‘Chuck: Season Four’ – Spy Games

Chuck, the tongue-in-cheek spy show about an amiable nerd turned into super-spy, is heading into its fifth and final season on TV. Consider Chuck: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner) your chance to catch up with everyman super-spy Chuck Bartowski, implanted with a program called The Intersect, who begins the season retired from the spy game.

Right, like that’s going to last, especially when he discovers his mother (Linda Hamilton) is in the hands of the enemy and the old Buy More store has been rebuilt as a high-tech CIA/NSA cover, and they want Chuck back in circulation. So while his sister has a baby, his mother plays double agent and he spends half the season planning the perfect proposal to his partner and paramour Sarah (Yvonne Strahovski), Chuck remains busy taking out enemy agents, in particular this season’s token international criminal mastermind Alexei Volkoff (a perfectly droll Timothy Dalton).

Actually, one of the show’s attractions is its fun casting and this season gets Richard Chamberlain and genre figures Dolph Lundgren, Lou Ferrigno, Steve Austin, Robert Englund and Summer Glau, not to mention Harry Dean Stanton as a repo man in the season debut. And just as fun is “Chuck Versus the C.A.T. Squad,” which opens as a parody of “Charlie’s Angels” as a cheesy cable action show. And it all ends with a wedding, which goes just as smoothly as you would expect in a show where Chuck discovers an international criminal every time he blinks.

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TV on DVD 09/07/10 – More from Chuck and The Office crew, plus Norm is Less Than Perfect

It’s two weddings, a birth and a funeral for Dunder Mifflin in The Office: Season Six (Universal). Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) have their wedding at Niagara Falls, complete with a back-up plan because any wedding involving their blindly insensitive, blithely sexist and attention-starved boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is vulnerable to disaster, but they return to a company on the verge of bankruptcy. Plus Pan gives birth, Andy (Ed Helms) woos Erin (Ellie Kemper) with his usual graceless, sweetly blundering innocence, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) continues his schemes to get Jim fired and Dunder Mifflin gets a new owner: Sabre industries and its straight-talking Texas owner Jo Bennett (Kathy Bates). It’s hard to believe that the docu-reality show gimmick has not worn thin after all these years, but the show has continued to evolve and remain strong for six seasons. The seventh season—and the last season with star Steve Carell—begins in late September.

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26 episodes on five discs (four on Blu-ray) in a fold-out digipak, plus commentary on four episodes, an extended version of one episode, the complete “Welcome to Sabre” corporate video (which the office-mates probably should have watched before composing a welcome song extolling the virtues of “saw-bray”), a podcast mini-sode and two hours of deleted scenes among the supplements. The Blu-ray features the usual interactive BD-Live functions along with a new feature: it will also allow viewers BD-Live access to the first few Season Seven episodes of The Office after they’ve aired.

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TV on DVD for 1/5/10 – Big Love for Chuck and Mighty Mouse

Big Love: The Complete Third Season (HBO) – You’ve got to have big love when you’re juggling three wives in suburbia. True Blood may be HBO’s reigning cult series, but this complicated drama of big love, bigger family and a skewed yet impassioned perspective on family values remains the most interesting and involving show on the premium cable channel. Bill Pullman is Mormon businessman Bill Henrickson, a practicing polygamist with three dedicated wives (elder wife Jeanne Tripplehorn, problem middle wife Chloe Sevigny, and youngest Ginnifer Goodwin) and seven surprisingly well-adjusted children in adjoining houses in a suburban Salt Lake City neighborhood.

Welcome to the family: "Big Love"
Welcome to the Family: "Big Love"

In past seasons they’ve been careful to hide the true nature of their arrangement from their more traditional neighbors but secrets have a tendency to leak out. That’s one of the reasons that Bill decides to branch out the family business into gambling and gaming: while a polygamy scandal could tarnish the family-friendly reputation of their appliance and building supplies stores, it’s no big deal in the casino business. But there are always complications and this season they involve the government’s case against self-proclaimed prophet and former compound leader Roman (Harry Dean Stanton), Bill’s nemesis and the dark face of Mormon fundamentalism, and the way he manipulates his daughter (and Bill’s second wife) to infiltrate the prosecution office and sabotage the case. What I’ve always appreciated about the show is the balance between individuals searching for their own identities while unequivocally devoted to family and protective of all of its members, no matter what their conflicted emotions or conflicted loyalties. The final episode of the third season reminds us once again that family is about inclusiveness, forgiveness and acceptance, and it does so with touching conviction. Ten episodes on four discs, plus a trio of three-minute webisodes, which make nice but inconsequential grace notes to the show proper, and four promotional featurettes promoted as bonus “Their Stories So Far” monologues. The new season begins this Sunday and I can’t wait.

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