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Adam Becvar (aka Luigi Bastardo) checks out seven different TV shows on DVD ranging from campy to classic.

Capsule Reviews: Oodles of TV On DVD from CBS/Paramount

I love movies. I love watching TV, too. I admit it — I’m an addict. But I’m not worried about it because I’m happy, dammit! But sometimes, my eagerness to watch everything that hits the shelves of the store turns around at a lightning-fast speed and takes a large bite out of my ass. When this sort of catastrophe occurs (and it does… frequently, I might add), I resort to writing up a sort of capsule review like this. This time, I’m checking out several TV On DVD releases from the folks at CBS/Paramount.

Look, I know it’s been a long time coming… and I also know that nobody else has ever dared pitting the two against each other (or maybe they have — hell if I know!) but I feel it’s time we took those kids from The Mod Squad and dropped ‘em right off in The Streets Of San Francisco to see how they fare in a fight to the death!

We begin with the title credits. Quinn Martin’s The Streets Of San Francisco treated us to the sights of San Fran in the '70s with cutaway sequences showing the faces of our lead actors in their “action stances” while The Mod Squad introduced us to our three lead youths fleeing from “the man” through a darkly lighted, deserted industrial location over and over whilst the “hip” theme music works overtime. The trio of kids meet up with each other, and then are seen running down the same stretch of darkly lighted, deserted industrial location again, only to have a door burst open by “the man.”

Sorry kids, but I think I would have to vote in favor for The Streets Of San Francisco for Better Title Credits. It more than establishes the location of the show (so much so that even if the name of the show didn’t give away the location of the series, you’d still know where it took place!) as well as the characters. It also gave you a glimpse of the guest stars along with the title of “Tonight’s Episode” (courtesy Hank Simms’ voiceover) and was accompanied by some groovy wakachika guitar music. The Mod Squad went for broke with its semi-noir opening, but failed to set the viewer up with a location (Los Angeles, by the way) and made you wonder just what the hell these kids were running away from.

I blame it on Aaron Spelling, personally — but that Mod Squad music is kinda catchy and the title credits are pretty cool in a campy sorta way. Okay, so maybe this whole pitting these two shows against each other isn’t really working out to my advantage (or yours), so let’s just focus on the recent DVD releases instead, shall we?

The Streets Of San Francisco: Season 2, Volume 2 (CBS/Paramount / Released November 11, 2008 / Runtime: 621 minutes)

Things have changed since veteran Detective Lieutenant Mike Stone (Karl Malden) first teamed up with that young whippersnapper Inspector Steve Keller (Michael Douglas): their relationship has evolved into a friendship, and Steve has learned (often the hard way) that college didn’t teach a young cop everything he needs to know. With Season 2, Volume 2, CBS/Paramount has brought us twelve more episodes of television’s most iconic police drama to DVD, spread out onto three discs. Even if you haven’t seen The Streets Of San Francisco before, picking up midway through the second season (the series ran for five seasons, incidentally) won’t leave you too terribly in the dark, but I would still advise that you at least check out the first half of the first season so you can get a more established grip on the main characters… and get used to Karl Malden’s nose.

  • Feature: 4
  • Video: 3½
  • Audio: 3
  • Extras: 0
  • Overall: 2½

The Mod Squad: Season 2, Volume 1 (CBS/Paramount / Released November 25, 2008 / Runtime: 661 minutes)

When The Mod Squad first hit the airwaves in 1968, it broke the mold of the conventional cop show. These weren’t cops. They weren’t “the fuzz.” They were just kids. “Lonely, angry kids.” Kids that looked suspiciously like they were in their twenties, but kids regardless… and Pete (Michael Cole), Linc (Clarence Williams III), and Julie (Peggy Lipton) successfully bridged the generation gap for five seasons with the help of police captain Greer (Tige Andrews). In Season 2, Volume 1, our intrepid young heroes encounter every type of person imaginable, from phony healers to bona fide psychics, reminding you every step of the way that this was the last hoorah for 1969. Longtime faithful viewers and new viewers alike will no doubt be amazed at the job CBS/Paramount has done with restoring both The Streets Of San Francisco and The Mod Squad: all episodes look positively grand and their Mono Stereo soundtracks suffice quite nicely. What viewers will not like, however, is the fact that these seasons (like the previous seasons) have been split into two volumes, making it all the more pricey on people.

