Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

'Perry Mason' S7 V2: Verdict is Awesome

The episodes on the recently released S7 V2 DVD of "Perry Mason were a perfect choice for the period leading up to "Frankenstorm" Hurricane Sandy and the actual storm. The sharp contrast of the well-filmed black-and-white episodes and nefarious dealing were a good match with the dark skies, strong winds, and pounding rain.

I look forward to watching more episodes during this winter's inevitable snowageddons.

"Mason" was a wonderful 1960s quasi-anthology film noir lite courtroom drama. The S7 V2 episodes were from the second half of the 1963-64 season. The good folks at CBS Video are releasing S8 V1 in a few weeks and finishing the entire series with an S8 V2 release in January 2013.

"Mason" was a procedural with one of the best procedures out there. The opening scenes typically consisted of the innocent of the week finding himself or herself in a relatively minor jam that required legal counsel. That is when Mason, accompanied by loyal secretary Della Street and stalwart private investigator Paul Drake, would usually literally and figuratively enter the picture.

The not-so-innocent of the week would then find himself or herself on a slab in the morgue, and the police would arrest the innocent who consulted Mason.

Mason, who apparently handled everything from divorces to murder cases, would then agree to represent the innocent on the murder charge. The ensuing investigation would reveal a handful of other folks who the murder benefited.

The final ten minutes or so would consist of the murder trial of the innocent, and these proceedings typically ended with Mason revealing the true culprit ala Sherlock Holmes in the drawing room.

This format was much fresher in the '60s than the modern day, and "Mason's" decades-long appeal goes beyond the three main characters playing their parts well and never emoting to setting a good dramatic pace throughout the show. There seemed to be a complete absence of any hysterical wailing by the accused or "you can't handle the truth," or "the system's out of order" courtroom theatrics by Mason.

It was also nice to see attorneys who represented both sides of the dispute act honorably and be more interested in justice than a win. Along those line, some quasi-innocents avoided legal penalties for doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

Being a quasi-anthology series with a new group of characters each week allowed for bringing in great guest stars. Ryan O'Neill as a preppy college-aged man who hated his very Joan Collinsesque stepmother was a notable example.

The guest star of the set award must go to "NCIS" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." star David McCallum as an adorkable Frenchman. This character conned out of his living savings by a woman from her past and then accused of causing a plane crash in which her cad of a husband is killed.

Not only was McCallum great as a sweet sad sack, this episode had a nice twist regarding the cause of death. The modus operandi was usually more straightforward.

The nicest thing about the "Mason" series was that there was not a dud in the batch. They should not be confused with the made-for-TV versions from the '90s that were not always as good as the originals.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mason" is encouraged to email me. Court dismissed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

'The Flintstones' Prime-Time Specials Collection V1: Yabba Dabba Good

The awesome Warner Brothers Archive Collection's release of "The Flintsones Prime-time Specials Collection" Volumes 1 and 2 came at a time that watching the recently released made-for-TV movie "Big Top Scooby-Doo" got me wondering why The Flintsones had not inspired nearly as many spin-off series and specials as everyone's favorite animated great dane and his meddling kids.

I deeply hope that the upcoming Seth "potty mouth" MacFarlane version of "The Flintstones" does not prove to be a case in which I should be sorry for what I wished.

"The Flintsones" was the notable early '60s show that was the first prime-time animated series. It essentially transported the two working-class married couples from "The Honeymooners" to a very 60s-inspired version of the stone age in which humans and dinosaurs peacefully co-habitated.

Transforming the names of celebrities du jour and cities into "rock" this or "stone" that and using stone age animals for appliances and other "modern" conveniences added to the fun. The wooly mammoth shower was a personal favorite.

So far, I have only seen "The Flintsones" V1. This consisted of two hour-long 1979 prime-specials. The first one, which was entitled "The Flinstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone" had our quartet battling those versions of the legendary monsters after winning a trip to Rocksylvania.

The hilarity got fully underway when Fred Flintstone and his sidekick Barney Rubble inadvertently awaken the long dormant Rockula and his Frankenstone monster, who are more Grandpa and Herman Munster than the classic movie monsters from the '30s.

