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

Saturday, 19 September 2009

When Twiggy Rathbone, figurehead of conglomerate Rathouse International, relaunches his newly-acquired ‘Daily Crucible’ newspaper as a tabloid, hard news is replaced with soft nonsense. To aid him in the transformation, he brings in his South African newspaper editor Russell Spam, whose job is to deflect the complaints of the 'old guard' and re-employ base reporters such as Greg Kettle, the sort of journalist who thinks nothing of using a medium to interview victims of capital punishment...
Hot Metal is from the dynamic writing duo Andrew Marshall and David Renwick – who cut their combined teeth on radio series “The Birkiss Way”, and then moved on to TV, initially with what was considered a children’s series in End of Part One. What followed was their creation of the iconic Whoops Apocalypse and a bevy of classic and extraordinary situation comedies and what can best be described as comedy dramas. Renwick penned the likes of
Jonathan Creek, while Marshall’s major claim to fame has been 2point4 Children.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Fred Moffatt (Bill Maynard) plays a tight-fisted yet quick-thinking director of a small light-engineering firm, in this cleverly scripted, bittersweet sitcom. It’s a timely DVD release, as back in 1981 the recession was also biting, and The Gaffer finds himself under siege from the taxman, his creditors, his bank manager… and just about everyone else. He sometimes resorts to extreme measures to keep his head above water, and is permanently at odds with militant shop steward Harry (Russell Hunter – ‘Lonely’ from Callan). But glamorous secretary Betty (Pat Ashton – often seen on The Benny Hill Show) is always around to lighten the mood - even if she rarely succeeds in getting Harry and Fred to see eye-to-eye.

Maynard's character in The Gaffer was very different from the bumbling Selwyn. Moffatt is a survivor, or at least does everything he can to make sure he is. Bearded, wearing a battered hat and a crumpled suit, his white Rover 2000 is a rusting deathtrap that features heavily in the opening credits.  The theme is terrific, and somewhere in Cult TV Towers I know that the 7” picture cover single still lurks.  It’s a great track, and a shame it wasn’t a hit!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Brilliant inventor Robert Sommerby (John Clive) is head of a research establishment engaged in a Top Secret project - the development of human-looking robots. These are far from the crude, lumbering, steel-clawed automatons of SF films, Robert’s robots are ultra-sophisticated in design, with highly developed electronic brains, fast reflexes and smooth, natural movement - or at least that’s what he says about them to the Government...

Bob Block, the creator of Rentaghost, was also the mastermind behind Roberts Robots (deliberately without the inverted comma in its title). The show also notably features Magpie presenter Jenny Hanley as Robert’s girlfriend Angela. Network have made its first series available for the first time in any format – and the absence of any repeats for it means it’s shelved in the depths of the memories of those who saw these seven episodes back in 1973.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

In a tirade of recent releases, Network DVD has been doing its darnedest to plug all the gaps left in our memories of children’s television of the 1970s and 1980s.  The latest release sees, for the first time ever on, the children’s comedy Super Gran – The Complete First Series hits the shelves.

Granny Smith (Gudrun Ure) is a sweet old lady living a sedate life in the Scottish coastal town of Chisleton. One day, she is accidentally struck by a stray beam from Inventor Black’s magic ray machine and transformed into ‘Supergran’ - the possessor of amazing powers, super-human strength, and even a magic ‘flycycle’! She puts these to great use in the fight against Chisleton’s local villain, The Scunner Campbell, and his unpleasant cohorts, Dustin and Muscles; with Supergran’s miraculous abilities, however, defeating the baddies is not usually too much of a challenge!

Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Mystery and Imagination is a highly acclaimed anthology series which presented a selection of Gothic tales by major 19th century writers. Among the adapted works featured in this collection are Robert Louis Stevenson’s nihilistic “The Suicide Club”, Sheridan le Fanu’s “Uncle Silas”, Bram Stoker’s classic “Dracula”, and a commendably faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.

This release from Network DVD contains every remaining episode of the series, bringing together all six of the feature-length teleplays produced by Thames Television between 1968 and 1970, alongside the two remaining ABC-produced episodes from 1966.  Unfortunately, this is one of those shows that the TV archives have not been careful with, with the bulk of the episodes ‘missing believed wiped’.

Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Man Of The World chronicles the adventures of Michael Strait, ace freelance photographer and reporter, with a worldwide reputation. As befits someone in such a position, he only needs to accept assignments that appeal to him. If there’s an unusual story to be told, Strait will travel the world to get the scoop others don’t get to be anywhere near.

