TV on DVD: ‘Smallville: The Complete Series’

Smallville launched in 2001 as a superhero series by way of a Dawson’s Creek style young adult melodrama: teen angst with a kryptonite boost and moral lessons in a freak-of-the-week serial. Tom Welling looked more like a Tiger Beat cover model than a small town farm boy, but his gentle blue eyes and aw-shucks smile made his high school freshman Clark Kent all innocence as his powers emerge as he grew up — not your usual problems with puberty. The producers made a point of never putting Clark into the familiar costume. This was a show about the boy — and the man — before he was Superman.

The series had its ups and downs and almost ended after falling ratings in its seventh season but it improved enough to win back audiences and power through ten seasons to end on the long-awaited and highly-anticipated sight of Welling’s debut in the familiar red, white and blue costume, streaking off to save the world as Superman. In the process, it became the longest-running superhero series on television.

Smallville: The Complete Series (Warner) is one of the most impressive TV box sets of the year, a collection of all 218 episodes and supplements, plus exclusive bonus supplements, on 62 discs in a box set of hefty digibook cases. It’s DVD only (seasons 6 – 10 are the only seasons available on Blu-ray) and the two digibook cases feature stiff paperboard sleeves rather than trays (which means fingerprints on the disc and a fears of scuffing when removing and returning them to the case), but it’s a solid, substantial set.

The show stands up to the revisit, from the touch-and-go almost romance with Kristin Kreuk’s Lana Lang and the unlikely friendship with Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), the bad-boy millionaire trying to make good before slipping back into bad to long-simmering romance with Lois Lane and the building of the “Smallville” superhero universe. In those early seasons, the strength of the show was in the warm the family relationships with John Schneider and Annette O’Toole as his rock steady, salt of the Earth adoptive parents, who balance moral backbone with just a touch of modern sexiness, and the tension with his Kryptonian father Jor-El (voice of Terence Stamp). It’s satisfying to see it come full circle in the final season.

The 218 episodes are on 60 discs. The final two discs features supplements exclusive to this set. Some fans will be most interested in the rare 1961 pilot “The Adventures of Superboy,” if only out of curiosity and archival interest, but the presentation is frustrating: the program is shown small in the screen, framed within the picture of an old console-style TV set. The show itself is pretty corny and a little stiff and it never made it to series. This is the first time it’s been released on home video.

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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.

Your Office Staff

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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