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Friday, February 28, 2014

'SEARCH' CS DVD: No Longer 'Only for Export'

Search: The Complete Series
Warner Archive's recent 6-disc 23-episode complete series DVD release of the 1972-1973 series "SEARCH" earns Archive the title Champ of TV Land. The good folks at Archive coining the very apt phrase "spy-fi" in reference to the series is icing on the cake.

This release is exciting as well because it provides sofa spuds a chance to own the complete collection of this show more than two years after Archive's August 2011 DVD release of the February 1972 made-for-TV pilot "Probe." Unreal TV expects to review this one within the next several weeks. 

"SEARCH" truly is one of the rarest of the rares because Warner prime designated it "for export only" after its original network run; this unjustified 40-year-ban from American airwaves makes this wonderfully campy show the Rodney Dangerfield of '70s television.

The following (slightly distorted) clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the opening segment of a "SEARCH" episode provides a good sense of the fun spirit of the series. The vintage commercials at the end are a bonus.

The uber-awesome premise of "SEARCH" is that Burgess Meredith of the '60s "Batman" series fame plays the leader of a team in a control room at the headquarters of World Securities Corporation (WSC). The mission that this group has accepted consists of interacting with implants and other hi-tech gizmos that allow monitoring the activities of agents known as probes.

This aspect of remote control monitoring of agents evokes terrific memories of the lesser-known 1966-1967 Irwin Allen sci-fi series "Time Tunnel," which centers around a time-travel experiment gone excitedly awry.

 "SEARCH" also has elements of "Charlie's Angels" in that the probes are three hunky men with distinctive personalities who have other careers before WSC takes them away from all that. One difference is that Burgess' angels primarily work independently.

Hugh O'Brian is Hugh Lockwood, otherwise known as "Probe One." He is a former astronaut and current playboy. Doug McClure is laid-back cowboy/surfer dude C.R. Grover with the less distinguished designation "Standby Probe." However, Grover does get bumped up to lead probe status when he is called in for a case.

Tony Franciosa is wonderfully named former New York cop Nick Bianco, who is arguably the toughest of the trio. His highly unfortunate designation of "Omega Probe" is reminiscent of the insulting nickname given to the titular character of the awesome British series "The Last Detective."

As the series' title indicates, each episode centers around a quest for a missing object. Inanimate objectives include a particularly valuable moon rock and a mad-scientist device capable of shaking WSC and other targets to their foundations.

Animate subjects of the probes' efforts include a member of the diplomatic community who may have simply skipped out on his wife, an MIA probe hot on the trail of very clever freelance money minters, and a revolutionary.

Watching the opening credits to see the names and photos of the guest stars of the week is as much fun as engaging in this exercise while watching the later-70s series "The Love Boat." Having Maurice Evans, who plays the father of Samantha Stephens on "Bewitched," team up with David White, who plays Larry Tate on that long running series, gets things off to a great start.

It is also fun to see former "Girl From U.N.C.L.E." and future "Hart to Hart" star Stefanie Powers play a very April Danceresque covert operative who works with Bianco. As an aside, "Girl" is a must-own rarity for any fan of the numerous groovy and hip swinging spy series of the '60s; Dancer truly can make even the toughest man cry "Uncle."

Although every member of the plethora of guest stars are great, children of the '70s will find a few as exciting as Evans and White. Powers' fellow kick-butt '60s TV spy gal Barbara Feldon of the uber-awesome sitcom "Get Smart" heads up this group in an episode revolving around a search for a reclusive billionaire.

Gen Xers will also particularly love seeing Sebastian Cabot, who plays "Mistah Fwench" on the '60s sitcom "Family Affair," and Jay Robinson in a role that has him playing someone who is as much of a madman with an evil mind as his titular character in the Krofft '70s Saturday morning show "Dr. Shrinker."

All of this adds up to a wonderfully fun and creative series that deserves cult status; everyone plays his or her role very well, and every story keeps things fresh. Sending a probe in search of the network executive responsible for the premature demise of the series and the Warner bigshot responsible for the subsequent exile to learn the reasons for their decision is very worthwhile.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "SEARCH" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Brand-New Lamb of God Theatrical Documentary "As the Palaces Burn:' Riding Crazy Train to Hell and Back

Product Details
This review of the brand-new uber-awesome documentary "As the Palaces Burn," which hits theaters from Australia to North America on February 27 2014,  is a "very special" post for Unreal TV. The equally awesome website for the film lists the participating theaters in every country.

"Palaces" starts as a documentary on the chart-topping but little-known heavy metal band "Lamb of God" and leads into a frightening tale that shows the aptness of that name.

The aside for this review is that the premiere of "Palaces" comes a few days after the 41st birthday of "Lamb of God" lead singer Randy Blythe. Lamb and soon-to-be "Palaces" fans across the world hope that he had the best possible day.

The elements that justify granting this review the same "very special" status as "Blossom" episodes revolving sensitive teen issues include this being the first time that Unreal TV has covered a theatrical, rather than DVD, release. It is also the first review that is geared to Unreal fans who read these posts on the international URLs.

First impressions of "Palaces" evoke thoughts of the press surrounding the premiere of the Aaron Sorkin sitcom "Sports Night."

Just as those reviews shared that this workplace comedy that is based around the staff of a "Sports Center" style show is not about sports, even folks who do not like metal of any variety and who delight in fare such as the hilariously bizarre video, provided below courtesy of YouTube, of the '60s pop song "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" will enjoy "Palaces."

Initial concern regarding the appeal (and scariness) of Blythe and his band quickly give way to a desire to meet the available boys at one of the great pizza joints in Washington, DC.

"Palaces" opens with footage of Blythe discusses his early rural blue-collar life and peace, love, and understanding approach to life. He also notes how the cathartic nature of the harsh quality of "Lamb" songs provides an outlet for all the rats in a cage who live in repressive cultures across the world.

The rest of the first 30-minutes of "Lamb" introduces us to the other equally down-to-earth and sane members of the group and their fans. This leads into a segment on "Lamb's" world tour to promote their 2012 album "Resolution."

Even the trailer, which is provided in the following YouTube clip, of "Palaces" does not prepare the audience for the horrible fate that greets the band on arriving in Prague. This trailer shares that Baby is charged with doing a bad bad thing but does not spoil the sequence of events.
The upshot of this portion of the film is that it clearly shows the effort of the Czech government to hold someone liable for the death of a fan at a "Lamb" concert in Prague. The scary part is the ease with which Blythe is cast as that sacrificial scapegoat.

Imagining the physical and mental torture associated with Blythe's highly unfortunate incarceration in a prison in a country with a language that he does not even remotely speak is terrifying. This is not to mention the strain that this places on Blythe's efforts to maintain the sobriety that he struggled to achieve.

Seeing the relatively informal nature of the Czech judicial system and seeming willy-nilly aspects of  how the fate of someone who is accused of a serious crime is handled reinforces the validity of the wide-spread belief that the highly flawed American judicial system is the best one out there.

Another fascinating aspect of this film relates to the efforts to help those who are deciding the fate of Blythe to understand the nature of a heavy metal concert. In other words, one man's wanton disregard is another head-banger's typical day at the office.

The final verdict regarding "Palaces" is that it pulls off several neat feats. This film makes you want to invite a metal head over for game night, effectively manages a reality-show style twist, and realistically demonstrates that anyone can experience the Kafkaesque experience of being pulled off the street and subjected to an arbitrary judicial system.

Folks with questions or comments regarding "Palace" are encouraged to email me and can even test my rusty French. Folks with questions or comments about the music of "Lamb" are asked to look elsewhere.

Everyone is also welcome to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

'Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries' DVD: Homicide Detective With No Desire to Dance Ballet

Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries Five-Film Collection
Warner Archive's recent five-film DVD release "Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries" is a nice follow-up to the less-recent "Wild Bill Elliott Western Double Feature." The latter features the oaters in which Elliott stars, and the former has Elliott playing the police homicide detective persona that he adopts after retiring his cowboy garb.

The wonderfully titled "Dial Red O" from 1955 kicks off the "detective" set. This noir gem has Elliott's Lieutenant Andy Flynn investigating the murder of a woman on the day that she informs her husband of a divorce filing.