Strait was played by Craig Stevens, who had previously taken the title role in the detective series Peter Gunn. Tracy Reed played Strait's sometime companion Maggie, with Graham Stark appeared in a couple of episodes as Hank. Not seen since the 1960s, Man of the World is much sought-after by ITC appreciators and fans of action-based television the world over. This five-disc set, available at www.networkdvd.net exclusively (the Network DVD website) contains all 20 episodes in production order.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

This is a classic Thames Television drama series, based on the short stories by Edgar Wallace, and features one of the unlikeliest fictional sleuths - Mr JG Reeder. He’s a mild-mannered, bespectacled civil servant at the Department of Public Prosecutions. However, Mr Reeder (Hugh Burden) has an unusual ‘gift’ – he can think in exactly the way a criminal does.

Situated in 1920s London, his talent for cracking even the most impenetrable of crimes is known throughout the underworld, and much valued by his department head, Sir Jason Toovey. Bank heists, jewel thefts and murder are among the many and varied cases that are passed on to Mr Reeder to solve in his own singular way...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II is out now on DVD. As per the first time, we travel to a galaxy far, far away to create a second, all new “Star Wars” themed feature special. Their second take on the biggest SF film franchise of all time combines the satirical sensibilities of Seth Green (Scott Evil in “Austin Powers”, Oz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Chris Griffin in Family Guy) and Matthew Senreich’s Emmy Award winning Robot Chicken lampoons unforgettable moments and favourite characters from the “Star Wars” universe.

This special feature, directed by Green, is a follow-up to last years Robot Chicken: Star Wars. Adult Swim transforms “Star Wars” into a stop-motion animated world and features original “Star Wars” lead actress Carrie Fisher reprising her role as Princess Leia, Billy Dee Williams makes his comeback as Lando Calrissian. Seth MacFarlane portrays Emperor Palpatine, Breckin Meyer (“Road Trip”, “Clueless”) is Admiral Ackbar and Boba Fett, whilst Seth Green himself plays Ponda Baba and many other characters.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Sanjeev Bhaskar, well known from Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42, stars in this timely comic analysis of the call centre industry, Mumbai Calling...  For those of you who have missed it over the last seven Saturday nights on ITV1 (and who could blame you, given that it’s had so little publicity), it’s now available on DVD.

Sanjeev plays British born Kenny Gupta, who is sent over to Mumbai from the UK to turn around the fortunes of ‘Teknobable’, a call centre acquired in a takeover deal. Things do not go to plan when Kenny is confronted by the lothario manager Dev (Nitin Ganatra – postman Masood Ahmed in Eastenders), who is more interested in his own profitable sidelines, and assorted ladies, than the business itself.  Daisy Beaumont of Star Stories fame gets involved in the chaos as assessor Terri Johnson – who turns up on their doorstep, surprising everyone, as from the name they expected her to be a man.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

It’s a step back in time to a world of cool glamour and intrigue with the DVD release of Francis Durbridge’s Paul Temple Collection. The only available adventures of the unflappable and irrepressible crime writer, played by cult icon Francis Matthews (the title character in Gerry Anderson’s Captain Scarlet) and his enterprising wife Steve (Ros Drinkwater) form a formidable team in this detective drama.

Paul Temple is one of the most popular private detectives of all time, beginning life in a 1938 BBC radio serial before appearing in novels, film and even a daily comic strip. The radio show lasted for three decades before Auntie Beeb decided it was time to bring Paul and Steve to television. This four disc DVD set features the eleven surviving colour episodes of a series, encapsulating crime-busting sophistication 1970s style.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Covering the years 2062-2063, World Space Patrol starship Fireball XL5 is assigned to Sector 25, where intrepid pilot Steve Zodiac, ably assisted by uberbabe Doctor Venus and bumbling boffin Professor Matthew Matic, faces such dangers as planetomic missiles, explosive gas clouds, space spies, and alien races, both trigger-happy and benign.

This definitive six disc special edition box set, out now from Network DVD (and not to be confused with previous UK releases), comprises all 39 half-hour episodes of Fireball XL5, together with the first full-length colourisation of an episode, two brand new documentaries (one on the series, one on the comic adaptions of the early Anderson shows), a 60 page commemorative booklet by TV historian Andrew Pixley and much, much more.  This ‘Network’ treatment for the series has been well worth the wait.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Blackadder is one of the most fondly remembered and critically acclaimed BBC comedies ever to emerge from England. It traces the deeply cynical and self-serving lineage of various Edmund Blackadders from the muck of the Middle Ages to the frontline of World War I. Packed with brand new and exclusive extras and digitally restored episodes, Blackadder Remastered - The Ultimate Edition is out now on DVD.

