“Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files” (Acorn, DVD, 2004-06, 16 episodes, featurette, text interviews/production notes). Acorn continues its reissues of this excellent murder-mystery series, collecting the feature-length episodes in the correct order (as originally shown on British television). This set includes Series 8 and 9, the final season for Sgt. Scott (John Hopkins) and the first for Sgt. Jones (Jason Hughes), respectively.
The sergeants are assistants to chief inspector Barnaby (wonderfully played by John Nettles), a homicide detective living in the rural county of Midsomer, an idyllic countryside that for some reason has more than its share of gruesome murders — three or four per episode.
The mysteries are always engrossing, with offbeat characters and no shortage of suspects, but what makes this show unique in the current British police-procedural landscape is that Barnaby is such a nice, empathetic guy, with a loving wife and daughter, and no angst or dark past, which is actually quite refreshing.
Following the departure of Daniel Casey as Sgt. Troy, Hopkins was a bit of a letdown, harder to warm up to. He lasted only two seasons before being replaced by Hughes, a much better fit. (Series 8 and 9 are also available separately.)
“The Practice: The Final Season” (Shout!/Fox, DVD, 2003-04, 22 episodes). Shout! comes to the rescue for fans of David E. Kelley’s offbeat legal-eagles show “The Practice.” Or maybe this is really for fans of Kelley’s “Boston Legal,” since this season saw the departure of most of the show’s original cast while introducing James Spader and William Shatner as the characters they would play in that spinoff.
All five seasons of “Boston Legal” have been on DVD for a while, but only the first season-and-a-half of “The Practice” have been released by Fox. Whether “Practice” fans will ever see the show’s middle seasons remains to be seen. But for “Boston Legal” fans, this is a most enjoyable collection, with Spader’s Alan Shore quickly taking center stage and Shatner’s hilarious Denny Crane stealing the show in five episodes.
“The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Crack Ups” (StarVisa, DVD, 1972-77, 17 episodes, bonus skits, featurettes/interviews; 12-page booklet). Fans of Burnett’s variety series will be excited about this set of 17 episodes making their DVD debut, each is in its complete, original-broadcast form. Burnett, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence perform hilarious skits and catchy song-and-dance numbers with guests Dick Van Dyke (in five episodes), Andy Griffith, Carl Reiner, Gloria Swanson, Richard Crenna, Petula Clark, Helen Reddy, etc. Also, James Garner, George Carlin and Valerie Harper show up in bonus skits.
“The Class: The Complete Series” (Warner Archive, DVD, 2006-07, 19 episodes). One-season half-hour sitcom from David Crane (co-creator of “Friends”) and Jeffrey Klarik (co-producer of “Mad About You”) about eight people coming together at a reunion of sorts for their third-grade class. They don’t really know each other and seem to have little in common, but over the course of the series, various members of the group come together and relationships form. An underrated show that never found its audience and died an early death. (Available at warnerarchive.com.)
“Ripper Street: Season Two” (BBC, DVD/Blu-ray, 2013, eight episodes, featurette). Engaging but violent and sexual British series about a police detective (Matthew Macfadyen) and his team attempting to protect London’s Whitechapel district in 1890 as a recession contributes to the level of crime. Cases include an Irish bomber, someone targeting sideshow “freaks” and a female gang that is kidnapping prominent political and legal figures.
“Bella Sara: Emma’s Wings” (eOne, DVD, 2014). Here’s a new one: Instead of being based on a videogame or a toy, this cartoon feature (75 minutes) is based on children’s trading cards that feature magical horses, characters and inspirational themes for the 5-12 set. Here, Emma faces down evil Ivenna, who desires to steal the horses’ magic.
“Angry Birds Toons: Season One, Volume Two” (Rovio/Sony, DVD/Blu-ray, 2014, 26 episodes, Easter special, featurettes). More mini-episodes of the TV cartoon adapted from the popular app game as the Bad Piggies attempt to steal eggs from Red, Chuck, Matilda, Bomb, the Blues and Terence.
“Thomas & Friends: Railway Mischief” (Hit/Lionsgate, DVD, 2014, five episodes, interactive games, music video). The animated anthropomorphic train and his buddies get in and out of more mischief on the tracks.
“Barney: Happy Birthday Barney!” (Hit/Lionsgate, DVD, 2014, three episodes, interactive games). The kids throw a birthday party for Barney.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: hicksflicks.com
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