The facts that the divorce notice prompts said spouse, who is a World War II and Korean War veteran, to escape from the psychiatric ward of the Veterans' Administration hospital where he is a long-term patient and that he goes to his wife's apartment on busting out make him the prime suspect.

Nice noir elements of this film that is largely set in daytime hours include the wife's affair with a married man, an odd neighbor of said wife, and a couple of gin joints.

The noir elements continue with a trademark climatic gun fight and equally common ending in which justice is served.

"Sudden Danger," which is also from 1955, has a stronger element of pulp fiction than the equally good "Dial." The name of Elliott's character is slightly changed to Andy Doyle in this one.

"Danger" revolves around the apparent suicide of a woman who is a partner in a clothing company; the indications that her recently sightless adult son went into a blind (it must be stated) rage and killed his mother because she was withholding money for an operation that might have restored his vision prompts the investigation by Doyle.

A particularly awesome element of this one has a hubba hubba Beverly Garland, who goes onto play a simultaneous mom and grandmother in "My Three Sons" and "Scarecrow and Mrs. King," as a possible fatale femme.

The action and nefarious dealings, with and without the requisite gold-digging bimbo, make "Danger" particularly appealing.

Time constraints require saving "Calling Homicide" and "Chain of Evidence" from this series for a rainy Sunday afternoon or snow day double-feature treat.

This DVD set and Elliott's series of detective films wraps ups with 1957's "Footsteps in the Night." The case for Elliott's Doyle in this one is the murder of a mild-mannered man who does not seem to have an enemy in the world.

The potential red herring is the man's neighbor, who is a gambling addict whose card game with the victim ends only minutes before the murder. The featured dame in this one is the very loyal girlfriend of the suspect.

"Footsteps" is arguably the most clever of the lot; the circumstances of the murder and the method used to solve the crime require intelligence and good detective instincts.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, from "Footsteps" provides an awesome sense of the aforementioned strong noir vibe in all five films. This includes wonderfully orchestrated score that is equally at home in a Hitchcock film and a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Although Elliott always gets his man, the solution to the crime of why they don't make exceptional noir films like his anymore remains elusive 60 years after this genre dies out.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the Elliott films is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

'L.A. Law.' S1 DVD: Steven Bocho's Order to His 'Hill Street Blues' Law

L.A. Law: Season One
Shout! Factory's February 25, 2014 six-disc DVD release of the 22-episode first season of the 1986-1994 drama "L.A. Law" begins a particularly "Bocho" Spring for Shout!.  This company is following this release up with a May 20, 2014 release of the second season of this former member of NBC's "Must See" Thursday night lineup.

Shout! is also releasing a complete series set of "Law" creator Steven Bocho's wonderfully gritty police drama "Hill Street Blues" on April 29, 2014.

"Law" centers around the professional and personal lives of the partners and associates at the "white shoes" Los Angeles law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, and Kuzak. The portrayals of power struggles and personality conflicts in the office and the legal disputes of the clients that these "professionals" represent ring generally true to those of us with a legal background.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, from an early first-season episode provides both an excellent sense of the blend of office relationships and legal tactics that characterize "Law." It also touches on Sifuentes' apparent furniture fetish.

A scene from another episode in which the response of a group of law students to senior partner Leland McKenzie advocating free legal aid consists of grilling him about the compensation that they can expect on graduating is particularly recognizable to legal professionals.

A small percentage of terminology, such as sua sponte, may beyond the understanding of the average viewer. This does not diminish the incredible entertainment from watching the attorneys (mostly) skillfully present legal arguments that (mostly) support the case of their client.

It is also refreshing to see clever PG-rated sexual innuendo in place of the cruder raunchy dialogue of today's programs. Separately referring to a sexual act as one that is normally described in reference to two numerals and stating a desire to not engage in behavior that justifies being called a two-word phrase that ends with a word that ryhmes with "freezer" are prime examples of this witty wordplay.

Watching the first-season episodes nearly 30 years after they first aired is akin to attending a 30-year college reunion after not seeing classmates in the interval. The overall experience is very positive and the interaction enjoyable, but you find that your memories are a little distorted.

The studs are less hunky and a little more chunky then recalled, the cool clothes and stylish 'dos look dated, and the decor goes from "to die for" to making you want to die from embarrassment.

The pilot strikes a good balance between introducing the characters to the audience and getting right down to business. A hostage situation develops early in the episode, senior partner Chaney is discovered dead in his office, and summer associates who are working on a trial (of course, pun intended) basis are sweating out the decision regarding which, if any, of them will receive an offer of permanent employment.

This episode also brings Deputy District Attorney Grace Van Owen, played by "The Partridge Family's" Susan Dey and public defender Victor Sifuentes, played by Jimmy Smits, into the McKenzie Brackman universe.

Another notable development in this episode is the commencement of the romance between associates Ann Kelsey and Stuart Markowitz, who are respectively played by real-life spouses Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker.

The more compelling legal issues that episodes from the first half of the season raise include whether a man should be held criminally liable for a mercy killing of his partner who is dying from AIDS, whether a flaw related to convicting a man who is almost certainly guilty of a series of horrific crimes justifies setting him free, and the right of a man to be frozen after his death.

On a more general level, the first season of "Law" contains more than a fair share of classic moments from the show despite the fact that a despised attorney getting the shaft comes later in the series. Early stand-out events include a warped variation of the penultimate scene of the classic '60s film "The Graduate" and the introduction of the highly effective sexual technique known at the Venus butterfly.

This season is notable as well for its guest stars; seeing '70s sitcom actors Bill Macy and Harold Gould in serious roles is fun even if Macy's character is simply a wilder and more perverse version of Macy's Walter Findlay from "Maude."

Seeing Boyd Gaines, whose first television role is a sweet goofball on the sitcom "One Day at a Time," play a not-so-nice guy in a recurring "Law" role is a bit more jarring than watching his fellow CBS comedy veterans in their "Law" parts.

Further, the dramatic black actresses Alfre Woodard and CCH Pounder have prominent roles in back-to-back episodes. 

Shout! supplements these episodes with an impressively large collection of recent interviews with everyone from Bocho to Larry Drake, who plays Benny the mentally challenged office worker.

The final verdict regarding the first season of "Law" is that it provides a good time capsule of the era and provides a strong foundation for the future seasons.

Anyone with questions regarding "Law" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, February 21, 2014

'Stargate SG-1' DVD: Astronomical Friday Night Lights

Product Details
The alignment of elements regarding the bold new series of essays on which Unreal TV has embarked is a terrific bonus for this site.

In this case, the inspiration for a post on the uber-awesome 10-season 1997-2007 "Stargate SG-1" and its spin-offs "Stargate Atlantis" and "Stargate Universe" coinciding with a celebration of the 90th anniversary of "Stargate" studio MGM is pure serendipity.

Giving "SG-1" and its progeny their due truly requires a tome that rivals "War and Peace" in length. A woefully inadequate substitute is that it awesomely expands on the 1994 James Spader/Kurt Russell film "Stargate," which logically ties in the slavery of ancient Egypt with said Stargate. This device is an ancient (fans will get this pun) item that allows establishing wormholes on planets all over the Milky Way and other galaxies.

"SG-1" refers to the elite team that uses the Stargate to boldly go where no man has gone before to seek out new life and new civilizations. More specific objectives include acquiring new technology both because it is cool and because it is needed to protect against both sets of "big bads" who want to add earth to their empires to the tremendous disadvantage of those of us who live here.

The following clip, courtesy of both YouTube and an obviously avid "SG-1" fan, of one person's choice of the top 10 quotes provides an excellent sense of this exceptional series.

"Atlantis" expands on "SG-1" by having an intrepid crew, which includes some "SG-1" folks, travel to the ancient (another pun) city of Atlantis for many of the same reasons as SG-1 and its fellow teams live on earth but work in outer space.

"Universe" is more like the '70s cartoon "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space" in that it has reluctant astronauts trapped on an ancient (you get it by now) ship that they largely cannot control and that regularly throws them into conflict with aliens who have little regard for human life.