The highly moral Rockula soon gets a thing for Fred's wife Wilma but will not marry her until he kills her current husband; such a solution seems to be divorce Rocksylvania style.

The entertaining story is fairly typical Flintsones fare with not quite as many stone age references. I also would have liked to have seen more characters, such as the Great Gazoo and Hoppy the pre-historic kangaroo, from the original series. However, I smiled often and laughed out loud a few times.

The second V1 story is entitled "Flintstones Little Big League" and is more typical of the original series. Fred and Barney start out as BFFs, they greatly distrust each other and argue on becoming coaches of competing little league teams, and make up by the end of the show. We get the bonus of a peppy musical number about the importance of being a good sport at the very end.

Seeing roughly 12-year-old version of Fred's daughter Pebbles and Barney's son Bam-Bam is a particularly fun aspect of the special. These offspring were infants and toddlers in the original series, and Pebbles was showing the beginning stages of being a Valley Tom Boy and Bam-Bam was a very polite eager cave boy.

If I had to choose a favorite among the two specials, I would pick ""Little Big League" but think that current and new fans of the series will enjoy both presentations.

I would like to mention as well that the complete series set, which includes a plethora of great special features and comes in a sturdy plastic case that resembles the Flintsones television set, of "The Flintstones" was a "Black Friday List" favorite a few years ago and remains in the Top 10 of my all-time favorite complete series sets.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding any incarnation of "The Flintstones" is welcome to email me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

'The Lucy Show' S6: Ending on a Hi-Larious Note

Discovering the plethora of gems on the recently released DVD set of the sixth season of "The Lucy Show" makes it one of the bestest sets of the year.

This awesome follow-up series to Lucille Ball's still mega-hit "I Love Lucy" (ILL) started out with Ball and ILL co-star Vivian Vance in TV pioneer roles as middle-aged single moms sharing a home. The impetus for the classic Lucy shenanigans was usually the perpetually cash-strapped Lucille Carmichael, played by Lucy, trying to complete a DIY project to save some green. 

One need not consult Nostradamus to predict that Lucy recruited BFF Vivian Bagley, played by Vance, to help with the project and that chaos ensued. An episode in which Lucy and Viv installed a shower was the best-known classic. Episodes involving converting their basement into a recreation room and installing a television antenna were equally good.

By the 1967-68 sixth season, "The Lucy Show" had followed the same course as "The Doris Day Show" from the same era. The big city had replaced the suburban/rural setting, the kids were long-forgotten, and the titular character had gone from single mom housewife to career gal similar to the path taken by America's sweetheart Mary Tyler Moore a few years later.

In the case of "Lucy," she had moved from a New York City suburb to Los Angeles. Her career consisted of being the secretary to banker Theodore J. Mooney, played by long-time Lucy co-star Gale Gordon. Mooney was Lucy's banker back east and episodes form that era often had Lucy begging for advances on the allowance for which her late husband had provided. 

The first nice surprise on reading the "Lucy" S6 synopses was that that season included many of my favorite episodes. One show in which Lucy designed an absurdly secure bank vault to convince Jack Benny to open an account was a classic. 

Another great offering had Lucy getting her photo in the newspaper after winning a contest during a sale that she had played hookey from work to attend. A scene in which Lucy tested the claim that dishes were unbreakable was one of the best of the entire series.

An clip show in which Vivian Bagley rode a bus from the New York area to California to nurse Lucy through a broken leg earned the award for the nicest episode of the season. Hearing these characters discuss first season exploits and once again seeing Lucy on stilts and Lucy and Ethel (oops Viv) trapped in a rapidly filling shower and maneuvering around on a roof was beyond words awesome. 

This episode also had a nice twist at the end and would have made an incredible series finale.

It is worth noting as well that Lucy really broke her leg while filming the sixth season of "Here's Lucy." This led to more on-screen humor related to her character having that temporary impairment.

Speaking of "Here's Lucy," a Where's Waldo-style game of looking for Lucy's real-life kids, and "Here's Lucy" co-stars Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr., in "Lucy" episodes is great fun. I am convinced that Lucie appeared in a few episodes that her IMDB page did not list.

