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

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Whicker and Whickers New World come complete to DVDAlan Whicker has rightly gained the reputation of television legend on British shores. The incisive journalism took him to global locations, and saw him create an inimitable niche over 50 years of broadcasting. Having previously had three volumes from Network over the years of what many would consider his ‘greatest hits’, now the company goes back to the beginning to release a chronological collection of his entire ITV output. The first two double DVD sets are out now, from 1968 and 1969.

And there is good reason to do this relaunch. You very much get to see the development of the television character, the honing of the most incredible of narrations to the material you get to see, and also appreciate the scope of how what initially local current affairs for the ITV network from the Yorkshire Television area became something far more. The scope increases, as must have done the budgets, where the characters Whicker encounters become more outlandish, doused in cash and idiosyncratic.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Roobarb - and Custard - in a complete DVD collectionA creative dog, a puce shade of green, tries to put into action every mad-cap scheme. A cynical cat, who watches on mostly from the top of the fence in critical disdain. And a cast of garden wildlife, including Mole and Rookie the Rook to support or hinder the dog’s equivalent of tilting at windmills, in terms of invention and innovation. So it is that Roobarb, and its sequel series, a five minute show supposedly for kids, took on the pre-news slot in the early evenings on BBC1, and ended up having adult fans from all walks of life making time to see the short adventures. It may have been a different form of animation, magic markers taken to the extreme, but this was very much a generational-crossing concept in the same surreal category as The Magic Roundabout.

Roobarb was inspired by creator Grange Calveley’s Welsh Border Collie, who was so named after ‘watering’ the rhubarb in his garden, very soon after going to live at his home. Despite publishers liking the character and his strange adventures, no-one took Grange up on them, so he turned his thoughts to a series of short television animations instead. Persistence with the BBC eventually paid off – not a slot on Jackanory, oh no, but a request to see a pilot episode. Enter Bob Godfrey, animation director, and Australian animation director Peter Green brought Calveley’s sketches to life. And now all 69 episodes are released together on DVD by Simply Media.

Sunday, 01 May 2016

The Wonder Years - complete 26 DVD box set out nowThe year is 1968, the place a typical middle-class, American suburb. For 12-year-old Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage – “The Princess Bride”, “Austin Powers in Goldmember”) it is the centre of his universe as he grows up and grapples with life’s many lessons. This complete 26-DVD set, including four bonus discs, contains all 115 episodes from six seasons of the multi-award-winning show, and a staggering 23 hours of exclusive bonus material.

Kevin is not alone on his journey to adulthood, as indicated by the theme tune (Joe Cocker’s unforgettable rendition of The Beatles’ "With a Little Help from My Friends"). His parents Jack and Norma have got his back, and Kevin shares his experiences at school with best friends Paul and Winnie. His older brother Wayne and sister Karen have their own agendas, however.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Nature Boy - out now on DVDNature Boy is a marvellous mini-series starring Lee Ingleby (The A Word, The Five) as David, a free-spirited and restless 17-year old who was taken into care as a young boy and is now desperate to track down his father. David has a special affinity with the natural world that makes him unique; it also puts him on a collision course with companies that wish to despoil the land for commercial gain.

The excellent cast also includes Paul McGann (“Withnail & I”, Doctor Who) as David’s absent father, Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey, “Filth”) as Jenny, a driven environmental campaigner who takes a shine to David, and Vicky Binns (Coronation Street, Emmerdale) as a wayward teen also taken in by David’s carers. The series was directed by BAFTA winner Joe Wright (“Atonement”) and written by Bryan Elsley (Skins).

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Ellery Queen - out now on UK DVDBack in 1975-76, on some early weekday evenings on BBC1, you were asked to see if you could solve 22 mysteries from the New York vista of 1946-47, with Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton) and his widowed father Inspector Richard Queen (David WayneThe Mad Hatter in the 1960s Batman). It has become something of a short-run classic series from the creators of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote. In America it was called simply Ellery Queen, but when BBC1 first screened it way-back-then, they opted to call it The Ellery Queen Whodunit (in much the same way as they bizarrely decided to rename Ironside as A Man Called Ironside).