These threats and a harsh existence have that group "way above the atmosphere [desperately] trying to get back to here" make for a good sci-fi series.

As a bonus, the good folks at MGM provided "SG-1" fans two awesome made-for-TV movies that portray two especially special adventures of our favorite heroes.

All that will be stated about the animated Saturday morning series "Stargate Infinity" is that it is not spoken of.

The popularity of the "Stargate" franchise provoked speculation that it might rival "Star Trek." The legacy of the former includes the classic line of (then) Captain Samantha Carter, played by sci-fi favorite Amanda Tapping, in the series pilot that having her reproductive organs on the inside does not make her any less capable than a man in any respect.

One can only hope that "Stargate" experiences the same awesome rebirth as "Doctor Who" enjoyed as "Stargate" was winding down.

The aforementioned inspiration for this essay on these series relates to the latest incarnation of a  tradition of eating comfort food and watching "Stargate" episodes on Friday nights. Regular readers know that your (usually) humble reviewer loves watching recently released DVDs and sharing thoughts on them in this forum, but the work aspect of this prompts a desire for a break on Fridays.

For the last several months, this review respite has involved resuming watching DVDs of "SG-1" after a break of more than a year. Pure candor requires confessing hitting a roadblock regarding seventh season episodes in which Corin "Corky" Nemec plays Jonas Quinn while Michael Shanks, who plays "SG-1" favorite Dr. Daniel Jackson, takes a break from the series.

Breathing deeply and telling yourself that you are almost done with the Jonas episodes helps digest them. The remaining nine seasons truly more than make up for the "unlucky" seventh season.

The tradition of these Friday night viewings and comfort-food meals dates back to the early 2000s when "SG-1" moved from Showtime to the SciFi Channel, now Syfy (or sighfi).

Good friends, who became the first kids on the block to have a flat-screen television, would host viewing parties on Friday nights. The barbecue food or pizza was always a treat, and gatherings that involved watching the conclusion of an especially compelling mid-season or season-finale cliffhanger were particularly special.

These series are simply tailor-made for Friday nights (and especially for cold and/or stormy ones) because they provide exceptional escapism in the form of entertaining and relevant stories based on Egyptian lore, Norse mythology (with a very different Thor than the Marvel superhero), Arthurian legend, and religious fundamentalism. You will believe that a man can journey across the galaxy and back while making it home in time to watch "The Simpsons."

Anyone with questions or comments about "Stargate" is urged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

'Scandal' S2 DVD: Never a Dull Moment

Product Details
Thoughts regarding this review of the five-disc 22-episode DVD set of the 2012-2013 second season of the current ABC drama "Scandal" evoke embarrassing images of being a hyped-up toddler describing his favorite action-adventure flick.

It is easy to imagine an adult version of this lad excitedly going on for hours about an adulterous president, a conniving Lady MacBeth-type first lady, a couple of cases of people ending up in bed with a corpse, a gay chief-of-staff at the White House plotting to prevent his reporter-husband from finding embarrassing scoops, an assassin who is addicted to killing, etc. The awesome part is that all this barely scratches the surface of the events in this season of "Scandal."

All of this intrigue revolves around Washington, D.C. "fixer" Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, and her associates. The individual skills of said associates range from legal representation, to burglary, to surveillance and computer hacking.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of a scene from early in the second season of "Scandal" provides a good sense of the drama (and a lesser one of the interconnectedness of everything) in the show.

A typical episode begins either with a prominent D.C.-area individual being caught literally or figuratively with his or her pants down or a development in one of the several ongoing (sometimes life-or-death) dramas in the lives of Pope and/or her employees.

Many ongoing story lines relate to Pope's romantic past (and present?) with President Fitzgerld Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn, who is the Republican version of JFK.

These intriguing sub-plots include "ripped from the headlines" investigations into assertions of tampering with voting machines, a Reagan-style assassination attempt, an evil power-hungry vice president, and the effort to uncover the truth behind the abduction and identity switch that Pope associate Quinn Perkins experiences.

The events described above (and many more) demonstrate that there generally is only two degrees of separation regarding high-level hi-jinks inside the Beltway. Scenes in which Grant's quasi-kitchen cabinet clandestinely meet to discuss tactics for dealing with old and new crises further confirm this.

Client-oriented "ripped from the headlines" stories include discovering a female intern in a D.C. park implicating power-brokers, a prominent married civil rights leader dying under very compromising circumstances, and a search for a suitable spouse for a never-married middle-aged potential presidential candidate.

A few episodes also flashback to the periods in which Pope worked on Fitzgerald's presidential campaign and subsequently in the White House. These offerings provide the intended background regarding current developments.

Great individual moments from the second season include a hilarious nude scene involving the epitome of the naked truth, an equally tense and funny meeting of a team of top former CIA assassins, and scenes involving a brief period in which the personal hygiene of one of Pope's associates takes a downward trend.

All of this adds up to a highly entertaining series with virtually non-stop action that easily passes the "one more" test.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Scandal" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Dr. Kildare' S2 DVD: Doctor, Doctor We've Got a Bad Case of Loving You

Dr. Kildare: The Complete Second Season
Warner Archive's mega 9-disc 2-volume 34-episode DVD release of the 1962-63 second season of the uber-classic medical drama "Dr. Kildare" makes a nice companion to the recently reviewed 9-film DVD set "Dr. Kildare Movie Collection."

Including the unaired 1960 pilot of the "Kildare" series, which vastly differs from the series, in the movie collection provides a nice bridge between the two sets.

The offerings in each set consistently portray the titular character as a medical intern who you would want on your case if you were hospitalized. The both also share the characteristic of having crusty mentor Dr. Gillespie guide this young doctor.

The following photo of dreamy "Kildare" series star Richard Chamberlain partially explains both the above sentiment why the series so successfully launches his career.
 The Visitors (1962) Poster

The second season opens with an unintentionally amusing episode in which Kildare tries to help a very difficult woman deal with intense anxiety regarding the impending birth of her first child. The inadvertent humor relates to Kildare expressing mild annoyance regarding the mother-to-be drinking in her hospital bed but not objecting to her smoking in said bed in the hours before the birth of the baby.

The next episode is a truly awesome treat in this black-and-white season. It is one of 17 programs that NBC aired the first week of October 1962 as part of a "Color Week" promotion to encourage people to purchase color television sets.

This episode titled "The Burning Sky" has Kildare and a soon-to-graduate medical student played by Robert Redford, who also plays an intern in the "Kildare pilot," treating victims at a ranger facility near a forest fire. The primary conflict relates to Redford's character receiving harsh lessons regarding the realities of practicing medicine.

Having Archie Bunker portrayor Carroll O'Connor play a ranger supervisor adds to the fun of this episode.

Another episode is notable both for the guest star and the personal nature of the story. Having Carolyn Jones, who is best known for playing Morticia on the later '60s sitcom "The Addams Family," play a timid "Plain Jane" friend of Kildare's who considers plastic surgery to improve her looks and related self-esteem is a hoot.

Further, seeing Kildare relax and socialize with his quasi-hip circle is a fun change of pace. This variation also provides a nice break from the more serious medical issues that dominate a typical "Kildare" episode.

John Cassavetes of "Rosemary's Baby" and many other classic film and television productions gets the award for "Best Guest Star" for the sampling of episodes watched for this review. He plays an heir to the leadership of a small country who is hospitalized after becoming ill during a visit to the United States.

Cassavetes' character being such a hard-core communist that it is surprising that he does not show up as crimson even in his black-and-white episode presents only a portion of the problem facing Kildare; propaganda problems related to providing the necessary treatment hinder the efforts of Kildare to restore his patient to the pink of health, rather than said ill indvidual becoming a dead red.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is of another great second-season episode that is being saved for a literally rainy day. This one casts screen legend Gloria Swanson of "Sunset Boulevard" fame as the patient of the week.

The season finale casts the uber-talented and exceptionally versatile Martin Balsam, whose credits range from classic film dramas such as "Psycho" and "12 Angry Men" to the '80s sitcom "Archie Bunker's Place," as a blue-collar baker whose need to care for his mentally challenged brother conflicts with his need to receive treatment for a serious medical condition.

