Saturday, June 28, 2008

tv on dvd: review round-up

We know we've been MIA for the past week, but that doesn't mean we haven't been keeping an eye out for the good stuff. Today we bring you a round-up review of several new releases of TV series on DVD:

Early Edition: The First Season (released June 24, 2008)
Kyle Chandler stars as Chicago stockbroker Gary Hobson in this CBS series from 1996. Hobson’s life is turned upside down when his wife suddenly throws him out and asks for a divorce. When he moves into a hotel, Gary discovers that a divorce is just the beginning. He starts to receive the morning paper… a day early. It means more than just having sports scores and stock info early; Gary discovers that he has the opportunity, and perhaps the responsibility, to stop bad things before they happen. He doesn’t know how or why he receives the paper, but Gary quits his job and tries to make a difference.

His former co-workers and friends, Chuck (Fisher Stevens) and Marissa (Shanesia Davis) are the only other people who know Gary’s secret and are in on quite a few of his adventures. Chuck isn’t above trying to sneak a peak at the stock pages for a tip, but Marissa encourages Gary to look beyond the headlines to see why and how he is really needed.

This was a great, smart show that lasted only 4 seasons and was cancelled way too early (how many times have you heard that before). Chandler was a great leading man for the show, and the supporting cast was fantastic. Even though it seems to have a supernatural premise, it is all too human, and it’s easy to get drawn in. In fact, once we popped the set in the player last weekend, slowly but surely we had watched every episode, and the kids had joined us on the couch. It is a great family show. I had almost forgotten how good it was.

The only extras included are episode promos, but the video and audio are excellent and the whole first season is included, rather than the regrettable practice of splitting up seasons across two or more sets.
5 stars (Groucho Glasses)

Evening Shade: Season One (releases July 15, 2008-available for pre-order)
Former Pro football player Wood Newton (Burt Reynolds) has returned to his hometown of Evening Shade, Arkansas to coach the High School football team and raise his family. His wife Ava (Marilu Henner) also grew up in Evening Shade and that means Wood’s life is suddenly full of kids, in-laws, his mom, friends and a very eccentric cast of characters in this quiet southern town. His team may not be winning football games, and he’s besieged by intrusions, advice and opinions from just about everyone, but Wood is doing what he can to keep it altogether.

This series from the early 90’s (also lasting about 4 seasons) came from the same Linda Bloodsworth-Thompson of Designing Women. Having grown up in the south, I must say the show (and Designing Women) had a great feel to it, an authentic ear, if you will. But then again, how could you go wrong with a fantastic cast- Burt Reynolds, Marilu Henner, Ossie Davis, Hal Holbrook, Michael Jeter, Charles Durning- I still can’t really believe some shows were just able to pull so much experience and reliable talent on one screen. You don’t see too much of that today.

We got an early review copy of Evening Shade, and I couldn’t resist popping in quickly to see if it was as good as I remember- and it was. The show was very well written and directed (Reynolds also served as producer of the show), and had some very memorable characters- especially Michael Jeter’s Herman Stiles. There are no extras to speak of on the set, but all 24 episodes of the first season are here. The audio and video are great, although there was some noticeable sound dampening on the first disc- not a big deal. Very much worth picking up, especially when you see the dearth of great, smart and grown-up comedies on television today.
4 stars (Groucho glasses)

Mannix: The First Season (released 6-3-2008)
One of the most popular crime shows ever to hit television, Mannix starred Mike Connors as tough as nails and smart Detective Joe Mannix. A bit of a loner on the Detective agency, and something of a maverick, Mannix seems to be just as much at odds with his boss (Joseph Campanella) as he is with the bad guys. You’ve seen the police show clich├ęs- this is the show that started some of them. And yet it’s almost refreshing to see Conner’s tough and smart character- something again that seems to be lacking in some of today’s police procedurals. The Rockerford Files, Mannix, Law and Order, Miami Vice, Nash Bridges, Streets of San Francisco- they all seem to be able to bring the entertainment with grittiness and yet not afraid to show right and wrong- and that it takes an equally tough cop to bring the bad guys down.

Unlike the other sets mention in this round-up review- Mannix is packed with some great extras. Included are clips of Connors on The Mike Douglas Show and a guest shot on Diagnosis Murder, interview with Connors and Campanella, and several introductions and episode commentaries. Classic television as it should be.
Great stuff – 5 stars (Groucho Glasses)

Stay tuned for more reviews and more stuff- I promise. Even Mrs. Baravelli is working on a review and Wolf is cooking up something special you're gonna like- so don't touch that dial. Same Shelf Time, Same Shelf Channel.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

You go with what you got, and when what you got is tomorrow's news, well it's gotta be one of two things: either you're a day ahead, or everyone else is a day behind.

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