Guest stars included Roddy McDowall ( “Planet of the Apes”), Eve Arden (“Grease”), Tom Bosley (Happy Days), Cesar Romero (Joker in the 1960s Batman), Don Ameche ("Cocoon"), Joan Collins, Vincent Price, Milton Berle, Eva Gabor, Betty White, Larry Hagman, and even a cameo by the iconic George Burns! And you had the chance to win one of three copies we had up for grabs in our prize competition.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The original DOOMWATCH - out now on DVDI was one of those children of the 1960s old enough to just about recall watching Doomwatch in one of its late-night (around 10.00pm) slots, when originally aired on BBC1 from 1970 to 1972. Something of a ‘treat’ given the lateness of the hour for a pre-teen, it was billed as Science Fiction extrapolated from Science Fact, the exploits of the Department of Measurement of Scientific Work, working to the Ministry for National Security, took on the facet of being a ‘forbidden fruit’ – you MUST be mature, as you wanted to watch this series!

My younger self recalled a lot of talking, with one or two action set-pieces each episode, on a good week that is. Now, revisiting what remains of the series (just 24 of 38 made are still in the archives), its premonitions are as jaw-dropping today as they must have been some 45 years ago. The politics in the background is spookily spot-on for a modern audience, and the attitude of authority to being questioned as dismissive as it still remains. The characterisations are strong, the scripts and direction crisp and enthralling. And you had a chance to win a copy of this Doomwatch DVD box set in our prize competition.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Night Gallery - The Complete Collection out now on UK DVDThere are some shows which would not be the same in colour. The monochrome production of The Twilight Zone from 1959 to 1964, all 156 episodes, was a case in point. To the modern eye, Rod Serling’s televisual masterpiece is boosted by being black and white, adding to the atmosphere and storytelling in a way which cannot be truly quantified. But rest assured, there has never been talk of colourisation. Its recent Blu-ray restoration simply enhanced the credentials of keeping red, green and blue away from it. However, back at the end of the 1960s, when colour had stormed small screens in the USA, and everything monochrome had effectively been shipped off to the scrap heap, it was almost inevitable that Serling would be tempted to make a series in colour.

And so it was that Night Gallery was born. With Jack Laird as Producer, Serling was a scriptwriter, at least in part, on 27 of the episodes. Out went the hard science fiction of The Twilight Zone era, replaced with predominantly supernatural horror, with the odd jokey segment in an anthology series where the lengths of the stories varied – you never knew whether a story will take over an entire episode or just a couple of minutes. And now, thanks to Fabulous Films, we in the UK get to see the most definitive release of the show anywhere in the world. AND YOU COULD HAVE WON ONE OF FOUR NIGHT GALLERY DVD SETS WE HAD UP FOR GRABS IN OUR COMPETITION.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Alfred Hitchcock Hour - The complete series comes to UK DVDFor the first time, the entire collection of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour is available on DVD in the UK - all 93 stories presented by the ‘Master of Suspense’ himself, thanks to Fabulous Films.  Broadcast in the USA from September 1962 to May 1965 – amidst a golden period for the auteur which included “The Wrong Man”, “Vertigo”, “North by Northwest”, “Psycho” and “The Birds”, this series was voted one of the 100 Best TV Shows of All Time by Time Magazine. Hitchcock’s films had a consistently high degree of profitability, but it was the sale of syndication rights to the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and then this, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which made him the third biggest stockholder in MCA (the predecessor to NBC Universal).And we had a complete box set to give away in our prize competition, as well as individual sets of seasons one, two and three.