Balsam's performance and Kildare taking an even more social-worker style role in the life of his patient make this offering a particularly good one on which to end a great season.

The final diagnosis for this season of "Kildare" is that it is the perfect prescription for lovers of good medical dramas who miss fare of this genre that offers compelling stories and genuine Hollywood royalty as guest stars.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Kildare" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

'The Jimmy Stewart Show' DVD: Mr. Stewart Goes to TV Land

The Jimmy Stewart Show: The Complete Series
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 1971-72 24-episode sitcom "The Jimmy Stewart Show" is another example of how Archive often "out shouts" the competition. Other examples of this include recent Archive releases of the second season of "Dr. Kildare" and the complete series set of the uber-rare sci-fi spy drama "Search," both of which Unreal TV is reviewing in the next few weeks.

The similarities between "Stewart" and early seasons of the late-60s sitcom "The Doris Day Show" extend beyond starring genuine film legends. Both series are family-oriented comedies set in small quasi-rural northern California communities outside San Francisco.

Stewart stars as Professor James K. (for Kessel)  Howard, who teaches anthropology at Josiah Kessel College. The folksy narrative that Stewart employs throughout the series includes explaining in an early episode that his wealthy self-made grandfather founded that institution of higher learning but did not leave him anything other than his middle name.

A similar bon mot from "Stewart" is that the college boasts 800 students and has another 800 of which it does not boast.

The pilot episode sets this down-home tone by beginning with Stewart breaking down the fourth wall between the actors and the audience by introducing himself as "Jim Stewart" and then providing a primer on the series and the episode. He follows this trend throughout the series and ends each episode with a similar message that wishes audience members peace, love, and laughter. (This awesome series hits this trifecta each week.)

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the opening moments of an episode titled "Identity Crisis" provides a good sense of the vibe described above; a cameo appearance by future "Charlie's Angels" and "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" star Kate Jackson is a nice bonus.
The pilot establishes the traditional (and dominant) "home" portion of this sitcom; Prof. Howard and his much younger wife/former student Martha are enjoying a relatively quiet existence with their late-in-life eight-year-old son Teddy when a crisis of a non-financial nature transforms Teddy's older by roughly 20 years Peter into a boomerang kid.

Peter moving his wife Wendy and his eight-year-old son Jake into the family homestead contribute to hilarity related to this crowded house. Examples of this include inadequate bathroom facilities and Jake's snoring disrupting the household.

An unintentionally creepy aspect of this homelife is the moderately uptight Teddy demanding that his nephew Jake call him "Uncle Teddy" or "Uncle Theodore" and show Teddy the same respect to which an adult uncle is due from a child-aged nephew.

Proverbial veteran character actor John McGiver fills the (not-so) wacky neighbor role by playing Prof. Howard's colleague/BFF physicist Dr. Luther Quince.

McGiver plays Quince in the same haughty and superior manner in which he portrays most of his roles. Watching his G-rated banter with his colleague over his great love for Martha is amusing and a nice change from the racier  modern-day "bang" related humor that characterizes most current friendly infatuations for the woman of your bro.

Other wonderfully nostalgic touches of "Stewart" include separate amusing episodes in which plans to give Prof. Howard a new briefcase take several very funny turns and in which a Soviet-era plot has a visitor from behind the Iron Curtain bond with the Howards. Aside from a moderate piece of heavy-handed American propaganda, the latter episode is one of the better in a very good lot of offerings.

Considering the caliber of talent in front and in back of the camera, it is surprising that "Stewart" jumps the shark a few times in its sadly only season. The first one involves a female student aggressively pursuing Prof. Howard, who is old enough to be her grandfather.

A later episode evokes a sympathetic groan when the Oscar-winning and oft-nominated Stewart comes walking in with a monkey; this is reminiscent of the humiliating torture that Lucille Ball endures in the '80s sitcom "Life With Lucy."

Fortunately, the aptly (and humorously) named series finale "A Bone of Much Contention" ends "Stewart" on a high note. It puts an interesting twist on the sitcom chestnut of finding an ancient bone at a construction site and has the most clever resolution of any sitcom episode with that central plot.

Any effort to discuss the plethora of awesome guest stars in "Stewart" would fail as much as an Oscars acceptance speech that attempts to thank everyone who contributes to that win; the number of contemporaries of Stewart and '70s era stars who appear in the series is truly exceptional. However, having Beulah Bondi once again play Stewart's mother and do as well in the role as she does decades before cannot go unmentioned.

The best way to wrap up this review is to state that Stewart once again shows that he is the best at playing an everyman but is hardly an average man; it is also depressingly inexplicable that two-and-a-half men whose series has already lasted a decade longer than Stewart have so outpaced a man who is much more of one then all of them combined.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Stewart" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.


Friday, February 14, 2014

'Disco & Atomic War' DVD: J.R. Ewing Shot the Soviet Star

Product Details

The 2009 documentary "Disco & Atomic War," which Icarus Films Home Video is releasing on DVD on February 25 2014, achieves the twin objectives of members of this genre; it informs and entertains.

Accolades for this story of how broadcasts of western television programs wafting over from Finland to portions of the Soviet Republic of Estonia contributed to Estonia achieving independence include the awards for "Best Documentary" at the 2009 Warsaw and Telluride film festivals and the 2010 Hot Docs film festival.

The following (spoiler-laden) clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Disco" shows that the above-mentioned honors are well deserved.

The primary narrator of "Disco" is filmmaker Jaak Kilmi, who recounts childhood memories related the efforts of local leaders and officials in Moscow to counter the tactics of members of his community to pick up signals from a powerful Finnish transmittor in the late '70s and early '80s.

The perspective of Jaak was particularly interesting because his father was an engineer who invented (and secretly sold) a device that allowed Estonians to pick up the Finnish television signals; the related (but equally clandestine) side business that Jaak's mother operated involved selling a homemade magazine with television listings.

The title of the film relates to how learning of the titular form of dancing swept Estonia despite heavy-handed efforts to quash this decadent practice. Near obsessions with prime time soap "Dallas" and later the David Hasselhoff action-adventure series "Knight Rider" met similar resistance that proved futile.

In other words, Estonians (essentially) wanted their MTV and were refusing to be denied it any longer.

Related amusing bits from the film included stories of school children talking to cars ala "The Hoff's" Michael Knight and Soviet officials looking out for that behavior in their efforts to send KITT, J.R. Ewing, et. al back in front of the Iron Curtain.

The audience also learns of how Jaak's young cousin in a rural part of Estonia becomes a local celebrity through reading her neighbors letters in which Jaak relays plot developments from "Dallas." These extend beyond the mania regarding the unprecedented "Who Shot J.R." storyline to more mundane events that include the efforts of that character to rid himself of his troublesome wife.

A parallel storyline involves a cat-and-mouse game that an Estonian man plays with local officials regarding his detectable use of an antenna that is capable of receiving signals from Finland; this tale has amusing shades of the hilarious '60s sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," which may have been one of the shows that drifted across the Iron Curtain.

Artfully using family photos, archival footage, animation, clips of the vintage western television fare, and re-enactments contribute greatly to the impact and enjoyment of "Disco."

Particularly, footage of a well-stocked meat counter at a Finnish grocery store will make carnivores drool and tempt a large percentage of vegetarians and vegans to come over to the "dark side." On a similar note, the scope of "Disco" includes the impact of both "Star Wars" the film and the U.S. missile defense system on Estonians.

The DVD of "Disco" includes a special feature in the form of an hour-long documentary on Yuri Lotman, who was an Estonian expert on culture. Your reviewer fell short of being a model citizen in not watching this almost definitely great film before preparing this post. 

The final "cold" hard facts regarding "Disco" are that it puts an entertaining and relatable slant on the decline and fall of the Soviet Union and reinforces the theory that '70s and '80s American television is awesome.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Disco" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy if you have the  proper equipment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

'The Courtship of Eddie's Father' S3 DVD: More Parenting than Wooing

The Courtship of Eddie's Father: The Complete Third Season
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 23-episode third and final season of the 1969 - 1972 sitcom "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" allows completing a collection of this sweet and gentle show. Prior Unreal TV reviews offer a recap of the first season and musings on the second season.

