TV sets wrap-up

By Tom Von Malder | Jan 01, 2014
Photo by: A&E The four Robertsons of “Duck Dynasty.”

Owls Head — Duck Dynasty: Seasons 1-3 Collector’s Set (A&E/Lionsgate, 6 Blu-ray discs, NR, 15 hours 46 min.). With the recent controversy over patriarch Phil Robertson’s magazine interview comments on homosexuals and black women -- A&E has at least temporarily banned Phil Robertson from the show -- one might need to remove the “dy” and just leave the “nasty.” However, controversy is usually good for sales and this box set had been released about Dec. 3. Good timing that.

The show is currently in season five. This limited-edition set -- it comes with a duck-camo bandana -- collects all 41 episodes from the first three seasons of the reality show about a family of backwoods millionaires fro Louisiana. Among the events covered are Willie hosting his own radio show, but making the mistake of bringing Uncle Si on air with him; Jase trying to prevent Missy from finding out he has lost his second, newly-replaced wedding ring; and family events such as cooking, fishing or playing football. The set, also available on standard DVDs, includes 70 minutes of bonus footage from the existing seasons, including a conversation with the Robinson family, and two unreleased features.

Vikings: The Complete First Season (MGM/Fox, 3 Blu-ray discs, NR, 804 min.). This show was the first original dramatic series to be shown on The History Channel, premiering last March. The show was a hit, with the nine episodes capturing the feel of a lost world -- the Vikings most relied on oral tradition, so there are very few historical documents detailing what they were like -- and being filmed on the dramatic Irish coast (doubling for Scandinavia).

The main character is real-life figure Ragnar Lodbrok (Travis Fimmel), a who became a legendary Viking chieftain. However, the series opens in 793 A.D., when Ragnar is a youthful and ambitious warrior with a farm, a wife (Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha) and two young children on the cusp of adolescence, Bjorn (Nathan O'Toole) and Gyda (Ruby O'Leary). Ragnar has an older brother, Rollo (Clive Standen), who is an adventurer and a ferocious fighter. The two brothers’ relationship becomes strained as Ragnar's exploits bring him acclaim and Rollo feels overshadowed. Thus, with Ragnar leads daring raids in realms across the ocean, treacherous forces conspire against him back in the Norse homeland. Gabriel Byrne plays Earl Haraldson, who holds court in Kattegat and rejects Ragnar’s idea of going west to raid, rather than the traditional forays to the east. Ragnar’s raids take him to Northumbria in England, where King Aelle (Ivan Kaye) rules and pouts up stiff resistance. Other key characters in this first, nine-episode series are the captured Saxon monk Athelstan (George Blagden), who Ragnar almost treats as a family member and from whom he learns the Saxon language, and King Horik (Donal Logue), the future ruler of Denmark, and his enemy Jarl Borg (Thorbjorn Harr). Clearly, Athelstan represents the viewers, Christians viewing a strange culture for the first time.

Blu-ray exclusive extras include the armory of the Vikings and a look at the journeys of the Vikings, both features have a graphical chart with items that can be clicked on for more information. Both the Blu-ray and standard DVD versions have four deleted scenes; audio commentary on the first and ninth episodes; a 17-minute look at the development of the series (which will return in 2014 with season two); a look at the training for the battle sequences (12 min.); a 20-minute overview of the Viking culture by series creator Michael Hirst; and extended versions of the episodes that were shown in Europe (usually more nudity and gore).

Nikita: The Complete Third Season (Warner, NR, 926 min.). “Nikita” finished its shortened, six-episode fourth season Friday night. Better than nothing, it has allowed the writers to tie up most of the storylines. The series will be sorely missed. In the third season, with Nikita (Maggie Q), Michael (Shane West) and crew having taken down Division -- the secret agency that gave criminals new lives by turning them into secret agents -- the U.S. Government tasks them to run Division and track down the many former agents who have gone rogue. Nikita and Michael are aided by former CIA analyst Ryan Fletcher (Noah Bean) and ex-Division computer genius/hacker Seymour Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford). By the end of this season, Nikita is put in an impossible place, threatening her deepening relationship with Michael. Extras include unaired scenes and a gag reel.

