Wednesday, March 28, 2007

There is a whole bunch of television series making their way on DVD and into this week's column.

Secret Agent/Danger Man: The Complete Series

A&E Home Video has received all 86 episodes of the under-appreciated spy drama staring Patrick McGoohan. Popular culture in the 1960s was filled with spy movies, televisions and novels that were undoubtedly fueled by the Cold War.

The James Bond films and novels led the pack and many of the properties inspired by Ian Fleming's creation put greater emphasis on the sex and gadgets to the point of silliness.

The British production of "Danger Man" took a different tact. In well-written half hours, John Drake (played by McGoohan) used few gadgets or even guns to accomplish his tasks given to him at first by NATO, and then later by a somewhat sinister boss.

Drake was not above arguing with his bosses and wasn't afraid to allow people to see him sweat. This much more realistic approach created a show that was far different than the splashier "Man from U.N.C.L.E."

The show was expanded from a half-hour to an hour and the last two episodes a two-parter were shot in color.

After his run on "Danger Man," (which was known as "Secret Agent" when aired in this country), McGoohan went on to write and produce "The Prisoner," which many people saw as the unofficial sequel to the series.

These are shows that stand up to the test of time and, if you're a fan of "The Prisoner," they are must viewing.

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The Hee Haw Collection

Now let's talk a series that doesn't stand the passing of years. "Hee Haw" was supposed to be a countrified version of "Laugh In," but it far surpassed "Laugh In" in longevity. "Hee Haw" was on the air as a syndicated show for more than 20 years.

By that measure it was certainly successful, but for non-country music fans the show was hard to take. Corny, stale jokes delivered by some dubious talent were the show's hallmarks that and a tremendous amount of exposed skin for a family show.

This release is one 50-minute show from 1983 and the highlights include performances by George Strait and Statler Brothers. Again, this a plus for country music fans, but for anyone else it's a snooze.

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Whose Line Is It Anyway? The Original British Series Uncut and Uncensored

This four-disc set presents the origin for one of the most popular comedy series of recent years and covers the years 1988 to 1990.

The improvisational show lives and dies on the strength of its cast. Some people are much better than others and as such some half-hours are funnier. The earlier episodes are well worth watching, but seem a little ragged as the talented comedians were getting familiar to the show's format and with working with one another.

The show started out with an all-Brit cast and some, such as Tony Slattery, John Sessions, and Josie Lawrence are standouts. In this set, North Americans Greg Proops, Mike McShane, and Ryan Stiles were introduced.

One challenge some viewers will have is the use of British slang and references. As the series matured, or with the introduction of American and Canadian cast members, the local material seemed to be less prominent.

A very funny show, this set is something anyone who enjoys fresh comedy will appreciate.

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© 2007 by G. Michael Dobbs

1 comment:

SRBissette said...

HEE HAW was out of date when it was new.

DANGER MAN aka SECRET AGENT MAN is a revelation seen today.

But if Junior Samples had been the lead, well, just wouldn't be so.

What does that tell ya?