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Friday, Dec 11, 2009

This is a compilation for that large demographic that yearns for narratives about a large, talking milk shake ordering a wife from Chechnya, or the micronauts going on a breast-climbing expedition. You know who you are. You will try and fail to explain to the uninitiated the wonders of Adult Swim. They will simply have to experience it for themselves and nothing but significant recreational drug can prepare them for it.


This new compilation takes some of the best seasons of the best shows and packs in hours of commentary. It includes both Adult Swim standards like Sealab 2021 and Aqua Teen Hungerforce, along with niche delights like Morel Orel. New hits like Metalocalypse round our a fairly full presentation of the subversive joy that is Adult Swim.


One of the more interesting features of this set is an extra disc that includes a mash-up of conceptual pilots for new shows, a great added bonus for all of you Adult Swim historians and for those who want a sneak peak at programs yet to come. It’s important to note (despite marketing to the contrary) that these are not all “never-before-released pilots” in the sense that they never appeared on TV but rather never-before-released on DVD.


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Thursday, Dec 10, 2009
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: Season 3 - Time Life Entertainment [$49.98]

In the late ‘60’s the Smothers Brothers were ruffling feathers, raking in huge ratings, and getting canceled in the process. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour: The Best of Season 3, a DVD release that’s as much a history lesson as it is a comedy show. In addition to 11 uncensored episodes (presumably, the full 26-episode season isn’t available due to licensing issues), the set also contains a ‘60s retrospective, interviews, rehearsal footage, the brothers’ post-cancellation press conference, a 2000 Comedy Hour reunion, scans of more than 100 documents relating to the show’s censorship battles, and even a whole disc dedicated to hangdog comedian Pat Paulsen’s presidential runs. And, of course, deleted footage—which, in the case of the Comedy Hour, reaches far beyond your usual cutting room fare. Time and time again, The Smothers Brothers used humor—both light and dark—to reflect the world that existed outside of the studio doors. They ended up getting fired in the midst of their third season, but their show’s short run left an indelible mark on the television landscape. This set will make a John Stewart fan grin and a Rush Limbaugh fan cringe—give wisely.


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Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009
G.I. Joe A Real American Hero: Complete Collectors Set - Shout! Factory [$145.99] / Transformers: 25th Anniversary Matrix of Leadership Edition - Shout! Factory [$109.99]

If there is any indication that Gen-X is slowly overtaking the baby boomers in terms of nostalgia branding, look no further than these two gargantuan-sized box sets of two of the most iconic cartoons of the ‘80s: G.I. Joe and Transformers. Sure, both of these box sets offer a quick, convenient exit to memory lane, for a pretty price. But if you grew up with these two cartoon series and hold the characters near and dear, it’s going to be tempting to give in and reach for that credit card.


The design case for each set is fantastic and aptly fits in with a central theme for each show: for The Transformers, the design is that of the matrix of leadership, which was primarily carried by Autobot leader Optimus Prime; for G.I. Joe, the design is a rugged footlocker. The sets include interviews from the creators, vocal talent, and feverishly-devoted fans. In addition to these ample extras, commercials and the beloved cautionary PSAs are also included.


If you are a hardcore fan of either show, no coaxing is needed. These sets are probably already part of your collection. For fans who can still recall their favorite episodes, these sets give you the entire series whereas earlier releases, fans had to pick up individual seasons and in some cases, half-seasons.


It would be easy to dismiss both shows as nothing more than 30-minute toy commercials. But the fact that the characters in both series continue to show up in pop culture today indicate that there was enough quality vocal talent and even some fine writing in these cartoons to make these characters resonate today. At best, each show had some single and multi-part episodes that blew away the storylines for their live action movie counterparts. And at their worst, well, let’s just say one G.I. Joe episode featured a terror plot that basically consisted of defacing the moon (which was repeated in a great episode of The Tick), and one Transformer episode had a Hollywood producer try to make a movie star out of an Autobot. Each set, intentional or not, shows both the good and the bad sides of toy-based cartoons. Have fun.


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Wednesday, Dec 9, 2009
The Shield: The Complete Series Collection - Sony [$159.95]

“Detective Vic Mackey kills cops, steals money, and beats suspects,” writes PopMatters Quentin Huff. “This thing’s going to get a lot uglier before it gets better,” says Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) in the “Back to One” episode. Gotta love that. This collection is perfect for the die-hard The Shield fan. This crime drama broke a lot of records and stereotypes with it’s convincing, layered characters and plot developments that would (some would say) blow the long-running Law & Order out of the water. In addition to all 88 episodes, and clever packaging, this collection includes 63 hours of extras from commentary to unseen footage. Sweet.


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Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009
Life on Mars: Series 1 and 2 [UK] - Acorn Media – July & November 2009, $59.99 each

This international Emmy winning show simultaneously manages to be a credible period cop show, a futuristic (yet ironically retro) science-fiction thriller, and something of a current social commentary (with a critical eye cast on the recent past). With these box sets, American audiences finally get to own the award-winning, original UK series upon which the ABC remake was based. It’s about time! For those who may not yet have seen either and are forced to choose, see this one, set in Manchester, 1973. While I personally enjoyed the Jason O’Mara/Harvey Keitel US remake quite a lot, the original is simply so much better on nearly every level: the retro situation our detective finds himself in provides a new ‘fix’ for the cop-show-mystery inclined; police methods and technology we take for granted no longer apply; and our world as fans, like Sam Tyler’s, is turned upside down; things are simultaneously familiar yet strange. A show of this caliber doesn’t necessarily need any DVD bonus features, but we get great ones here, anyway. In series 1 there are audio commentaries with the cast and crew for each of the episodes—often something of a rarity on series sets—and, naturally they are quite entertaining and informative; series 2 provides a documentary about the show, a featurette about the intriguing storyline’s conclusion, and behind the scenes footage. Life on Mars: Series 1 and 2 is a keeper, and although the UK series is over, the nature of the story will age well for years to come—in a way, it already has.


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