  • Feature: 3½
  • Video: 3½
  • Audio: 3
  • Extras: 0
  • Overall: 2½

Alright, we’ve pretty much covered what big city cop shows were all about in the late '60s and early '70s; but what about them backwoods yokels? We’ve all seen the wholesome goodness that was found in Mayberry, so what happens when you take the country boy out of the country?

Gomer Pyle, USMC: The Final Season (CBS/Paramount / Released November 25, 2008 / Runtime: 762 minutes)

I just had to go there, didn’t I? Yes, it’s Jim Nabors’ claim to fame (aside from the seven thousand LPs) — the role of Gomer Pyle. Even the name says “redneck”. But, as it turns out, there was nary another soul around as pure and well-meaning as Gomer Pyle. Was it because he was nothing but an uneducated simpleton? Well, I wouldn’t call him uneducated; he always managed to fix the many problems that Sgt. Carter (Frank Sutton) had on a regular basis. Which leads me to believe Gomer Pyle wasn’t a country bumpkin at all, but Sgt. Carter’s own personal Jesus instead. How else could you account for this mild-mannered man’s appearance in the Marine Corps? Wait, this is the Marine Corp? Looks like a vacation to me! Okay, so maybe Gomer Pyle, USMC didn’t accurately portray the Semper Fi sort of life, but it was still a highly enjoyable series! In The Final Season, we say good-bye to Gomer and Sgt. Carter (shouldn’t it have been called Gomer Pyle: Sgt. Carter’s Whipping Boy?) with a four-disc set featuring all 30 season five episodes, lovingly restored and looking superb!

  • Feature: 3½
  • Video: 3½
  • Audio: 3
  • Extras: 0
  • Overall: 3½

The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official Second Season (CBS/Paramount / Released October 7, 2008 / Runtime: 918 minutes)

In keeping up with the “Bumpkins In The Big City” motif I inadvertently strayed to, I suppose it’s only fair to mention The Beverly Hillbillies. Frankly, I’m surprised this one didn’t hit DVD sooner. Actually, a lot of people were surprised that The Beverly Hillbillies didn’t find their way to DVD sooner, but there is a reason for it: copyrights. Most of the episodes from the first two seasons weren’t renewed or were leased to MPI Video, so instead of dealing with all of those pesky legal issues, CBS/Paramount has opted to release The Official Second Season on DVD in a surprisingly “official” five-disc set that actually has (gasp!) special features! Yes, apart from the usual stunning audio/video transfer (for a 45-year-old show, that is), we are finally treated to some bonus material for a change (something that has been noticeably lacking on most every other TV On DVD release from CBS/Paramount lately). Included along with all 36 season two episodes are the original sponsor promos (complete with disclaimers!) at the beginning and end of each episode (you have to watch each ep individually to see these); a screen test with Irene Ryan; a retro interview with series creator Paul Henning; vintage network promo; and a clip from a 1963 CBS fall preview show. Not bad!

  • Feature: 3½
  • Video: 3½
  • Audio: 3
  • Extras: 3
  • Overall: 3½

Not wanting to make anyone think (even for a second) that I have nowhere to go with my half-assed attempt at a theme here, I shall now use common sense. Since I started with cops and subsequently moved onto rednecks, logic dictates (thank you, Mr. Spock) that the next step is…er, um… mutants!

