A new sci-fi series and follow-up seasons of several favorites are among television shows released on DVD and Blu-ray this week.
"Alphas: Season One" (Universal/Syfy, 2011, three discs, $44.98, 11 episodes, extended pilot, deleted scenes, featurettes). This variation on "Heroes" is much less flamboyant and more character-driven, and I found its relatively low-key, down-to-earth approach refreshing in the current "superheroes" landscape.
The great character actor David Strathairn heads the cast as mentor/counselor/wrangler of an Alpha team whose members each have a specific "talent." He tries to help them with difficulties of control and the side effects that come with putting their abilities to work as they take on stealth government assignments to do battle with villainous alphas.
Clever and well written, and TV sci-fi geeks will recognize guests Lindsay Wagner, Summer Glau and Brent Spiner.
"Sanctuary: The Complete Fourth Season" (eOne/Syfy/Blu-ray, 2011, four discs, $49.98, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentary, bloopers). This amusing series about scientists (led by Amanda Tapping) who interact with the monsters all around us — but which the rest of us think of as mere fairy tales — was not renewed for a fifth season, so this marks the series' end. And it goes out with a bang, beginning with time travel (and some decidedly "Back to the Future" machinations) and an uprising of the "abnormals." (Also on DVD, $44.98.)
"Eureka: Season 5" (Universal/Syfy, 2012, three discs, $34.98, 13 episodes, deleted/extended scenes, holiday episode, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). This set also marks the final season of this show about people with super brains living in a fictional Pacific Northwest town, focusing on various breakthroughs in technology and their effects on the world.
"The Glades: The Complete Second Season" (Fox, 2011, four discs, $39.98, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, extended episode, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). Chicago homicide detective Jim Longworth (Matt Passmore), transplanted to the Florida Everglades, continues to solve bizarre murders while pursuing a local nurse, and in this season the romance becomes complicated when her husband is released from prison and his old girlfriend shows up. Amusing, quirky police procedural.
"Bonanza: The Official Third Season Value Pack" (Paramount/CBS, 1961-62, $76.99, 34 episodes). The Cartwright clan (Lorne Greene, Michael Landon, Dan Blocker and Pernell Roberts) returns for Season 3, with plenty of Old West scrapes to deal with. Guests include Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Ben Johnson, Dean Jones, Robert Culp, John Carradine and pre-"Star Trek" regulars James Doohan and DeForest Kelley. (Also sold as separate half season sets, "Volumes 1 and 2," $39.98 each.)
"Designing Women: The Final Season" (Shout! 1992-93, four discs, $44.99, 22 episodes). For this seventh and final season, Judith Ivey takes over for Julia Duffy, Jan Hooks marks her second season, and the only survivors from the show's earliest episodes are Annie Potts, Dixie Carter and Meshach Taylor. The comedy is a less consistent than in the early seasons, and sad to say, more crass.
"Diff'rent Strokes: The Complete Third Season" (Shout! 1980-81, three discs, $29.93, 22 episodes). This season begins with Arnold (Gary Coleman) and Willis (Todd Bridges) being held hostage during a bank robbery. Cute family sitcom for '80s nostalgists.
"Casting the Runes" (Acorn, 1979, $29.99, bonus show: 20-minute adaptation of "Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance," featurette). "Casting the Runes" is a 47-minute occult melodrama taken from an M.R. James story, originally shown on British television as part of an anthology series. The "Mr. Humphreys" bonus feature is another James story. And the featurette is an entertaining mini-documentary about the author.
"James May's 20th Century" (Athena, 2012, three discs, $59.99, six episodes, bonus show: "James May's Big Ideas"; 12-page booklet). Bright and witty, often quite funny British documentary series about revolutionary technologies, focusing on 20th century improvements to modern life, from air travel to artificial limbs and everything in between. The bonus show looks at robotics and power sources, among other subjects.
"Bill Moyers On Addiction: Close to Home" (Athena, 1998, two discs, $49.99, five episodes, bonus show: "Rebuilding Lives"; 16-page booklet). Moyers looks at addictions and the hopeful outlook for recovery, spurred by his oldest son's struggle with drugs and alcohol. The bonus program is taken from "NOW With Bill Moyers," an episode about activist and former addict David Lewis.Comment on this story
"Scooby-Doo: Laff-A-Lympics: Spooky Games" (Warner, 2012/1977, two discs, $19.98, one new 22-minute cartoon, 12 episodes of the vintage TV series "Scooby's Laff-A-Lympics"). The new cartoon has the Scooby gang heading to the World Invitation Games, but they naturally get sidetracked by spooky goings-on.
"The Inbetweeners: The Complete Series" (eOne, 2008-10, three discs, $39.98, 18 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, bloopers). Very raunchy British comedy about four high school geeks finding solace in sex and alcohol.