In continuing their newly-acquainted tradition of issuing affordably-priced “intros” to the various genres classic and modern television has to offer, CBS/Paramount has manufactured two new models of TV Sets for consumers. Having previously explored the CBS/Paramount vaults for some of the finest (and not-so-finest) series have to offer with Holiday Treats, Action Packed and Forever Funny, we now dive into the worlds of crime dramas and science fiction (or a close approximation of science fiction, depending on your point of view).
The first set, TV Sets: Crime And Punishment brings us the pilot episodes of four of television’s most popular series from the last forty years, beginning with “Full Fathom Five,” one of the earliest episodes from Hawaii Five-O (excluding the pilot episode). Five-O head Steve McGarrett (the great Jack Lord) is on the trail of a serial killer husband and wife team (Kevin McCarthy and Louise Troy) who prey on rich widowed women. Of course, no serial killer — no matter how clever they think they might be — can ever get the winning hand on McGarrett.
Moving from Hawaii to Miami, we meet a killer so calculating that even McGarret might have a hard time fingering him: Dexter. In what has already become one of Showtime’s greatest series ever, Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) plays the serial killer to end all serial killers — literally. Dexter Morgan (Hall) is a blood-spatter analyst for Miami Metro Homicide. What his friends and family don’t know is that Dexter himself is a murderer. He’s been keeping the streets of South Beach safe with his unique form of justice. But his ritual may find itself in jeopardy when a new serial killer starts sending Dexter messages.
From the files of the CSI: NY comes “Blink,” yet another venture into the land of serial killerdom. Well, at least the two murdered bodies of young women may be the work of a serial killer — it’s up to Detective Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) and his crack-crew to find out for sure. This was the first episode of CSI: NY to air after the series’ characters were first introduced on CSI: Miami.
After all of that serial killer stuff, it’s nice to get back to basics. In The Streets Of San Francisco episode “The Thirty-Year Pin,” the hardened-but-wise Lt. Stone (Karl Malden) forgets all of the lessons he has been teaching to young Inspector Keller (Michael Douglas) when an old cop-buddy of his (Edmond O’Brien, of D.O.A. fame) is shot by a burglar. Stone’s pursuit of his pal’s attacker pits him on a very high wire between cop and crook. Fortunately, Insp. Keller might be able to assist him — and keep things legal. San Francisco residents in particular may enjoy seeing an as-yet-unfinished section of BART in the Mission District — it’s hard to imagine it ever being so clean!
The second TV Sets release is Beyond The Ordinary, which is a nice, family-friendly way of saying “science fiction.” The collection begins with “The Man Trap,” a classic early episode from Star Trek: The Original Series’ first season. A trip to an out-of-the-way planet reunites Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) with an old flame. Unfortunately for Kirk (William Shatner) and his gallant crew, Dr. Nancy Carter (Jeanne Bal) isn’t all she appears to be — and there are plenty of dead Red Shirts to prove it. **Note, this episode is the remastered version featuring the revamped special effects.**
Next up: Joan Of Arcadia. Out of all of the series featured on these both new TV Sets releases, poor Joan ranks as the shortest-lived one of all, with only two seasons under her belt. But that should not deter you from viewing the highly enjoyable pilot episode. In it, we are introduced to the Giradi family: Will (Joe Mantegna), Helen (Mary Steenburgen), Kevin (Jason Ritter), Luke (Michael Welch), and Joan (Amber Tamblyn). Shortly thereafter, Joan is introduced to God. No, really. She is. Well, at least the individuals that keep talking to her claim to be God. And God has a mission for Joan. Or two. Or maybe even more.
Another short-lived series was The 4400. It lasted four seasons, but the number of episodes per season was rather sporadic. Either way, the pilot episode is a treat. 4,400 missing people suddenly return to Earth after having mysteriously vanished years ago (one little girl in particular was gone for nearly 60 years). None of them have any memory of what happened, nor have they aged a day since they vanished. When our friends at Homeland Security (Joel Gretsch, Jacqueline McKenzie) finally decide to let these freaks go, the “Returners” find it difficult to adjust to their new lives. More so, some Returners discover they may now be endowed with supernatural powers.
Lastly in this collection is the pilot for Medium. As far as modern “paranormal” (or “Beyond the Ordinary”) shows go, Medium is one of the few that I prefer. Patricia Arquette and Jake Weber are a great onscreen couple. And the fact that the series is inspired by self-proclaimed medium Allison DuBois just seems to give it a little more heart. The premiere episode finds suburban mother Allison Dubois (Arquette) as an intern at the District Attorney’s Office. Her unique (and as yet) untapped ability to “see” certain visions becomes of great interest to some Texas Rangers, who wonder how she knows so much about a case they can’t seem to wrap up properly.
In terms of audio/video quality, every episode is different. Some are the old standard TV format (1.33:1), while others are the new standard TV format (1.77:1). Some have been remastered, while others have not. Some episodes have 5.1 surround. Others are given the good ol' stereo treatment. The only thing that’s consistent is the lack of any subtitles other than Closed Captioning. It’s all a hit and miss if you’re all about the quality. But, just like every other TV Sets CBS/Paramount has released thus far, it’s not about the quality. This is merely a method of finding out if you want to dive into the series’ or not.