The almost weekly appearance of big stars, many of whom were Lucy's personal friends, in S6 of "Lucy" was also a treat. This would become an even larger element of "Here's Lucy."

This roster of guest stars included Benny, Milton Berle, Robert Goulet, Sid Caesar, Ken Berry, Carol Burnett, etc. I also think that Art "Ed Norton" Carney had a cameo as a sewer worker in one a clip during the broken leg episode, but he was not credited for it.

The guest-star of the year award for "Lucy" S6 goes to Joan Crawford. I will allow readers to insert their own "Mommie Dearest" jokes.

I will not confess to the "Dearest" jokes that seeing Crawford clean her foyer and Lucy, while in character, break one of Crawford's crystal glasses brought to my mind. 

I will admit that the episode did get the wonderfully dark Blue Oyster Cult song "Joan Crawford" song stuck in my head. Any tune that starts with the lyric "Catholic school girls have thrown away their mascara" deserves classic status.

The Crawford episode, which included a guest spot by Vance, was entertaining and well-done despite being derivative of a 1966 "Beverly Hillbillies" Gloria Swanson episode. 

The "Lucy" and "Hillbillies" episodes had the main characters meeting the fading star under misleading circumstances that suggested that the celebrity had fallen on hard times. Wanting to help that diva without hurting her pride, the Clampetts and Lucy cast her in a silent film and repertory play respectively. 

Seeing real-life good friends Lucy and Crawford perform together was great, and Crawford really got into the spirit of the thing.

The gaggle of bonus features, which is very typical for CBS Video releases, on the S6 DVD set  deserve their own review. Space limitations requires asking that readers please take my word for this.

An absolutely positively must-see special feature was a 1968 clip of Lucy winning her second Emmy in a row for her role on "Lucy." She demonstrated her sincere love for her craft and genuine appreciation for her fellow television industry colleagues who gave her that honor. 

Seeing the Emmy directed at the people who produced television, rather than being geared to the American public, was very nice. 

This clip alone made me sad that there is no way that I will be able to share a glass of lemonade and piece of pie with Lucy. Among other things, I would have deeply loved to have told Lucy that an ILL scene in which she leads a flock of baby chicks around her Connecticut home is my all-time favorite television scene.

Lucy's then former husband Desi Arnaz deserves credit for the most unique feature in the S6 "Lucy" set. Desi apparently passed on his habit of saving copies of everything to Lucy because the DVD set includes a full S6 episode that was dubbed in Italian that was found in her archives. 

Aside from seeing Lucy speak Italian, hearing another actress' voice come out of her mouth is odd. The episode is subtitled in English, but I chose to watch the English version on the discs.

Another favorite special features was a "The Carol Burnett Show" skit in which Lucy and Carol played competing airport car rental company representatives who manhandled a hapless Tim Conway. Aside from the hilarious script and pitch-perfect performances, seeing the flubs in which a boom mic appeared at the top of the screen and the sets experienced technical difficulties was a nice look back at the days of live television.

Anyone with questions of thoughts regarding "Lucy" is encouraged to email me.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

'The Ernie Kovacs Collection' V2: A Wry and Crazy Not Ready for Prime Time Player

'50s and '60s comedian Ernie Kovacs is a hilarious hybrid between Groucho Marx, Jackie Gleason, and Bob Newhart. Thanks to the defenders of awesome classic television at Shout Factory, Kovacs' wonderful humor will not be forgotten.

Shout is following up its six-disc "The Ernie Kovacs Collection" with the aptly named three-disc collection "The Ernie Kovacs Collection: Volume 2." The latter is being released on October 23, 2012.

Kovacs V2 contains eight episodes of Kovacs' 1955-1956 NBC morning comedy/variety show, three episodes of his equally hilarious early '60s offbeat game show "Take A Good Luck," and a herd of incredible extras.

The morning show reminded me of David Letterman's late '70s morning show that introduced us to Letterman's slightly less offbeat humor. 

Ala Carson, Kovacs would talk to the audience, perform skits in character, and promote his sponsors' products. A dungeon set and performances, which included America's Top 40 of the day, by Kovacs' wife and later archivist Edie Adams contributed to the show's quirky tone.

(Shout very candidly acknowledged that it could not acquire the rights to most of the musical performances. This really does not detract from the shows.)

