Flashpoint: The First Season (Paramount), the 21st century reincarnation of S.W.A.T., is a Canadian production about the Strategic Response Unit, an elite police tactical team (inspired by Toronto’s Emergency Task Force) called in for particularly volatile situations. Their assignment: a peaceful resolution if possible, the protection of victims and bystanders at all costs. Enrico Colantoni (of Veronica Mars) is team leader and negotiator Sgt. Gregory Parker but Hugh Dillon gets top billing as sharpshooter Ed Lane, the team’s most veteran member and dedicated soldier so driven that he tends to place his team above his family. Amy Jo Johnson is the team’s sole female member and David Paetkau is the hot-shot rookie who begins the season proposing force in every situation and finally proves his maturity at the end of the season by talking a target down in a particularly volatile situation with a calm, non-violent solution. Each episode begins in the middle of an engagement and rewinds to the beginning, a gimmick that doesn’t really add any dimension to the storytelling but does tease the viewer with a preview of the coming drama. The show never really gets any traction with the familiar team characters and unsurprising dynamics, but it’s a satisfying procedural that uses violence as a back-up, not a primary response. The season ends with an episode that brings us back to the beginning: a sniper who wants revenge for an event from the first episode of the series.
Originally made for Canadian TV, the series was picked up by CBS as a summer 2008 series and then continued briefly in 2009. This set features all thirteen episodes of the American first season on three discs in a standard case with a hinged tray. Director David Frazee provides commentary on the pilot episode and there are two brief featurettes: Flashpoint: Behind The Scenes – Season One, with the usual cast and crew interviews, and The Human Cost of Heroism, a four-minute piece on the real-life cops and technical consultants who inspired the series.
After The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour was cancelled (despite stellar ratings) and his campaign for the U.S. presidency failed to make him the first comedian elected to the White House, Pat Paulsen launched his own sketch comedy series. Pat Paulsen’s Half a Comedy Hour (MPI) was a mid-season replacement that lasted only thirteen episodes. Paulsen’s droll deadpan defines this show, whether he’s a sly Satan hosting the kiddie TV series “Letters to the Devil” or a fumbling Mr. Science getting a little too friendly with a giggling, curvy high-school assistant. Steve Martin was one of the show’s writers and fellow “Smothers Brothers” alumnus Bob Einstein is part of his comedy troupe. Thirteen episodes on two discs, plus bonus Paulsen TV and film clips, commercials, promos and other supplements.
David Bowie took over hosting duties in 1999 for The Hunger: The Complete Second Season (E1), the second and final season of the erotic horror anthology series produced by Tony and Ridley Scott for Showtime, which was ostensibly inspired by Tony Scott’s sexy horror film The Hunger (which co-starred Bowie) but played more like Red Shoe Diaries by way of Night Gallery. There’s 22 episodes in a four-disc digipak, but if you don’t want to wade through the stories for the skin, there’s a featurette with “Mr. Skin’s Top Ten Scenes” from the series. Now that’s classy.
Also new this week: Lovejoy: The Complete Season Six (BBC Warner), Inspector Lewis: Series 2 (PBS) and the BBC mini-series Lark Rise to Candleford (BBC Warner). For more DVD releases, see my picks for the week at my blog and my DVD column at MSN.