One warning regarding this set is that regular references to "Mr. Eddie's Father" do not amuse casual fans nearly as much as it entertains true devotees.

This show about "nothing" predates "Seinfeld" by roughly 20 years and merely tells the tales of youngish widowed dad Tom Corbett, played by Bill Bixby, and his elementary-school aged son Eddie, played by Brandon Cruz. Although the first season places a great deal of emphasis on the titular courtship, the focus shifts almost entirely to the "father" aspect by the third season.

Another change is that the "musical interlude" gimmick of earlier seasons is abandoned. A hypothetical example of this is a scene in which Tom asks Eddie to take dirty dinner dishes into the kitchen might prompt audio of the singer of the memorable theme song singing "have to clear the table."

Much of the appeal of "Father" relates to the incredible chemistry between Bixby and Cruz; they truly seem like a loving father and son. Additionally, Eddie comes across as a typical kid, rather than a sickly sweet or overly sarcastic sitcom brat.

Further many of us whose parents consider their jobs done if they keep us fed, clothed, and educated enjoy seeing the extent to which Tom cares for Eddie.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of two Special K cereal commercials that Bixby and Cruz filmed in character provides an excellent sense of the above-described vibe of their show.

The opening and closing credits include new sincere heart-to-heart talks that also often occur during the episodes themselves; Tom strikes a good balance between spending time with Eddie without being a helicopter parent and gives Eddie's needs and feelings far more consideration when making major (and minor) life decisions than most parents.

The season premiere is a prime example of the tone and "nothingness" of "Father." It involves Tom's recent enrollment in an art class inspiring Eddie to take up that hobby.

The "com" related to that "sit" comes in the form of Tom explaining to Eddie about the propriety of drawing a naked model leading to Eddie innocently paying a female classmate a quarter to pose nude for him; the jokes regarding that level of compensation for that service are hilarious.

Another episode from early in the season is a real treat in that it provides a look at the "mod" apartment of Tom's best friend/co-worker "Uncle" Norman Tinker. A cool aspect of this character is that "Father" producer James Komack of "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Chico and the Man" plays Norman.

Tom and Eddie having an inexplicable sleepover at that abode has Tom and Norman discussing the sense of the laid-back and free-spirited Norman of a need to act more mature. The ultimate reason for these thoughts provides a nice ending for this tale.

This early '70s-era self-examination is also a theme in which Tom hires a long-time friend, played by Pat Harrington, Jr. of "One Day at a Time," to write an article for the Sunday newspaper magazine of which Tom is the managing editor. Said friend's tales of adventures traveling the world inspire Tom and Eddie to consider that life.

Another of many episodes with a special guest star has the uber-cool Sammy Davis, Jr. playing a most heinously uncool actuary who is a weekend guest at the Corbett home. Seeing one of that character's comically neurotic precautions contribute to a genuine peril is hilarious.

The series finale goes a step further by having the married-couple comedy team of Jerry Stiller of "Seinfeld" and Anne Meara respectively play an owner and employee of a full-service telephone answering machine service. It is not believed that this apparent pilot for a spin-off ever leads to anything.

A cute scene in that episode has Tom caution Eddie about approaching an unfamiliar dog; this evokes thoughts about regularly petting dogs who people leave tied up outside Starbucks.

Another episode requires mention in that it is both surprisingly inconsistent with the typical tone of "Father" but is consistent with the current trend of parents acting assertively on behalf of their children regardless of the impact on others.

This "controversial" offering has Eddie's horribly off-key saxophone practices greatly annoying the Corbetts' admittedly pompous upstairs neighbor. Said fellow apartment-building dweller initially comes downstairs to complain during said practice and ultimately purposefully raises a ruckus at 2:00 a.m.

It is very surprising that the usually reasonable and congenial Tom continues to have Eddie practice in the evening, rather than merely finding him an alternative rehearsal space. The better news is that this sour note is the only one in the 73 episodes in this series.

The finale to this series of reviews on "Father" is that it is an amusing show that nicely portrays an ideal (but very achievable) father-son relationship. The conservative use of a laugh track is another nice touch.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Father" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

'Chastity Bites' DVD: Wonderful Camp Horror, Not Chaz Bono Autobiography

Product Details
The awesome slasher comedy "Chastity Bites," which Grand Entertainment Group is releasing on DVD on February 11 2014, is a perfect example of the difference between an intentionally ooey gooey cheesy film along the lines of the uber-awesome Canadian television series "Todd and the Book of Pure Evil" and a movie with a comically distorted sense of self.

The above reference to the later category of films screams out for a plea to be thrown in the shallow water before I get too deep.

The wonderful campy premise of "Chastity" is that real-life 17th century "vampire" Elizabeth Bathory has selected the conservative southern California town of San Griento, rather than Sunnydale, as her next hunting ground. Unlike your traditional fangs-to-the-neck vamp, the newly renamed Liz Batho drains the blood of her victims into a font after slitting their throats.

Batho is also unique in that she does not use the collected bodily fluid to make bloodtinis; she applies it to her skin to maintain her youthful appearance; the only wrinkle (of course, pun intended) is that only the blood of a virgin will do the trick (yes, two puns in one sentence.)

Batho's brilliant scheme involves forming the school club the "Virginity Action Group" (or VAG), which only requires that members be pure. Unwitting popular girls who "won't go all the way" but will "go pretty f-a-a-r" populating the group adds a wonderful "Heathers"/"Mean Girl" vibe to "Chastity" that recruiting the mousy BFF of heroine Leah enhances.

Further, a favored viewing companion and highly significant other points out a strong similarity between Leah and said mousy gal pals and high school outcasts BFFs Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane of the uber-awesome former MTV animated series "Daria." This paid would love "Chastity" almost as much as their beloved television series "Sick, Sad World."

Brainy and intrepid girl reporter Leah, who channels fellow red-head intellectual feminist Willow from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," forming an intimate alliance with the wonderfully adorkable outcast emo boy Paul as part of her plan to defeat the evil Liz pushes "Chastity" a little more into "Heathers" territory than "Mean Girls." Paul's self-described "fine young ass" truly plays an integral role in this scheme.

Star Allison Scagliotti does just as well playing the independent kick-ass Leah as she does in the role of kick-ass/uber-techie/cynical/surrogate sister/alternachick Claudia in the wonderfully campy Syfy original series "Warehouse 13." One difference is that the latter truly shows Scagliotti's love for her Artie.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Grand, does a great job conveying both Scagliotti's performance and the spirit of the entire film.
Scagliotti particularly channels Claudia in the best scene in the film, which has an escape attempt prompting a virtually toe-to-toe encounter that involves truly creepy fetish play.  

Similar memorable scenes involve the hunky boyfriends of the gals of VAG trying to persuade those mean girls to vo de oh doh.

The boys' arguments that denying them could cause physical injury and worse seem old as time, and one Heather's response that she offers a very close alternative reflects a trend that is popular among real-life purity ring wearers. One clue regarding that practice is that the philosophy of some people as to it is that "its only repugnant when I do it to you."

Eduardo "Eddy" Rioseco, who looks like a refugee from a Disney Channel original series, does a good job as an awkward teenager with the mindset of a feminist but the desires of a quarterback. He will never be a Damon or a DiCaprio in their pre "We Bought a Zoo" and "Great Gatsby" days, but one can hope that he achieves full-fledged indie flick darling status.

Louise Griffiths, who looks like a drag queen doing Marilyn Quayle, does a decent job as Liz but does not seem to embrace her role as evil seductress. She never approaches the top, let along goes over it.

Making "Chastity" roughly 10 years ago and casting Elizabeth Hurley as Liz would have likely ensured that this film achieves deserved camp cult classic status.

On a more general level, the gore level is moderate and is limited to quick scenes of slashing throats; averting your eyes or fast-forwarding your DVD players are effective methods for avoiding them.

