Friday, August 05, 2005

More TV On DVD

The next few months are going to bring a flood of TV on DVD releases. Well, not literally a flood, because floods usually involve liquids and DVD sets are usually solids. But you get what I mean.

I thought I would go over the release schedule at good old TV Shows On DVD and pick out some upcoming sets that are worth a look, apart from the obvious ones like season 6 of "The Simpsons," which has the worst box design ever.

"Profit" - The Complete Series (August 9). I've never actually seen this show, but it is one of the most fondly-remembered of Fox's many cult flops, a melodrama-comedy reworking "Richard III" in a modern corporate setting. The co-creator, David Greenwalt (who provides audio commentary) became the original co-executive producer of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" following the cancellation of this show.

"The Andy Griffith Show" - the Complete Third Season (August 16). This was the season that introduced some new characters like Gomer Pyle who added some wackiness to "The Andy Griffith Show"'s low-key comedy, but it's also the season when the show hit its peak, largely due to the infusion of some new writing talent. In particular, the team of Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell, who had previously written only one episode of the show, became full-time contributors, coming up with some episodes that really deepened the show and its characters. "A Man in a Hurry," where a city visitor to Mayberry is frustrated by the slow pace of rural life, is about as close as a sitcom episode has ever come to being profound. And another episode, "Mr. McBeevee" (written by Harvey Bullock), where Andy mistakenly believes that Opie has an imaginary friend, is such a great episode that it has been copied many times over, most recently in a "Simpsons" episode with Homer standing in for Opie. It also has the dialogue exchange where Andy's decision to trust his son takes on a religious dimension, ending with the famous exchange:

BARNEY: Do you believe in Mr. McBeevee?
ANDY: No. I believe in Opie.

"Undeclared" - the complete series (August 16). And speaking of Fox cult flops... from Judd Apatow, this was basically "Freaks and Geeks Goes to College," with all the F&G elements: quirky-looking cast, painfully realistic story ideas, lots of licensed songs on the soundtrack, and a short run. It's been given the same super-deluxe treatment "Freaks and Geeks" got.

"Taxi" - the complete third season (September 13). Despite the short (20 episode) season, this is by far the best "Taxi" season, with most of the episodes that are responsible for the show's high reputation, including "Elaine's Strange Triangle" (Elaine is interested in a man who is interested in Tony), "Going Home" (Reverend Jim's past explained) and "Latka the Playboy" (Latka becomes Vic Ferrari). This was also the season where the show started to get more surrealistic, with completely nutty moments like Famous Amos turning up in a fantasy sequence; the combination of semi-realistic humor with outright nutty humor in the same show was something that James L. Brooks became interested in with "Taxi," and would carry over into "The Simpsons" (which, early on, was very similar to "Taxi" in a lot of its comedy and story structures).

"King of the Hill," the complete fifth season (November 22). Some of the episodes from this season are as far as the adventures of Hank Hill ever went in the direction of cartoony wackiness, before creator Mike Judge and others sort of reined it in a bit. Episodes like the famous "Ho Yeah!," where Hank is mistaken for a pimp and Snoop Dogg voices a tiny white guy who proclaims himself the baddest pimp in Oklahoma City, are an entertaining glimpse at what a totally unrealistic, crazy "King of the Hill" might be like.

And this post mentions a whole bunch of shows to come from Fox over the next few months, most notably "Hill Street Blues," the show that proved that the MTM company's emphasis on character and theme could be carried over from sitcoms into dramas, thus making drama more character-based and less plot-based than it had ever been before. Also "Alien Nation," another Fox cult flop, and "The Time Tunnel," about which this page says all that needs to be said.

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