The series, like its half-hour predecessor, is filled with stars, both those in their twilight of their careers, as well as others on the way up. Leslie Nielsen, he of Police Squad and “Airplane” fame is the star turn in the Season 2 episode 13 classic story “The Magic Shop”. He’s the father of a truly dislikeable child, emphasised by the kid’s desire for a leather biker jacket on his birthday, who has an obsession with going to a magic shop which his parents are adamant does not exist. We also have Martin Landau appear in Season 2 Episode 30 “The Second Verdict” as a lawyer who gets guilty-as-hell Frank Gorshin’s villain off-the-hook in a murder trial. Landau is very much experimenting with the delivery and poise which he will use as John Koenig in Space: 1999, whereas Gorshin is showing the sort of evil he would later crank up several notches as The Riddler in the Adam West Batman series.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Professional MkIII - now available on DVD and Blu-rayWhat was your favourite DVD or Blu-ray release of 2015? We’re going to find out soon when the results of this year’s Cult TV Awards, voted for by YOU, are made public. Meanwhile, Network Distributing asked our very own Alex J Geairns to pick which of their releases this year was his favourite.

Just recently made available on DVD are the remastered versions of the episodes that make up The Professionals MkIII – the third batch of episodes from the classic action series which starred Martin Shaw, Lewis Collins and Gordon Jackson (in a big change from his role in the original Upstairs Downstairs). It’s this title that makes it to the top of Alex’s chart, and to celebrate we had three copies (you could choose whether you wanted a DVD or Blu-ray version) available to give away in a prize competition. It also comes with a hefty book specifically about the production of these stories from renowned archive excavator Andrew Pixley. This was definitely something to help cheer up your festive season!

Tuesday, 08 December 2015

Detectorists - Series 2 on DVD nowIn series two of the hit BBC Four comedy Detectorists, Andy and Lance have new challenges to deal with. Epic procrastinator Andy (Mackenzie Crook – Almost Human) has a baby son and the prospect of an exciting opportunity in Africa, whilst Lance (Toby Jones - Capital) has mysterious meetings with a young woman. Their metal detecting club also has to contend with an enigmatic young German seeking the location of his grandfather’s downed war plane.

This second set of six episodes does not mess with the winning formula, and fleshes out some of the background characters. The excellent mixture of quirky comedy and heartfelt character drama makes for very fulfilling viewing, and the beautiful countryside, evocative soundtrack by Johnny Flynn and depiction of tranquil village life lends the series a very relaxing tone. Detectorists is quite unlike anything else on television.

Monday, 16 November 2015

A Traveller in Time - out now on DVDA Traveller in Time is a children’s mini-series from the 1970s about Penelope Taberner (Sophie Thompson – Detectorists, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”), a teenage girl who discovers she can travel back through time to the late 16th Century. Sent to her Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Derbyshire to recuperate from pneumonia, Penelope becomes entangled in a Tudor plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots.

Penelope’s own ancestors, the Babingtons, are hatching the high-risk plot to free Mary before Queen Elizabeth I and those loyal to her can have Mary executed. Well aware of history’s path, Penelope is not sure if she can influence events but her uncertainty will not sway her from trying. Matters are complicated by our heroine not knowing how to trigger her time slips back and forth, and the distrust and suspicion that meets her in the past.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Seasons 1 to 7 - out now on UK DVDWhile his cinematic work is well known, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS was a half-hour TV anthology series which demonstrated he was also a master of small screen tales. All seven seasons are out now as a box set containing 35 DVDs, and thanks to Fabulous Films we had a copy up for grabs, as well as a couple of sets of Season One for runners-up (961 mins over six DVDs). All you had to do to be in with a chance was to VOTE in this year’s Cult TV Awards.

Between October 1955 and July 1965, Hitchcock used the simple words “Good evening…” to introduce 268 timeless stories of horror, mystery and intrigue, 17 of which Hitchcock himself directed. Screening on CBS and NBC, the show received three Emmy awards as well as a Golden Globe for Television Achievement, and set the gold standard for all television mystery series to come. In the words of Alfred Hitchcock himself, it “brought murder back into the home - where it belongs”.

