The updated Sherlock Holmes series “Elementary” comes to DVD, leading these TV shows released this week.
“Elementary: The First Season” (CBS/Paramount, 2012-13, six discs, $55.98, 24 episodes, featurettes, promos, web series). Being a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories and most of their various TV and movie incarnations, I confess to being a bit wary of a show that transplants Holmes into modern-day Manhattan and characterizes him as a tattooed recovering drug addict with a female Dr. Watson as his sober companion. But the show grew on me over the course of its first season, and by the end I was looking forward to the second.
Jonny Lee Miller (who was great in the sadly abbreviated “Eli Stone”) and Lucy Liu (whose presence is always a pleasure) star as Holmes and Watson, with Aidan Quinn as the New York police captain who hires them to consult. And though the mysteries here are largely original, there are nods along the way to characters and situations from A. Conan Doyle’s novels and stories, including Irene Adler and Moriarty. (Season 2 begins Sept. 26.)
“Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection” (Acorn/Blu-ray, 1991-2006, seven discs, $119.99, 15 episodes, featurettes, photo gallery). Helen Mirren delivers a knockout performance and won two Emmys for this sometimes rather seamy British police procedural that is very well written with an emphasis on strong characters. All the usual crimes are on display in the nine series collected here: political and police corruption, pedophilia and pornography, racial tensions and murders of every stripe. But plot takes a backseat to the development of Mirren's dysfunctional character, Scotland Yard detective Jane Tennison, a tough investigator who is good at her job, despite having to fight sexism to rise in the ranks, and despite her personal life being a complete mess. This Blu-ray upgrade is sharp and impressive.
“Damian Lewis Double Feature” (BBC, 2005/2006, $24.98, featurettes, audio commentary). British actor Damian Lewis stars in these two feature-length TV movies: “Much Ado About Nothing” is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy (one of four produced under the umbrella title “ShakespeaRe-Told”) placing the action in a TV studio with bickering Beatrice and Benedick as news anchors, and it’s a lot of fun. “Friends and Crocodiles” is a sharp character study set over two decades during the 1980s and ’90s as an entrepreneur and his assistant have a falling out but see their paths cross repeatedly during the ups and downs of Britain’s economy.
“Grey’s Anatomy: Complete Ninth Season” (ABC, 2012-13, six discs, $45.99, 24 episodes, deleted scenes, extended final episode, featurettes, bloopers). This season begins by chronicling the residual effects of the plane crash that ended the previous season, from physical injuries to psychological problems among the doctors of Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital that survived. Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh lead the cast. (Season 10 begins Sept. 26.)
“Sapphire & Steel: The Complete Series” (Shout!/iTV, 1979-82, five discs, $39.97, 34 episodes). Joanna Lumley and David McCallum star as the title characters in this sci-fi adventure, a pair of inter-dimensional agents charged with keeping time on track when evil forces threaten to disrupt things. To call his series offbeat is to understate, but it’s enjoyable fare for fantasy fans. There are actually only six series, or stories, but each is told over several half-hour episodes.
“Tales of the City: 20th Anniversary Edition” (Acorn, 1993, two discs, $49.99, six episodes, audio commentaries, featurette; eight-page booklet). PBS initially aired this miniseries based on Armistead Maupin’s novels (eight and counting) about bohemian lifestyles in San Francisco. Laura Linney plays naïve Mary Ann Singleton, through whose eyes we are introduced to this world in the 1970s when she moves into a boarding house that introduces her to freewheeling sex, drugs and alternate lifestyles. (There is nudity, coarse language, drugs and sex.)
“Missions That Changed the War: Germany’s Last Ace” (Acorn, 2011, two discs, $49.99, four episodes, featurette; 16-page booklet). World War II documentary narrated by Gary Sinise was initially shown on the Military Channel, an exploration of three fighter pilots whose aerial battles over Germany were integral to the war effort in mid-1944. (There is coarse language.)
“Super Buddies” (Disney/Blu-ray, 2013, G, two discs, $36.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions). The latest in the straight-to-DVD franchise of “Air Buddies” movies, a spinoff of the “Air Bud” series, has the talking pups gaining super powers and taking on an evil shape-shifter from another planet. The voice cast includes John Ratzenberger, Colin Hanks, Amy Sedaris and Tim Conway.
“Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! and more stories by Mo Willems” (Scholastic, 2013, $14.95, three stories, read-along, featurette, cookie recipe). Animated stories for ages 2-8 based on Mo Willems’ books: the title tale, “Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion” and “Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct.” (This is “Volume 3” of “Mo Willems Cartoon Collection.”)
“Children Make Terrible Pets and more stories about family” (Scholastic, 2013, $14.95, four stories, featurettes, read-along). Animated stories for kids ages 4-12 include the title tale, “All the World,” “Crow Call” and “Eizabeth’s Doll.”
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent's Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com
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