TV shows new to DVD this week include Dean Martin's vintage variety show and the current summer series "Rookie Blue."
"The Dean Martin Variety Show: Uncut" (Time Life, 1966-71, three discs, $29.98). "The Dean Martin Show" was a highly popular music-and-comedy variety program that aired for nine years on NBC, and Time Life has previously released a pair of DVD collections that were essentially best-of clipfests. But here we have six complete "Uncut" hours (actually 50 minutes each, sans commercials), which offer a much better picture of what Martin brought to the table with his relaxed, spontaneous style.
And "Uncut" also means that all the original songs are here, performed by Martin and others, none have been excised or changed due to copyright issues, which sometimes happens when older TV series come to DVD ("WKRP" anyone?). Each episode here is exactly as it was originally shown on network television back in the day.
Martin famously skipped rehearsals, and his easygoing charm is completely winning, flubs and all, whether he's reading cue cards or just adlibbing while he sings or offers comic monologues — even while introducing each week's guests. He also participates in the comedy skits and seems to have chemistry with everyone who joins him onstage.
Guests on these shows include Bob Newhart, Orson Welles, Zero Mostel, Sid Caesar, Abbe Lane, George Gobel, the Lettermen, Buck Owens, Allen & Rossi, Leslie Uggams, Buddy Ebsen, Cyd Charisse and Dom DeLuise, among others. And, of course, the occasional unannounced guest hiding in the closet (Pat Boone shows up to give Martin a bottle of milk!).
One could complain that there are only two episodes per disc; Time Life could have easily fit three or four on each DVD. But however it's packaged, it's nice to have these shows in their complete form. Let's hope this release does well so we'll get more.
Extras: full frame, six episodes; eight-page booklet
"Rookie Blue: The Complete Second Season" (eOne/Blu-ray, 2011, four discs, $49.98). This summer series (which just began its third season, Thursdays on ABC) is a Canadian police procedural, a cousin if you will to "Flashpoint," only here it's rookie cops on the beat. Solid action, interesting soap opera stories with engaging characters.
Extras: widescreen, featurettes (also on DVD, $44.98)
"Monroe: Series 1" (Acorn, 2011, two discs, $39.99). James Nesbitt stars in this British medical drama as a neurosurgeon with an inflated ego, but who also has enough wit and compassion to get away with whatever he needs to save lives, even when he breaks the rules and drives his colleagues crazy. Think "House," unmedicated. Enjoyable, with a first-rate supporting cast.
Extras: widescreen, six episodes
"Murdoch Mysteries: Season 4" (Acorn, 2011, four discs, $59.99). More adventures with Canadian forensic sleuth William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) as he prowls Victorian-era Toronto looking for clues to baffling murders, including in this set, a vampire wannabe. Witty fun.
Extras: widescreen, 13 episodes, featurettes (also on three-disc Blu-ray, same price)
"Love Never Dies" (Universal/Blu-ray, 2012, $26.98). Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to his "Phantom of the Opera" musical boasts some nice new songs in this theatrical production, but the story seems overly contrived and never quite catches fire. Still, the music may be enough for Webberphiles.
Extras: widecreen, featurette (also on DVD, $19.98)
"Yosemite: The High Sierras" (Mill Creek/Blu-ray, 2012, $9.98).Comment on this story
"Grand Canyon: A Wonder of the Natural World" (Mill Creek, 2012, $9.98). Feature-length documentaries on the title subjects, featuring gorgeous cinematography (enhanced by this hi-def disc) and offering what is touted on each as a "virtual tour." Produced by the National Parks Exploration Series.
"Highlights of the 2012 Masters Tournament" (Masters/A&E, 2012, $19.95). The title tells it all for golf buffs with this 52-minute overview, followed by such bonus features as ceremonial opening tee shots and a pair of press conferences.
Extras: widescreen, featurettes