Beauty And The Beast: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount / Released September 30, 2008 / Runtime: 2654 minutes)

Although the individual seasons of the show had already been released, CBS/Paramount felt it was necessary to release the handsomely packaged box set of Beauty And The Beast: The Complete Series a full day before the fourth quarter of 2008 hit (can you say “Ka-ching?”). For anyone who has miraculously never heard of the cult fave, it’s a really super-femmy, über-girlie fantasy show for chicks that played out like a Harlequin Science Fiction Mild Bestiality Romance and starred Ron Perlman as a man-cat and Linda Hamilton as someone other than Sarah Connor. Personally, I never had any use for the series (not when there was Star Trek: The Next Generation on!), but Beauty And The Beast remains an interesting take on the classic tale that benefits from not having singing dinnerware. The 16-disc DVD set features an okay-looking transfer (this was late '80s television — every show looked like shit) and only a handful of special features that has probably left a lot of middle-aged cat ladies fuming.

  • Feature: 2½
  • Video: 2½
  • Audio: 3
  • Extras: 1½
  • Overall: 2½

Now then, I’ve covered cop shows, hick sitcoms, and a series starring a human/feline hybrid. That’s pretty much science fiction territory there, kiddies; and while this next entry isn’t entirely sci/fi, it still has enough fantasy elements to squeeze it in here (that, and I sort of backed myself into a wall with that last one).

The Wild Wild West: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount / Released November 4, 2008 / Runtime: 5228 minutes)

Look, just don’t, okay? Don’t even! How dare you conjure up the abysmal image of Will Smith and Kevin Kline in that great big empty head of yours without so much as a fleeting glance toward Robert Conrad and Ross Martin! Yes, people under the age of 30, there’s another Wild Wild West out there — and a better one at that! Although all four seasons of the cult classic science fiction/western/spy series had previously been released on DVD in individual sets, CBS/Paramount felt Christmas a-callin’ in late 2008 and re-released ‘em along with a bonus disc featuring the two reunion TV movies (Wild Wild West Revisited and More Wild Wild West). The first season is the only one to sport any additional special features (which are notable). I don’t mind the odd double-dip (especially when it means you can get the whole series in one collectible set), but I sure as hell hope whoever designed this package was fired; the two cardboard holsters that house all 27 discs is deplorable while the rest of the box just takes up too much room (come on guys, are you still trying to compete with The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?).

  • Feature: 4
  • Video: 3½
  • Audio: 3
  • Extras: 3½
  • Overall: 3½

Where do you go from the West? Why, East of course, to a little watering hole where everybody knows your name (cue the Gary Portnoy music!)

Cheers: Season 10 (CBS/Paramount / Released September 2, 2008 / Runtime: 602 minutes)

Okay, show of hands: how many of you grew up watching this show and decided to become a bartender, barfly, or shrink? Personally, I’ve played all three roles in my distinguished long career of short jobs (not as a shrink, but I’ve seen a few). Cheers was, without a doubt, a magnificent series that still holds up well today (except for the hair), as was its spin-off, Frasier (another personal favorite). This set brings us all 25 episodes of the next-to-last season of the show, wherein Sam figures Rebecca should father his child; Sam, Frasier, Norm, and Cliff head out for a disastrous road trip for some good ol’ male bonding; and Woody decides to tie the knot with Kelly (too bad the priest drops dead). This four-disc set is a welcome addition to a collection, but I just wish CBS/Paramount would have kept all of the packaging for the various seasons consistent (the first season sets are fold-out style, while the newer ones aren’t) and kept on including special features. Oh, well, cry me a river, right?

  • Feature: 4
  • Video: 3½
  • Audio: 3
  • Extras: 0
  • Overall: 3½

So, let me see here… I covered serious series like The Streets Of San Francisco; the campy crime outings of The Mod Squad; silly sitcoms like Gomer Pyle, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Cheers; the far-fetched fantasy of Beauty And The Beast; and the wild wild antics of The Wild Wild West. Really, does it get any better than that?

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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