Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March '11 TV Shows on Disc


Upstairs, Downstairs—Complete 1st Season (Acorn Media) – One of the British TV series (along with Monty Python and Masterpiece Theater) that helped put PBS on the map for sophisticated alternative programming, Upstairs Downstairs began in 1971 with these 13 episodes that introduced the aristocratic family and its family of servants during the years 1903-9. Aside from being a compelling and superior soap opera, the show also introduced many of the best British performers of the time to American audiences, notably Jean Marsh and Pauline Collins as two of the family's maids. Future seasons will surely be coming soon on DVD. Extras include several episode commentaries, an alternate version of the pilot episode and an hour-long retrospective documentary that features interviews with the principal cast and creators.


This shortened 1954 version of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes (e one), starring Frank Sinatra, Burt Lahr and Ethel Merman, is the latest unseen classic to be pulled from the vaults, literally—it was Merman's own copy (lone extra: interview with musical director Buddy Bergman); Apocalypse—World War II (e one) is a riveting five-hour French documentary that uses colorized and rarely-seen footage to show the history of the Second World War (best extra: original French Army unit documentaries); the cartoon series Batman: The Brave and the Bold—Season One, Part Two (Warners) finds the Caped Crusader teaming up with various other superheroes to fight an unending succession of bad guys; five delectable-looking episodes of the series Best Food Ever (TLC), narrated by John Goodman, count down the best sandwiches, diners, bakeries, barbecue and food carts in America; in Cake Boss—Complete 3rd Season (TLC), the crew celebrates the bakery's 100th anniversary with ever-more outrageous baked goods (best extra: deleted scenes); Charlton Heston Presents the Bible (Warners) finds the actor narrating four of “the greatest stories ever told” by journeying to the Holy Land to explore tales of Genesis, Moses and Jesus Christ; Nature—Birds of the Gods (PBS Blu-ray), narrated by naturalist David Attenborough, is a spectacular journey into the unique birds that live on the island of New Guinea—their eye-poppingly colorful plumage comes across especially beautifully on Blu-ray; in the excellent episode of Nova—Emergency Mine Rescue (PBS), the heartstopping survival of 33 Chilean miners last year is given an extraordinary account with interviews and unseen footage; late actor Brad Davis plays JFK's brother in Robert Kennedy and His Times (Sony), a 1985 mini-series that is equal parts hagiography and intense historical recreation; the always-charming Kate Jackson makes the mid-80s silliness of Scarecrow and Mrs. King—Complete 2nd Season (Warners) most palatable, as do the show's luxurious London locations; if you're a Cheesehead, then you don't need my recommendation to pick up Super Bowl XLV Champions—Green Bay Packers (Warners Blu), with its hi-def camerawork and whistle-to-whistle coverage of the big game (best extra: postgame interviews); breathing new life into the cliched “zombie” genre, The Walking Dead—Complete 1st Season (Anchor Bay Blu-ray) is a visually sumptuous and dramatically creepy look at a post-apocalyptic world overrun by the undead—and those who unfortunately survived (best extra: The Making of The Walking Dead); several celebrities (including Spike Lee and Susan Sarandon) discover surprising things about their ancestors—and themselves—in Who Do You Think You Are—Complete 1st Season (Acorn Media).

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