British comic actor Rowan Atkinson plays all five versions of Edmund, beginning with the villainous and cowardly Duke of Edinburgh, whose scheming mind and awful haircut seem to stand him in good stead to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury - a deadly occupation if ever there was one. Among tales of royal dethronings, Black Death, witch-smellers (who root out spell-makers with their noses), and ghosts, Edmund is a perennial survivor who never quite gets ahead in multiple episodes.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Pushing Daisies will, in years to come, be seen to have all the characteristics of a legitimate ‘Cult TV’ series.  For those who understood the premise, ‘got it’ if you like, the total of 22 episodes over a pair of contracted American television seasons will be a small return for a show that was quirky and different.

The Season Two DVD collection, out now from Warner Home Video, does have one thing about it which most short-run Cult series never had – an ending. A resolution to the major plotlines (although as some fans have been quick to point out not ALL of them).  Clearly, come episode 22, the writing was on the wall for the series.  The ratings collapsed Stateside for the second season – indeed the final three episodes are only going to be screened in the USA over the next few weeks – they actually made their debut in the UK before they went out in their home country.

Monday, 06 April 2009

There are supernatural forces at work in Demons, a six-part series recently seen on ITV1, amongst much fanfare, which is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The news release advises that “Demons puts a contemporary spin on Bram Stoker’s legendary story, taking place above and beneath the streets of modern-day London. Philip Glenister (cult legend Gene Hunt in Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes) is Rupert Galvin, a larger-than-life American with a tragic past and a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to the rabble of ‘half-life’ entities that exist all around us. When he appears in the life of Luke Rutherford, his teenage godson (Christian Cooke, Brae Marrack in Echo Beach), little does the teenager know what will be thrust upon him.”

Friday, 03 April 2009

Am I the only person on the planet who until yesterday has not seen Midsomer Murders? Where have I been? At least I have not been in Midsomer, as no one is safe there. Midsomer is an area with many small villages where the residents seem to have murder in mind all the time. Perhaps the series has now finished after over a decade of murder and intrigue because everyone has either been murdered or arrested.

Only the pilot episode “The Killings at Badger’s Drift”, which aired on 23 March 1997, was available for review but it certainly kept us glued to the screen. We are introduced to DCI Thomas Barnaby (John Nettles-Bergerac) and his rather dim witted sergeant Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey) as they piece together the events that lead up to the murder of Emily Simpson, an elderly resident of the village of Badger’s Drift. Barnaby is a very calm and collected character.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Almost two years since it was first announced as coming to DVD, Network has finally managed to jump through all the necessary hoops to set loose the Thames Television children’s drama THE FEATHERED SERPENT.

It was written by John Kane, also an actor, and known for playing Tommy in the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who swansong “Planet of the Spiders” – he can also be seen in such shows as Rings on Their Fingers, Doctor On The Go, and Devenish. His writing career has included episodes of the likes of Smuggler, Me and My Girl, Dick Turpin and Never The Twain. 

Directors were Vic Hughes (Chocky, Ace of Wands) and Stan Woodward (The Tomorrow People, Horse in the House), who were given a star-studded cast to work with. Top of the pile was Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor Who), along with a soon-to-be-famous Diane Keen (The Cuckoo Waltz, Doctors), Tony Steedman (Citizen Smith, Animal Ark) and Brian Deacon (Lillie, Bleak House).

Monday, 23 February 2009

"Monkey Magic" is a big-screen rendition of Monkey, the cult Japanese TV series from the late 1970s, which in turn was based on a classic Chinese novel “Journey to the West”, written around 1590. As this movie only has a couple of hours (as opposed to 52 episodes) to tell its story, what you get is essentially an extended episode of the TV series, with much higher production values and modern effects.

The movie sets the scene very quickly: Exiled to Earth from Heaven for bad behaviour, the immortal Monkey, along with fellow warriors Pigsy and Sandy are escorting Buddhist monk Tripitaka from 7th Century China to India to gather some ancient sutras that will bring peace to the world. Exhausted, hungry and thirsty after traipsing across the desert, our travellers come across a settlement of Tiger People.