One of my favorite bits, which also reflected Kovacs' history in radio, had sound effects represent off-screen activity on which Kovacs commented. An especially amusing example of this, which would never be aired today, had an unseen inebriated man stumble through the studio and drive drunk.

"Take  A Good Luck" was an even better reflection of Kovacs' unparalleled odd outlook on life and strong commitment to presenting that vision. This program was the version of "What's My Line" that I imagined that "SCTV," which often reflected Kovacs' style, would have presented.

The format was that the guest would appear before Kovacs' celebrity panel, who were instructed to cover their ears while the announcer told the audience who the guest was and what made him or her famous. The guests ranged from newly-elected Hawaiian Congressman Daniel Innouye to Asta the then 26-year-old dog from the Thin Man films. 

After the guest was introduced, Kovacs would show short bizarre skits in which he appeared. Trying to figure out what part of those often Bunuel-quality surreal presentations was the clue to the guest's identity was more fun and frustrating than figuring how that clue related to the guest.

A particularly funny moment that demonstrated Kovacs' style consisted of an opening shot showing a potato in a paper cup that the announcer declared was of no importance and would not appear on the show. Kovacs then picked up the potato solely to prove the announcer wrong.

The extras include Kovacs' famous skits with the same type of memorable and popular characters that Gleason created. We also get the even rarer treat of the unaired pilot of Kovacs' Western sitcom "Medicine Man" with his co-star silent film legend Buster Keaton playing a mostly silent indian. (This was well before the days of "native American.") 

This amusing show, which featured Kovacs as traveling Restoration Era carpetbagger who sold a "miracle tonic" was no "F Troop" but was much better than the 1981-82 disaster "Best of the West." This decent humor, and the rare chance to see Kovacs play down his persona, makes this must see TV.

The primary problem was that placing a primarily art-house performer like Kovacs in a conventional sitcom was comparable to casting Adam Sandler in an Oscar Wilde play.

I particularly enjoyed the bonus of the only one-on-one interview that was ever conducted with Kovacs. Seeing him seriously discussing his art while interjecting the wonderfully wry remarks, which included joking about shooting down a plane that flew overheard during the interview, for which he was known was a real treat.

Shout also included its standard high-quality booklet that provided an interesting overview of Kovacs himself and the shows in the collection. Learning while being entertained is always good.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "The Ernie Kovacs Collection: Volume 2" is encouraged to email me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

'Happy Endings' S2: 'Friends' with 'Benefits'

The very funny ABC friendcom "Happy Endings" is the latest show in which my interest was resparked watching it on DVD.

The DVD set of "Endings'" sophomore season is being released on October 23, 2012. This coincides with the premiere, which will be Tivo-worthy, of the show's third (but hardly junior) season. This show will follow up on the significant changes in the friends' lives in last April's season finale.

"Endings" is the version of "Friends" that "South Park" and "Book of Mormon" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker would have created. Picturing Joey as a gleefully chubby sloppy gay man helps understand this concept.

Like "Friends," "Endings" revolves around a group of childhood friends and their college buddies hanging out at their favorite hotspot and each others' Chicago homes. Like their "Friends" counterparts, they also are roommates or spouses.

The "Friends" similarities began with the mid-season series premiere of "Endings" that revolved around the after-math of Alex, played by "24's" Elisha Cuthbert being a literal runaway bride during her wedding to Dave, played by "Flashforward's" Zachary Knighton. 

Despite Alex being at least as flighty and fashion oriented as "Friends'" Rachel, no one would root for the mountain lion as we did when Cuthbert's character Kim Bauer on "24" faced becoming puma chow. Alex is simply an amusingly impulsive woman who regularly sabotages herself.

One of Alex's shining moments during "Endings'" second season was reverting to her high school self when a group of popular "Heathers" teen girls began frequenting her boutique because Alex sold baby t-shirts that the girls wore as tube tops. The "Daddy's Girl"  and "I Have to Poop" shirts were the funniest.

Like "Friends'" Chandler, Dave is a nice guy with bad luck. During the second season, he films a painfully horrible advertisement for his barely viable food truck called "Steak Me Home Tonight" and sabotages his chance for a threesome with two hotties. 

