Part 1 – All Time Classics

The three camera set up. Filmed before a live audience. Respecting the writer as a source of creative impetuous. Drama that defied expectations rather than playing to them. These were all hallmarks of television’s fascinating infancy. It was an era of invention and accommodation, a constant struggle between the formulas inherent in entertainment and the people who wanted to push beyond them. While some of the best examples of silly and seriousness have yet to find a formidable presence on DVD, the 12 shows highlighted proved the intrinsic power of the electric in-home companion. And cinema had a right to be worried — the innovation originally provided by motion pictures was being usurped by the fledgling format.

TV Show: I Love Lucy

US release date: 1951-10-15

Network: CBS

Cast: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley, Richard Keith

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/i/i-love-lucy-complete.jpg

Website: http://lucylibrary.com/

MPAA rating: N/A

First date: 1951-10-15

Length: 30

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I Love Lucy (1951-1957)

You can argue it until you’re red in the head, but I Love Lucy was — and remains — the first true situation comedy. Ignoring its radio wave past and plowing through all the early boob tube broth to reach this consensus, it’s an argument that’s hard to beat. Clamor for The Honeymooners all you want, but aside from the occasional “get rich quick” scheme or major mess made out of a misunderstanding, the Kramdens and the Nortons were people first, potent pratfalls second. Ozzie and Harriet may have stayed around longer, and fostered the family-based funfest, but their interrelated follies were often couched in the cautionary, not the comic example. No, when it arrived on the air, I Love Lucy set standards that are still used today (benchmarks like filming before a live audience, using three cameras to capture the chaos), while proving that, as long as you had set personality traits in place, the circumstances could clearly dictate the clever. Certainly other shows mined the endless vein of vaudeville and variety to come up with risible reasons for their stars to slip on the banana peel. But I Love Lucy was different.

As people, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were complex and crafty, not physical comedy props. Along with their lifelong friends and neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz, the entire social dynamic was represented: old and young, famous and common. Placed together with absurdist notions of acceptable human behavior and those ever-ripe, overly complicated plots, this joke-filled juggernaut ruled the airwaves from the start… and technically hasn’t stopped. Over 53 years later, I Love Lucy is still one of the timeless classics of television, old or new. And thanks to Paramount, which has released the entire run of the celebrated show in content packed full-season sets, we get a chance to witness the daunting magic made by actors Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, William Frawley, and Vivian Vance. As a foursome, they were formidable. As an example of how the media managed both the human being and the humorous happenstance, no show was/is better.

— Bill Gibron

TV Show: The Ed Sullivan Show

US release date: 1948-06-20

Network: CBS

Cast: Ed Sullivan

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/e/edsullivan.jpg

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971)

It marked the creation of “event” TV, an hour out of each and every week where families simply stopped what they were doing to sit down and experience a collection of vaudeville style variety acts. As modern entertainment, The Ed Sullivan Show was as old fashioned as Uncle Milty in drag. But as a standard bearer of cultural relevance, as a mirror reflecting the changing face of all the artforms, the former gossip columnist turned TV host knew no rival. His was the stage where Elvis Presley’s swiveling hips received a standards and practices censorship mandate. It was where The Beatles began the British Invasion of our shores and where follow-up acts like The Rolling Stones were asked to change their “racy lyrics”. While it was also the home of opera singers and jugglers, a tiny Italian mouse named Topo Gigio and various name and nightclub comics, there was one consistent aspect of Sullivan’s showcase: if you made it there, you were destined to be a superstar. For nearly 23 years — from 1948 to 1971 — the stone faced MC with the stiff, statue like mannerisms was America’s tastemaker. There is nothing remotely like him today.

As for The Ed Sullivan Show‘s DVD legacy, there is good news and bad news. Not surprisingly, most of his earliest programs no longer exist. In sharp contrast, many classic rock performances were preserved, in large part, due to contractual requirements with record labels and the talent themselves. You can readily find various compilations of the Sullivan series on the digital format. Most center on a single entity (Elvis), idea (music), or theme (Broadway performances). In such small doses, and without the weekly excitement of anticipating the evening’s entertainment, the catch-all concept — dog act followed by a dramatic reading further accented by a folk group singing protest songs — represented an overview of the cultural signs of the times. Sullivan knew that, to keep audiences coming back, he had to consistently present what was new, what was hot, and what was hip. Some of these talents failed to endure. Others remain as eternal as the show itself.