The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner, 4 Blu-ray discs and 5 standard DVDs, NR, 970 min.). The show does get tiresome at times, going over the same ground with the triangle between Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrov) and Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder), the brothers Salvatore. The twist this season, of course, is that Elena is a fledging vampire and has to come to grips with her new powers and hunger. The MacGuffin this season is a potential cure for vampirism, the location of which is hidden in the tattoos that appear on her brother Jeremy’s (Stephen R. McQueen) body each time he kills a vampire. Meanwhile, Tyler Lockwood (Michael Tyravino) learns how to break his sire bond with original vampire Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and works to do the same with Klaus’ other hybrids so they can bring Klaus down. Oh yes, it also is senior year of high school for the main teenaged characters. Extras include looks at the Brotherhood and the Hunter’s Mark, creating Silas’ island, becoming a vampire, the props and the evolution of Elena, as well as a gag reel, unaired scenes and a gallery of fan artwork. By the way, I very much dislike forcing one to buy the standard version along with the Blu-rays; it bulks up the package with something you probably will never use.

Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season (Warner, 4 Blu-ray discs, NR, 970 min.). “Supernatural” remains one of my favorite shows, with the pairing of Jared Padalecki (Sam) and Jensen Ackles (Dean) as the monster and demon hunting Winchester brothers still working like a charm. Dean has returned after being in Purgatory for a year and is now friends with a vampire. While Dean was gone, Sam was settling into a normal life and a relationship. Now, they have to battle the demon Crowley (Mark Sheppard) to find the Demon Tablet, with which they can lock the Gates of Hell forever, trapping all the demons. (The tablets are translated by relatively new character Kevin, a prophet played by Osric Chau, a welcome addition to the cast.) However, to do so, Sam must undergo three trials of increasing severity -- in fact, Dean eventually realizes the third trial would require Sam’s death. Doing their efforts, though, Crowley’s human side has been brought more to the forefront, which will be addressed more in the current season nine). Meanwhile, the angel Castile (Misha Collins) has been brought back from Purgatory by the angel Naomi (Amanda Tapping of “Stargate: SG-1,” “Stargate: Atlantis” and “Sanctuary”) and sent to do her dirty work. The season’s end moves the show toward a strong new direction for the current season. Felicia Day returns as Charlie in two episodes. Extras include audio commentaries on three episodes; a look at creating the found-footage episode, “Bitten”; a cultural exploration of mysterious relics; a closer look at Castiel; and a gag reel. Also, there is at least one unaired scene for 14 of the 23 episodes. The set is available on standard DVD as well.

Arrow: The Complete First Season (Warner, 4 Blu-ray and 5 standard DVDs, NR, 972 min.). This CW take on the Green Arrow quickly became one of my favorite shows. Stephen Armell plays billionaire Oliver Queen, who returns to Starling City after having been presumed killed in a shipwreck five years earlier. When Queen arrives home, it is with an agenda: to take revenge against those who have failed or taken advantage of the city, based on a list his father had drawn up. In flashbacks, we learn Queen’s father killed himself on the life raft so that his son could survive and that Sara Lance, the sister of the woman Queen had been dating, was swept to see and also presumed drowned. The latter complicates Queen’s trying to make amends with his ex-girlfriend (Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance), who now seems more interested in his friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), and draws the distrust of her father, Det. Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Meanwhile, Queen’s mother (Susanna Thompson as Moira Queen) has remarried and, as it develops, has ties to the season’s big baddie, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman of “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood”), also Tommy’s father. Queen’s younger sister (Willa Holland as Thea) starts to develop attention for Roy Harper (Colton Haynes of “Teen Wolf”).

Queen is aided in his secret vigilante efforts by personal guard John Diggle (David Ramsey) and computer expert Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards). They construct a secret lair below the nightclub Queen opens as a cover. The show is set up with flashbacks of Queen’s five-year struggle on the island, both to survive and as a prisoner, alternating with current-day action. The show gets stronger as the season progresses. Among the DC Comics characters and villains that make an appearance are Katie Cassidy as Black Canary, Manu Bennett as Deathstroke, Michael Rowe as Deadshot and Jessica De Gouw as the Huntress. Extras include deleted scenes for 10 of the 23 episodes; a 30-minute look at re-imagining the comic book hero (notably handled differently that the Green Arrow, played by Justin Hartley, that appeared in the “Smallville” series; the origin story is much darker); a look at training for and staging fights and stunts (19 min.); the cast and creative team at the 2013 Paleyfest (28 min.); and a brief gag reel.

