Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (BBC) – After four series manning the extraordinarily successful revival of the most beloved time- and space-traveling hero on British television, Russell T. Davies passed the TARDIS off to the prolific and creative Steven Moffat to carry on the tradition. He does the show with a colorful season of adventures, an ingenious storyline that follows a crack in the universe from the season premiere through the entire 13-episode run (and the end and rebirth of the universe) and Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.
Smith’s boyish energy and animated face (seriously, he looks like a clay animation character) channels all we’ve come to love in the last of the Time Lords. Red-headed spark plug Karen Gillan gets an even more active role than usual as his companion and Arthur Darvill clicks as her devoted boyfriend, as much a hero in the quantum adventure as the Doctor himself, while Alex Kingston back as River Song, a fellow time-traveler and eternal prisoner seeking amnesty by helping the Doctor save the universe time and again. We also get the Daleks, the Cybermen, Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice), a guest cast that includes Sophie Okonedo, Bill Paterson and Toby Jones, and the mysterious Pandorica, a myth that becomes real by the end of the series.
13 episodes on six discs in a bookleaf case along with picture-in-picture “In Vision Commentary” on six episodes with the writers, producers, directors and actors (the video inset is unnecessary since the commentators are just sitting around and talking) and 13 “Doctor Who Confidential” featurettes (one for each episode), which are BBC’s in-house promotional pieces but are still quite lively and entertaining little featurettes. Also features two deleted scenes, a three-part video diary, four “Monster Files” profiles and other supplements. Doctor Who is beloved in Britain and the BBC goes all out for the show. That love is all over this set.
Stephen Moffat’s other new series, the Holmes update Sherlock: Season One, is reviewed separately on my blog here.
Lie to Me: Season Two (Fox) – Tim Roth knows when you’re lying in this crime show about a private agency of human lie detectors, or “deception experts,” that hire themselves out to law enforcement, corporations and private citizens with enough money (or an interesting enough challenge. The first season was almost insufferable but with Shawn Ryan (of The Shield and The Unit) at helm as executive producer and show-runner of the second season, it eases up on the forensic technobabble and humanizes the characters, especially the caustic and combatitive Roth, who warms up as Ryan brings his teenage daughter and ex-wife (Jennifer Beals) into his life. Plus Ryan brings in plenty of actors from his earlier shows, including a whopping five veterans from The Shield in the season highlight “Pied Piper.” Kelli Williams is his partner (working through a divorce from a cheating husband—we’re always blind to the lies of the closest to us) and Brendan Hines and Monica Raymund the junior agents of the company, and Mekhi Phifer joins the cast as their FBI contact. 22 episodes on six discs, plus two featurettes, extended and deleted scenes and “Dr. Ekman’s Blogs.”
Tis the season for the mega-sets to start rolling out. Here are a few choice collections:
Tonight: 4 Decades From The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (R2) – The legacy of the king of late night has been celebrated in numerous collections of guest highlights, compilation shows, skits and stand-up comedian appearances from The Tonight Show. This new collection features 56 complete episodes, spanning from 1965 (a New Year’s show with Woody Allen and The Muppets—and the only show from the sixties in the collection) to 1990, and gives you the complete Carson experience from monologue through farewell with all the guests, comedy bits and transitions intact. Carson was a pro and makes managing the flow of a show look effortless. These are preserved from archival videotapes and hardly stellar, but the shows are complete and certainly watchable, plus there’s a plus a bonus disc with the hour-long “Rescued Gems of the 60s” and bonus interviews with four of his regular guests: Loni Anderson (who talks about her first Carson appearance as a harem girl extra in a comedy skit), David Brenner, Jim Fowler, and Baxter Black. 15 discs in a box set with a flip-up top and four fold-out cases.
The Golden Girls: 25th Anniversary Complete Collection (Disney) is not to my tastes but it has its fans and the complete seven-season run—180 episodes in all—is now collected in this new box set for the 25th Anniversary of its debut. It basically collects the previously released sets (complete with select commentary tracks, bonus featurettes and other supplements) but you gotta give them credit for the packaging: a faux handbag case with Velcro clasps and a bonus pack of playing cards.
Bing Crosby: The Television Specials – Volume Two: The Christmas Specials (Infinity), helpfully timed for the holiday season, features four TV specials, from his first holiday special in 1961 to his final 1977 special Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas, featuring the beautiful duet of “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” with David Bowie, plus the 1957 Christmas episode from The Frank Sinatra Show.
Also new to DVD: Perry Mason: Season 5, Volume 2 (Paramount) and Sondheim: The Birthday Concert (Image), fresh from its PBS premiere.