Bill Gibron

TV Show: The Honeymooners

US release date: 1955-10-01

Network: CBS

Cast: Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, Joyce Randolph

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/h/honeymooners.jpg

Website: http://www.honeymooners.net/

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Honeymooners (1955-1956)

The Honeymooners got its start as a sketch as part of The Cavalcade of Stars in 1950. Over the course of the next five years, the segments grew in popularity. Hoping to capitalize on its success, star Jackie Gleason crafted a standalone half-hour sitcom. The setup of the show was simplicity itself. Ralph Kramden an overweight, loudmouthed, hard-working bus driver lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn with his kind-hearted, put-upon wife Alice. Ralph’s best friend is Ed Norton, a ditzy soul who works in the sewers. His wife is the ex-burlesque dancer Trixie. The wives are also gal pals, both in their domestic drudgery and husband-hampered existence. But these married couples sincerely love each other and express their emotions freely and openly. Debuting in 1955 and only lasting one 39-episode season, The Honeymooners was never a huge ratings triumph and Gleason returned to the variety show format. But over the course of time, something odd happened. In reruns and reverie, The Honeymooners‘ cult developed into a universal legion of devoted followers. Even with the release of “The Lost Episodes” in the mid-’80s (from Gleason’s own private collection), fans and scholars still returned to the Classic 39 to experience comedic perfection at its most sublime.

Paramount provides The Honeymooners: The Classic 39 Episodes in a five-disc DVD presentation that is short on bonus features but long on transfer polish. Some websites have argued that more care should have been taken with the prints offered, as there are numerous scratches, dirt, flaws, and age issues to be found here. And this critic was about to complain. But when TV Land hosted a marathon of The Honeymooners in honor of Art Carney’s (who played Ed Norton) passing back in 2003, all proposed visual complaints disappeared. After seeing the shockingly poor quality of the episodes offered on the cable channel, the DVD suddenly looked incredible. The bonus features are underwhelming, to say the least. There are 20-some minutes from what appears to be a much longer Honeymooners television special and the original Buick sponsorship opening and closing to the show. For a series of this importance, the studio should have offered more than a few interviews and a couple of commercial castoffs. But the chance to finally own these classic comedy jewels more than makes up for the lack of special considerations… for now.

— Bill Gibron

TV Show: The Andy Griffith Show

US release date: 1960-10-03

Network: CBS

Cast: Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Don Knotts, Frances Bavier

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/t/the-andy-griffith-show.jpg

Website: http://www.andygriffithshow.net/

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)

Let me climb out on a short limb and assert that the late Don Knotts’ immortal comic creation, The Andy Griffith Show’s Barney Fife, is not only the most interesting character in television history (Tony Soprano is a close second), but surpasses in complexity most characters in serious literature as well.

Excitable, self-important, self-deluded, childlike, deeply incompetent, profoundly insecure, cowardly and cheap, Barney Fife was a provincial nit-picker whose idea of a vacation was a week at the YMCA watching others play ping-pong and eating tapioca pudding for dessert. Yet he would give his life for his beloved Andy or any other citizen of Mayberry, was a dedicated (if utterly unqualified) mentor to Opie, always managed to bounce back from his innumerable humiliations, and conducted a mysterious relationship with a shadowy slattern named Juanita even as he maintained a perhaps excessively wholesome relationship with the endlessly understanding Thelma Lou.

Now, that’s a character worth preserving in an eight-season, 40-disc set.

It helps, of course, that Andy Griffith and the series’ writers and producers created, in Mayberry, an appealing imaginary world where strife was nearly non-existent; what few criminals there were enjoyed basket lunches prepared by Aunt Bee and could free themselves by taking advantage of either Barney’s credulousness or a skeleton key helpfully hung near the cells. The safety, quaintness and quietude of Mayberry is part of the show’s charm, and the fact that it existed at the height of both the Cold War and the Jim Crow era (neither of which the show bothered to acknowledge) is less a commentary on its obliviousness than an explanation for its timelessness.

