TV series ‘Monsters’ is straight-up horror, even when it’s comedy

Published: Wednesday, March 26 2014 3:05 p.m. MDT

The campy and fun TV series “Monsters” leads new television programs on DVD this week.

“Monsters: The Complete Series” (eOne, 1988-91, nine discs, $99.98, 72 episodes). This horror anthology program, which initially aired on the Syfy Channel (back when it was “Sci-Fi”), shares a kinship with “Night Gallery,” “Tales of the Unexpected,” “Tales From the Darkside,” etc., but its focus is narrower.

As the title suggests, each half-hour features some sort of monster, and the usual suspects — vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, mummies, etc. — all make appearances. But there are also unexpected creatures, and while those other shows dabbled in fantasy and science fiction, even when satire, farce or campiness takes over, this one is all about the horror (albeit with the occasional monstrous space alien).

Some stories are original scripts and others spring from the works of Stephen King, Robert Bloch and other familiar names, with such stars as Chris Noth, Carol Lynley, Adrienne Barbeau, Pam Grier, Tony Shalhoub, David Spade, Jerry Stiller, Lili Taylor, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Bracken, Frank Gorshin, Soupy Sales, etc.

And although this show is more than two decades old and the gore and sex don’t come near the level of “The Walking Dead” or “Tales From the Crypt,” there are a few episodes, especially in the third season, that push things.

“Devious Maids” (ABC, 2013, three discs, $39.99, 13 episodes, deleted/extended scenes, featurette, bloopers). Based on a Mexican TV show and developed by Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”), this comedy-mystery soap opera focuses on five Latina maids in wealthy/powerful Beverly Hills homes and is shown on the Lifetime cable channel. The “Desperate Housewives” template is at work with illicit affairs, dark secrets and, yes, a murder. The most familiar face is Susan Lucci as a loopy employer. (Season 2 begins next month.)

“Atlantis: Season One” (BBC, 2013, three discs, $29.98, 13 episodes, featurettes). This Greek mythology fantasy series focuses on Jason (Jack Donnelly) after he washes up on a mysterious island that proves to be the lost city of the title. Naturally, he finds himself surrounded by political intrigue, and he also teams up with Pythagoras and Hercules for encounters with Medusa, the Minotaur, etc. (Season 2 is on the way.) (Also on Blu-ray, $39.98)

“La Tempestad” (Cinedigm, 2013, four discs, $19.97, 18 episodes, in Spanish with English subtitles). This Mexican soap opera, a telenovela on one of the Televisa networks, focuses on Marina, a woman working in a small fishing village where she finds love, which is eventually interrupted when her powerful former boss tracks her down.

“The Little Rascals Save the Day” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2014, PG, two discs, $29.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, bloopers). Has it really been 20 years since “The Little Rascals” reboot? This straight-to-video kids comedy goes for the same vibe as third-graders Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla and Buckwheat, along with Petey the Dog and others, try to raise money to save Grandma’s (Doris Roberts) bakery. (Also on DVD, $22.98)

“Jeff Dunham’s Achmed Saves America” (Comedy Central/Paramount/Blu-ray, 2014, $22.98, audio commentary, featurette). Here’s an odd project: an hourlong special (too long by 30 minutes) starring ventriloquist Jeff Dunham’s most popular dummy, skeletal Achmed the Dead Terrorist, in cartoon form. He comes to America to wreak havoc but is instead won over by a patriotic redneck town. Think “Family Guy” meets the Road Runner by way of Dunham. (Also on DVD, $16.99)

“Doc McStuffins: Mobile Clinic” (Disney, 2013, $19.99, five episodes). This charming animated musical series for preschoolers stars the title character, a young girl who plays doctor by repairing toys and dolls.

“Transformers: Rescue Bots: Heroes On the Scene” (Shout! Kids, 2012, $14.93, five episodes). Chase, Heatwave, Blades and Boulder make up the Autobots’ best rescue team in this collection of episodes from the animated show’s first season.

“Peppa Pig: My Birthday Party” (eOne, 2004-07, $14.98, 12 episodes, two bonus episodes, interactive games). British cartoon series for preschoolers with Peppa Pig and friends playing games, dressing up, etc.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings."

Website: www.hicksflicks.com

Email: hicks@deseretnews.com

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