Monday, 09 November 2015

Warship - Series 2 comes to DVDIt is with some sense of relief that I can report that Warship is back on DVD with its second series. The first series came out in September 2014, and I have to say I actually pre-ordered my copy of that title, such was my anticipation for seeing the show again. There are certain fictions that stay with you, and the cobwebs of time do nothing to blur your vision of what it was actually like to watch a show. Storylines and characters might fade in your memory, but the feeling of being a viewer of such a format endures. Such is the case with this series, and from viewing that initial release, the memory hadn’t cheated. This was good stuff, well made.

The fictional HMS Hero, F42, featured across all four seasons, clocking up 45 episodes in its run between 1973 and 1977. With some studio-based scenes intermingled with footage filmed in various locations including Gibraltar, Malta, Hong Kong, Singapore and Norway, this was a show that painted on a wide canvas. The episodes were written to reflect the then-contemporary real life in the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. There is no doubt that this was one work of fiction which did no harm at all to military recruitment in its era.

Monday, 26 October 2015

ITV60 - celebrating 60 years of ITV on 12 DVDs - out nowStuck for a Christmas gift for someone who has just got into television history, and wants a perfect primer? Then consider the brand new boxset “ITV60” from Network. This 12-DVD set includes 60 episodes, features a mix of both classics and rarities from the archives, including some programmes thought lost forever.

This set contains previously unreleased episodes of Crossroads, Rainbow, Tiswas, Coronation Street, World in Action, The Bill and Whicker's World – together with some exceptionally rare items from the Associated Rediffusion archive, namely No Hiding Place, Mystery Bag, Crane and Our Man at St Mark’s. With each disc themed to provide an ‘evening's entertainment’, this dip into the archives provides a trip down Memory Lane as well as a timely reminder of some of the best television of the last sixty years.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Pompidou - out now on DVDMatt Lucas of Little Britain and Come Fly with Me fame is the star, co-creator, co-writer and co-director on this six-part comedy series about a pompous aristocrat who has lost virtually everything and now lives in a decrepit caravan on the grounds of his old mansion. Pompidou Pompidou (Lucas) shares his humble abode with his man-servant Hove (Alex Mcqueen – “Four Lions”, “Cinderella”) and his Afghan hound Marian.

Like the whacky offspring of Mr Bean, Pingu and Worzel Gummidge (as Lucas describes it), there is no dialogue to speak of in this predominantly visual comedy, but rather the characters speak in gibberish mixed in with the odd intelligible word of English. Each episode sees Pompidou and co trying to solve one crisis after the next, be it their lack of money, food, heat or female companionship. Needless to say, things do not go according to plan.

Sunday, 04 October 2015

Dark Matter - Season One out on DVD nowDark Matter is an intriguing, futuristic new series from the Syfy channel. A small crew awaken from stasis in a damaged ship drifting through space. They do not know who they are, or how they got there. The six individuals face a steep learning curve as they struggle to survive in a hostile galaxy, unsure if they can even trust one-another. Drawing from the likes of Firefly, Blake's 7, Stargate Universe and Andromeda, the series is hoping to keep the flickering flame of space sci-fi alight.

The six passengers decide to name themselves by the order they awaken. One (Marc Bendavid - Bitten) is a handsome all-rounder, Two (Melissa O'Neil) is a sassy, kick-ass natural leader, Three (Anthony Lemke - The Listener) is a self-interested, slightly shifty arms expert, Four (Alex Mallari Jr - True Justice) is an introverted martial artist, Five (Jodelle Ferland - "The Cabin in the Woods") is a teenage electronics genius and Six (Roger R Cross - 24, Continuum) is a gentle giant.