However, Dave does look much better cooking steak in just his boxers than Matthew Perry would have even during his "Friends" days.

Damon Wayans, Jr., who plays Brad, who is the Ross of the "Endings" crew, definitely got great comedy genes and lessons from his dad and uncles, who could be considered the black Marx Brothers of the '90s. Like the earlier generation of Wayans, Damon Jr. has enough self-confidence to be the brunt of black jokes and make them himself. 

The elder Wayans would have likely done better with Damon Jrs. effort at "Blackass," which was a black version of the moronic stunt show "Jackass," but the idea was a good one.

Brad's second season highlights include trying to follow through on romantic Valentine's Day plans despite being under the influence of strong pain killers. This hilarious episode included having Brad play with toy dinosaurs and referring to his buddies as their "Friends" counterparts.

Eliza Coupe is perhaps the creepiest of the group only in that she is the Monica of the gang but married the Ross of the group. She is best known as mean blonde girl "Jo" on "Scrubs" and plays Jane, a more neurotic and nicer version of that character on "Endings."

Jane provides some of the best humor of the second season in an episode that has her hunting down the daughter who she believes was conceived with an egg that she donated while in college. Seeing Jane trying to lure the middle-school girl into a creepy old van was hilarious.

That episode also had Adam Pally's Max, who is the group's gay Joey, begin the preliminary steps of producing his sperm bank deposit in a video that he did not realize was just designed to let potential clients learn about him. 

The wonderfully lack of self-conscious nature of Pally allowed us to see Max rock skin-tight white pants with an even tighter Lady Di t-shirt and trying to seduce a firefighter while wearing just tighty whiteys. 

Just as "Friends'" Phoebe was often in the background, Casey Wilson's Penny is the last friend featured in this review. A second season episode in which cats invading her apartment and episodes of "The View" mysteriously appearing on her Tivo make 29 year-old Penny concerned about spinsterhood had very funny moments.

Many other hilariously twisted moments from this great season involved noteworthy guest stars. Penny and her mother, played by Megan "Karen" Mullally, sing out their feelings regarding childhood trauma that included becoming homeless. Ed Begley, Jr. plays a more fanatical and hostile version of his eco-oriented self in another Mullally episode.

Despite these great moments, the best guest-star episode has "Veronica Mars'" and "Party Down's" Ryan Hansen. He plays a guy who has not matured since college who Penny not-so-subtlely manipulates into growing up. 

A scene in which Penny "accidentally" spills coffee on Hansen's hockey jersey and gives him the choice of the two men's dress shirts that she "happens" to have in her purse is a great moment. Hansen fans may be disappointed to not see him parade around in an American flag speedo.

The bottom line is that fans of wonderfully dark and cynical, but good natured humor, or  anyone who ever wondered what a marriage between siblings Ross and Monica Geller would look like should buy the season two DVD of "Happy Endings."

Anyone with questions or thoughts regarding "Happy Endings" is encouraged to email me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

'All in the Family' CS: Arguably TV's All-Time Top SItcom

Shout Factory's awesome track record with complete series DVD sets of classic shows continues with its above-average even for Shout collection of every episode from "All in the Family's" nine seasons. 

Aside from the terrific accompanying booklet and special features that are discussed below, the DVD set earns an A+ for including the original broadcast versions of the episodes. 

The syndicated episodes always seemed oddly short and missing something. I also did not understand why I liked the DVD episodes so much better than the TV Land presentations until learning that the syndicated versions cut between four and five minutes from the original broadcasts. Well done Shout!

The set is available for pre-order and will be released on October 30, 2012. It would make the bestest ever Halloween treat for any fan of classic sitcoms and/or political humor.

The premise of "Family" is highly original and has not been repeated since its mid-season 1971 premiere. It centers around the Queens, NY home that blue-collar working stiff Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O'Connor, shares with his textbook adoring and long-suffering wife with a breaking point Edith, played by Jean Stapleton.

The Bunkers' naive but slowly evolving 20-something daughter Gloria, played by Sally Struthers, and her liberal college student husband Mike Stivic, played by later film director/producer Rob Reiner, reside with the 'rents for the first few seasons but stay close-by for a few more years.

