Quite a few TV shows have found their way to DVD this week, including a terrific miniseries from the late 1970s and several enjoyable contemporary shows.
"Washington Behind Closed Doors" (Acorn, 1977, three discs, $59.99). Solid performances from a first-rate cast bolster this well-written melodrama based on the novel "The Company," by John Ehrlichman, which was written while he was still in prison and barely conceals its Nixon/Watergate parallels.
Jason Robards plays the Nixon stand-in, President Monckton, but the lead role is really the CIA director through whose eyes the story unfolds.
It's a thankless role but is played with authority by Cliff Robertson. Others get the eye-rolling, scenery-chewing bits, especially Robards, but also Andy Griffith, Robert Vaughn (in an Emmy-winning turn), John Houseman and many other recognizable character actors from this era. Stefanie Powers is also on hand to add some glamour.
This is a drama to be sure, but it also has some wit and a bit of a winking sense of humor if you're familiar with the Watergate story. Watch this and then watch "All the President's Men" (which also features Robards in an Oscar-winning role).
Extras: full frame, six episodes; eight-page booklet
"Fairly Legal" (Universal, 2011, three discs, $34.98). Sarah Shahi is most appealing in this comedy-drama as Kate Reed, an independent mediator working in her late father's San Francisco law firm, butting heads with the trophy wife he left behind. She's also in conflict with her soon-to-be ex-husband, an assistant district attorney. But my favorite character is Kate's hilarious go-to assistant Leo (Baron Vaughn), a pop-culture nerd who picks up the ball whenever she drops it. Season 2 is now in progress but low ratings suggest there may not be a Season 3.
Extras: widescreen, 10 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentary, bloopers
"Doc Martin: Series 5" (Acorn, 2011, two discs, $39.99). The misanthropic doctor (Martin Clunes) must cope with being a father while in the midst of plans to return to London after four seasons of medical practice on the eccentrics of a tiny Cornwall fishing village in this British comedy-drama. Still amusing. (A sixth season will arrive in 2013.)
Extras: widescreen, eight episodes, featurette, text filmographies, photo gallery
"White Collar: Season 3" (Fox, 2011, four discs, $39.98). Con man Neil Caffrey (Matt Bomer) and Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), the FBI agent who caught him, continue their sometimes tenuous relationship taking down art forgers and thieves in Manhattan in this funny and sharp series. Favorite character: Mozzie (Willie Garson), especially in his friendship with Peter's wife (Tiffani Thiessen).
Extras: widescreen, 16 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentary, trivia, bloopers
"Burn Notice" (Fox, 2011, four discs, $39.98). Bruce Campbell is always a hoot and it's fun to see him in a regular role on this action-comedy series with Jeffrey Donovan, whose lead character, superspy Michael Westen, rejoins the CIA as a consultant this season. Garbrielle Anwar and Sharon Gless offer enjoyable support.
Extras: widescreen, 18 episodes, deleted scenes/extended episode, audio commentary, featurette, bloopers
"Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Eighth Season" (HBO, 2011, two discs, $39.98). Here's another comic misanthrope, Larry David, in a fictional version of himself, heading to Manhattan to stir up trouble with completely inappropriate responses to every situation. Guests this season include Michael J. Fox, Rosie O'Donnell, Wanda Sykes, Ricky Gervais and many others. And, this being HBO, there is a great deal of R-rated material.
Extras: widescreen, 10 episodes, featurettes
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