A British female cop, aliens living among humans and a friendly penguin that seems to be lost lead these shows newly released on DVD and Blu-ray.
“The Fall: Series 1” (Acorn, 2013, two discs, $39.99, five episodes, featurette). This is yet another gritty and gripping BBC police procedural from a woman’s point of view, paced deliberately and in no hurry to develop its many characters. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) stars as a London detective sent to Belfast to help capture a serial killer as he preys on upscale young women. And the show focuses as much on the killer as Anderson’s character, along with the usual subplots.
This became a highly rated series in the United Kingdom and a second season will show up late next year, which is a good thing since (SPOILER ALERT) at the end of five hours, nothing is resolved! When the U.S. cable show “The Killing” did that (after 13 episodes the show’s mystery remained unresolved), its second-season numbers dropped off dramatically. Just sayin’. (There is also “adult material,” violence, sex, nudity.)
“Defiance: Season One” (Universal/Syfy/Blu-ray, 2013, three discs, $69.98, Blu-ray and digital versions, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes, bloopers). Although it goes its own way, this science-fiction series set in a future Earth where aliens and earthlings live in an integrated society reminded me a bit of “Alien Nation.” Here, of course, the effects and makeup are much better and there is an interesting Old West vibe to the proceedings. One of Syfy’s better original outings. (It’s also interconnected with a video-game version.) (Also on DVD, $59.98)
“Lost and Found” (eOne, 2008, $9.98, half-hour featurette). Enchanting and very sweet British computer-animated TV special (24 minutes in length) based on Oliver Jeffers’ equally delightful children’s book about a little boy who takes under his wing, so to speak, a penguin that shows up on his doorstep. Eventually, he decides to take the bird home by rowing to the South Pole in a homemade boat. Whimsical tale benefits from Jim Broadbent’s gentle narration and the gorgeous illustrations that come to life.
“Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 2000” (BBC, 2000, two discs, 10 episodes, $34.98). This is the 21st season of this goofy and distinctly British sitcom, the longest running in TV history. This was also the year actor Bill Owen (who played Compo) died before the season was completed and there is a three-episode tribute to him and his character that is both bittersweet and very funny.
“The Pallisers: 40th Anniversary Edition” (Acorn, 1974, eight discs, $99.99, 26 episodes, featurette; 36-page booklet). One of the classic 1970s BBC series that aired on PBS back in the day. Susan Hampshire (“The Forsyte Saga”) stars in this ambitious miniseries (more like a maxi-series) about 20 years of parliamentary life in Victorian England (based on six novels by Anthony Trollope). Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Andrews and Penelope Keith are among the cast.
“Untold History of the United States” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2013, four discs, $49.99, 10 episodes, two never-before-seen episodes, bonus documentary). Multiple Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone (“Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July”) is as well known for his conspiracy theories as his films (see “JFK”) and this Showtime cable “documentary” series — which he co-wrote (with historian Peter J. Kuznick), directed, produced and narrates — plays into that broad scenario. It’s a combination “what-if” look at how history might have unfolded and “secret” explanations for why things turned out as they did. Visually interesting but proceed with skepticism. (There is also a 750-page book with the same title, authored by Stone and Kuznick.)
“Anger Management: Volume Two” (Lionsgate, 2013, three discs, $34.98, DVD and digital versions, 22 episodes, bloopers). Charlie Sheen’s FX cable series has him playing an anger-management therapist. Actually, that’s the show’s most successful joke. A series-long riff on Sheen’s real-life reputation with a lot of sleazy gags. (Also on Blu-ray, $34.97; yes it’s listed as a penny cheaper but don’t ask me why.)
“David Starkey’s Music & Monarchy” (Athena, 2013, two discs, $49.99, four episodes, nine performance pieces; 16-page booklet). British documentary series explores English musical traditions, from Henry V through Elizabeth II, with 40 live recordings.
“The Dark Ages: An Age of Light” (Athena, 2012, two discs, $49.99, four episodes, text biography; 12-page booklet). British documentary series by art critic Waldemar Januszczak seeks to debunk the Dark Ages as a time of backwards civilization, focusing on art to illuminate his argument.
“Counting Cars: Season 2, Volume 1” (History/Lionsgate, 2013, two discs, $14.98, 13 episodes, deleted scenes). This History cable channel series, a spinoff of “Pawn Stars,” follows Las Vegas classic-car buff Danny “The Count” Koker and his crew as they buy, restore and sell off vintage automobiles.
“Gravity Falls: Six Strange Tales” (Disney, 2012, $19.99, six episodes). The first six episodes of this animated kids show about 12-year-old twins spending the summer with their uncle in the title town, where more spooky things happen than in a “Scooby-Doo” episode.
“Winx Club: the Secret of the Lost Kingdom Movie” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2013, three discs, $19.99, movie, seven episodes; coloring book, crayons, poster, sticker sheet). Animated cable fantasy series about the fairies of Alfea College.
“Barney: 3-Movie Pack” (HIT/Lionsgate, 2013, three discs, $19.98, bonus episodes, sing-alongs, interactive games). Repacked three-disc set: “The Land of Make Believe,” “Let’s Make Music” and “Night Before Christmas.”
“Thomas & Friends: 3-Movie Pack” (HIT/Lionsgate, 2013, three discs, $19.98, bonus episodes, music videos). Repackaged three-disc set: “Blue Mountain Mystery,” “Day of the Diesels” and “Misty Island Rescue.”
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com