Chris Hicks: 'Foyle's War' perfect blend of wartime espionage and murder mysteries
TV favorites "Foyle's War," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Father Dowling Mysteries," "The FBI" and "Doctor Who" all have new DVD sets in stores this week.
"Foyle's War: The Home Front Files" (Acorn, 2002-2010, 22 discs, $149.99, 22 episodes, featurettes, photo gallery, text notes on production and historical accuracy, text filmographies). Michael Kitchen is absolutely perfect as the beleaguered, close-to-the-vest but courteous and helpful detective chief superintendent Christopher Foyle, laboring in the small English seaside town of Hastings during and just after World War II.
This series of 22 feature-length episodes covers 1940-45 as Foyle, a World War I veteran, seeks work in the War Office but finds his requests repeatedly denied. So, with his driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) and an injured veteran, Sgt. Paul Milner (Anthony Howell), Foyle investigates crimes, solves murders and often finds himself at odds with his superiors, especially when his cases cross over into wartime events.
There are a lot of excellent British TV series that find success on this side of the pond, but few are as completely satisfying as this one, which not only captivatingly captures the period and cleverly weaves history into each episode but also boasts endearing characters you can't wait to catch up with. Kitchen is great, but so are Howell and especially Weeks, whose cockeyed optimism is an utter delight.
A new three-episode season is scheduled for PBS later this year, so if you haven't yet caught up with "Foyle's War," now's the time.
"Law & Order: Criminal Intent: The Final Year" (Shout! 2011, two discs, $29.93, eight episodes). Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe are reunited as detectives Goren and Eames in this abbreviated farewell season of the second "Law & Order" spinoff, with Jay O. Sanders as their new chief and Julia Ormond as a therapist Goren is required to see. Guests include Jeri Ryan, Steven Weber, Cynthia Nixon, James Van Der Beek and in her acting debut, rock 'n' roller Patti Smith.
"Father Dowling Mysteries: The Final Season" (CBS/Paramount, 1990-91, five discs, $61.99, 22 episodes, promos). Father Dowling (Tom Bosley) and Sister Steve (Tracy Nelson) continue to solve murders in this third and final season of the light comedy-mystery series. James Stephens co-stars as a young priest, and scene-stealer Mary Wickes plays the housekeeper. Guests include David McCallum, David Warner and John Astin.
"The FBI: The Fourth Season" (Warner Archive, 1968-69, seven discs, $49.95, 26 episodes). This series continues to provide exciting episodes as Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and his agents investigate a plane hijacking, a kidnapping, Communist spies, a con artist impersonating an Air Force officer, etc. Guests include Harrison Ford, Hal Holbrook, Diane Baker, Dorothy Provine, Louis Jourdan, Cicely Tyson, Bruce Dern, and 14-year-old Ron Howard, among others. (Available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
"Doctor Who: The Aztecs: Special Edition" (BBC, 1964, b/w, two discs, $34.98, four episodes, audio commentary, featurettes, photo gallery; PDF materials).
"Doctor Who: The Ark in Space: Special Edition" (BBC, 1975, two discs, $34.98, four episodes, feature-length movie version, audio commentary, featurettes, photo gallery; PDF materials). "The Aztecs" is a series from the show's first season with William Hartnell as the good doctor, finding 15th-century Mexico a less than friendly place to visit, while "The Ark in Space," with Tom Baker as the doctor, has the crew landing on a space station in the future that has been invaded by a parasitic insect race.
"Ripper Street" (BBC, 2013, three discs, $29.98, eight episodes, featurettes). Set in the late 1880s, several months after the last Jack the Ripper killing, this series follows two British police detectives and an American Army surgeon who investigate homicides in London's Whitechapel district. Well made with an engaging cast but also very dark and occasionally sleazy. (Also on Blu-ray, $34.98)
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