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
"New Tricks: Season Seven" (Acorn, 2010, three discs, $39.99). The semi-retired curmudgeon detectives recruited by Det. Sandra Pullman stir up more trouble while solving crimes in this dark, funny British procedural.
Extras: widescreen, 10 episodes, featurette, bloopers
"Arn: The Knight Templar: The Complete Series" (eOne/Blu-ray, 2007, two discs, $34.98). Epic Swedish miniseries set in the 12th century follows the title character, an educated swordsman whose true love is imprisoned while he is sent away to do battle in a war between Christians and Muslims.. Large in scope and plenty of action, enhanced in hi-def.
Extras: widescreen, in English and various other languages with English subtitles, featurettes (also on DVD, $29.98)
"Pawn Stars: Volume Four" (History, 2011, two discs, $19.95). The Harrison pawnbrokers in Las Vegas haggle over Col. Sanders' suit and an Abe Lincoln campaign ribbon, among other objects.
Extras: widescreen, 16 episodes
"American Pickers: Volume Three" (History, 2011, two discs, $19.95). Back roads antique collectors Mike and Frank explore a 100-year-old amusement park.
Extras: widescreen, eight episodes
"Workaholics: Season Two" (Comedy Central, 2011, $19.99). Raunchy workplace sitcom about cubicle co-workers who are the usual adults stuck in adolescence. Includes an episode that parodies "21 Jump Street."
Extras: widescreen, 10 episodes, deleted/alternate scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers (also on Blu-ray with Season 1, $29.99)
"Civilization" (BBC, 2012, two discs, $34.98). Author/historian/provocateur Niall Ferguson's documentary series looks at the influence of the West dating back to the 1500s, examining everything from clothing to diet to housing.
"Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved" (History, 2012, $19.95). Documentary about the Titanic claims to have "never-before-seen" evidence and uses computer animation as it looks at what happened to the ship structurally.
"Babar: The Complete First Season" (eOne, 1989, two discs, $19.98). This classic animated series, originally seen on HBO and a much more low-key program than today's rapid-fire cartoons for kids, relates stories of Babar the elephant and his family in gentle, sweet-natured tales.
Extras: full frame, 13 episodes
"Phineas and Ferb: The Perry Files" (Disney, 2012, two discs, $19.99). Animated series has the secret agent platypus and his pal going up against evil nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz.
Extras: widescreen, seven episode, digital version, featurettes
"CatDog: Season 2, Part 1" (Nickelodeon/Shout! 1998, two discs, $19.93). The zany conjoined twins get in and out of more trouble in this animated series.
Extras: full frame, 10 episodes
"Rocko's Modern Life: Season Three" (Nickelodeon/Shout! 1995, $19.93). This animated show follows Australian wallaby Rocko and his pals in off-the-wall exploits in O-Town.
Extras: full frame, 13 episodes, audio commentary
"Team Umizoomi: Umigames" (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2009-2012, $14.99). Milli, Geo and Bot go on more sports-themed math adventures.
Extras: full frame, four episodes
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