Teen Wolf: Season 3 Part 1 (MGM/Fox, 3 DVDs, NR, 528 min.). Fox has divided the current season of “Teen Wolf” in two for home video release, with this first half coming out just before the second half of the season begins to air. The main threat to teen wolf  Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) in these 12 episodes is the arrival of a pack of Alpha werewolves, with a leader who wants to bring Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) into the fold, while destroying Derek’s young pack. Even Scott’s mother, who finally is let in on her son’s secret, is threatened. There also is a mysterious killer on the loose, which Scott’s friend Styles (Dylan O’Brien) is determined to track down, after a girl he knew is abducted. Extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel, an intentionally funny shirtless montage and a featurette on the season. Note that the music has been edited for the video release (boo!).

The Adventures of Superboy: The Complete Fourth Season (1991-92, Warner Archive, NR, 3 DVDs, 464 min.). Gerard Christopher returns to play Superman/Clark Kent in the series final season. Clark works out of the Bureau for Extra-Normal Matters with sweetheart Lana Lang (Stacy Haiduk). Foes include Lex Luthor, Metallo and psycho psychiatrist Dr. Odessa Vexman. The series ends with a two-parter in which Superboy can either lose his powers forever or become the Superman hero we all know and love. Warner Archive releases are made on demand and available at shop.warnerachive.com on the Internet.

Wonder Woman (1974, Warner Archive DVD, NR, 73 min.). Tennis pro-turned-performer Cathy Lee Crosby plays the title character in this TV movie, developed by writer John D.F. Black (“Star Trek,” “Shaft”) and influenced by her recent turn as a mod, cat suited crime-fighter in the then pages of DC Comics. Thus, the character is more super spy than super hero, but you still get magical bracelets and lassos, Paradise Island and invisible jets. Ricardo Montalban plays a laconic lothario at the top of a conspiracy to steal ultra-secret code books.  Warner Archive releases are made on demand and available at shop.warnerachive.com on the Internet.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five (1991-92, CBS/Paramount, 6 Blu-ray discs, NR, 19 hours 42 min.). This season, the series won four Emmy Awards and arguably reached its peak (rivaled -- surpassed? -- only by latter seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” Episodes include the wrap-up on the Worf-centric cliffhanger from season four and a closing cliffhanger that sees Leonard Nimoy reprise his role as Spock, now an ambassador that has vanished. The season also sees the return of Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher in “The First Duty,” one of four episodes that feature audio commentary. In “The Inner Life,” another episode with commentary, Capt. Picard lives an entire second life on an alien world in a matter of minutes. There is a semi-regular new character in Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes), a Bajoran by birth who has a chip on her shoulder. “I, Borg” deals with a single survivor of a collective that Dr. Beverly Crusher works to heal. Extras include an overview of the season (17:54); “departmental briefings” on production (15:17) and visual effects (17:47); 13 deleted scenes; “Memorable Missions” (18:03); a tribute to creator Gene Roddenberry (28:23); a look at some of the guest stars (15:50); a look at the development of alien languages (12:49); a 74-minute chat with composers Dennis McCarthy, Ron Jones and Jay Chattaway; and a two-part remembrance of the series (59 min.). Overall, an excellent package.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Unification (1992, CBS/Paramount Blu-ray, NR, 86 min.). As was done with the two-parter “Redemption,” so too has the cliffhanger of season five been combined with the opening episode of season six to present it as a complete TV movie. Leonard Nimoy returns as Spock, here suspected of having vanished and gone rogue. The search brings the Enterprise and crew into Romulan territory. Both Spock’s father, Sarek, and the Klingons aid Capt. Picard. Also back is Denise Crosby in her Romulan role. Extras include audio commentary, a deleted scene and a making-of feature.

