Television and Radio: Catching Up

The joy of past TV series is available on DVD

Suddenly it's January, and there's not much to do. If you're in the grip of the post-holiday vacuum, perhaps a good DVD set will fill the void. There are quite a few channels showing old TV series, but the supply of programs entering the pipeline seems to be increasing faster than the number of new cable outlets. And some shows simply don't attract enough of an audience to make it worthwhile for a cable network. Thank goodness for DVD sets.

Laugh It Up
Sitcoms, of course, enjoyed quite a bit of DVD exposure in 2004, including Ellen DeGeneres' Ellen: The Complete First Season, her sitcom from the early '90s. That first season, originally aired as These Friends of Mine, has a different cast from subsequent episodes, though it's still pretty funny. No extras, sadly.

Many shows, particularly ones from the '70s and '80s don't find their way onto the airwaves much anymore, even on TV Land. Taxi and Soap are good examples. The former just released its first season, while the latter is up to Season Two. To get you caught up, Soap includes the pilot from Season One. But where is WKRP in Cincinnati, man?

Another '80s cult-classic is the "afraid to admit you kinda liked it" ALF: Season One. An unaired pilot and gag reel accompany this set.

Not a sitcom, but a funny show nonetheless, Northern Exposure offers up its first two seasons (1990-1992). You get a few outtakes and a neat package as both sets are wrapped in a mini-down jacket.

From the modern era, Friends is up to Season Eight in its release schedule. The latest edition has extras similar to previous sets, including a gag reel and trivia quiz.

Space Oddities
Speaking of space, science fiction fans have been well taken care of by the studios. Lost In Space, occasionally seen on SciFi, runs up through Season Two. No extras for the second season, but loads of campy fun. Considering when aired (1965-68), it's not that campy looking — particularly compared to Star Trek's under-funded sets and effects. Of course, Trek set the standard in storytelling and character development, and now all three seasons of the original series are available.

The late, great, Roswell, too, gets some love from SciFi, but if that isn't enough, Seasons One and Two are on DVD. No word on Three's release.

If you're an oldie, check out Night Gallery, Rod Serling's anthology series from the early '70s. Steven Spielberg directs an episode and, of course, you get well known performers galore. The latest version of Twilight Zone, from 2002 is available as a complete set, and is hosted by the always-welcome Forest Whitaker.

What have you done for me lately?
New shows out include C.S.I. now released through Season Four. Great extras on the most recent set, feature the construction of an episode from concept, to writing, right up through post-production. American Dreams gives us a helpful "time-line" of 1963-64 (the show's period) hosted by NBC Nightly News anchor, Brian Williams. Extended music scenes and rare clips from American Bandstand are also included.

A surprisingly good set is The O.C: The Complete First Season. Yes, there's plenty of garden-variety teen angst, and break-up/make-up story lines, but the adult characters are very engaging. Led by Peter Gallagher (ex-L.A. Law), they're much more interesting than their fictional offspring. Commentary and deleted scenes are included, as is a definitive breakdown of the music used in the first season. A nice shortcut if you're trying to remain somewhat hip to today's music scene.

With the holiday over and cold weather keeping you indoors, you can throw another log on the fire, relax, sit down ... and watch a little TV. ©

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