Tales of the Gold Monkey: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory)
Donald P. Bellisario shopped his thirties-era adventure series to the networks for years, but when Raiders of the Lost Ark hit theaters the networks snapped it up and got on the air within a year. Set in the pre-World War II South Pacific of 1938, a hotbed of Nazi spies, Japanese warlords, pirates, mercenaries, native tribes, monkey kingdoms and an exotic dragon lady (Marta DuBois), it’s tongue-in-cheek pulp adventure, all nostalgia fashion and old-Hollywood flavor on a TV series budget.
Stephen Collins stars as Jake Cutter, a scruffy pilot running a freight business around the islands with a beer-guzzling mechanic (Jeff MacKay), a one-eyed dog and a rattletrap Grumman Goose seaplane, and Caitlin O’Heaney is the American agent posing as a sassy chanteuse. While looks like a Raiders knock-off, it’s more of an amalgam of “Terry and the Pirates,” Only Angels Have Wings, Flying Tigers and any number of exotic south seas, B-movie jungle adventures and adventure serials. Collins has real charm as Jake (not too different from Bellisario’s more famous creation, Magnum P.I.), O’Heaney is all snappy spunk as Sarah and their chemistry is full of sparks and romantic bubbles. The show had good ratings and reviews and won an Emmy for its colorful B-movie art direction, but it only lasted a single season, due as much to network politics and creative conflicts as the high production costs, according to Collins.
The six-disc set collects the feature-length pilot, which sets the light tone and tongue-in-cheek approach, in addition to the 20 regular episodes of the show. Roddy McDowall took over the part of Monkey Club owner and island magistrate Bon Chance Louis (played by Ron Moody in the pilot) for the series proper. Includes the 36-minute retrospective documentary “The Making of Tales of the Gold Monkey” (with stars Collins and O’Heaney sharing stories from the show, including how Collins met his wife on the show), commentary on five episodes from the end of the series and a substantial episode guide booklet among the supplements.
Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Seventh Season (HBO) – Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and the inspiration for George Costanza, plays an even more extreme version of himself in this HBO sitcom, applying his acerbic wit and jaundiced view of the world to Los Angeles. The seventh season makes history by reuniting the cast of Seinfeld for a show-within-a-show reunion special. That David (playing a grotesque caricature of himself) hates the idea is beside the point when he sees it as an opportunity to woo his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) back,. Jerry Seinfeld co-wrote the show-within-a-show, which is classic Seinfeld, but everything around it plays out as a slow-motion train wreck of creative collision, social discomfort and aggressive self-humiliation as only “Curb” can do. 10 episodes on two discs plus four featurettes on the Seinfeld reunion within the show (which Jerry describes as “Seinfeld without really doing Seinfeld“), from recreating and updating the sets to discussing the reunion and the oddball “Curb” twist to the enterprise with the original cast.
Nip/Tuck: The Sixth and Final Season (Warner) – “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.” The overheated made-for-cable soap opera of sex, fame, ego and elective surgery comes to an end. Doctors Sean McNamara and Christian Troy (Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon) have relocated to Los Angeles, where their high-living takes a hit thanks to the economy and their self-esteem suffers thanks to their usual brand of greed, ego and neediness. Long given in to crude social satire, freak-show spectacle, lurid sexual misadventure and fractured family melodrama and it ends in the same key. In addition to returning regulars John Hensley (the screwed up son who, this season, becomes a mime), Roma Maffia (their anesthetist and, through a strange twist of fate, Christian’s ex-wife), Kelly Carlson (former porn star turned struggling entrepreneur Kimber) and Joely Richardson (Sean’s ex-wife), guest stars include Mario Lopez (as their enormously confident and successful new partner), Rose McGowan and Vanessa Redgrave. 19 episodes on five discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus a featurette on the psychology of plastic surgery.
Urkel alert! Family Matters: The Complete First Season (Warner) debuts on DVD. The hit sitcom of the nineties centered on the extended Winslow clan in the Chicago suburbs—policeman dad Reginald VelJohnson, housewife mom JoMarie Payton, widowed auntie and single mom Telma Hopkins, plus grandma and a houseful of kids—are the ostensible stars of the show and the utterly conventional episodes end with a lesson, hugs and understanding for all. But it was Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), the uber-geek next door neighbor, that became the show’s break-out character and poster-boy. He doesn’t actually appear until the twelfth episode, but after his debut the family can’t get rid of him. 22 episodes on three discs. No supplements
The A-Team: The Complete Series (Limited Edition Box Set) (Universal) – With the feature film resurrection of the soldier-of-fortune TV adventure series about to open, Universal gathers the entire run of the original show. George Peppard’s disguise-loving Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith and his eccentric team of Vietnam Vet commandos—Mr. T as the hot-tempered B.A. Baracus who can master anything mechanical but is deathly afraid of flying, Dwight Schultz as sanity-challenged pilot and B.A.’s worst nightmare “Howling Mad” Murdock, and Dirk Benedict as confidence man “Faceman” Peck (who replaced Tim Dunigan after the pilot)—took TV by storm when they debuted in a two-hour TV movie in January, 1983. On the run from the army and the relentless Col. Lynch (William Lucking) for a war crime they didn’t commit, they hire themselves out as unconventional soldiers of fortune, managing to always ally themselves with the innocent and the victimized. The Stephen J. Cannel creation is pure pulp TV: lots of action, plenty of gimmicks, a scam or two in every episode, plenty of anti-establishment rebellion, and Mr. T. What’s not to like? Robert Vaughn joins the cast as the mysterious General Hunt Stockwell and Eddie Velez helps out the team as special effects wiz Frankie “Dishpan” Santana in the final 13-episode season The limited edition high concept package (a cardboard case in the shape of a van) opens up to reveal five standard cases (one for each season) housing 25 discs and 100 episodes (at least the way they split the feature pilot into two), plus an interview with creator Cannell. Which means you get the silly/funky conversation piece and you can still file discs with the rest of your collection.
Also new this week: The PBS series Ghostwriter: Season One (Shout! Factory), the Disney Channel StarStruck: Extended Edition (Disney) and Jim Henson’s Dog City: The Movie (Lionsgate) from 1985.