this iconic character actor – famous for having turned down the role of Doctor Who in 1963, makes the wizard a televisual legend.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Starring William Hartnell as the first Doctor, this DVD contains two stories that feature the mysterious Time/Space Visualiser, and is loaded with quite simply fantastic extras. This action-packed pairing also features Peter Purves, who went on to widespread fame as a Blue Peter presenter, as new companion Steven Taylor (and even briefly appearing as a cowboy earlier in “The Chase”). He is joined by fellow companions Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton and Maureen O'Brien as Vicki.

“The Space Museum” sees the TARDIS jump a time track arriving on the planet Xeros. The crew discover their future selves displayed as exhibits in a museum built as a monument to the galactic conquests of the warlike Morok invaders who now rule the planet. When time shifts back to the present, they realise that they must do everything they can to try to avert this potential future.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Restored from the original masters, The Good Life is one of those 'nice' shows, and season one is now released on DVD in its entirety for the first time ever. It is not crass or obscene, and is not so twee as to be sickly. It is well written, directed and acted. You know from the start you will be entertained without having to strain to understand the humour. A great British classic, and at 35 years old now, it certainly is a classic.

For anyone who has never watched this series and those who enjoyed it the first time round it has taken on a larger significance in these times of great waste and consumerism. The series could almost be educational. Tom Good (Richard Briers – recently seen in Torchwood episode "A Day in the Death") is celebrating his 40th birthday and finding he has reached an age where he feels directionless and pointless.

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Sunday, 07 March 2010

With much of the television that those in single digit ages in the 1970s having disappeared long ago from our screens, memories become just fragments – the titles of what we saw long forgotten, and even in this digital age satellite television does not have a place for them amongst its hundreds of channels.  Thanks to Network DVD, we now have two ‘sampler’ double-disc sets to savour, to help fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

These releases are therefore ideally suited for those now in their forties. No longer do you have to fork out on a series that you may or may not remember correctly.  In these two releases known as “Look-Back on 70s Telly” we get two pools of many unreleased legends to cast our memory net into – “Issue 1” covers the pre-school genre, while “Issue 2” covers that of action and adventure aimed at children and younger teenagers (of the time).  All of it is wrapped in artwork very much a homage to the “Look-In” comic of the era, and a theme tune for the hilarious and well thought-out menus that pays homage to the theme tune to the series Ace of Wands.

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Saturday, 27 February 2010

An old woman’s possessions are auctioned, and orchestral conductor Timothy Clare and his family move into her large, though rather gloomy and dilapidated, old house in Bristol. It soon becomes clear that this is a house full of secrets, and that Mrs Betterton has good reason to leave with her young granddaughter, the ethereal, otherworldly Emily. After a series of frightening experiences and disturbing discoveries, including a walled-up room containing a skeleton, the Clares realise that they are not the only occupants. Unearthly presences inhabit the house, and the family must find a way to lay the ghosts to rest if they are ever to find peace there.

Eerie special effects, a twisting plot and a highly atmospheric setting make for spine-tingling drama in this memorable six-part series from HTV. The Clifton House Mystery features Peter Sallis as Milton Guest, who becomes convinced that a ghost connected with the Bristol Riots of 1831 is haunting the house.

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Sunday, 21 February 2010

Edward Woodward gives an enigmatic performance as the agent who falls into becoming a professional killer working for British Intelligence. Callan became an iconic hero at the time, making Woodward one of the highest profile actors on TV, something that would eventually transfer to Trans-Atlantic success. This release is a fine epitaph for one of the actor’s most famous roles.

Created by James Mitchell (of When the Boat Comes In fame) this series explored the dingy, twilight world of the professional spy. Callan was the antithesis of James Bond and presented television with a realistic portrayal of government espionage. The format ran from 1967 to 1972. With shady help from Lonely (Russell Hunter), Callan found his every move being manipulate from ‘The Section’ by ‘Hunter’ - a name used by the current Section Chief, much like ‘M’ in Bond, and explains the constant rotation of actors playing the role.

