The return of “Foyle’s War” and the debut of “Nichols,” a Western series starring James Garner, and the Bill Bixby sitcom “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” lead these TV shows released this week.
“Foyle’s War: Set 7” (Acorn, 2013, three discs, $49.99, three episodes, series recap, featurettes, photo gallery). Perhaps a more accurate title would be “Foyle’s Post-War,” since these three new feature-length episodes take place after the end of World War II, as the cagey ex-police detective becomes involved with MI5 and a Russian spy ring. It’s sometimes difficult to say which is more devious.
Michael Kitchen, born to the role, is as good as ever, weary and wary, suspicious of his role in MI5 and especially of his superiors’ motives. Turns out he’s right to feel that way. Back with him is his former driver Sam (the fabulous Honeysuckle Weeks), now married to an aspiring politician.
The backdrop of post-war England and the difficulties that came with rebuilding, as well as the simmering rise of the Cold War, are convincingly portrayed. These episodes are bleaker than the earlier series but the drama remains compelling and the characters engaging. (Also on Blu-ray, same price)
“Nichols: The Complete Series” (Warner Archive, 1971-72, six discs, $49.95, 24 episodes). Post-“Maverick” and pre-“Rockford Files,” James Garner tried on a different Western character, a greedy opportunist who becomes sheriff of a town under the thumb of a gang. Unfortunately, the character was so different from audience expectations that the producers ultimately decided to kill him off and have Garner continue as Nichols’ softer, more heroic twin brother. But the show was canceled before it could try out this new premise beyond a single episode. Margot Kidder (six years before “Superman”) and Stuart Margolin (who would go on to play Angel on “The Rockford Files") co-star. Guests include Tom Skerritt, Ricardo Montalban, Scatman Crothers and Jack Elam. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)
“The Courtship of Eddie’s Father: The Complete First Season” (Warner Archive, 1969-71, four discs, $39.95, 26 episodes). Based on the movie that starred Glenn Ford and Ronny Howard, this sitcom has Bill Bixby as the widowed father of a young son (Brandon Cruz), with Oscar-winner Miyoshi Umeki as their housekeeper. Seven-year-old Jodie Foster appears in one episode and repeated her character in Season 2. Other guests include Bill Dana, Pat Morita, Cicely Tyson and George Takei. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)
“War & Peace” (Acorn, 2007, two discs, $49.99, four episodes). Here is yet another version of Leo Tolstoy’s bulky Russian novel, this one a miniseries co-produced by Russia, Italy, France, Poland and Germany. Malcolm McDowell and Brenda Blethyn are the most recognizable actors among the international cast and it’s well-played, lavish and involving.
“Barabbas” (Gaiam/Vivendi, 2012, $19.97, two episodes). Billy Zane stars as the title biblical character, the criminal released by Pontius Pilate in place of Jesus. This postulates that he attempted to seek redemption after that event. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.95)
“South Park: The Complete Sixteenth Season” (Comedy Central/Blu-ray, two discs, $59.99, 14 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries). The foul-mouthed kids of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s long-running, raunchy cartoon series return. But this show is definitely not for kids. Season 17 begins Sept. 25. (Also on DVD, $42.99)
“Giants: Hometown Heroics” (MLB/A&E, 2013, $14.98, featurettes). This 78-minute program captures highlights in the history of the San Francisco Giants, footage from the games and memories of the players.
“Gene Simmons Family Jewels: The Final Season” (Lionsgate, 2012, three discs, $19.98, 14 episodes, featurettes). This is the seventh and last season of the reality program that culminated in the marriage of Simmons and longtime companion Shannon Tweed.
“Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Ruh-Roh Robot!” (Warner, 2013, two discs, $19.98, new cartoon, 12 episodes). A new 22-minute cartoon, “Scooby Doo! Mecha Mutt Menace,” is joined by 12 episodes from various “Scooby” shows, each about the gang investigating mechanized menaces.
“Geronimo Stilton: Operation ShuFongFong and Other Adventures” (eOne, 2009, $12.98, four episodes). In this animated series mouse journalist Geronimo Stilton has various adventures that take him around the world. Based on a series of best-selling Italian children’s books.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com