Sunday, 04 October 2015

Wilfred Seasons 1-4 - Out now on DVDDark, anthropomorphic comedy Wilfred finally arrives as a complete DVD box set, and you could have won a copy with Cult TV - worth £99.99 - with three runners-up bagging prizes worth £24.99 each. This is the American remake of an Australian original series, staring Elijah Wood ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) as Ryan Newman, an ex-lawyer suffering from chronic depression. Ryan is befriended by the neighbour's dog Wilfred, who bizarrely he perceives as a man in a dog-like onesie.

Wilfred (Jason Gann, reprising his role from the Oz version) is a normal dog to everyone else including his cute owner Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann - "Don't Blink"), but to Ryan he is a boisterous and very mischievous bloke who behaves like a spoilt and sexually-charged adolescent. The two characters form a strong bond but there is a constant psychological tussle between them for supremacy.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Baretta Season One - Out Now on UK DVDStephen J Cannell brought us many TV gems during his time, but one of his earliest creations, just on the cusp of memory, is one that ran for four seasons from 1975: Baretta. Famous for having a sulphur-crested cockatoo as a co-star, it had edginess to it, combined with the cute coating of a streetwise cop who loved his pet. And you could have won one of three copies of the first season on DVD which, thanks to Fabulous Films, we had up for grabs in our prize competition.

Beginning in a Friday night slot in the USA as a mid-season replacement, the first season consists of just a dozen episodes. Baretta had taken over ABC’s 10.00pm timeslot from Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and secured audiences that its predecessor could only dream of. For the following season (22 episodes) it moved to 9.00pm Wednesdays, and made the Top 30 for shows for that year. Season three (24 episodes) was rewarded with remaining in the same slot, and the show eased into being one of the Top Ten for that year. It then moved back to 10.00pm for its final fourth season (24 episodes), to make space for Charlie’s Angels, and ratings took a tumble, the last episode going out in May 1978. The Angels certainly did provide a similar audience lead-in for the show.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Alias Smith and Jones - The Compete Series comes to DVDAlias Smith and Jones was a series which made a great many friends in the UK, broadcasting on Mondays at 8.00pm on BBC2 in the early 1970s. The Beeb’s second channel used to have a reputation for securing American shows that were just a little offbeat for its schedules of the time, and this was no exception. And you had the chance to win one of three sets of the ENTIRE SERIES in our DVD competition.

Three series of the show were made, and Fabulous Films give you the option of buying these individually or in one collector-friendly complete set. Created and produced by Glen A Larson (he of Magnum PI, Knight Rider, and Buck Rogers fame), this was a Western series that originally aired Stateside on ABC from January 1971 to January 1973. Tragically, this was one of those series not just remembered for its excellent production values, but also for having to replace one of its two leads mid-season, due to suicide.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Wolcott - The Complete Series comes to Blu-ray and DVDWolcott is a police mini-series starring George Harris ("Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"). Harris plays Winston Wolcott, a black policeman newly promoted to the CID and despised by both his new colleagues and the criminal gangs he is determined to bust. Surrounded by racism, police corruption and immersed in a vicious drug war, Wolcott has few allies to support him. The complete series is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.

The story opens with the brutal and senseless murder of an old lady for the sake of £200 in cash. The scene of the crime is an unwelcoming, dingy apartment block where the mostly ethnic locals have no interest in grassing up the perpetrator. The ITC-produced series emphasises the gritty, turbulent nature of life in the poorer, sometimes seedier areas of London in the early 1980s.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Soldier and Me - out now on DVDThis is a BAFTA award-winning kids' adventure serial from the 1970s. Two teenage boys witness some suspect Czech men plotting the murder of an elderly fellow countryman. They decide to spy on the men but events spiral out of control and the lads are forced to flee for their lives across the country, doggedly pursued by the criminals. Can they evade capture long enough to expose the plot?

