TV on DVD 07/13/10 – Dark Blue, White Collar and Sesame Street Hawk

As the title suggests, Dark Blue: The Complete First Season (Warner Archive) is a cop drama set in the shadows of law enforcement. Dylan McDermott (of The Practice) plays the leader of a deep cover unit of the police that “doesn’t even officially exist,” with a team that is expected to pose and pass as criminals, thinking on their feet to stay alive while infiltrating criminal organizations. There’s the married man (Omari Hardwick) who finds the stress of the job putting strains on his marriage, the reckless maverick (Logan Marshall-Green) who makes up his own rules and the rookie with a past (Nicki Aycox). All, of course, are young and sexy.

The sexiest deep cover cops in L.A.

It’s created by Danny Cannon and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and like their earlier show CSI, most of the shows play on nocturnal streets and murky sets; there’s nary a well-lit interior to be found, apart from the brief scenes back in the real world of police headquarters. While they nudge up against the borders of morality and veer over the lines of the law to do their jobs, it steers clear of The Shield territory (where the most effective cops had no trouble justifying their criminal activity on the side) to focus on the rush of the danger and the toll that the job takes when everything and everyone is simply a means to end: get the bad guy.

10 episodes on four discs in a standard case with hinged trays. This is a manufactured-on-demand DVD-R set made available exclusively through the Warner Archive, but the quality is as good as traditional TV-on-DVD shows. There are no supplements apart from the “Season Two Preview,” which is less a supplement than a 30-second TV ad for the new season on TNT, which begins in August.

Street Hawk: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory) – “This is Jesse Mach, an ex-motorcycle cop, injured in the line of duty. Now a police troubleshooter, he’s been recruited for a top secret government mission to ride Street Hawk–an all-terrain attack motorcycle designed to fight urban crime, capable of incredible speeds up to three hundred miles an hour…and immense firepower. Only one man, federal agent Norman Tuttle, knows Jesse Mach’s true identity. The Man…The Machine…Street Hawk.”

Rex Smith is the former motocross champion turned L.A. cop who mounts the super-secret experimental “all-terrain attack motorcycle” in this short-lived action show left in the dust of Knight Rider. Because it’s all very hush-hush, he has to keep his involvement a secret and they don’t even tell the local PD that the city is the site of the trial run. So the mystery rider becomes something of a superhero and Jesse a man with a double life: police public relations officer by day, cycle-riding vigilante by night. Joe Regalbuto (Murphy Brown) co-stars as the inventor who monitors the high-tech dirt bike from his computer console. Not particularly good but there is plenty of harmless nostalgia to be had: an eighties synth soundtrack by Christopher Franke and Tangerine Dream, an early screen appearance by a young George Clooney (seriously, I think he made this before his voice dropped) in the second episode and an arsenal that includes lasers! 13 episodes (including the barely feature-length pilot, with guest villain Christopher Lloyd) on four discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus a 41-minute retrospective featurette, an alternate version of the pilot and an accompanying episode guide.

White Collar: Season One (Fox) – The USA cable network has found a successful formula, making breezy genre shows with personable stars, entertaining (and likable) characters and witty byplay while weaving long-running character arcs through otherwise standalone stories. White Collar puts the cops—in this case a unit of the FBI specializing in fraud, art theft and high-stakes robbery—in partnership with a professional criminal for a show that uses the art of confidence games and elaborate heists to stop crime. Matt Bomer is con artist, art forger and heist mastermind Neal Caffrey, a charmer of a master crook who specializes in black market artistic objects and historical treasures, and Tim DeKay is FBI agent Peter Burke, the only man to ever catch the slippery crook (twice) and now his boss, in a matter of speaking. Caffrey serves out the balance of his sentence as an adviser to the bureau and maverick junior partner to Burke while following his own investigation to rescue his old girlfriend. It’s light and frothy, a sleek little crime series with a heist or a con in every episode, and like the similar TNT series Leverage, the former bad guy discovers that it’s fun to use his criminal expertise in the service of the good guys, but the oil-and-water partnership and the colorful cast of supporting characters, in particular Willie Garson as Caffrey’s old partner-in-crime and now a reluctant partner in law, is the show’s main attraction. Tiffani Thiessen co-stars as Burke’s supportive wife, James Rebhorn his boss, Natalie Morales (of The Middleman) is a junior agent and Diahann Carroll has a recurring role as Caffrey’s landlady. They’re a fun group to hang out with. 13 episodes on four discs, plus commentary by creator Jeff Eastin and various grouping of the four stars on five episodes (including the pilot and the season finale), three featurettes and deleted scenes. The second season begins on USA the same day this collection goes on sale.

Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting (Lionsgate) – In 1979 Sesame Street, the acclaimed and beloved educational series and “the most famous street in America, maybe even the world” celebrated its 20th Anniversary with this TV special originally broadcast on commercial TV (though the ads are not on the DVD, the Count numbers off the commercial breaks for us). It’s introduced by Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog and hosted by Bill Cosby, but rather than a classic clip show, it remains in the style of the show. Lively and humorous, it cuts from skits to interviews (the cast talk of their characters in a round-table discussion) to songs and classic clips (including the characters addressing the death of Mr. Hooper) with a snappy energy, plus return visits from the grown kids who appeared in early skits and songs by Placido Domingo (in a duet with Muppet alter ego Placido Flamingo) and Ray Charles (performing “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” the show’s signature song of difference). There are a lot of memories in the brief 48-minute program. No supplements.

Saving Grace: The Final Season (Fox) – TNT’s police drama starring Holly Hunter as a brilliant, fearless and reckless Oklahoma City police detective who is visited by her own personal guardian angel (a drawling and plainspeaking Leon Rippy) comes to an end after three fascinating seasons of crime and punishment and opportunities for redemption. The DVD set is scheduled to hit stores the same day that the finale runs on cable. Like a lot of commercial cable dramas, it pushes the envelope of sex and nudity and fills the drama of tough moral quandaries and personal responsibility with dark humor. It’s not always pleasant, but it’s as fearless as its star, Holly Hunter, who plays the role without vanity or apology. 19 episodes on five discs, but no supplements, which is too bad. I figure the creators and stars have something to say and I’d like to hear it.

Also new this week: the 1991 British mini-series Selling Hitler (Acorn), the 2003 British documentary series World War I in Color (Acorn), Psych: The Complete Fourth Season (Universal), The Lucy Show: The Complete Second Season (Paramount) and the animated The Super Hero Squad Show: Vol. 1 (Shout! Factory).

For more DVD releases, see my picks for the week at my blog and my DVD column at MSN.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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