TV on DVD Women of the Seventies Week – Mary Tyler Moore, The Bionic Woman and Free to Be Marlo Thomas

The Bionic Woman: Season One (Universal) – Lindsay Wagner is Jamie Sommers, an internationally-ranked professional tennis player who gets bionic parts after a sky diving accident, in this spin-off from the hit seventies show The Six Million Dollar Man, where the character was originally introduced as a romantic interest for Steve Austin (Lee Majors). Jamie Sommers appeared in five episodes of the show before spinning off into her own series in 1976, where she became a teacher for problem kids at an American Air Force base school between missions for boss Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson, reprising his role from The Six Million Dollar Man).

Jogging with the Bionic couple

Seen with contemporary eyes, the show’s espionage and cold-war scripts are naïve and contrived and the reliance on slow-motion/rapid speed footage and cheesy sound effects has a tendency to look comical, but Wagner is an engaging actress and a warm presence (she shows up the guarded, stiff Majors in their scenes together) and, if nothing else, brings a spontaneity lacking in the scripts. NBC tried to revive the series in a 2007 reboot in a modern vein, but it was cancelled before it gained any traction. This is the original seventies incarnation.

In addition to the 13 episodes of the first season, it includes the five initial episodes from the parent series, including the two-part introduction and the final appearance that launched directly into this show, and the disc producers are sharp enough to present these on the first disc and keep the run in chronological order. Four discs in a bookleaf digipak, with the retrospective featurette “Bionic Beginnings” featuring a new interview with Lindsay Wagner and commentary on the two-part debut by writer Kenneth Johnson and on the final two episodes of the debut season by director Alan J. Levi, writer James. D. Parriott and writer/director Kenneth Johnson.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The Complete Seventh Season (Fox) – Who can turn the world on with a smile? Mary Tyler Moore, of course, and this set features her final season on the landmark sitcom (created by James L. Brooks) as single professional Mary Richards making it after all in the big city of Minneapolis. Ed Asner is her newsroom boss (“Oh, Mr. Grant!”), a gruff but lovable father figure, Gavin McLeod is news copywriter Murray Slaughter, Ted Knight is the vain newsman Ted Baxter, Betty White is cooking show host Sue Ann Nivens and Georgia Engel is Ted’s dim but lovable wife Georgette. Highlights this include the birth of Ted and Georgette’s baby, Murray’s nerve-wracking tenure as a producer and, of course, the landmark finale, and this set features the final curtain call of the cast, which has been unseen since it aired on March 19, 1977. 24 episodes on three discs in a standard case with a hinged tray, but no supplements (beyond the curtain call), which is a little surprising given the legacy of this series. Perhaps on the inevitable “Complete Series Collection,” which has not been announced or anything but is surely being planned for some holiday season release.

Free to Be You and Me: Special 36th Anniversary Edition (Hen’s Tooth) – What? Someone forgot to mark the 35th anniversary on the calendar? No matter, this new edition of the superb 1974 Marlo Thomas-produced children’s variety show is remastered from the original broadcast tapes. Highlights include Thomas and Mel Brooks as newborns in the puppet skit “Boy Meets Girl,” Rosie Grier singing “It’s Alright to Cry,” Michael Jackson and Roberta Flack singing “When We Grow Up,” and Alan Alda narrating the tale of “Atalanta” with Thomas. Other guest stars include Harry Belafonte, Rita Coolidge, Billy De Wolfe, Roberta Flack, Kris Kristoferson, The New Seekers, Tom Smothers, The Voices of East Harlem and Dionne Warwick. Supplements include a new introduction by Marlo Thomas and a deleted scene: Dustin Hoffman in “How I Crossed The Street.”

20th Century with Mike Wallace: Politics and Presidents (Athena) features ten episodes of the documentary series from CBS News and Emmy® and Peabody Award-winning newsman Mike Wallace.

Also new this week: Showtime’s lesbian chic reality series The Real L Word: The First Season (Paramount), Lock ‘n Load (Paramount), Shaun the Sheep: Season One (Lionsgate), Tales From the Darkside: The Final Season (Paramount) and Marcus Welby, M.D.: Season Two (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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