Power Rangers Megaforce: The Mysterious Robo Knight (Lionsgate DVD, NR, 92 min.). Four more episodes of battling insectoid monsters makes up this collection. Troy, Noah, Emma, Gia and Jake battle queen warrior Beezara, alien rockstar-wannabe Dizchord, toxic mutant warriors Bluefur, Bigs and Hisser, and Creepox (in a fight to the finish). The disc comes with a Robo Knight  micro figure. The release date is Jan. 14.

Maigret: Set 9 (France, 2003-05, MHz Networks, 6 DVDs, NR, 561 min.). This set completes Bruno Cremer’s 54-episode run as Parisian Inspector Jules Maigret, based on the mystery novels of Georges Simenon. Maigret, whose pipe smoking may be a nod to Sherlock Holmes, is pragmatic, reserved and refined, and has a singular unhurried manner in which he arrives at the truth. In the opening “A Shadow in the Courtyard,” for example, Cremer’s Maigret is the solid rock at the center of the telemovie. Cremer allows the guest stars to do all the emoting highlighted by the Martins, played by Christine Boisson and a wonderful Alain Rimoux. The murder victim is Pierre Boyer, who ran a very profitable Dr. Riviere serums business from the first floor of an apartment complex. In addition to the murder, about 3.5 million in cash -- most of it payroll -- was stolen. The circumstances are unusual, as Mrs. Martin is Boyer’s divorced first wife, and the Martins live in the same building as Boyer’s office. While married a second time, Boyer also had a mistress, Nine, who lives in the same hotel as his son, Pierre, from his first marriage. The other episodes, all set in the 1950s, are “Maigret at the Doctor’s,” “Maigret Rents a Room,” “The Lady’s Companion,” “Seven Little Crosses” and “Maigret at the Etoile du Nord.” Also available is set eight, which includes “To Any Lengths,” “Maigret’s Failure,” “Maigret’s Boyhood Friend,” “Maigret Has Scruples,” “Little Pigs Without a Tail” and “Maigret and the Tramp.”

Cheyenne: The Complete Seventh Season (1962, Warner Archive, 4 DVDs, NR, 654 min.). This was the final season for the popular Western that starred Clint Walker as the title character. The series, which blended high adventure, drama and romance, helped establish the one-hour continuing drama as a pop-culture staple. These 13 episodes include shotgun marriages, abominable mountain monsters, range wars and conflict in the state senate. There are amnesiac gunslingers and blind saloon singers that Cheyenne Bodie must deal with as he delivers his two-gun mix of justice. Warner Archive releases are made on demand and available at shop.warnerachive.com on the Internet.

Sugarfoot: The Complete Second Season (1958-59, Warner Archive, 5 DVDs, NR, 990 min.). Will Hutchins plays Tom Brewster, aka the title character, an amiable drifter in search of adventure and sarsaparilla soda. Only, he tangles with bank robbers, rustlers, swindlers, outlaws, arsonists, blackmailers and thieves -- all while using his words instead of a gun as a weapon. Watching the season, one can catch some future TV stars in their earliest roles, including Dorothy Provine (“The Roaring ‘20s”), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (“The FBI”), Jay North (“Dennis the Menace”), Ed “Kookie” Byrnes (“77 Sunset Strip”), Abby Dalton (“Hennesey”) and Martin Landau (“Mission Impossible,” “Space 1999”). Warner Archive releases are made on demand and available at shop.warnerachive.com on the Internet.

The FBI: The Complete Sixth Season (1970-71, Warner Archive, 6 DVDs, NR, 1300 min.). The stories in season six reflect the culture war that was going on in the early 1970s in the United States. There are still a few saboteurs and spies to watch for, but there also are psychotic Vietnam veterans, college students bent on terrorism, kidnappers and bank robbers. The FBI team is headed by Inspector Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), with Special Agent Colby (William Reynolds) and Assistant Director Ward (Philip Abbott). Guest stars this season include Martin Sheen, Joan Van Ark, Billy Dee Williams, Robert Loggia, Bradford Dillman, Dabney Coleman, Suzanne Plushette and William Shatner (as a rogue customs officer turned drug dealer). Warner Archive releases are made on demand and available at shop.warnerachive.com on the Internet.

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