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Saturday, 13 February 2010

Featuring Tom Baker as the fourth incarnation, “The Masque of Madragora” is a Doctor Who historical adventure of sorts. After an encounter with the deadly Mandragora Helix, the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) land the TARDIS in 15th Century San Martino. In the midst of danger, secrecy and intrigue, they witness the flowering of the Italian Renaissance.

As the masque to celebrate the accession of the new Duke approaches, the Doctor realises that a third visitor has arrived with him in the TARDIS. It is a force with the power to wipe out human civilisation forever. The Doctor has brought it to Earth – and only the Doctor can stop it.

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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Set on the developing planet of Peladon, Doctor Who Peladon Tales includes two adventures featuring the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee – “The Curse of Peladon” and “The Monster of Peladon”, with the adventures set 50 years apart.  In “The Curse of Peladon” from 1972, the Doctor and Jo Grant make an inelegant landing on the planet Peladon whilst on a test flight in the TARDIS. Mistaken for representatives from Earth, the Doctor soon finds himself chairing the committee of alien delegates assessing Peladon’s petition to join the Galactic Federation. When one of the King’s advisers is killed, the High Priest fears the ancients Curse of Aggedor is at work, but the Doctor suspects his old enemies the Ice Warriors are to blame. Can the Doctor and Jo uncover the identity of the saboteurs before a major diplomatic incident plunges them into war?

In “The Monster of Peladon” from 1974, the TARDIS arrives on Peladon half a century after his previous visit. The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith discover a troubled planet ruled by the late King’s daughter. Peladon is at the centre of a war – and the Galactic Federation desperately need a mineral found in the mines. But why is the ghost of Aggedor killing miners, and why can’t anyone be trusted? Queen Thalira needs the Doctor’s help to find out…

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Sunday, 20 December 2009

A long time ago, in a cinema not too far away, one of the most iconic of movies was unleashed upon the universe.  It’s a dark time for the rebellion but the future has never been brighter for Family Guy and “Star Wars” fans when “Something, Something, Something, Darkside” arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on 28 December courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. 

The second DVD premiere feature from the series, following 2005’s “Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story”, this is a follow-up to the 2008 “Star Wars” homage “Blue Harvest”. This time, the Griffin clan parody the sequel “The Empire Strikes Back”. The DVD of “Blue Harvest” contained an easter egg of a brief read-through of extracts from "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side", as well as a short teaser trailer for the new episode.

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Monday, 23 November 2009

Big John, Little John is another one of those memories just at the edge of your brain. It was broadcast in 1976 on BBC1 in the UK and NBC in its native USA. The show starred Herb Edelman as Big John Martin, a middle High School science teacher who takes a sip from the fountain of youth. At the most inopportune moments, ‘Big John’ becomes a 12-year old version of himself, ‘Little John’, played by Robbie Rist.

Enjoy for the first time ever on DVD all sorts of farcical adventures as ‘Big John’ tries to find a cure he can live a normal life! This was an American Saturday morning sit-com produced by Sherwood Schwartz, and ran for one season of 13 episodes. ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ John were not exactly similar in the looks department - to make the two have even just a passing resemblance, young Rist's blond hair was dyed brown and Edelman wore a wig.

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Sunday, 22 November 2009

First aired on BBC2 earlier in the year, Kröd Mändoon is a fantasy-comedy series (or “fantcom” if you will) in a setting similar to “The Lord of the Rings” and “Krull”. Sean Maquire (Grange Hill) stars as Kröd, a muscle-bound resistance fighter with a good heart but a bit of an empty head. He leads an incompetent posse of misfits, including Aneka (India de Beaufort), a voluptuous rogue with absolutely no shame, the hulking pig-man Loquasto (Steve Speirs), cowardly and talentless warlock Zezelryck, and finally the outrageously gay and very clingy Bruce. Together they fight to overcome the villainous Chancellor Dongalor (Little Britain’s Matt Lucas) and foil his plan to activate The Eye of Gulga Grymna, a medieval weapon of mass destruction.

