'I, Claudius' miniseries spiffed up for its 35th anniversary

Published: Saturday, March 31 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

John Hurt as Caligula and Derek Jacobi as Claudius in the highly acclaimed — but very adult — miniseries "I, Claudius."

Acorn

One of the most acclaimed TV miniseries of all time leads these programs that have arrived on DVD this week.

"I, Claudius: 35th Anniversary Edition" (Acorn, 1976, four discs, $59.99). The highly acclaimed, Emmy-winning and very adult BBC/PBS miniseries about life among the rulers of the Roman Empire, from Augustus to Claudius, is spiffed up in this anniversary set with some new bonus features.

The series stars Derek Jacobi as Claudius, narrating events in his old age as he looks back upon Roman history (roughly 24 B.C. to A.D. 54), with all the political rivalries, family squabbles and backstabbing soap-opera machinations that shaped the era.

The script, set design and direction are first-rate script, along with a sea of familiar faces in the cast, including Sian Phillips, Brian Blessed, John Hurt and Patrick Stewart, among others.

Extras: full frame, 12 episodes, extended episodes, featurettes; eight-page booklet

"Eureka: Season 4.5" (Universal/Syfy, 2011, three discs, $29.98). Eureka, Ore., populated almost entirely by geniuses of one sort or another, is a town where strange things happen and the brainiac residents set them right. But Season 4 began a shift of sorts as a time-travel plot took over, and in this set scientists jockey for a slot on a space mission. A clever, witty cult favorite. Season 5 begins next month.

Extras: widescreen, 12 episodes, deleted scenes, extended episode, audio commentaries, featurettes, gag reel

"Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume: XXIII" (Shout! 1948-77, four discs, b/w and color, $59.97). These four episodes from the Comedy Central years include a black-and-white '40s western, "Last of the Wild Horses"; Christopher Lee in "The Castle of Fu Manchu"; a failed TV pilot with Roy Thinnes, "Code Name: Diamond Head"; and a '50s black-and-white creature feature, "King Dinosaur." The movies all stink, but the aroma is muted by the laughter provoked by the MSTK3 team as they crack wise throughout.

Extras: full frame/widescreen, new introduction, short films, featurettes, mini-posters

"Single-Handed: Set 2" (Acorn, 2010, three discs, $49.99). Irish cop Jack Driscoll (Owen McDonnell) is back for three extended mysteries in this filmed-on-location series: "The Lost Boys," "Between Two Fires" and "A Cold Heaven." Smart writing bolsters these yarns about crime in a small Irish village as Driscoll sometimes goes up against his neighbors to bring wrongdoers to justice.

Extras: widescreen, six episodes

"Murder Investigation Team: Series Two" (Acorn, 2005, two discs, $39.99). London's Special Crimes Unit (think "CSI") attempts to solve mysteries with new technology and street instincts, complicated by mounting evidence that is quickly going cold. This set has stories that focus on hospital malpractice, a pro football player found dead near a public park and the team itself when one of their own becomes a suspect in the murder of a crime-scene investigator.

Extras: widescreen, four episodes, featurette, text profiles

"South Park: The Complete Fifteenth Season" (Comedy Central/Paramount, 2011, three discs, $57.99). Social media, political correctness and Tyler Perry are among the targets in last season's episodes of the foul-mouthed, crude and sometimes disgusting animated cable series that remains a solid cable hit 16 years in. The latest season is now in progress.

Extras: widescreen, 14 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes

"CatDog: Season 1, Part 2" (Shout! 1998, two discs, $19.93). The second half of the first season of this bizarre animated series has the conjoined cat-and-dog twins having more run-ins with neighbor Winslow and street gang the Greaser Dogs.

Extras: full frame, 10 episodes

e-mail: hicks@desnews.com

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