Of course, it goes without saying that there were a few “types” on display in Mayberry, such as the boozehound Otis and the bumpkins Gomer and Goober. (Though watching those two snap to attention when marginally less moronic Barney instructed them on the finer points of criminology is one of the many comic delights of the show.) But for the most part, the characters, whether appealing (the avuncular straight-man Andy himself), unappealing (his saccharine girlfriend, Helen) or simply inexplicable (Floyd, the vaguely deranged barber) were one of a kind. So was Opie, one of those rare TV children who are neither precocious nor bratty, just a genuine-seeming kid portrayed by an actor whose growth into a major Hollywood director has regrettably coincided with the film industry’s loss of interest in creating the kind of indelible, multi-dimensional characters that he and his castmates once exemplified.

— Michael Antman

The Twilight Zone and more…

TV Show: The Dick Van Dyke Show

US release date: 1961-10-03

Network: CBS

Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, Richard Deacon, Jerry Paris, Ann Morgan Guilbert

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/d/dick-van-dyke1.jpg

Website: http://www.dickvandykeshow.com/

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

Though overshadowed by its brilliant comedic predecessors, The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show should be remembered (and revered) as a wonderfully irreverent offering to 1960s television. Lasting five seasons, the program brought the genius of Van Dyke to the forefront, showcasing his unique brand of physical comedy adroitly coupled with his decidedly likeable persona. Van Dyke embodied the quintessential young urban professional of the post-war years: successful, well mannered, and, aided by his TV spouse, Mary Tyler Moore, attractive to viewers. But it was his dead pan delivery and penchant for pratfalls that endeared him, and the show, to millions from 1961-66.

Focusing on the personal and corporate lives of Van Dyke’s character, television writer Rob Petrie, The Dick Van Dyke Show provided innocent laughs in an innocent time, with gags and punch lines grounded strictly in good comedy, decades before crassness and low brow humor became the norm. The show also adhered to the same formula that both the Kramdens and Ricardos banked on for their respective successes: incorporate strong ensemble players into the main characters’ daily routine. Many of The Dick Van Dyke Show‘s funniest moments come via the expert give-and-take between wise-cracking, Vaudevillian Morey Amsterdam (Buddy Sorrell) and his eternally tormented foil, Richard Deacon (Mel Cooley). Throw always-a-bridesmaid Rose Marie (Sally Rogers) into the mix, and an occasional visit from Carl Reiner (Alan Brady), and it would have been near impossible for the show to fail. And despite not lasting into the color programming age, The Dick Van Dyke Show lives on as a pioneer of character-driven situation comedies, and still holds an understated charm 40 years later.

For fans of the series, Image has provided nearly pristine versions of these decade old episodes in full season sets.

— Adam Williams

TV Show: The Addams Family

US release date: 1964-09-18

Network: ABC

Cast: Carolyn Jones, John Astin, Jackie Coogan, Ted Cassidy, Blossom Rock, Ken Weatherwax, Lisa Loring

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/t/the-addams-family.jpg

Website: http://www.charlesaddams.com/

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Addams Family (1964-1966)

It goes without saying that The Addams Family is a product of its era. Conceived in a time when revolution infested all facets of life — social, political, sexual, musical — artists were taking more chances with their choices. Television still was seen as hopelessly mired in a convention created back when the boob tube was merely a collection of vaudeville-inspired variety shows and how-to programs. Sitcoms themselves found most of their material from previous radio hits, and drama was either melo-, sudsy, or lost in the wilderness of the wild, wild West. With the introduction of The Addams Family (and its brethren in boo burlesque, The Munsters), the networks were attempting to experiment with the still-young funny format, testing the waters to see what audiences would accept and what they would reject outright. The fact that both series sank after just two seasons (they did live on in reruns, however) indicated that, while cleverness and creativity were high on a TV lover’s list, something as downright warped as The Addams Family just couldn’t work. The execution was top notch, but the subversive ideals buried within each episode were just too much for the mostly conservative home crowd to recognize.

Viewed with eyes now 40 years-plus in age, The Addams Family is nothing short of luminous. It is superbly cast, brilliantly acted, and so rebellious in its tone and tendencies that it makes for a perfect post-millennial treat. What was weird and eccentric in 1964 is now nice and normal, the family’s main mantra of individualism and being true to oneself a coveted current cultural directive.It is easy to see what ’60s audiences eventually dismissed about this wonderfully inventive comedy. The Addamses were radicals, rocking the boat of suburban conformity with their love of all things dark and dour. In a society shuddering under the fear of nuclear annihilation and the advancing threat of communism, a family that forced the community to deal with them on their own terms was downright treasonous. Long out of circulation both as a subject of syndication and for home video fanatics, MGM finally righted this wrong last year. It’s released all of 64 episodes in individual volumes (boo!) or one entire boffo box set (yea!). The results stand as one of the few times when TV tried something surreal — and actually succeeded.