Rather than sleeping on it and providing an answer in the morning, the final conclusion is that "Chastity" is a great example of an "Elvira" style midnight movie.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Chastity" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Friday, February 7, 2014

'Dr. Kildare Movie Collection' DVD: Paging the Original Doctor McDreamy

Dr. Kildare Movie Collection
The nine films in Warner Archive's recent DVD release of "Dr. Kildare Movie Collection" are the perfect prescription for the frigid weather and nasty storms plaguing much of the United States; they have a perfect blend of drama, humor, and heart.

Throwing in the 1960 unaired pilot of the uber-awesome "Kildare" television series is merely a little extra sugar that makes this already sweet medicine go down.

This "nifty nine" additionally provide an excellent prelude to watching the recently released two-volume 34-episode set of the second season of the aforementioned "Kildare" series starring the dreamy Richard Chamberlain and featuring a "cast of 1,000s" of "The Love Boat" style guest stars including Gloria Swanson. A review of this set is scheduled for early March.

The "Kildare" film series and movie collection both start with "Young Dr. Kildare" from 1938. This flick  has awesome elements of both "Superman" lore and the 2000s sitcom "Scrubs."

We first meet James a.k.a. Jimmy Kildare, played by Lew Ayres throughout the "Kildare" series, returning to his small Connecticut hometown for a visit only to learn that his father, who is also a doctor, plans for his son to join the family business. This short-lived partnership ends when the younger Kildare, a.l.a. young Dr. John Dorian, returns to New York to serve an internship at Blair General Hospital.

One spoiler is that Kildare does not run afoul of a sadistic janitor who is initially intended to be a figment of his imagination but obtains full flesh-and-blood status. (Providing a virtual penny for this thought is very appropriate.)

The "Scrubs" theme continues in "Young" by having hospital administrator Dr. Lane-Porteus and crusty senior diagnostician Dr. Leonard Gillespie, played by true film legend Lionel Barrymore through the entire "Kildare" film series, compete for the heart and mind of Kildare; Gillespie wins and is plenty harsh on his protege but refrains from calling him woman's names.

The "Superman" elements include Jimmy Kildare being a small-town only child who has exceptional abilities and is very close to his parents; he additionally visits home a few times in the film and comes close to abandoning his big-city life on at least two occasions. Jimmy and Clark Kent additionally share the common trait of loving the girl next door.

More general elements of this film include Kildare's fellow interns discussing career paths that will maximize their income while minimizing their inconvenience and a veteran "Scrubs" like nurse, who does not call Kildare "Bambi,"who knows that she knows much more than each intern.

This charming and perfectly executed film ends with an amusing message in which Ayres and Barrymore slightly step out of character to announce that there will be future Kildare movies.

The next film is the series is 1939's "Calling Dr. Kildare." This one has Gillespie sending Kildare to an inner-city street clinic to learn the importance of patience when conversing with patients.

This assignment leads to Kildare facing a dilemma regarding whether to covertly treat a gunshot victim, rather than follow the required procedure of having that victim brought to the hospital; Kildare following his conscience creates the central conflict around which the film revolves.

"Calling" is a good film that is a nice entry in the Kildare series but does veer a little into silliness.

A scene in which Kildare predictably plays "Superman" by using his own blood for a transfusion in the course of treating the gunshot victim is a bit over-the-top and does not address many issues that include how Kildare even has enough of his blood to meet the needs of the patient and further remain alert enough for the delicate procedure of removing a bullet.

The additional element of Kildare having the inclination, time, and energy to actively investigate the circumstances of the shooting is equally silly. At the same time, suspension of disbelief often adds to film-related enjoyment.

The sampling of these films jumped ahead to the inaptly titled 1941 entry "The People vs. Dr. Kildare." Young Jimmy is a full-fledged doctor by now and finds himself at the wrong end of a medical malpractice suit based on a good Samaritan act that he performed on arriving at the scene of a car accident.

"People" has great elements of a "Perry Mason" style courtroom drama and raises issues of law vs. justice that are relevant more than 70 years later; the only flaw is that the title refers to a criminal, rather than civil, legal proceeding.

"Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day," which is also from 1941, involves the final preparations for the titular nuptials but focuses more on Gillespie than Kildare. The concerns of the elder doctor include determining the course, if any, of treatment for his cancer and separately determining the elusive cause of the deafness of an orchestra conductor.

The conclusion regarding the titular event will strongly impact anyone who has watched Kildare's professional progress and followed his courtship of his fiancee throughout the "Kildare" series. This alone entitles this film to classic status regarding these films.

"Dr. Kildare's Victory" is a very apt title for this 1942 film that winds up the movie collection and the "Kildare" films that feature that character. This one has Kildare assuming the role of mentor that Gillespie filled regarding him.

Tying in the best elements of former "Kildare" films, Kildare's protege runs afoul of the hospital administration regarding treating and admitting a patient who is found just inside a territory that Kildare's Blair General Hospital and another hospital agrees "belongs" to that other hospital. This leads to terminating the employment of said protege/intern.

This termination faces Kildare with the dilemma of helping the arguably wrongfully discharged intern recover his job without running afoul of the hospital board of directors. Kildare teaming up with the hospitalized party girl heiress Cynthia "Cookie" Charles regarding this effort include some of the most amusing scenes in the entire "Kildare" series.

The unaired 1960 "Kildare" pilot that the movie collection set includes depicts an awesomely bizarro universe version of the ensuing series. Rather than rebooting the franchise by having the titular character return as an intern, the pilot stars Ayres as Kildare.

As depicted in the pilot, Kildare has stepped into Gillespie's role in the 20 years since "Victory." This includes history repeating itself in having Kildare trying to steer a bright young protege away from choosing to be a small-town general practitioner over staying at Blair to become a resident.

The medical mystery this time is that Kildare has determined that a patient requires a medical procedure for which consent is being withheld. This story subsequently develops into a search for knowledge for relevant information regarding the past of the patient.

Online research confirms that dreamy Robert Redford, who guest-stars in a "very special" second-season "Kildare" episode, has an uncredited role as an intern in the "Kildare" pilot.

Although the pilot demonstrates that this incarnation of "Kildare" would have made an awesome series, a very recent conversation in which a friend in her '50s shared that she crushed on Richard Chamberlain as Kildare indicates the reason for choosing a reboot.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding the "Kildare" movies is welcome to email me; please do hold off a few weeks regarding an such communication as to the series. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

'Seinfeld' Perfect Valentine's Day DVD Gift

Product Details

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Seeing that Amazon has the "Seinfeld" complete series set on sale for less than $60 on Feb. 5, 2014 prompted preempting regularly scheduled programming to push this post up a few days.]
The best TV on DVD set to give your Honey Boo Boo for Valentine's Day is an apt topic in this period in which the thoughts of  (not-so) young TV on DVD reviewers with significant others turn to love (and in which an alarmingly low interest in DVD releases require that TV on DVD review sites post a couple of "evergreen" filler articles a month).

Choosing "Seinfeld" for this honor before learning of the Super Bowl-oriented "Seinfeld" mini-reunion makes that event a nice coincidence. (The aforementioned sale is a more icing on the muffin top.) However, another awesome pop culture relic from the same era as that classic sitcom provides the root inspiration for that choice.

Arguably the most insightful strip from the mega-ultra-uber-awesome "Calvin and Hobbes" has rambunctious and wonderfully rude and creative six-year-old boy Calvin musing about love. His conclusion is that finding someone who tolerates you and whom you in turn can stomach is rare and glorious. It is a special bonus when you can revel in the same free-spirited silliness as Calvin and his beloved pet tiger Hobbes.

This philosophy of Calvin is particularly apt when love finds you both in your mid-30s or later and when years of mostly being on your own have largely allowed living your life without making many accommodations for others. Someone coming along who makes you want to compromise is a rare and wonderful treat but can also lead to the hilarity that Jerry Seinfeld and his friends portray so well.

The element of neuroses regarding interpreting what may or may not be signals also fall firmly in the category of "its funny because its true." A related element is the perceived significance of a relatively insignificant event.

One "ripped from 'Seinfeld'" experience that occurred several years ago involved resorting to expressing a pro-Palestinian view to break up with a devout Jew who was constantly aggressively "frisky" and refused to break up.

