TV series on DVD and Blu-ray this week are a disparate group, ranging from the home-video debut of a 1950s crime drama to several genre programs that are still running on network and cable television.
“Harbor Command: The Complete Television Series” (MGM/Timeless, 1957-58, b/w, five discs, $29.97, 39 episodes). Character actor Wendell Corey stars in this one-season, half-hour crime drama from the early days of commercial television. Corey plays a U.S. Coast Guard captain in charge of San Francisco Bay’s Harbor Police, pursuing drug-runners, smugglers, arsonists and, of course, killers of various stripes.
The scripts are pretty good and the unique setting and location shooting give this one some flair, along with the range of interesting guest stars these shows always have, from veteran actors on their way down, such as Stuart Whitman, to newcomers on their way up, such as Leonard Nimoy and future “Hollywood Squares” host Peter Marshall.
“Grimm: Season Two” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2012-13, five discs, $69.98, Blu-ray and digital versions, 22 episodes, deleted scenes, extended episode, featurettes, bloopers; two collectible trading cards). The Portland homicide detective (David Giuntoli) who discovered in the first season he descended from hunters of supernatural beings delves further into his identity and faces off against new threats. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio returns as his mother in the first two episodes. Season 3 begins Oct. 25.
“Luther 3” (BBC, 2013, two discs, $34.98, four episodes, featurette). Idris Elba stars as detective John Luther in this British crime procedural, an on-the-edge cop who, in the last of these, is charged with murder. The primary plot has Luther and crew in pursuit of a murderer whose fetishistic modus operandi copies that of a 1980's serial killer.
“Army Wives: The Complete Seventh Season” (ABC/Lifetime, 2013, three discs, $39.99, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, bloopers). Brooke Shields joins the cast for five episodes as an Air Force colonel, and singer Ashanti signs on as a full-time cast member. This soap opera resonates with the military audience in particular but is an enjoyable show for the non-military as well.
“Bates Motel: Season One” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, two discs, $49.98, 10 episodes, deleted scenes, featurette; five collectible sketch cards). This A&E cable series is a critics’ favorite, a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” showing the developing sick relationship between Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his demented mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), although the setting is now Oregon and the era is modern day. Season 2 will air next summer. (Also on DVD, $44.98)
“The Hollow Crown: The Complete Series” (Universal, 2012, four discs, $44.98, four episodes, featurettes). This British show adapts four of Shakespeare’s historical plays: “Richard II,” “Henry IV, Part I,” “Henry IV, Part II” and “Henry V,” and features such familiar performers as Jeremy Irons, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet, Tom Hiddleston, Julie Walters, John Hurt, Geraldine Chaplin, etc.
“Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors” (BBC, 1967, b/w, two discs, $34.98, six episodes, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailers, photo gallery, PDF materials). This serial, about Earth in the distant future facing a new ice age, has two episodes that have been lost, so animated versions have been created for inclusion here to complete the show. Patrick Troughton is the second Doctor Who.
“Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka” (BBC, 2003, $24.98, six episodes, featurettes, photo gallery). This animated episode is made up of six 15-minute webcasts about an alternate version of the Ninth Doctor, voiced by Richard E. Grant, with Derek Jacobi as the Master. The doctor lands in a contemporary English village where aliens live below ground while plotting to invade the planet. This was the first fully animated “Doctor Who” story after some illustrated webisodes.
“Brainwave” (Athena, 2008-11, three discs, $59.99, 10 episodes; 16-page booklet). These hourlong documentaries created by New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art pair a celebrity in the arts with a neuroscientist to discuss an aspect of how the human mind works. Actress Debra Winger and Robert Stickgold ponder “Do Dreams Come True?,” author Amy Tan and Deirde Barrett look at creativity in the dreaming brain and writer R.L. Stine and Joseph LeDoux ask “Do You Get Goosebumps, Too?,” etc.
“Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan: Creepy Crawlers” (BBC, 2013, $14.98, three episodes).
“Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan: Deadliest Critters” (BBC, 2013, $14.98, three episodes). This BBC America show has actor Monaghan (best known for “The Lord of the Rings” movies and the TV series “Lost”) traveling the globe to find such creepy creatures as the white goliath beetle, the giant huntsman spider and the black hairy thick-tail scorpion.
“Top Gear: The Worst Car in the History of the World” (BBC, 2013, $9.95). This episode of the British version of the show takes a look at some of the best, the Ferrari 458 Spider and the Lexus LFA, for example before arguing over the worst, with nominees from Peugeot, Ford, Porsche, Saab, etc.
“Haunted History” (History/Lionsgate, 2012, two discs, $19.98, eight episodes). This History channel cable series delves into the Salem witch trials, the Charles Manson murders and other gruesome events that have alleged supernatural components, such as “Ghosts of Gettysburg” and “Katrina Cannibal.”Comment on this story
“Fear Files” (History/Lionsgate, 2013, three discs, $19.98, three episodes). This disc is comprised of three self-explanatory History channel specials: “Hauntings,” “Vampire Secrets” and “The Haunted History of Halloween.”
“Sofia the First: Ready to Be a Princess” (Disney, 2013, $19.99, five episodes). Animated series from the Disney Junior cable channel about a princess in training, with such fantasy elements as dragons and magic carpets.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com