Television Reviews

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American Dad: Vol. 9
20th Century Fox
Street: 07.01
Of all the Seth MacFarlane cartoons in all the land, American Dad is his best. It doesn’t rely on pop culture and bodily functions to get laughs. It’s smart and driven, aiming to impress with new gimmicks every episode. One episode in this particular volume is a stage play, with a special live appearance by Patrick Stewart. American Dad, while still a Seth MacFarlane show, is smarter than its siblings. I’ve learned more from American Dad about politics than I ever thought I would. This volume, however, contains episodes that do venture into more crude territory than previously encountered and pokes even harder at religion. If you’re also a fan of trying to pinpoint celebrity voices, episodes in this disc set include Nathan Fillion, Rupert Grint, Jon Hamm, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Mariah Carey (!). Those are special features enough. –Rebecca Frost

Arrow: The Complete Second Season
Warner Home Video
Street: 09.16
When it comes to CW shows involving superheroes, there’s a golden rule of thumb to follow: If it’s named after the city, tread lightly; if it’s named after the hero, give it a shot. Arrow started off looking like it may follow in the same direction as the ridiculous melodrama that was Smallville, but instead became a smash hit for the network by actually making Oliver Queen/The Arrow/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) a hero in progress. In many ways, it’s what a true Batman series should be, but that’s another topic. Season 2 does a fantastic job of building on what they started and expanding the DC universe with B-C list characters whom comic fans grew up reading about. This set gives you both Bluray and DVD options, complete with behind-the-scenes features, the 2013 Comic Con panel and a gag real. Conspicuously missing – commentary tracks, which is kind of heartbreaking for a series making great strides like this, and features from the DC libraries like we’ve seen from the animated DVDs about these long-lasting characters. Ultimately, if you love Green Arrow or anything DC, it is absolutely worth getting and spending the extra cash for the quality. –Gavin Sheehan

Warner Home Video
Street: 08.26
The evolution of the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore onscreen relationship is an ominously perfect allegory of the modern American couple.  In The Wedding Singer, Sandler and Barrymore bubbled over with twitterpated joy and their chemistry was spot on.  With 50 First Dates, the passion was gone, but it seemed practical to stay together.  Blended finds our couple right around the time when they don’t even try to mask how much they loathe one another.  Both Sandler and Barrymore phone this one in, still operating under the delusion that their Wedding Singer fans haven’t moved on to greener pastures. Despite the cumbersome plot that uses a rusty toolbox of chick flick clichés to cobble together a Brady Bunch-like message about blended families, there were a few moments that didn’t suck.  Any scene with Nickens (Terry Crews), the batshit crazy African bandleader made me temporarily forget that I was watching a Happy Madison film.  Also, Bella Thorne as the oldest of Jim’s (Adam Sandler) daughters operated with a cool grace that was impressive considering the material.  Oddly enough, watching this film on Blu-ray didn’t enhance the picture quality—instead, I kept wondering why Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore were in a Lifetime movie.  –Alex Springer

Clockwork Orange County
MVD Entertainment
Street: 06.03
Clockwork Orange County focuses on shows and other events that happened at Cuckoo’s Nest, a southern California venue that was around in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Iggy Pop played there, the Ramones were frequent guests, Henry Rollins’ first show with Black Flag was at the venue, and director Jonathan W.C. Mills claims that “slamdancing” was invented there. Mills uses lots of archival footage—some of which had been used in an early 80’s documentary called Urban Struggle that’s only been available via bootleg VHS—and pairs it with new interviews with Jello Biafra, Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L., Duane Peters and Henry Rollins to tell the story of one of his favorite venues. The problem with making a documentary about a single venue that was only around for a short time 30 years ago is that it has a very esoteric audience. Mills realizes that pitfall and tries to fill the void by covering the violence that accompanied the culture clash and the backlash that came with popularity of punk rock. While it’s fun to watch some of the legends of punk reminisce and tell stories about “the good old days,” overall the film is a little bit lackluster and directionless. –Trevor Hale

Devo: The Men Who Make the Music
MVD Entertainment
Street: 08.12
Have you ever watched some band and said, “WTF did I just see?” Imagine what crowds thought when Devo was unleashed on an unsuspecting public in their early years, at the end of the ’70s. It was still the disco era, and early metal monoliths like Led Zeppelin roamed the earth. Just when people were starting to get used to punk rock, these weirdoes with their theory of “Devolution” came “Jerkin’ Back n’ Forth” across the stage. The Men Who Make The Music combines 1978 concert footage with grainy-as-hell video clips interspersed with pep talks from “General Boy” in a loose narrative about the band’s struggle against “big entertainment.” Flash-forward almost 20 years, and Butch Devo and The Sundance Gig on the same disc features them closing out the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, wearing old-style jail outfits and playing some of their early songs from before they landed a record deal. It’s especially a treat for Utah locals who may have been in attendance. It’s a very apt and timely tribute to their early years after the death of founding member Bob Casale earlier this year, and also reveals them as an edgy, provocative band with a knack for great punk rock riffs. –Stakerized!