Another relationship prompted coining the "Seinfeldesque" expression "chain dater." This referred to soon learning of the long and consistent history of a (not-so) significant other starting one relationship before ending another one.

The break-up this time related to said "addict" asserting that an overnight trip 100 miles away a month into the relationship was a "vacation" that signified too strong of a commitment. The fact that a stated dislike for '60s sitcom "Green Acres" was not the provided pretext was some solace.

More recently, and even more closely related to "Seinfeld" lore, the great Twinkie outage of 2012 related to whether if anyone who came around during those seven months was "sponge-cake worthy" regarding a frozen stash of those treats. That decision was never necessary, but my current significant other is even Suzie Q worthy.

"Seinfeld" moments regarding said special someone began with dropping a toothbrush on the bathroom floor very early in the relationship prompting a nanosecond debate about running it under hot water for several minutes and putting it back. Unlike "Seinfeld," this ended with replacing that toothbrush with a new one.

Another "Seinfeld" moment had one of us (who is it not important) causing us to miss a turn on a vacation due to using IMDb to find the name of a "Dynasty" character. This missed turn led to a long alternate route through some of the most boring terrain known to man.

Happier "Seinfeld" moments include discussions regarding the inanity of '70s pop song lyrics. Wishings well are not particularly prone to hauntings; the boredom of a long ride through the desert would prompt naming your horse; no woman in her right mind would want to date even a "treetop lover" who is badder than old King Kong and meaner than a junkyard dog, and a shared love of pina coladas and a corresponding dislike of yoga does not provide any more of a strong relationship than recalling that you "kinda like" "Breakfast at Tiffany's. (Yeah, the last one is from the '90s but is too annoying and has too horrible a video to omit.)

Fortunately, mutual affection for each other and for "Seinfeld" and many other shows has allowed both for approaching a personal record of a two-year relationship and disregarding the "Seinefeldesque" debate regarding the whiny Brady kids and the "The Partridge Family" with the dreamy David Cassidy and randy Shirley Jones. (The "Silver Spoons" vs. "Gimme A Break" dispute is another matter.)

Anyone seeking other DVD Valentine's suggestions or with questions or comments regarding "Seinfeld" or any of the nonsense related to this diversion into "blogland" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

REPOST 'The Young Riders' S3 DVD: The Chippendales of the Pony Express' Final Ride into the Sunset

Product Details
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Unreal TV initially briefly posted this review earlier this week before pulling it in favor of rushing an essay on "Seinfeld" to coincide with a one-day sale on the complete series  "Seinfeld" DVD set.

This review of the TGG Direct DVD box set of the 22-episode  third and final season follows up on the recent review of the TGG box set of the second season. This western series ran on ABC from 1989 - 1992.

A legal battle regarding the similarities between this series and the earlier theatrical film "Young Guns" is reflected in a third-season change in the form of a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode that states that "Riders" is not based on "Guns."

As the aforementioned second-season review states, "Riders" tells the tales of a group of six strapping young men (including Josh Brolin and Stephen Baldwin) clad in Stetsons and other cowboy garb and one cute and caring tomboy who work out of a Pony Express way station in the period leading up the Civil War; that increasingly impending conflict is a more prevalent theme in the third season than the earlier ones.

The third season introduces this shift by opening with a raid in Nebraska related to the debate there regarding whether to be a free state or a slave state. This attack prompts the entire "Riders" crew, including their gruff but caring boss Teaspoon Hunter and way station manager Rachel, to move to the way station in Rock Creek, Nebraska.

The immediate goal of the group is to get the way station there back up and running; this role soon expands to an even more active involvement in peace-keeping activity than they experienced in Kansas.

Many of these stories combine the Civil War and wild west mayhem themes by having said mayhem involve issues that divide said riders. The riders with southern sympathies do not cotton to some people owning other people but do object to the federal government dictating the ownership rights of people 100s of miles away.

The War-themed episodes also often have subplots that focus on Noah, a free black man who rides with the group. One such offering has Noah barred from a restaurant belonging to a man who later needs his help.

A more powerful storyline has a cavalry recruiter rejecting Noah's offer to join the Army; this prompts Noah's reasonable response that people being willing to die for him but not to fight with them does not make sense.

Another big change early in the season adds a 14 year-old version of famous outlaw Jesse James to the cast in a "Cousin Oliver" role. Most plots revolving Jesse focus on his effort to prove that he is man by aiming to do things such as shooting the man who kills his surrogate father, riding a wild horse, and joining older brother Frank in the  well-known nefarious activities of that character.

These "Jesse" stories are reminiscent of "Riders'" fellow ABC action-adventure program "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones." This uber-awesome series depicts the travels of everyone's favorite archaeologist between roughly the ages of ten and his early 20s.

One unintentionally silly episode of the third season of "Riders" has a group of bank robbers return years later to recover the now-missing loot that they buried soon after committing their crime. Their "lather, rinse, repeat" tactics for recovering their ill-gotten gains merely involve confronting a possible suspect, learning that that person could not have taken the money, shooting them, and then starting over.

It seems illogical that the gang does not realize the ineffectiveness of their methods and simply conduct the few minutes of research that discovering the identity of the person who took their money ultimately requires.

The undue violence in this episode additionally seems representative of an increased number of gunfights in the third-season episodes compared to those in the prior season. Finding yourself staring down the barrel of a six-shooter does not seem to require much more provocation than a perception that you looked at someone funny.

Several late-season episodes center around preparing for the wedding of two riders; the only spoiler regarding this is that folks who are hoping for a union between the characters whom Brolin and Baldwin play will be disappointed. This arc ties into the Civil War theme by having one  engaged rider finding himself at odds with a rider with a prominent role in the upcoming wedding ceremony.

"Riders" ends on a very apt note very close to the eve of the start of the Civil War; emotions and tempers are understandably running very hot, and a couple of tragic deaths send appropriate messages regarding the nature of this very uncivilized conflict.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Riders" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

'The Insomniac' DVD: Losing Sleep Over the Decline and Fall of American Society

Product Details
Reviewing the 2013 film "The Insomniac," which Grand Entertainment Group released on DVD in January 2014, is as challenging as witnessing the events that it depicts. This story of the downfall of a roughly 30 year-old guy whose future is so bright that he has to wear shades has so much unrealized potential that seeing that effort fall short of the mark is incredibly frustrating.

Before discussing the film, the fact that logo for Grand awesomely resembles the symbol on the "super suit" of the titular character in the '80s comedy-action-adventure series "The Greatest American Hero" deserves notice.

Most of us would envy the life that John Figg is leading when we meet him. This nice-looking guy is a financial services advisor who is rising through the ranks of the firm for which he and his good buds work, plans to propose to his pretty and cool girlfriend, has a very sweet dog, and has just moved from a studio apartment into his nice childhood home in the wake of his father's death that he is outwardly handling well.

The theft of the classic car that Figg's father owned and a burglary at Figg's new home within 24 hours of that theft start Figg's (not-so-slow) descent into madness.

A home invasion truly is one of the worst experiences that one can endure; finding additional traces of the physical intrusion and discovering additional missing items months later  intensifies the impact of this violation.

Having a break-in occur in an era in which you either do not know your neighbors or have a hostile relationship with them and in which the wave of terrorist attacks that began with the September 11 attacks enhances the angst described above. Further, general pressure to maintain a career in this horrible economy does not help.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "The Insomniac" expertly conveys the aforementioned unease.

A scene in which Figg discovers his father's ashes carelessly strewn on the floor conveys the feeling described above well and is arguably the best segment in the film; other good scenes show Figg's growing anxiety in the space that should be his sanctuary.

These elements make for a great story and "Insomniac" writer/star Eddy Salazar does a decent job with the script. One problem is that Salazar has the previously outwardly stable Figg go unrealistically gangsta in response to the traumas that occur.

Figg experiencing the titular sleeplessness, becoming excessively despondent, unduly paranoid, and showing aggression regarding realistic suspects are valid and interesting responses to his traumas; Figg going way over-the-top simply turns what could be a good indie flick into a movie that seems like an above-average student film.