Anyone who is familiar with "Family" is aware that father rarely, if ever, knew best in that household and that the post-adolescent kids were hardly the freshly-scrubbed clean-cut Disneyfied Kurt Russell et al college student type of the early 1970s.

Additionally, Edith probably did not own a real pearl necklace and seemed dazed and confused much more frequently than wise and motherly.

This realism extended to the characters bickering and facing serious health and financial difficulties much more often than outwardly expressing their love for each other and planning elaborate surprise parties or fretting over a dinner for the boss going awry.

It is especially noteworthy that "Family" premiered roughly 15 years before Roseanne asserted to all within earshot of her boisterous bellowing that she had created the first show that accurately depicted blue-collar (and American) life. 

With the appropriate degree of  respect to Ms. Arnold, I have had relatives and close family friends deal with the "Family" issues of rape, substance abuse, miscarriages, housing and job discrimination, marital fidelity, homophobia, and many other challenges. 

I have never known of anyone to deal with the "Roseanne" issues of one daughter barking in class, another daughter being humiliated because she broke wind in front of the entire school, or a husband and wife pulling elaborate Halloween pranks on each other. I additionally could never imagine the "Family" cast ever agreeing to perform a parody of a classic sitcom as the "Roseanne" gang did a few times.

"Family's" impact also extended to providing the American viewing public almost as jarring a wake up call as the footage from Vietnam that aired on the evening news during the same era. 

CBS went directly from its rural comedies, such as the "The Beverly Hillbillies/"Hooterville series and "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Gomer Pyle: USMC," and other wacky sitcoms such as "The Doris Day Show" and "Here's Lucy" to the grittier and all around darker (but still hilarious) "Family."

"Family" being the first series to depict a flushing toilet is an oft-cited example of how that show put the mirror on us as much as the depiction of the Louds in the PBS 1973 documentary "An American Life." In fact, the Louds could have been the Bunkers if they belonged to a much lower economic class.

It is further doubtful that CBS would have aired the thinly disguised Vietnam War comedy "M*A*S*H" in September 1972 if "Family" had not succeeded. 

On a lighter note, purely comedic elements of "Family" made it as a memorable as Archie's ignorance-based prejudicial views, the heated Watergate-era political discussions, and the frank depictions of the ups and regular downs following those happy days that most of us experience.

Archie calling Edith "Dingbat" and telling her to stifle as regularly as he called Mike "Meathead" still makes every fan smile.

A personal favorite schtick involves Edith telling a story as long and rambling as this review of the "Family" complete series set. Archie would soon perfectly pantomime setting up an ultimately executed suicide while suffering through Edith's tale. A faux lynching that ended up with Archie's head rolling to the side and his tongue hanging out his mouth was the best of the lot.

Because most of "Family's" more than 200 episodes were excellent, and even some not-so-great ones from later seasons were not so bad, picking a standout one is tough. 

The two-parter in which Gloria gives birth is one of the more memorable ones for being particularly good at combining physical humor in the form of her getting stuck in a telephone booth, social issues in the form of controversy regarding Archie performing in a minstrel show, and one fall on the floor funny sight gag at the hospital that is too good to ruin with advance notice.

The aforementioned booklet, which includes great episode synopses, has essays by "Family" expert Marty Kaplan and legendary veteran TV critic Tom Shales on the history and impact of "Family." The struggle to fine tune the show just right, get a network to air it, and the impact that it had make that topic a very worthy  feature film topic. Perhaps Rob Reiner will produce one.

The best of a wonderful gaggle of DVD extras is a brand-new interview with "Family" creator and producer Norman "TV God" Lear. I had always admired Lear, but this interview earned him a place on my list of people with whom I would like to share a corned beef on rye at a Brooklyn deli.

Lear clearly, eloquently, and candidly spoke of every aspect of creating the show. The insights that he shared included basing Archie on Lear's father and O'Connor basing his depiction of that character on a cab driver that O'Connor knew.

Lear further made my day in verifying my theory that each "Family" episode was produced as a two-act theatrical presentation. Although Lear kept most of the action in the Bunkers' living room, he was a genius at having the world enter that space.

