Chris Hicks: Gene Roddenberry's peacetime military series leads TV shows new to DVD this week
A single-season TV series from the 1960s has as many episodes as two seasons of today’s average cable series, as demonstrated by a military drama created by Gene Roddenberry that makes its DVD debut this week.
“The Lieutenant: The Complete Series, Part 1” (Warner Archive, 1963-64, b/w, four discs, $39.95, 16 episodes).
“The Lieutenant: The Complete Series, Part 2” (Warner Archive, 1964, b/w, four discs, $39.95, 13 episodes, TV movie). This one-season stateside military series about peacetime marines focuses on a newly minted lieutenant, Bill Rice (Gary Lockwood), whose gruff commanding officer (Robert Vaughn) gives him a hard time (to build his character, of course).
With the Vietnam War building during this period, it was inevitable that the conflict would come up in the show, and in the last episode — of both the season and the series — Lt. Rice is sent to Southeast Asia on assignment.
Although the studio declined to renew the show, it apparently liked the final episode enough to expand it from 50 to 90 minutes for overseas release as a theatrical movie, using the episode’s title, “To Kill a Man.” The movie, which was never shown in the United States, is included here as a bonus feature. At the end of the episode in the series, Rice flirts with an Asian stewardess, promising to see her again soon. At the end of the movie, Rice marries a different Asian woman. The film also includes a couple of subplots to pad out the running time, one of which must have seemed rather racy for 1964.
Roddenberry was the producer and head writer for each episode, some of which feature future “Star Trek” players Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and Majel Barrett (the future Mrs. Roddenberry). Other guests include Robert Duvall, Linda Evans, Edward Asner, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalban.
“The Streets of San Francisco: Season 4, Volume 1 (CBS/Paramount, 1975, three discs, 12 episodes, $42.99).
“The Streets of San Francisco: Season 4, Volume 2 (CBS/Paramount, 1975-76, three discs, 11 episodes, $42.99). Karl Malden and Michael Douglas are back in action for the penultimate season of this well-made police procedural with occasional location footage of the City By the Bay. (For the fifth and final season, Douglas appears in only the first two episodes.) Guests include Mark Hamill, Stefanie Powers, Vera Miles, Meredith Baxter, John Ritter, James Woods, Larry Hagman, Tom Selleck, Paul Sorvino and Mormon actor Gordon Jump.
“Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” (ABC/Blu-ray, 2011-12, five discs, $79.99, 22 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). Familiar fairy tale creatures are trapped in the human world after an evil queen casts a spell, and the show occasionally flashes back to their storybook world. Ginnifer Goodwin stars. (Season 2 begins next month.)
“Injustice” (Acorn, 2011, two discs, $39.99, five episodes, photo gallery). James Purefoy stars in this British thriller as a barrister who tires of London murder cases and moves his family to the country. And his wife isn’t happy when he’s drawn back to the city after an old friend is mixed up in a murder case.
“Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 6” (Acorn, 1995-96, four discs, $39.99, four feature-length episodes). David Suchet stars as the eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “Murder on the Links” and “Dumb Witness.” (Also on Blu-ray, $49.99.)
“Big Time Movie”/“Rags” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2012, $14.99, two movies). Big Time Rush and Keke Palmer are, respectively, the focus of these two made-for-TV movies aimed at fans of their Nickelodeon appearances.
“10 Things You Don’t Know About” (History, 2012, two discs, $19.95, 12 episodes). This scandal-mongering show digs up 10 obscure tabloid-style “facts” on Benjamin Franklin, George S. Patton, Adolf Hitler, John F. Kennedy, etc. One episode of dubious “history” is devoted to “The Mormons.”
“Jersey Shore: Season Five: Uncensored” (MTV, 2012, three discs, $26.98, 11 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes, reunion special). If you’re interested, I don’t have to tell you a thing, except perhaps that “uncensored” means “explicit content.”
“Danny Phantom: Season 2, part 2” (Nickelodeon/Shout! 2005, two discs, $19.93, 13 episodes). Animated show with the title character transforming into a ghostly superhero to battle fiends from another dimension.
“Dinosaur Train: Big, Big, Big” (PBS Kids, 2012, $12.99, nine episodes). Animated show for ages 3-6.
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