"Insomniac" also has less-than-ideal casting. Salazar's portrayal of Figg is fairly flat even when the emotions of that character are running a bit high; further, little chemistry exists between Salazar and Clare Grant as Figg's soon-to-be fiancee Martha Collins. They seem to be more like siblings who do not actively dislike each other than a loving couple who are contemplating marriage.

The remaining characters merely seem to provide background for Figg, who appears in virtually every scene. The actors, who include film veterans John Heard and Danny Trejo in small roles, do decent jobs but express surprisingly little depth.

Despite genuine angst regarding further criticizing this largely earnest film, a strong opinion regarding a deleted scene requires expressing that thought.

This particularly well-done roughly 30 seconds that has Figg addressing his father in a church both shows Figg's heart better than any other scene and provides exposition that would have eliminated initial confusion regarding whether Figg is living in his family home or used his raise to buy his own house.

The final thoughts regarding "Insomniac" are that the nature of the story and the obvious care that Salazar devoted to the film make not liking it better tough. Reading the IMDb profiles of director Monty Miranda and producer Romina suggest that having at least one film veteran in either position would have benefited the movie.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Insomniac" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

'Fibber McGee and Molly Double Feature' DVD: Great Fun From Archive's Overstuffed Closet of Treasures

Fibber McGee and Molly Double Feature
Warner Archive's recent release of  "Fibber McGee and Molly Double Feature" allows fans of classic radio shows a chance to put a face to the voices of one of that medium's most successful radio teams. Married couple Jim and Marion Jordan portrayed those fictional counterparts from 1935 to 1959.

A very condensed description of the premise of the radio show is that Fibber is a sitcom-style "big dopey husband" with an inflated sense of both self and the schemes in which he engages. Molly is his sweet and supportive wife.

They live in the Wistful Vista, which is a typical show business style Depression-era small American city in which even the not-so-nice neighbors have "friends" status and the the tough economic times do not seem to seriously impact anyone.

The legacy of "Fibber" includes pompous next-door neighbor the Great Gildersleeve and a comically over-stuffed closet that sends its contents tumbling out every time that it is opened.

The uber-success of that formula led to three McGee and Molly films; the first is "Look Who's Laughing" from 1941. The second two comprise the double feature in the recent DVD release.

"Here We Go Again" from 1942 centers around the McGees celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary at a luxurious mountain lodge that is beyond their means. The primary plot has the ability of Fibber to save face requiring that he help an unscrupulous promoter convince Fibber's friend the uber-famous ventriloquist  Edgar Bergen invest in a gasoline substitute.

Bergen's main story has him camping nearby as part of a butterfly hunt with shades of the obsession around which "Moby Dick" revolves. His wooden companions Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd come along to contribute to the ensuing hilarity.

Very brief creepy scenes that bring McCarthy and Snerd to "life" are an unsettling reminder of the less sophisticated era to which "Here" belongs. An amusing segment that has Bergen and McCarthy don Indian garb to sneak onto a nearby reservation is another reminder that the '40s predate political correctness.

Other fun elements of "Here" are the chances that it provides Bergen and orchestra leader Ray Noble to perform.

Although the end credits of "Here" include a plea for the audience to purchase war bonds, the second film in this double feature has a much stronger patriotic message; "Heavenly Days" from 1944 has Molly's wealthy cousin inviting the McGees to visit him in Washington, D.C.

The hilarity begins ensuing when Fibber starts bragging before even leaving Wistful Vista that he is being summoned to Washington to provide his valuable insight regarding national woes. The first leg of this journey has our heroes meeting a group of singing soldiers, played by the King's Men and "friends," while on the train to Washington.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is from the scene described above and does a great job depicting the War-era fun of the film.

A voluntary derailment regarding that journey inspires Fibber to commence a quest to determine the characteristics of the common man in a country in which most individuals consider themselves to be extraordinary. The objectives of this mission include reminding the leaders in Washington of the views and wisdom that said "Joe the Plumber" possesses.

The misadventures that Fibber and Molly encounter on reaching their destination include being mistaken as the servants in the home of their host, being pressed into service as foster parents for an international group of child war refugees, and Fibber creating a major political scandal.

A "Heavenly" scene that depicts the evils of voter apathy hits home 70 years after the debut of the film; many recent local, state, and federal elections are characterized by candidates who tout receiving a small majority of the votes that roughly 30-percent of eligible voters cast as a strong endorsement of the policies of that candidate.

Instances such as this support sending a message in the form of writing in "None of the Above," rather than simply not voting, when you do not support any candidate for an office. This at least dilutes the percentage by which the "not the other guy" candidate wins.

Consideration of both films in the double feature shows that their individual merits make them equally good.

"Here" has more vaudeville-style humor that is true to the radio show that spawns the films; at the same time, "Heavenly" has a slightly more sophisticated style and very apt messages for both the '40s and today. Fortunately, our friends at Archive eliminate any angst regarding having to  choose between the two.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding either film or "Fibber" in general is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

'Orpheus Descending' DVD: Tennessee Williams' Cougar Town

Orpheus Descending
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 1990 TNT Original Movie "Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending" provides the dual treats of a respectable adaptation of that 1957 play and of adding to your collection of those TNT productions.

Anyone who has ever doubted that drama is all Greek to Williams will come around when seeing the opening scenes of the chorus in the form of two small southern town gossips sitting in a '40s-era general store handily recapping the history that leads to the events that unfold (mostly in that establishment) during the following two hours.

A recap of that recap is that Lady Torrance, played by British actress Vanessa Redgrave, is the middle-aged daughter of an immigrant Italian man whom the town never held in high regard anyway and who earned himself a fatal torching of the successful wine garden that he built by the side of the town's lake. His capital offense consisted of allowing black people to patronize his establishment.

Taking advantage of Lady's vulnerability in the wake of the fire, Jabe Torrance coerces her into a loveless marriage. His being 20 years her senior, playing a role in the fire, and essentially making her a slave in her store are primary aspects of their story that add to the southern gothic vibe of their tale.

The chorus goes onto tell of Jabe's homecoming to continue his convalescence from a long-term illness. This arrival then sets the stage (of course pun intended) for the action to commence.

In typical Williams' style, the arrival of a stranger dramatically stirs up the lives of Lady (who becomes a tramp) and Jabe. The aptly named 30 year-old drifter Val Xavier, portrayed by veteran theatrical actor Kevin Anderson, plays that role.

Val's appearance on the night of Jabe's homecoming leads to Lady hiring this sultry hunk to work in the store and allowing him to sleep in a makeshift space in the back of the store. His physical baggage consists primarily of his guitar, and the emotional variety relates to resentment as to not being considered more than a southern American gigolo.

Anyone at all familiar with Williams knows that proverbial deep dark secrets are revealed, that the conflict between Lady and Val heats up in a very intimate manner, and that things do not end well. One can even state that Val is crucified.

A subplot involving the "cat" Carol Cutrere adds greatly to the drama. Her Kabuki-like white makeup, Tammy Faye Bakeresque smeared globs of mascara, and feral appearance and manner add to the sense that repression is painfully difficult for her; watching her openly lust after Val is a compelling aspect of this character.

The seeming strong adherence to Williams' awesomely crafted prose and the overall theatrical quality of the production break the rule regarding a show or film that bears the auteur's name as being dreadful. Examples include "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital," and "Tyler Perry's" anything.

The best prose comes in the form of the awesomely poetic monologues that awesomely  convey appropriate angst. We acutely feel the pain of each character in these moments.

Further, Anderson's theatrical training and background come screaming through in his overall performance and delivery of the aforementioned powerful speeches.

Redgrave adequately conveys her character's complex emotion but falls short regarding her accent of an Italian immigrant who has lived in the south for much of her life. Her underlying tone seems more Eastern European than Italian, and the southern accents (no pun intended this time) are oddly piled on top of that  dialect.

The epilogue regarding all this is that the minor shortcomings in this production do not prevent "Orpheus" from being a terrific way to enjoy a typically great Williams' play from the comfort of your own home or retail establishment.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Orpheus" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.