The nine-part series stars Gerry Sundquist (from the BBC's 1981 version of Great Expectations) as the gruff but well-meaning Jim Woolcott, and Richard Willis (Doctor Who, The Feathered Serpent) as Istvan 'Soldier' Szolda, a squeaky, accident-prone Czech boy who Woolcott takes under his wing after rescuing him from school bullies. The story is based on writer David Line's own novel “Run for Your Life”, and directed by Carol Wilks (Grange Hill, The Bill).

Monday, 10 August 2015

Ironside - Seasons 1 and 2 out on UK DVDRaymond Burr was a giant of the small screen in more ways than one. Following 271 episodes over nine years from 1957 as the lead in Perry Mason, few expected the actor to go immediately into another potentially long-running show. In fact, waylaid by just a cameo in the pilot episode for the Robert Wagner starrer It Takes A Thief, Burr went into what would be an eight year, 195 episode engagement on Ironside (which, for reasons only known to the hierarchy at the BBC, became A Man Called Ironside in the UK – perhaps Auntie thought folk might think it was a series about domestic science without making that type of qualification!).

This is a show where all four of the major characters are incredibly well-drawn, complement each other well, and make even the most mundane of scripts sparkle. This is NOT one of your run-of-the-mill police procedurals – it has style, gloss and pace. Thanks to Fabulous Films, you could have won one of three sets of the first two seasons of Ironside (a total of 54 one-hour episodes) in our prize competition.

Sunday, 02 August 2015

Mr and Mrs Murder - out now on DVDAustralian crime-comedy series Mr & Mrs Murder follows the exploits of a married couple who specialise in cleaning up gruesome crime scenes. Charlie and Nicola Buchanan do not just tidy-up, they also happen to be excellent at solving murders, with a keen eye for detail and a knack for teasing information out of people. The sassy couple are played by Shaun Micallef (Danger 5, Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation) and Kat Stewart (Supernova, Offspring).

Currently airing on Channel 5 USA, each episode sets the scene with a hastily-dispatched victim and then the duo's ToxiClean van rolls up. Charlie and Nicola sport head-to-toe protective coveralls and come armed with an assortment of industrial cleaning products. Rather ineffective Detective Peter Vinetti (Jonny Pasvolky - "Mortdecai") and Nicola's niece Jess Chalmers (Lucy Honigman - The Ex-PM) complete the regular cast.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

No That's Me Over Here - Out no on DVDIf you are a fan of Ronnie Corbett, of his rambling monologues on The Two Ronnies in particular, then this discovery in the archives will no doubt be for you. Imagine that facet of Ronnie’s character placed in an office and home situation comedy environment, with a rival sparring neighbour who he also shares an office with, and a wife whose patience is tested at every turn. And here you have 13 half-hours made by London Weekend Television in 1970, courtesy of Network Distributing.

Created by Barry Cryer, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle, No That's Me Over Here features Ronnie as an office worker at City Life and Fire Insurance Company Ltd. Like so many office situations, we see him creeping up to the boss, being distracted by secretaries, and jostling for position with his rival who’s on the same position on the ladder as him. It’s the standard fare of facing life as a 40-something, with a little Monty Python surrealism thrown in there for good measure.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Parks and Recreation - finale season 7 out on DVDParks and Recreation's seventh and final season arrives on DVD, and fans have the bittersweet experience of seeing their favourite characters engage in daft and heart-warming antics one last time. Over the course of these 13 episodes we get to see how Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler - "Inside Out") and her old local government co-workers have blossomed, and where their lives will take them in the future.

The season opens in the year 2017 and as usual, not everything is going to plan. Mysteriously, Leslie and Ron (Nick Offerman - "22 Jump Street") are on opposite sides of a bitter battle for a large patch of land in Pawnee, Indiana. Leslie wants to turn it into a new national park, whilst Ron is batting for a large technology company called Gryzzl that wants to build on it. Can Leslie turn things around and save her belovèd home town?

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