CMA Awards, Red Skelton and two complete “CSI” series sets are new to DVD this week.
“CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments 1968-2015” (Time Life, 1968-2015, 10 discs, 127 live performances, featurettes; 44-page book). The Nashville-based Country Music Association was founded in 1958, with the CMA Awards coming nine years later. However, the first awards show in 1967 was not televised. That started the next year, and each broadcast through 2015 is represented here with an amazing array of stars performing familiar hits: Johnny Cash, Barbara Mandrell, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton and everyone else you can think of, up to and including Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and, yes, Taylor Swift.
“The Red Skelton Hour in Color: Deluxe Collection” (Time Life, 1951-84, b/w and color, 22 discs, 130 episodes, featurette, 2014 biographical documentary: “America’s Clown”; four-page booklet). Richard "Red" Skelton essentially brought vaudeville to television, and for 20 years he inhabited an array of familiar characters in carefully constructed pantomimes and zany skits that often went off the rails (in a good way) as he ad-libbed or acknowledged a mishap during the live broadcasts. Skelton also hosted a wide array of guest stars, including pop singers of the 1960s and ’70s. The DVD sets here are “The Red Skelton Hour in Color,” “The Complete 20th Season in Color,” “The Farewell Specials” and “The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years” (in black and white).
“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Series” (CBS/Paramount, 2000-15, 93 discs, 337 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes). From its earliest years, with quirky Gil Grissom (William Petersen) in charge and Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) as his second in command, this unique (well, it was at the time) police procedural was attention grabbing and surprisingly gruesome. Many of the mysteries are weird, convoluted and occasionally ridiculous, but the cast is great and their repartee keeps things lively in and around each case. Even later, when Laurence Fishburne and then Ted Danson are in charge, the show remains interesting and entertaining although Fishburne’s exit was a bit questionable. And, of course, the show was hugely popular, running for 15 seasons and leading to three spinoff series.
“CSI: Miami” (CBS/Paramount, 2002-12, 65 discs, 232 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, bloopers). The first “CSI” spinoff was this Miami-based show with a bright yellow sheen that provided an offbeat contrast to the gory murders being investigated. Although I enjoyed the supporting players and found some of the mysteries interesting, I could never quite warm up to star David Caruso, whose mannered style seemed to be more of a pose than a performance. But the series found its audience and remained on the air for 10 seasons.
“The Fall: Complete Collection” (Acorn, 2013-16, six discs, 17 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes, photo galleries). Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) stars in this gritty, deliberately paced British police procedural as Stella Gibson, a London detective who assesses others’ investigations. When she’s dispatched to Northern Ireland she discovers a serial killer (Jamie Dornan) at large, and his narrative becomes as large a part of the series as Gibson’s, with a story arc that carries over the show’s three seasons.
“The Tower” (Music Box, 2014, two episodes, in German with English subtitles). Adapted from a 2008 novel about the decline of Communist East Germany in the 1980s, this two-part German miniseries boils the issues down to how the totalitarian state affects one upscale family that preaches integrity but is enmeshed in troubles created by dubious choices. It’s a soap opera but a good one, with revealing characters portrayed by an expert cast.