— Bill Gibron

TV Show: The Twilight Zone

US release date: 1959-10-02

Network: CBS

Cast: Various

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/t/twilight-zone.jpg

Website: http://www.twilightzone.org/

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

To fully appreciate the importance of The Twilight Zone in the history of television, you must first cross over into another time, another place. You must step into the fervent, socially-conscious mind of a writer named Rod Serling: a man who, above all, wanted his audience to think about what they believed and why that was so.

Serling was well-known and respected as a television writer long before the series debuted. In fact, many of his contemporaries raised an eyebrow at his tackling of a science-fiction series as opposed to more, as they would have phrased it, serious writing.

But it was here that he was to delve one yard below their mines, so to speak. By cloaking controversial social and moral issues in the trappings of fantasy, he dodged the censors of the time.

Of course, that should not suggest that the series is dated. In fact, many of its classic tales are utterly timeless in their social commentary. Understanding how paranoia and fear can tear a community into Us and Them factions as seen on The Monsters are due on Maple Street is as relevant today as it was in the days of McCarthyism and the Red Menace.

The Complete Definitive Edition DVD collection itself is a veritable treasure trove. All 156 episodes of the original series have been lovingly remastered and packaged with a cornucopia of bonus features including audio commentaries, interviews, a documentary on Serling himself, and the unaired pilot for the series.

The Twilight Zone is one of a handful of television programs that can truly be said to have shifted the perspective and expanded the imagination of the generation of writers who first experienced it. Stories such as Eye of the Beholder, Kick the Can, and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet have arguably become part of our modern mythology, testament to our hopes and fears regarding ourselves, the society surrounding us, and the new realms that technology places us in.

Exceedingly well-written (by Serling as well as visionaries such as Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and the list goes on), beautiful in black-and-white, and poignant, The Twilight Zone serves as a reminder that, long before the days of CGI, there was an even more powerful tool that could bewitch an audience, holding us spellbound until the closing credits: the imagination.

— Jason Zwiker

TV Show: Dark Shadows

US release date: 1966-06-27

Network: ABC

Cast: Joan Bennett, Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Louis Edmonds, Nancy Barrett, David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Alexandra Moltke, David Henesy, Denise Nickerson, Thayer David

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/d/dark-shadows.jpg

Website: http://www.darkshadowsonline.com/

MPAA rating: N/A

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Dark Shadows (1966-1971)

The soap opera is a strange entertainment format. It requires a long-term investment of time and attention. It constantly laps and repeats itself, remembering to stop and restart its exposition every now and then to allow new fans to catch-up. But perhaps, most miraculously, it trades on tired old formulas and hackneyed clichés about love, loss and life to make its supposedly serious and always melodramatic points. And the reasons for their success are salesmanship simple: daytime shows just drip with the sleazy sexuality necessary to vend these familiar bubbly suds to the masses. Nighttime versions of the housewives’ home companion just substitute a softcore sensibility for ALL plot pointing. So it must have been the hardest pitch in the history of pilot positing when Dan Curtis, at the time a small time producer of off-brand fare for the networks, offered the idea of a governess and a creepy old house to ABC. Surprisingly the broadcasters bought the idea, hook, line and spook show and Dark Shadows was born, the first daytime drama based in the exclusive elements of horror.

The series initially focused on Victoria Winters, hired au pair for young master David Collins and the Collins family. As she went about her business — and learned the secrets — of the old New England family, she searched for unknown family lineages, exposed reasons for revenge (both financial and personal) and experienced a wealth of interpersonal contradictions. It was typical soap stuff. Ratings matched the meandering plots. But a suggestion from Curtis’ young daughter to up the terror temperament (with the introduction of a ghost) found the right chord of commercial appeal. Shadows was suddenly a success, and when the family vampire Barnabas Collins entered the overripe realm, the cult was cemented. Curtis’ vision of a glorious Gothic drama was finally realized. Over the decades, Dark Shadows would be fondly remembered by millions of fans and replayed in syndication on stations like The Sci-Fi Channel. Now, thanks to MPI who is in the process of releasing all 1,250-plus episodes to DVD in 40 installment sets, you too can relive the weird, wonderful world of vampires, witches, warlocks, werewolves, gypsies, tramps and thieves… and of course, evil little children. Daytime was never again so dark — or daring.

