Warehouse 13: Season One (Universal) – Remember the end of Raider’s of the Lost Ark where the Ark of the Covenant is stashed away amidst the brick-a-brac of lost and found treasures in some massive government warehouse? That could be Warehouse 13, where, in the words of its curator Artie (Saul Rubinek), “We take the unexplained and we just safely tuck it away in the supersized Pandora’s Box.” In this case, the unexplained involves supernatural objects, metaphysical inventions and ancient technology, the “artifacts” that the warehouse is designed to hide away.
Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly star as the oil-and-water secret service agents who are drafted into the even more secret service of the Warehouse: Kelly as the smart, disciplined and driven agent’s agent Myka Bering and McClintock as the easygoing, off-the cuff Pete Lattimer, whose freewheeling attitude actually comes in handy when tracking down items of magic (such as Edgar Allan Poe’s pen) and metaphysics (like Tesla inventions). The steampunk aesthetic, and the mix of science and supernatural, makes it a companion piece to SyFy’s other lighthearted science adventure series, Eureka (and in fact, a few Eureka performers show in guest roles here). Teenage hacker Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) joins the series in episode four, CCH Pounder brings a sardonic authority as their boss and Roger Rees has a recurring role as a former agent turned nemesis with a thriving business in black market artifacts.
There’s commentary on four episodes, beginning with Saul Rubinek offering a detailed account of the audition process and revealing insight to his approach to developing the character on the “Pilot” episode. Writer/executive producer/showrunner Jack Kenny is joined by actresses Joanne Kelly, Allison Scagliotti and CCH Pounder and others on the rest of the tracks (including the finale). The rest of the supplements are as breezy as the show: short behind the scenes featurettes, interviews and jokes about Saul Rubinek’s eyebrows, plus a purely promotional Sneak Peak at Season Two (“It’s be even better than Season One!”). The second season kicks of on SyFy in July.
And speaking of SyFy lite, Eureka: Season 3.5 (Universal) features the final ten episode from the third season of the whimsical SyFy original series about a secret government think-tank town, where a population of maverick inventors and eccentric geniuses is policed by sardonic everyman Sheriff Carter (Colin Ferguson). This run opens with Carter getting his job back and getting a new love interest (Jamie Ray Newman) and ends with his daughter heading off to college. In between he stops experiments gone wrong from destroying life as we know it. Plus there’s a grudge bowling match between the town’s eccentric geniuses and the scientists from Area 51. 10 episodes on two discs in a two-panel digipak (made from recycled materials), plus episode commentaries, podcast commentaries, deleted scenes and a special effects featurette. The new season begins on SyFy in July.
Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory) – Jerry Mathers is Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver in the gee-whiz sitcom of fifties suburban life and homespun family values. The youngest son of businessman Ward (Hugh Beaumont) and homemaker June (Barbara Billingsley) and brother of teenager Wally (Tony Dow), the Beave is a good kid, if somewhat prone to let his imagination get him into trouble. The series was a staple of syndicated TV in the after school hours and multiple generations grew up on Ward’s fatherly advice, Wally’s high-school problem, and the innocent (and actually quite well behaved) Beaver’s clumsy but sincere observations of life (“You know something, Wally? I’d rather do nothin’ with you than somethin’ with anybody else”). Ken Osmond is at least as memorable as the troublemaking and obsequious Eddie Haskell (“Oh, Good afternoon, Mrs. Cleaver. That’s a lovely dress”), Frank Bank is Haskell’s sidekick Lumpy and Rusty Stevens and Stanley Fafara co-star as Beaver’s best friends Larry Mondello and Whitey. It’s nostalgia overload, which wears thin on me after a while (even if I did grow up watching reruns of the show in syndication) but is still kind of charming in small doses. “Gee Wally, that’s swell.” All six seasons of the quintessential family sitcom (including three seasons never before available on DVD) are here: 234 episodes on 36 discs divided by season in six standard cases (each very snugly packed with hinged trays), with bonus audio interviews with cast members Jerry Mathers, Tony Dow, Ken Osmond and Frank Bank. Exclusive to the set is bonus disc featuring the pilot episode “It’s a Small World,” a retrospective featurette and more cast and crew interviews.
How the Earth Changed History (BBC) – The creators and host of the BBC/National Geographic series Earth: The Biography reunite for this series on how (in the words of host Iain Stewart) “four great planetary forces that have influenced our history. ” The series was originally called How Earth Made Us on its BBC broadcast, which is more accurate to the show’s scope. The episodes explore the power of the deep Earth, wind, fire and water on the development of mankind on Earth, looking at the big historical picture of human settlements and the conditions that influenced migration, agriculture, tools (thanks to mineral deposits) and other defining movements in the story of mankind. Five episodes on two discs on both DVD and Blu-ray, plus the featurette “Filming in Extremes.”
The Closer: The Complete Fifth Season (Warner) – I tend to forget how much better this TNT original series is than most cop/detective shows on network or cable TV. Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) has a quirky enough personal life (she faces married life and the death of Kitty this season, not to mention a problem niece—played by Sedgwick’s real-life daughter, Sosie Bacon—who overstays her welcome) but what makes the show so good is her loyalty and leadership and the chemistry of her team, a squad we have watched mature into a crack unit of detectives each working at the top of their game. Plus Mary McDonnell tangles with Brenda in three episodes this season as Captain Raydor, a dedicated and dogged Internal Affairs officer whose commitment to her job is as fierce as Brenda’s. Their clashes are season highlights. 15 episodes on four discs, plus deleted scenes and a featurette on the episode locations. The new season begins in July.
Also new this week: a pair of British productions—A Bit of a Do Complete Collection (Acorn) with David Jason and Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (Acorn), the 1975 mini-series with Lee Remick as Winston Churchill’s American mother—and the American shows Paranormal Cops: The Complete Season One (A&E), The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo: The Complete Series (Warner) and Mad About You: The Complete Fourth Season (Shout! Factory).