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DVD Review: TV Sets: Action Packed

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CBS/Paramount brings us another edition of their very modestly priced TV Sets collection. TV Sets: Action Packed contains the pilot episodes from four of the most popular action/adventure shows from the vaults of the CBS/Paramount library: Walker, Texas Ranger, NCIS, MacGyver, and Mission: Impossible. I suppose that one could view this as a “sampler” of sorts, by which people are introduced to potentially new favorites on DVD.

Personally, TV Sets: Action Packed is something of a mixed-bag. The set begins with the extra-long premiere episode of Chuck Norris’ Walker, Texas Ranger. Quite possibly one of the dumbest series ever, Walker, Texas Ranger nevertheless proved to be a hit with television audiences and lasted for nine seasons (proving once and for all that there is just no accounting for tastes). In the pilot episode, “One Riot, One Ranger” (aired April 21, 1993) our titular hero (played by Chuck Norris) goes after the group of bank robbers who killed his partner.

Things go from bad to worse for the average viewer with even a degree of intelligence as the next episode on TV Sets: Action Packed is “Yankee White,” the pilot for that unbelievably bad NCIS show starring the unbelievably bad Mark Harmon. Watching an episode wherein President George W. Bush is the target in an elaborate setup by Al-Qaeda terrorists might have seemed semi-believable back when it aired on September 23, 2003, but it just comes off as laughable today. The only thing that really ever made this show worth watching for me was the casting of David McCallum as Ducky, the show’s resident forensic genius.

Ah, the tension mounts with the first-ever episode from MacGyver (9/29/1985), a show that a friend’s father always referred to as “James Bond… on a budget,” while another friend of mine always summed MacGyver up by saying “Don’t throw away that Styrofoam cup! I can make an airplane out of that!” It’s hard to believe that MacGyver also caught on with TV audiences. Granted, it premiered in the mid-80s when television was a lot cheaper than it was when Walker, Texas Ranger and NCIS aired, so I guess MacGyver wasn’t that bad. But the man who helmed this pilot sure must have thought it was bad: the as-yet-unknown director is credited as “Alan Smithee.” Of course, looking back at MacGyver, it’s not that bad. Sure, it’s cheesy, but Richard Dean Anderson’s knack for serving cheese makes it much more bearable.

Lastly on the TV Sets: Action Packed DVD is the pilot episode of one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Mission: Impossible from September 17, 1966. Before Peter Graves took over as the star of the show, Steven Hill helmed the Impossible Missions Force crew as Dan Briggs. In this episode, the crew are sent to retrieve two nuclear warheads from a South American dictator’s hotel vault. Although the production values here are much lower than they are on NCIS, I’d have to say that Mission: Impossible has the better acting and writing of the four.

Being the newer of the shows, NCIS is the only one that is presented here in anamorphic widescreen, but it’s still not very great looking. Seeing as how all of these episodes are crammed together on a one single-sided DVD, none of these episodes are of “top notch” picture quality. Soundtracks vary between English Stereo to 5.1 Surround and there are no subtitles or special features included on this release.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive gift or an easy way to get someone you know hooked onto any one of these four shows, TV Sets – Action Packed is a safe bet. But if you already own any season sets of the shows on this disc, then chances are you won’t need to add this to your collection.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
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