Vintage TV series lead new DVDs, Blu-rays this week.
“Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume 2” (CBS/Paramount/DVD, 1987-89, three discs, six episodes). Raymond Burr played Erle Stanley Gardner’s intrepid defense attorney from 1957-66 in 271 black-and-white episodes. Then, some 20 years later, he revived the character for a string of feature-length TV-movie “specials,” and this set contains the second six, from “The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel” through “The Case of the All-Star Assassin.” They are formulaic but well produced, serving as comfort food for fans.
Co-stars are Barbara Hale, returning from the original series as Mason’s secretary Della Street; her real-life son William Katt as Paul Drake Jr., the law firm’s in-house detective; and William R. Moses is a law student who assists in their investigations. David Ogden Stiers makes his final appearances as district attorney Michael Reston in the first three films here. Guest stars include Debbie Reynolds, Patty Duke, Jerry Orbach, Pernell Roberts, Brian Keith and Robert Guillaume.
“Maverick: The Complete Fifth Season” (Warner Archive/DVD, 1961-62, b/w, three discs, 13 episodes). Jack Kelly goes at it alone for this final season of the popular vintage TV Western comedy. Only 13 episodes were produced as the show alternated weekly with reruns starring James Garner. And there’s no question that Garner is missed in this set, but these episodes are cleverly plotted and amusing, highlighted by yet another spoof of “Gunsmoke,” as well as a lampoon of “Bonanza.” Guests include Jim Backus, Jack Cassidy and Utah-born B-movie queen Marie Windsor. (Available at warnerarchive.com)
“Seduced and Abandoned” (HBO/DVD, 2013, featurette). Film buffs will enjoy this comic documentary about the difficulties of financing motion pictures in the current Hollywood climate as Alec Baldwin and filmmaker James Toback attempt to raise money for a proposed reworking of “Last Tango in Paris,” by approaching potential investors at the Cannes Film Festival. Lots of celebrities are interviewed and there is frequent use of vintage film clips (some R-rated).
“Theatreland” (Athena/DVD, 2010, two discs, eight episodes; 12-page booklet). Theater buffs will love this documentary miniseries that takes viewers backstage at London’s famed West End theater district, focusing on the Haymarket, which dates back to 1720 but has updated fixtures … as of 100 years ago. Filmed over six months, the series follows the mounting of two shows, “Waiting for Godot” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and features Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.
“Afterlife: Season 1” (BBC/DVD, 2005, two discs, six episodes, audio commentary). This supernatural British series follows a psychologist (Andrew Lincoln, currently starring in “The Walking Dead”) who is an aggressive skeptic debunking psychics when he meets Alison Mundy (Lesley Sharp), a medium who upends all his expectations by comforting the living and the dead, and by revealing information she shouldn’t know.
“La Madame, Parte 1” (Cinedigm/DVD, 2013, five discs, 17 episodes). Spanish-language soap opera tells the story of a madam who is kidnapped by a mobster and forced to tell the background stories of the women she employs, all the while attempting to uncover her kidnapper’s agenda. Stars former Venezuelan actress Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe.
“Eastbound & Down: The Complete Fourth & Final Season” (HBO/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2013, two discs, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, bloopers). Danny McBride’s sitcom wraps up as his character Kenny Powers, a washed-up former Major League Baseball pitcher, tries to settle down in suburbia, only to be tempted back to the game, this time as a commentator. This is HBO, so expect R-rated language and raunchiness.
“Orange Is the New Black: Season 1” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2013, three discs, 13 episodes, audio commentaries, featurettes, bloopers). Netflix comedy-drama set inside a women’s prison. The central character is a woman (Taylor Schilling) who was living a quiet upper middle-class life until a 10-year-old warrant for transporting drug money caught up with her. In the joint, she makes friends and enemies among an eccentric prison populace. Kate Mulgrew and Laura Prepon co-star. (Another show with lots of R-rated content.)
“Looney Tunes: Spotlight 8 Collection” (Warner/DVD, 1938-61, two discs, 30 cartoons). This is a lower-priced reissue of classic Warner Bros. cartoons previously issued in the “Golden Collection” volumes. Disc 1 is all Bugs Bunny all the time, while Disc 2 features Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester, Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, etc.
“Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Field of Screams” (Warner/DVD, 1976-2014, two discs, 13 episodes). A new 22-minute soccer adventure, “Scooby-Doo! Ghastly Goals!” highlights this collection of sports-themed episodes gleaned from various “Scooby-Doo” series.
“Paw Patrol” (Nickelodeon/Paramount/DVD, 2014, 10 episodes). Nickelodeon cartoon series about six rescue pups and the tech-savvy boy who helps them perform heroic deeds. Episodes emphasize citizenship, social skills and problem solving for preschoolers.
“Poppy Cat: Birthday Treasure and Other Adventures” (eOne/DVD, 2011, seven episodes). Disney Jr. animated series about the title cat and her colorful friends.
“French for Kids: Inside and Out” (Whistlefritz/DVD, 2014). Interactive program that teaches kids ages 2-7 the French language through games, skits and songs designed to be fun as well as educational.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com