Sunday, 08 February 2009

Many people have said this already, but the release of Star Fleet on DVD has been a long time coming.  The occasional video release in the past has mainly in the UK been of video compilations, which were never up to the magnitude and scope of the 24 episode magnus opus which first started airing here in 1982.

My acquaintance with Star Fleet began on Saturday mornings in the Autumn of 1983, in the Central franchise reason of ITV Midlands.  It was partnered with the first screening of Gerry Anderson’s Terrahawks.  Both shared the same television heritage as its inspiration, but Star Fleet itself pulled on far more sources to create its format.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

You might be forgiven for thinking this is just another generic US cop show, guns blazing and lots of cool detectives running around in designer clothes and sexy shades. You would be correct. But, and this is what separates this generic cop show from the rest, the lead character is mischievously different.

Crews (Damien Lewis - Band of Brothers, The Forsythe Saga) is an LA police detective who has been released from prison, exonerated of all charges for a murder he did not commit. Crews is partnered with Dani Reese (Sarah Shahi - The L-Word), a cop who has a past she would rather forget but which keeps coming back to haunt her. Together they solve the cities murders and Crews quietly investigates the murder and conspiracy that put him behind bars for 12 years.

Monday, 17 November 2008

“The X-Files: I Want to Believe” was in cinemas this summer, but was not well-received by critics. Yes, there were numerous TV spots and trailers shown, but the cinema chains, having taken a lead from the critics, gave it a limited release; just one screening a day, for one week only, at my local multiplex. I saw it on the last night and there were just three of us sitting there.

The “fans” hadn’t turned up and, as for the great British public, they couldn’t possibly enjoy it! So, were the critics wrong, and were we all right about not wanting to believe it was worth seeing?

Friday, 14 November 2008

If you read Hello or OK, or indeed most of the tabloid press, you will no doubt be familiar with the stories behind the celebrities chosen as subject matter for this second series of Star Stories - a comedy show that parodies the lives of the rich and shameless.

Each show takes a different celebrity and gives us a potted life story up to the present day. Although it is not an accurate telling it is perhaps an apt re-telling.

Saturday, 08 November 2008

Metro hit it on the nail when they said that “Frankie Boyle is notable for his ability to remain likeable yet savagely funny”. 4DVD have taken the chance to capture his live act for late-night Christmas consumption, and this is a session that, for the broad-minded, simply is the best stand-up DVD since Eddie Izzard was at his peak.

The caustic Caledonian will not be to everyone’s taste, with what can only be described as a machine-gun succession of raspy observations where everyone on Earth could be a target! Coming to everyone’s attention with his regular appearances on BBC2’s satirical comedy show Mock The Week, Boyle is rightly one of the hottest comedians in the UK – and from that programme the one that everyone wants to see live, as his current tour has sold out at one venue after another.

Friday, 07 November 2008

Anyone old enough to remember Monty Python’s Flying Circus the first time around and those who picked it up on repeats will no doubt be able to quote huge chunks of this ground breaking series, and walk silly, with scarcely any effort whatsoever.

This DVD release is for you. It contains every single episode, every single sketch and every single line ready for you to relive that first time. You can relive the first time you met Mr Gumby, the first time you saw inside The Ministry for Silly Walks, the first time you realised that the parrot was no more. Cult TV had three sets to give away in a prize competition.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

On 16 August 1983, a documentary team travelled to Bray Studios where Gerry Anderson was producing his latest SF series, Terrahawks. This was for a special two-part edition of the childrens’ media show Clapperboard.

Whilst the finished programme no longer exists, a vast amount of the original footage was recently discovered, and can now finally be seen in its entirety, 25 years later, to celebrate the anniversary of this series in TERRAHAWKS – MAKING THE UNEXPECTED. Now you can buy a copy of this release - available exclusively through www.networkdvd.net.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

For a production company that has almost every other series in its portfolio so well documented, FROM A BIRDS EYE VIEW can be counted as the most recent of its ‘lost classics’. Production began in 1969, and not mentioned in any of the various guides to ITC over the years, this was one of Lew Grade’s attempts at doing a trans-Atlantic sit-com, which did actually get a network broadcast Stateside on NBC. It was a contemporary in the ITC production stable of SHIRLEY’S WORLD, also a half-hour sitcom, which starred Shirley MacLaine, and beat VIEW’s episode tally by one show (17 to 16).

This exclusive new release from Network DVD is available ONLY at their online shop, which you can find at www.networkdvd.net

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