Other "behind-the-scenes" features included segments from the show and clips of prior interviews with cast members. The contrast between a tiny and adorable Sally Struthers from "Family's" early days and her horrible mug shot of shame regarding her recent DUI arrest in Maine was genuinely sad. 

Readers know that I am often the first to mock aging sitcom stars who face public disgrace. In this case, Struthers has shown me great kindness during her summers in Maine. I hope that things work out for her and that the public cuts this genuinely nice lady a break.

The three cherries on the addictive treat that is the "Family" complete series set are the pilot episodes of the "Family" spinoffs "Gloria," "Archie Bunker's Place," and "704 Hauser Street." Of the three, only "Place" achieved any success.

I liked "Gloria" better as a kid than I did the other night. The elderly rural vet, played by Burgess "The Penguin" Meredith, for whom Gloria went to work was the only character who displayed much personality. It was also odd to see a "Family" inspired show be more "Green Acres" than "Meet the Press."

"Archie Bunker's Place" was a decent show that  ran for a few years, and had an episode that is incredibly sad for "Family" fans. The problem was that the show was more "The Ropers" than "Frasier." Like "The Ropers," the main character did not work as well when taken even slightly out of his element. 

As Lear and legions of fans have realized, the "Family" cast understood their characters and those characters' relationships with each other better than virtually any other cast. 

"704 Hauser Street" was a short-lived series in which Lear had a black family live in the Bunkers' former house and have the same type of political discussions. Unfortunately, lightning did not strike twice.

At the same time, the three pilots are interesting nostalgia that are worth watching.

Anyone with thoughts or questions regarding "Family" is encouraged to
email me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

'CSI: NY' S8: 'NYPD Blue' Meets 'Bill Nye'

This review of the recently released DVD set of the eighth season of "CSI:NY" is the third in a trilogy of reviews of releases of the most recent seasons of the three "CSI" series. "CSI:NY" comes in a close second to "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" as the best of the trio.

Each "CSI" crime drama typically follows the procedure of the (often not) innocent of the week either being discovered dead or buying the farm in the opening scenes. This prompts the titular forensics team to collect and analyze crime scene evidence, grill a wrongfully accused suspect, reanalyze the existing evidence or collect new clues, and collar the correct malfeasor.

The "CSI:NY" Scoobies ply their trade in New York City and are tougher and grittier than their Las Vegas and Miami counterparts in the other "CSI:" series.

As someone who has lamented "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation's" Greg Sanders transitioning from a wonderfully goofy lab tech. to a serious field agent, I LOVED "CSI:NY's" hysterically quirky lab tech. Adam Ross and hope that the writers do not change his character.

Adam's first scene of the eighth season had him hilariously carry on both sides of an imagined conversation between a job applicant and temporary team head Jo Danville, played by the highly talented Sela Ward. Similar schtick in most of the eight episodes that I watched was equally entertaining.

However, the series itself did not really grab me until it cut back a little on the grit and drama in favor of more action and humor. I confess that I almost gave up after four episodes, am happy that I watched four more, and look forward to seeing the remaining ten after catching up with the pile of review DVDs on my desk.

I particularly look forward the "Flash Pop" episode, which includes a flashback to the '50s but probably does not involve any nuclear-powered vehicles outfitted with flux capacitors.

The Halloween episode, which was the sixth of the season, in which it appeared that unduly hazed wannabe frat boys had taken appropriate revenge on their brutal pledge master had the humor, quirks, and twists that make the "CSI" franchise special. 

The eighth episode, which revolved around a mobster who had killed 12 people being the most likely suspect in a fatal shooting of a judge in front of a bakery had a classic "CSI" pre-opening credits quip. Gary "Lieutenant Dan" Sinise made the wonderful comment that the suspected killer had reached his baker's dozen.

Like the other "CSI" sets that were released September 25, 2012, the DVD set of "CSI:NY" included some interesting special features. These extras included a look at the series' eighth season, a behind-the-scenes look at filming the Halloween episode, and cast reflections on the season premiere episode that included flashbacks that depicted their characters' actions on the day of the September 11 attacks.

Anyone with thoughts or questions regarding any "CSI" series is encouraged to email me.