Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September's TV Shows on DVD/Blu-ray


Modern Family—Complete First Season (Fox Blu-ray)
– This ABC sitcom was the surprise Emmy winner for Best Comedy, mainly because it was a rookie show up against several established ones. While its basic structure is reminiscent of Woody Allen’s brutally bleak comedy Husbands and Wives—interviews with the main characters are shown alongside scenes from their lives, ostensibly shot for a documentary—this lightly satirical comedy largely works because the actors remain believably in character throughout. Julie Bowen, Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vargara, and Ty Burell are tremendously good, and the writers’ best zingers are crucially juxtaposed with more standard, sentimental dialogue, so everything's clicking on all cylinders now. Still, let's hold off any ultimate judgment until we see what happens in season two. The hi-def Blu-ray transfer is excellent; extras include interview outtakes, deleted/extended scenes, bloopers and making-of featurettes.

Narrated by Liev Schreiber (who else?), America: The Story of Us (History Blu-ray) is a remarkably cohesive nine-hour series that explores our history and technological advancements through a mix of historical re-enactments and splendid CGI effects (best extra: bonus scenes); The Big Bang Theory—Complete Third Season (Warners Blu) has far surpassed initial impressions of its “bimbo befriends nerdy whiz kids” premise to become one of TV's better current sitcoms, thanks mainly to Kelly Cuoco's ace portrayal of the “dumb” blonde (best extra: cast discussion); Bill Maher—But I’m Not Wrong (HBO) is the acerbic comic latest live performance special in which he takes on Republicans, Democrats, Obama, the Tea Party and anyone—or anything—else who annoys him; if you can ignore the blah Jason Schwartzman as the self-styled Sam Spade of Brooklyn, then Bored to Death—Complete First Season (HBO Blu-ray)—with a good comic turn from Ted Danson—is watchable...but only just (best extra: four audio commentaries); it's not the banter between mystery novelist Rick Castle and detective Kate Beckett that makes Castle—Complete Second Season (ABC) such a non-guilty pleasure: it's the chemistry between Nathan Filion and Stana Katic that makes their dialogue sound like Ben Hecht's—or at least Aaron Sorkin's (best extra: Manhattan’s Most Unusual Murders featurette); although it's been running on fumes for the past couple years, Desperate Housewives—Complete Sixth Season (ABC) still sports the most attractive cast on TV—led by Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman, and Dana Delaney—and will get another boost this coming season with the arrival of Vanessa Williams (best extra: Miss Piggy Gets Desperate, interview featurette with the Muppet character and cast); Fringe—Complete Second Season (Warners Blu-ray), which continues the exploits of a team of special CIA agents investigating all manner of “fringe science,” is one of the best uses of hi-def Blu-ray technology with its knockout visuals and imaginative sound design (best extra: unaired scenes); Glee—Complete First Season (Fox Blu-ray) collects all of the episodes in the unexpected hit show's debut season, which has been anything but a one-hit wonder in its smart choices of music for its characters to perform eavh week—it doesn't hurt that Broadway pros like Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison are on board, along with a certified scene-stealer in Jane Lynch (best extra: extended scenes); sure, there are 24 episodes included in Grey’s Anatomy—Complete Sixth Season (ABC), but the one that's most worth re-watching is the one in which Dr. Izzie Stevens—played by Katherine Heigl—appears for the last time (best extra: extended season finale); as if it wasn't enough that excellent comic actors like Neil Patrick Harris and Allyson Hannigan are stars of the show, How I Met Your Mother—Complete Fifth Season (Fox) also includes guest shots by no less than such stars as J. Lo, Chris Elliott, Amanda Peet and Rachel Bilson, for starters (best extra: music video making-of); Human Target—Complete First Season (Warners Blu-ray), based on a DC comic and graphic novels, is an action-packed drama about a protector-for-hire (best extra: behind-the-scenes featurettes); It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—Complete Fifth Season (Fox Blu-ray) once again features the antics inside and outside Paddy's Irish Pub—although at times, it isn't always funny in Philadelphia (best extra: audio commentaries); if a sitcom based on a bunch of boozers and idiots who play fantasy football sounds less than appealing, then the six episodes that make up The League—Complete First Season (Fox Blu-ray) probably won't convince you—although it does try not to always fall into the obvious humor trap (best extra: deleted scenes); Legend of the Seeker—Complete Second Season (ABC), also the fantasy series‘ final season, dramatizes the ultimate showdown between Good and Evil as the forces of the world and the underworld clash (best extra: Under the Underworld featurette); Patton 360—Complete First Season (History Blu-ray)—an exploration of Patton's European theater exploits during WWII—is like watching someone play “Patton: the Video Game,” as advanced animated computer graphics are interspersed with interviews that shed light on the general; on Private Practice—Complete Third Season (ABC), lead actress Kate Walsh share the screen with such TV show vets like Tim Daly and Amy Brenneman, and their professionalism helps smooth over the sometimes bumpy story lines (best extra: Kate Walsh’s favorite moments); Rich Man Poor Man—Complete Mini-Series (A&E), a 22-episode, multi-generational soap opera that launched the careers of Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte when it first aired in 1976-7, is the kind of star-studded drama that network TV doesn't touch any more (lone extra: Strauss audio commentary on first episode); the doctors, students and interns of Scrubs—Complete Ninth Season (ABC) return for one last go-round, making their familiar rounds (best extra: deleted scenes); the boxed set of Secret Agent (aka Danger Man)—Complete Collection (A&E) comprises 18 discs and 86 episodes, the entire run of the thinking-man's mystery series starring Patrick McGoohan, which began running in the U.S. In 1965—included are the series final two episodes, which were the only ones shown in color; Spartacus—Blood and Sand: Complete First Season (Anchor Bay/Starz) returns to the exploits of the famous slave who sparked a rebellion to recreate ancient Rome in all its bloody glory (best extra: four “director's cut” extended episodes on Blu-ray only).

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