GG Allin (Un)Censored: Live 1993
MVD Entertainment
Street: 05.20
If you are one of the idiots who thinks GG Allin is still cool or stood for something or was somehow a brilliant artist and don’t mind the fact that his brother Merle is still raping him and using his “legacy” to pay his rent and you just have to have everything GG and Murder Junkies then fine, go ahead and get this DVD.  It’s pretty crappy, although there is lots of crap in it.  Literally GG’s crap, coming out of his butt while singing, and then he throws it at people.  But we all knew that. This DVD is just shitty old tour footage.  Nothing that entertaining.  I’d recommend skipping this one altogether and picking up the documentary Hated—that one was pretty good.  Unless, that is, you are a diehard GG Fan. –Mike Brown

Inside the Criminal Mind
Mill Creek Entertainment
Street: 05.20
I was disappointed with Inside the Criminal Mind. This documentary series managed to make Jack the Ripper boring—I fell asleep every time I tried to watch these episodes. I love the subject matter, too, which made me extra sad. I find the way criminals think fascinating, and it didn’t feel like they went too much into that. The good thing about this set is that it is huge! It’s six discs full of murders and destruction, starting with some of the most infamous serial killers, like Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer. It also goes into mass, rampage killings—school shootings, cult killings, etc. It even looks at some of our more interesting unsolved mysteries, like what happened to Amelia Earhart or Harry Houdini. There is a wealth of information on this set, but they don’t delve very deep into the specific cases—it’s more of an overview than anything. They sprinkle in a few criminologists and writers here and there, but I feel like it’s not the in depth look inside the criminal mind that it wants to be. It’s a solid set, it just feels like someone is reading a textbook out loud to you.  –Ashley Lippert

The Mentalist: The Complete Sixth Season
Warner Home Video
Street: 09.30
When a crime drama sets up a villain for the protagonist to hunt down, it’s usually a one-and-done scenario when the season ends. But for The Mentalist, whether you’re a fan or not, did a fantastic job of stretching out the mystery for over five years. But all good things have to end, which includes bringing closure to Patrick Jane’s (Simon Baker) personal manhunt for the killer of his family. The season is bittersweet in that you’re finally given a proper ending where, in many shows, this would be drawn out until the writers settled on something last minute that made no sense, but in the wake we’re left with a season looking for a new identity. The DVD set is fantastic, with all 22 episodes in complete form, along with a small bonus feature of the search for Red John and unaired scenes. The only thing missing that could have made it better was some episode commentary with insight from the cast and crew on what was essentially the show’s defining season. It’s totally worth buying if you’re a fan of the series. –Gavin Sheehan

Mystery Science Theatre 3000: XXX
Shout! Factory
Street: 07.29
Thirty volumes later and I’m still not sick of the gems that keep coming out of the MST3K vault. Okay, maybe some need a little extra polishing and aren’t the best of comedy, but there isn’t a single episode that doesn’t get a number of laughs. Even with a 15-25 year gap from when these were still on the air, the lamest of political jokes will still get a chuckle from the most jaded of watchers. This set of four films, as usual, includes two from the Joel era and two from the Mike era. The Black Scorpion, Outlaw (Of Gor), The Projected Man and It Lives By Night, are all presented completely cleaned up and unedited in their original form. Much like previous collections, bonus materials are plenty, including retrospective looks into the making of some films, exploring the source material, an extended trailer for the “The Frank” music video (which is probably the highlight to the bonus content), and four mini-posters of the DVD cover art. This is a must have for all you MST3K collectors, but you knew that already. –Gavin Sheehan

