James Garner’s return to the role that made him famous, a blues concert that highlighted the 1989 presidential inauguration and the final season of “Laverne & Shirley” lead these TV shows new to DVD this week.
“Bret Maverick: The Complete Series” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1981-82, five discs, 17 episodes). Following the six-season success of “The Rockford Files,” James Garner revived the role that made him a star in the 1950s comedy-Western series “Maverick.”
Instead of a rambler and a gambler as in the original show, Bret Maverick has now settled in an Arizona town where he owns a nearby ranch and is co-owner of the local saloon. But he still manages to win at poker and get involved in the random con game. Stuart Margolin, who played Angel in Garner’s previous series, is a regular here as well, and some of the stories seem oddly more related to “Rockford” than the original “Maverick.”
It’s fun to see Garner inhabit this comfortable role again, and if the individual episodes aren’t quite up there with the original series’ best, they are still enjoyable. Sadly, it was canceled after one season.
Watch for the appearance at the end of the final episode of Jack Kelly as Bret’s brother Bart, reprising his original “Maverick” role. He was to be a regular if the show had gone into a second season. (There are 17 episodes here instead of 18 because the pilot is not the two-part individual episodes but rather the edited TV-movie version.) (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“A Celebration of Blues and Soul: The 1989 Presidential Inaugural Concert” (Shout!/DVD, 1989). This black-tie event focuses on musicians of the 1950s and ’60s, and plays like a warm bath of nostalgia while listening to a “classic rock” radio station. Included are Percy Sledge singing “When a Man Loves a Woman”; Dr. John on “Right Place, Wrong Time”; Bo Diddley on “Hey Bo Diddley”; Carla Thomas on “B-A-B-Y”; along with Billy Preston, Chuck Jackson, Eddie Floyd and a 25-minute set by Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others. The concert here is an hour longer than the March PBS broadcast.
“Laverne & Shirley: The Final Season” (CBS/Paramount/DVD, 1982-83, three discs, 22 episodes, promos, bloopers). The eighth and final season of this slapstick sitcom took a hit when Cindy Williams, who played Shirley, left over a contract dispute, leaving Laverne (Penny Marshall) alone after the second episode. Wags took to calling the show “Laverne Without Shirley.” Still, it maintains its sense of wackiness. The final episode is an unrealized pilot for a show about Carmine (Eddie Mekka). Guests include Jay Leno, Anjelica Huston, Vicki Lawrence, Carrie Fisher and Adam West.
“China Beach: The Complete Season Three” (StarVista/DVD, 1989-90, six discs, 22 episodes, deleted scene, audio commentaries, featurettes, bloopers). In the opening episode of this distaff Vietnam War series, adversaries Murphy (Dana Delany) and K.C. (Marg Helgenberger) are kidnapped by Viet Cong and held in a tunnel. This show is all about the characters, and the third season proves to be every bit as gripping as the first two. Guests include Vince Vaughn, Helen Hunt, Don Cheadle and Thomas Haden Church.
“Little House On the Prairie: Season Two” (Lionsgate/DVD, Blu-ray, Digital, 1975-76, five discs, featurette). The second season for the 40th anniversary remastering of each episode looks as fabulous as the first, continuing the story of the Ingalls family living on the American frontier during the 1870s. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but still a wonderful show the family can enjoy together. Guests this season include Patricia Neal, Louis Gossett Jr. and Mariette Hartley.
“Rookie Blue: The Complete Fourth Season” (eOne/DVD, 2013, four discs, 13 episodes, featurettes, webisodes). This Canadian police procedural is about young cops in 15 Division. This season, change is constant, what with promotions, undercover assignments and attempting to keep the peace on the streets, not to mention soap-opera personal lives. The attractive cast keeps things afloat and the Canadian atmosphere is an appealing change for U.S. viewers. Season 4 begins on ABC in June.
“Republic of Doyle: Season 1” (Acorn/DVD, 2010, three discs, 12 episodes, audio commentaries, featurette). This is also a Canadian series, with a father and son as private investigators in a rough-and-tumble seaside town. Jake Doyle (Allan Hawco) is more impetuous than his father Malachy (Sean McGinley), an ex-cop, and they have extended family issues that often get in the way of their investigations. The show has run for five seasons in Canada and has been renewed for a sixth.
“Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Series 12” (Acorn/DVD/Blu-ray, 2010-11, two discs, four episodes). Four feature-length episodes follow Agatha Christie’s fastidious detective who uses his “little gray cells” to solve crimes. Episodes are “Three Act Tragedy,” “Hallowe’en Party,” “The Clocks” and the classic story “Murder on the Orient Express.” Guests include Jessica Chastain, Hugh Bonneville, Barbara Hershey, Toby Jones and Martin Shaw, among others.
“SpongeBob, You’re Fired!” (Nickelodeon/Paramount/DVD, 1993-2013, 14 episodes). To dovetail with the title story, most of these episodes here have SpongeBob trying various forms of employment, most involving food, from selling hot dogs to delivering pizza. Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org