— Bill Gibron

Star Trek and more…

TV Show: Star Trek

Subtitle: The Original Series

US release date: 1966-09-08

Network: NBC

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/s/startrek.jpg

Website: http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/index.html

MPAA rating: N/A

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Star Trek (1966-1969)
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)

Without a doubt, Star Trek is one of the most innovative and influential TV series on this side of the galaxy. In the nearly 40 years since its original airing, Star Trek spawned four other quality TV shows that take place in the same fictitious universe, inspired hundreds of science fiction films, and generated a powerful cultural phenomenon. The creation of the late Gene Rodenberry (1921-1991), Star Trek was envisioned as “Wagon Train to the stars”. In addition to deconstructing the Western mythology in a futuristic environment, Star Trek swiftly embodied the 1960s cultural anxieties that engulfed America.

Indeed, the conflicts between the Federation and the fearsome Klingons and Romulans encoded the paranoia of the Cold War period. Also, every time that Captain Kirk (William Shatner) reformed alien cultures that did not accommodate to the capitalistic scheme of production and commerce, the series became an allegory to the cultural and racial xenophobia that engulfed America during those years. And finally, Star Trek reflected the militarism that characterized the Johnson era when the Enterprise had to use its superior weapons technology to suppress those who dare to challenge cultural and social paradigms. In spite of their age, many of the episodes of Star Trek remain thought provoking and feel relevant to the complex problems that continue to haunt our modern world.

— Marco Lanzagorta

Star Trek: The Next Generation had a tough act to follow when it debuted in 1987, but it quickly proved to be the equal of the original series. Modernizing the Star Trek universe to largely abandon the casual sexism of the original show, Next Generation offered a more cerebral captain and adventures that touched on all our modern fears and prejudices. Oh, and this this show had the Borg, perhaps the most terrifying set of villains in all of the Trekverse.

Recasting the wandering and exploratory nature of the first two shows, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was instantly different. Set primarily in a space station, many of the adventures came to the DS9 crew. The overall tone of the series was much darker than Star Trek had ever been before. At times, the show felt quite theatrical and certainly the Shakepearean quality of Avery Brooks’ presence and dialogue delivery contributed to that. Over the course of seven seasons, DS9 had a central story arc that framed the entire series, another marked departure from the first two shows and it also interrogated the motivations and effects of war more effectively than perhaps any other show before or since.

— Sarah Zupko

TV Show: The Outer Limits

Subtitle: The Original Series

US release date: 1963-09-16

Network: ABC

Cast: Various

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/o/out-limits.jpg

Website: http://www.theouterlimits.com/

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Outer Limits (1963-1965)

It’s always been a shame that, when they are compared outright, The Twilight Zone gets so much of the smothering praise and The Outer Limits is usually left holding the rotting raspberries. Granted, Rod Serling’s brilliant and sometimes breathtaking television show offered more than its fair share of startling ideas and engaging writing. The Outer Limits was always classified as clever junk, reducing its obvious special qualities into something resembling juvenile pulp comics. Limits was often referred to as the “Monster of the Week” show, since there was a reliance on aliens, robots, demons, and beasts as the means of crafting fear and dread. The Twilight Zone loved to flaunt its “psychological” terrors and fright, hoping you’d be inspired to think as well as shrink in your seat. But pound for pound, The Outer Limits really outdid Serling’s showcase in the true science fiction arena. Much more than ideas played out subtly, The Outer Limits went for broke, exposing outright the bug-eyed ants, floating Venutian apparition or the alien Kyban assassins. Did the lack of stellar special effects mean that, occasionally, the zipper and strings were readily apparent? Yes. Did this factor detract from the show? Absolutely not. If anything, they reinforced the post-’50s ideal about space, the supernatural, and the scientifically sinister. The Outer Limits indeed pushed the envelope of believability. But more times than not, they managed to totally ignite the imagination.