The series sets its stall out almost immediately, with plenty of slapstick goofball comedy, knowing voice-overs (which the characters occasionally interact with) and massive dollops of sexual innuendo and puns. Creator Peter Knight borrows liberally from a host of fan favourites including “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, Blackadder, “The Naked Gun Trilogy” (and any other Leslie Nielsen film you care to mention), and last but not least “Austin Powers”.

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Network is continuing to plunder the ITV archives with releases that you either thought you’d never see again, or are just such a faint memory that you probably cannot recall the title, or indeed much about the format and its stars.  However, there’s maybe just a sense memory of a show, with a scene or two embedded just out of recall, that will see such releases trigger a ‘eureka’ moment in many of us.

Such will be the case with a couple of releases coming our way from Network on 7 December 2009 – the Australian ‘western’ Whiplash, starring the iconic star of Mission: Impossible, Pete Graves, and the intriguing Zodiac, starring the pneumatic Anouska Hempel as an astrologist who helps solve what seem like impenetrable crimes...

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Back at Cult TV 1998, Hercules-related guest Robert Trebor reacted in disbelief when ‘fave rave’ of the time Friends beat Fawlty Towers in one of our Awards comedy categories. In retrospect, he was indeed completely correct to define a dozen episodes from Britain’s finest as defeating ten seasons of one of America’s longest running sit-coms. John Cleese as Basil Fawlty is one of the most iconic comedy creations anywhere. Marking the 30th Anniversary since the end of the series, a Special Edition REMASTERED DVD Box Set is out now.

For those of you who no doubt already have this series on DVD, why indeed should you ‘double-dip’ on buying the series again?  The answer to that is easy: every episode of this BAFTA winning show has been remastered; it has never looked better. Added to that, you also have a plethora of special features including, for the first time ever, audio commentaries from John Cleese on all twelve episodes.

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Bringing you another ‘lost’ classic from Southern Television’s TV archives, Simply Home Entertainment have released the complete seven part series of Noah's Castle from 1980.

Set in the economic and social decline of Britain at that time, it was a frightening tale of the near future, where the economy had collapsed, the price of things had become subject to hyperinflation, and lawlessness had become rife due to hardship and desperation felt by the mass population.  Ring any bells with what is happening around us today?  The fact that it was commissioned as a children’s series, and the reactions of those who saw it at the time, tell you all that you need to know about television at that time not shying away from socio-economic soothsaying.

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

There is an-oft forgotten rule of children’s television: if you want your young demographic-aimed series to succeed, it should not talk down to its audience.  Despite its juvenile-sounding premise, Pardon My Genie succeeds in crossing the divide by being popular in its time with children and adults alike, This should come as no surprise, as it was devised and written by future Robert’s Robots and Rentaghost creator Bob Block.

Available exclusively from the Network Online Shop, the story centres around a young hardware shop assistant called Hal Adden (say it fast and you’ll find yourself uttering the name of a classic pantomime character). When he casually tries to polish an old watering can, for all but the hard of thinking you can guess what happens next!

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Saturday, 07 November 2009

The high point in Richard Bradford’s acting CV came very early in his acting career.  Man in A Suitcase presented him with great critical acclaim for his sensitive and realistic portrayal of McGill, a discredited ex-CIA agent reduced to working for hire as a private investigator. A perfectionist and ‘Method Actor’, Bradford quickly came into conflict with some of the crew and his fellow actors - gaining a reputation for being awkward to work with.

Interviewed in the summer of 2004, he candidly talked about his time working on Man in a Suitcase and the problems he encountered while trying to make what is, for some, one of the finest of ITC’s action/adventure series. He even revealed that he actually took away his entire McGill wardrobe after the series!