Orphan Black: Season 2
BBC Home Entertainment
Street: 07.15
I hesitated to watch the first season of Orphan Black because I knew once I started, I would need a full week to watch ALL OF THE ORPHAN BLACK. Finally, I did it. I understand now why the Internet is all crazed about this show. It’s complex and intriguing, and I can’t even begin to describe it without spoiling it. This is a review for the Season 2 DVD, so if you’re reading this I can only assume you know what the show is about and I, therefore, have no qualms in spoiling the first season for you. In Season 1 of Orphan Black, things were crazy, right? Season 2 takes all that craziness you remember and turns it up to 11. Plots have twists that would give M. Night a run for his money. Trust no one. Nothing is real. Everything you know is a lie. If you marathon all of the episodes like I did, the plots can get exhausting. Almost all action, all the time. Spaced out in weekly doses, the excitement remains heightened. Tatiana Maslany, who plays 90% of the various characters, deserves all the awards of anything ever. I’d compare this to 24-level excitement, but with brief relief in identity-swapping hijinks. The DVD has your typical behind-the-scenes features but also includes a interesting piece about how four characters all played by the same woman in one room was filmed. –Rebecca Frost

Sex Pistols – The TV Tapes
Odeon Entertainment
Street: 08.12
Here is yet another film celebrating the Sex Pistols legacy of punk. Without actually showing the entirety of the outrageous appearance on the Bill Grundy show, the legendary incident serves as a launching point for this film into the Sex Pistols’ turbulent career. This is done by highlighting the creation of their notorious reputation in 1976 through their reformation in 1996 and beyond. Director Mark Sloper tells this story through cobbled-together rare footage of interviews and commentaries of Malcolm McLaren, John (Johnny Rotten) Lydon, Vivienne Westwood and, of course, Sid Vicious. Speaking of Vicious, this DVD comes with a bonus feature with a 20-minute preview for a new Sid Vicious documentary.  Despite some hidden gems, this story has been told before and through better means. Sure, it’s interesting to get a media’s perspective on a group, but I can get that on YouTube.  This film offers little in the way of being enlightening, other than to reaffirm what is already well known: the Sex Pistols had a huge impact on punk. The only redeeming bit that this film really has to offer is Lydon’s consistent less-than-courteous manners toward his interviewers. That’s always guaranteed a laugh. –Nick Kuzmack

Soap: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2
Mill Creek Entertainment
Street: 09.02
There was a point in television history when soap operas ruled the airwaves and could compel you with stories about someone’s half-brother returning from the dead to claim his real grandchildren. In the midst of all that, ABC launched Soap, a 30-minute sitcom parody with an impressive cast that lampooned the genre in prime-time television. Regarded as one of the best shows in television history, it helped launch and rocket careers of stars like Billy Crystal, Jimmy Baio, Diane Canova, Robert Guillaume and more. This DVD set gives you the first two, and what are probably the best, seasons of the series, featuring the exploits of the Tates and the Campbells, and dealing with the most ridiculous of dysfunctional plot points between the rich and the even richer. Sadly, like many DVD releases of this kind, you’re only getting the episodes and no additional content about the series or its history, not even an outtake package, which we’re sure exists somewhere. If you’re really into the series, this is a must-snag DVD set. But if you’re looking for more beyond just the episodes, perhaps you should hold off until they do a complete series release again. –Gavin Sheehan

Three’s Company: The Complete Series 1977-1984
Anchor Bay
Street: 08.19
Anchor Bay have come out with what will be (until we find another smaller format to watch TV shows on) the definitive collection for one of the most popular sitcoms of the late ’70s. To look at the complete series from start to finish is a lesson in sitcom writing and how best to get the most out of subtle jokes. Yes, many panned the series in its heyday, and it had its share of issues with cast changes and plots that never made a lick of sense. But compared to many of the shows thrown together during that era of television (especially from ABC), it’s held up quite nicely. This collection allows you to see the series reach its height and spiral down at the end as John Ritter broke out and Suzanne Somers broke apart, along with bonus test episodes never seen on television. The big factor that will separate real fans from this 29-disc collection and fair-weather ones who watch in syndication is the price tag, coming in at nearly $140. For many, this will be a treasured collection, but for others, it will be something to get drunk to and remember better days with your sexy roommates. –Gavin Sheehan

Wilfred: The Complete Third Season
20th Century Fox
Street: 06.24
Wilfred, as the series progresses, gets weirder and weirder. This third season definitely takes the show to places I haven’t seen shows venture before—conspiracy theories, men in dog suits and much, much weed smoking. Eventually, the plot must reach stagnation, right? Kudos to the writers for continuing to find downward spiraling roads to take Ryan (Elijah Wood) further into insanity. As episodes begin to taper into weirdness, Wilfred (Jason Gann) blurts out a sentence that brings the show back to somewhat normalcy, reverting to silly speeches and pop cultural references only a dog could give. This balance makes the show work and makes the third season just as good as the first two. Wilfred is one of those shows that are better marathoned, easier to keep up with outrageous plot lines. Luckily, you can find all 13 episodes from season three on this two-disc set so you’ll never have to leave your couch—except to refill your bong. –Rebecca Frost