Both seasons of the show (they are all available on DVD) were and still are a wonderfully constructed, consistent set of ideas, each trying to outdo the other in storytelling, acting talent, and thought-provoking content. Limits had a special allegiance and emphasis on the writer, something many other shows failed to recognize. Really, the only way you can sell an interstellar being or escapee from a future Earth was to intelligently and passionately provide the proper words to describe or discuss it. The Outer Limits, like its brother in arms, The Twilight Zone, boasts scripts that, in today’s market, seems like some manner of supernatural Shakespeare. Indeed, when felt and paint and monster masks let the visuals down, the word stepped in and came alive in a way that rescued entire shows from ridicule. When viewed individually, there are some shows that clearly stand out over and above others. But in total, the attention to detail, the introduction of philosophical ideals, and the well-drawn characterizations make The Outer Limits a true creative treasure. If the second season got a little darker and more morose than the first, it’s more than compensated for by the overall quality and ideology offered.

— Bill Gibron

TV Show: The Prisoner

US release date: 1967-10-01

Network: ITV

Cast: Patrick McGoohan

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/p/prisoner-complete.jpg

Website: http://www.theprisoneronline.com/

MPAA rating: N/A

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The Prisoner (1967-1968)

Perhaps second only to the original Star Trek in terms of concrete cult status and lingering fanbase frenzy, star Patrick McGoohan’s smalls screen gamble remains an astounding masterpiece of mangled mainstream intent. Tired of playing the standard special operative, and realizing that the entire James Bond franchise had upped the anti when it came to such storylines, the UK superstar came up with The Prisoner as a way of completely deconstructing the rules regarding such shows. In its place, he devised a puzzle box of prospective mysteries, filtered them through an inventive framework, and then proceeded to make each episode an illustrated battle between conservative, Establishment ideologies and the personal preferences for freedom, liberty and choice. Even the title held a three-pronged connotation. It created an image that reflected the lead character, his state of mind, and the world(s) in which he lived. It’s the kind of thematic stance that has allowed the show to thrive in the four decades since it first aired in Britain.

Thanks to A&E, who has released the entire series in a spectacular multi-disc DVD set including pristine transfers, lots of added features, modern audiences have a chance to appreciate the series and it’s sizable imagination. Indeed, premises don’t get any more intriguing than this one. McGoohan plays a nameless British intelligence officer who quits his post and prepares to leave town. Just before he’s able to escape, he’s gassed and wakes up in a weird little seaside burg known only as The Village. There, he is referred to by a numeric tag, in this case, Number Six, and forced to report to a Big Brother-like interrogator named Number Two. A captive, and held for the information in his head (the main question being “Why did you resign?”) Number Six learns that there is no fleeing this bizarre, baffling place. Indeed, whenever he or anyone else attempts such a strategy, a large floating orb (nicknamed “The Rover”) is released from the ocean. It tracks down anyone attempting a getaway, and encases them in its opaque elastic shell. Like Alice in a cold war Wonderland, the show still stands as a deep, layered look at individuality vs. conformity. And it has only gotten better with time.

— Bill Gibron

TV Show: Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

US release date: 1980-09-28

Network: PBS

Cast: Carl Sagan

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/c/cosmos.jpg

Website: http://www.carlsagan.com/

MPAA rating: N/A

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Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (1980)

Arguably, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos is the best scientific TV series ever produced. Indeed, Cosmos received both an Emmy and a Peabody award, it has been transmitted in more than 60 countries, and perhaps more important than anything else, this series continues to inspire the study of science. Envisioned and written by the celebrated physicist Carl Sagan (1934-1996), the 13 episodes of Cosmos were produced between 1978 and 1979, and featured ground breaking special effects, a beautiful soundtrack that combined the classics with the new age tonalities of Vangelis, and one of the most inspired discussions of science and its impact on human culture and society.

In this regard, perhaps the key to the success of Cosmos was that it did not restrict itself to a mere astronomy documentary: the series also talked about evolution, neuroscience, physics, genetics, history, pseudoscience, the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and many other interesting topics. In the world of Cosmos, science is an elegant and crucial human endeavor necessary to understand the position of mankind in the Universe, and to assure that we survive our own weaknesses in order to become a race of space explorers.

— Marco Lanzagorta

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