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Thursday, 05 November 2009

Anyone remember Full Stretch?  For a brief six weeks in early 1993, the show ran on ITV, boasting superb writing, a magnificent cast, and seemingly an ability to go under the radar of most viewers! No-one talks about it, a Google search brings you virtually no relevant hits containing any background so as to clue up on the series.

Kevin McNally stars as Baz Levick, an ex-footballer who is now the proprietor of the Ivory Towers Limousine Car Service. The fast-talking Baz has to use all his ingenuity and charm to fend off competitors and keep his business on the road, while his team of hard-working drivers find themselves chauffeuring everyone from rock stars to insufferable aristocrats. It’s a simple idea, but works well, allowing us to easily sympathise with the regular characters who have to put up with some of the worst excesses of the sort of people who can afford a Limo!

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Thursday, 05 November 2009

Jimmy Carr marks ten years in comedy with the release of his fifth live stand-up DVD, “Jimmy Carr Telling Jokes”, out now through 4DVD. Featuring 90 minutes of fresh material that’s just too rude for television, the new title sees Jimmy Carr do what he can’t do on broadcast telly: machine-gunning relentless one liners and putting down brave hecklers with equal panache.  

Filmed earlier in 2009 at the Bloomsbury Theatre during his latest tour, the DVD also features never-been-seen-before DVD extras including Jimmy’s Twitter Diary, a Comedy Central Special and bonus stand-up material from the tour.

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Friday, 23 October 2009

Out now is the first ground-breaking season of Sanctuary, released on DVD from Contender Home Entertainment, and you could have been the lucky winner of our competition to win a copy of the box set!

Sanctuary was one of those projects that had been in gestation quite a while before it finally came to fruition. Dreamed up in 2001 by Damian Kindler (Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis), the show first saw the light of day as eight Internet “webisodes” in 2007. On the back of their popularity and brave creative vision, a fully-fledged TV show was born in 2008 and at the time of writing, Sanctuary is already into its second season in the USA.

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Saturday, 10 October 2009

Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt! - The Complete Second Series has just been released on DVD. Perhaps it's nostalgia for a long-gone adolescence (I was fifteen at the time) but despite a more mature and refined taste in books, music and the majority of the television I now watch, I can still enjoy the simplicity and charm of Bill Maynard as Selwyn Froggitt.  Maynard may have given a better performance later in The Gaffer, but his portrayal of the over-sized, stunningly incompetent labourer is the standard-bearer for a style of comedy rarely seen (and even more rarely successful) in these days of uninspired situation comedies or  surreal sketch shows that lack any real humour.

From the moment Selwyn shambles onto the screen, clad in his trademark donkey jacket and equipped with a copy of The Times, squinting and blinking at the world around him, I can't help but smile.  Compared to more subtle series from the pen of Alan Plater, such as The Beiderbecke Affair, Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt could be considered slapstick, relying heavily as it does on Maynard's physical performance, which for the younger me was always the draw.

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Friday, 02 October 2009

Fully restored for the first time, Optimum have released all of the surviving episodes of seasons one and two of Cult TV classic The Avengers. This is just the beginning, as over the course of the next year ALL the episodes will be fully restored and released on DVD. But let’s start at the beginning with the 2½ remaining S1 episodes and all of S2, along with unique new extras and special inserts. 

This paragraph from the original promotional booklet for the first series captures the appeal of The Avengers: “The special flavour of this highly-polished, fast-moving crime series lies in its off-beat twists and strong vein of wacky humour, laced with an undercurrent of social conscience. Hero of The Avengers is John Steed, played by David Niven’s cousin Patrick Macnee, who is related to the Earl of Huntingdon and descended from Robin Hood. Steed is a highly-trained, top-level secret agent, a ruthless operator who works under cover of his life as a wealthy man-about-town with an aristocratic background. His tastes are demanding – nothing but the best in everything from pretty girls to food, wine, cars and tailoring.

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