TV series return on DVD

New on DVD

August 18, 2005|By Susan King | Susan King,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Television series are pouring out of studios' vaults for the DVD market -- and the cash flow -- but the majority offer few extras. This week's entrants are no different: A couple have some decent added treats, but most are of the bare-bones variety, such as Universal's set of the first two seasons of the NBC detective series McCloud ($40).

Dennis Weaver played a wily marshal from Taos, N.M., who goes to New York to recapture an escaped prisoner. Afterward, he found himself on temporary assignment at Manhattan's 27th Precinct. The series first aired in 1970-1971 as a quartet of themed TV movies called Four-in-One, with San Francisco International Airport, Night Gallery and The Psychiatrist rounding out the foursome. In 1971, McCloud joined Columbo and McMillan & Wife in the "NBC Mystery Movie" rotation.

After starring in movies for two decades, Rock Hudson headed to the small screen in 1971 in McMillan & Wife. The premiere season of the lighthearted mystery is making its DVD bow (Universal, $40). Hudson played the rugged new San Francisco police commissioner, and Susan Saint James (fresh from The Name of the Game) was his much younger wife, Sally, who always helped him solve the crimes. John Schuck played McMillan's sidekick; Nancy Walker was their acerbic maid, Mildred. Patterned after the Thin Man movies, McMillan never achieved that level of wit and sophistication.

Thankfully, there are a few fun extras on The Muppet Show -- Season One (Buena Vista, $40). It's hard to believe that this award-winning syndicated musical variety show, starring Jim Henson's furry puppets, began nearly 30 years ago. It is just as funny as it was when it premiered in 1976, and it's a kick to see the parade of guest stars back in the first season, among them Joel Grey, Rita Moreno, Twiggy and Valerie Harper.

The 24 episodes have been pristinely restored and remastered. Extras include the original pilot, which doesn't hold a candle to the series; a clever pitch reel; a promo gag reel; and trivia for each episode.

Also on tap is the Muppets' latest TV movie, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz ($25), which premiered earlier this year on ABC. It has some funny moments, but the songs are dreadful and the script is weak. The DVD includes bloopers, an amusing behind-the-scenes featurette hosted by Pepe the Prawn, and the prawn's interview with co-star Quentin Tarantino.

For aficionados of high camp, there's the first two-season set of the 1982-1987 police series T.J. Hooker (Sony, $50). William Shatner, whose line readings are so deliberate and serious that he seems to be doing a parody of himself, plays the title character -- a former detective who has turned in his gold shield for duty as a uniformed police officer. Adrian Zmed played his new partner, Vince Romano; also starring were Heather Locklear and James Darren. A handful of TV promos are the only extras.

The 1991 British miniseries Clarissa (Acorn, $40), which originally aired on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre, is a well-crafted bodice-ripper based on the 18th-century novel by Samuel Richardson. Sean Bean plays a rich rake named Lovelace who is determined to seduce and thereby destroy a noble virgin (Saskia Wickham). The two-disc set includes outtakes, screen tests, cast filmographies, a photo gallery and production notes.

Rarely does it take nine years to discover the outcome of a TV series, but that's the case with the cult 1996 Fox series Profit. Anchor Bay is releasing all seven hours of the dark dramatic series ($30), including the four episodes that never saw the light of day because the network canceled the show.

Sort of a modern-day Richard III tale, Profit stars Adrian Pasdar as Jim Profit, an amoral, ambitious Machiavellian type who has set his sights on becoming president of acquisitions of a multinational conglomerate. It took creators David Greenwalt and John McNamara several years to get any studio interested in the project -- an executive at CBS was so appalled during their pitch he kicked the pair out of his office.

The two-disc set includes informative audio commentary with Greenwalt, McNamara and Pasdar, and an above-average retrospective documentary.

Also new

Because of Winn-Dixie (Fox, $30): Low-key adaptation of the popular children's book stars AnnaSophia Robb, Jeff Daniels, Cicely Tyson, Eva Marie Saint, Dave Matthews and two adorable Picardy shepherds who play the lead role of Winn-Dixie. The two-sided DVD includes a gag reel, scene-specific commentary with young Robb, commentary with Daniels and producer Trevor Albert, a "making of" featurette and a mini-documentary on the dogs.

Look at Me (Sony, $30): Agnes Jaoui co-wrote, directed and stars in this acclaimed French character drama. The DVD includes deleted scenes and a dull behind-the-scenes documentary.

Off the Map (Sony, $25): Campbell Scott directed this unique drama set in the 1970s about a young girl (Valentina de Angelis) who lives with her bohemian parents (Joan Allen and Sam Elliott) in the New Mexico desert. The DVD includes two features on the film that aired on the Sundance Channel and perceptive commentary from Scott and Joan Ackermann, who adapted her play.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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