American and British crime solvers lead these TV shows that are new to DVD.
"Blue Bloods: The First Season" (CBS/Paramount, 2010-11, six discs, $64.99). This police procedural/family drama is filled with well-drawn characters in a multi-generational family of cops (and one A.D.A.) serving and protecting, and occasionally squabbling.
Tom Selleck sets the tone as the family patriarch, New York City's police commissioner. His offspring include his daughter (Bridget Moynahan), an assistant district attorney; his oldest son (Donnie Wahlberg), a veteran police detective (partnered with Jennifer Esposito); and a younger son (Will Estes), who was on track to be a lawyer but instead becomes a rookie cop (partnered with Nicholas Turturro).
The performances are uniformly excellent and the writing that brings the family together is equal to them, within the conceit that they are close-knit, churchgoing Catholics, and even have Sunday dinners together. The police-procedural aspects are less so, however — sometimes enjoyable but often overly familiar and occasionally over the top.
Still, it's a finely modulated mix, albeit somewhat old-fashioned (which is meant as a compliment), and it makes for a most satisfying weekly hour of television in an age when way too many cop shows simply make us wince.
Extras: widescreen, 22 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes, promos, bloopers (Season 2 begins Sept. 23)
"Midsomer Murders: Set 18" (Acorn, 2009, three discs, $39.99). The three feature-length mysteries in this set are the final episodes of Season 12, as Barnaby (John Nettles) and Jones (Jason Hughes) match wits with a cat burglar, a killer whose first victim is found at a model village, and a sleepwalking schoolteacher who may or may not be a murderess.
With its emphasis on quirky rural characters investigated by these reliable police partners, this show is as much a pleasure to put on as a pair of comfortable old shoes. Jenny Agutter guests in one episode, which also has a surprising moment of nudity.
Extras: widescreen, three episodes, interview with Hughes
"Vera" (Acorn, 2011, four discs, $59.99). Two-time Oscar-nominee Brenda Blethyn leaves the big screen for the small screen with this British mystery, playing police detective Vera Stanhope, based on the novels by Ann Cleeves.
Blethyn is always good but the character isn't terribly likeable, almost as cold as the dark, dank Northumberland villages where she investigates chilly murders. Well done of its type, with gritty imagery.
Extras: widescreen, four feature-length episodes
"Criminal Minds: Season 6" (CBS/Paramount, 2010-11, six discs, $64.99). Thomas Gibson, Joe Mantegna and the rest of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit continue to track down serial killers in this very dark, sometimes bleak procedural. (Season 7 begins Sept. 21)
Extras: widescreen, 24 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers
"The Good Wife: The Second Season" (CBS/Paramount, 2010-11, six discs, $64.99). Julianna Margulies stars in this offbeat melodrama about the lives of a group of Chicago lawyers — with a great cast that includes Chris Noth, Christine Baranski, Josh Charles and Alan Cumming). This second season also features Michael J. Fox in three episodes.
Extras: widescreen, 23 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes, music videos
"The Battle for Marjah" (Athena/Blu-ray, 2010, $34.99). Harrowing up-close-and-personal documentary exploration of a Marine Corps operation against a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan as captured by journalist Ben Anderson.
Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, timeline of the Afghanistan war, text featurette
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