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Category:    Home > Reviews > Reality TV > Animals > Nature > History > Nation > Federal > Documentary > WWII > Spy > Competition > Guns > Billy The Exterminator: Season Four (2011)/Planet Egypt (2012)/The Presidents (Obama upgrade version/A&E DVD Sets)/Secret War (2011/Athena/Acorn Media DVD Set)/Top Shot: The Gauntlet (2011/A&E DVD Set

Billy The Exterminator: Season Four (2011)/Planet Egypt (2012)/The Presidents (Obama upgrade version/A&E DVD Sets)/Secret War (2011/Athena/Acorn Media DVD Set)/Top Shot: The Gauntlet (2011/A&E DVD Set)


Picture: C+/C/C/C/C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D/D/C/C/C     Episodes: C/B-/B/B+/B-



Now for a mix of reality TV and documentary mini-series that show how ‘reality’ may be cheap, but nothing beats smart programming.



Billy The Exterminator: Season Four (2011) is the third DVD set of the series which is amusing at first, but wears quickly, as we have discovered by covering the seasons as they have been issued.  As these latest 12 episodes on two DVDs show, Billy and company do have some very dangerous work to do and it can be lethal, but the show has run into a formulaic situation where even the worse situations seem dangerously much less so and everyone seems to be too oblivious to the camera.  I even wondered if some animals were being poked at in ways they would not be (intended or not) for the cameras.  Start with the first set and watch from there to see what I mean.  There are no extras.


The Planet Egypt series is one of more ambitious shows here, telling us documentary stories, yet doing it in a sometimes abrasive reality TV style that holds them back and when you add the sometimes crude visual graphics, it only makes matters worse over the 4 episodes on two DVDs here.  The episodes are Birth Of An Empire, Pharaohs At War, Temples Of Power and Quest For Eternity.  The show still has some good moments and is informative, but it did not stay with me and it will not age well.  However, you could do worse.  Here too, there are no extras.


A&E and The History Channel have updated their documentary mini-series The Presidents (2005, 2008) to include a Biography episode on Barack Obama.  YOU can read about the series in our original coverage at this link:




The All The President’s Wives documentary and Timeline on Presidents are the other extras and though we could have used a few more, the one addition is welcome.


The outstanding entry here is a new British documentary mini-series about spying in WWII, usually involving the British, called Secret War.  We get 13 hour-long shows over 4 DVDs and they are not only well made, but some are exceptional, including Hardy Aimes: Operation “Ratweek” about how a fashion designer became a spymaster crucial to the Allies success, Double Agent: Tricycle about how Dusko Popov became a double agent for the British and Allies to trick the Axis (especially Germans) into exposing their operations and helping to win the war (he apparently is the one who really inspired James Bond), one on Greta Garbo’s time as a spy and many more tales that all have triumphs, tragedies and key points that really did turn the war.  Some even almost gave the victory to the wrong side.


I like the series very much and it is one of the big such surprises in historical and special interest releases this year.  Why this was not a bigger hit is hard to say, but I would like to see this one reach more people and if you go out of your way for this set, you will not be disappointed.  Extras include text discussion questions and a 20 page booklet on the history around the series.


Finally we have the amusing, if sometimes mixed Top Shot: The Gauntlet matching 16 competitors this time vying for a $100.000 prize.  We get all 12 episodes from Seasons 3 & 4 on four DVDs, plus Anatomy Of A Shot, Weapons Rundown & Behind The Battle featurettes and Bonus Footage.  It is good competition, though I noticed a note of male sexist discord when the ladies were up on the target range, but it is nicely done, though the show is starting to show signs of wearing its concept down as well.  Still, it is not bad and fans will enjoy it the most.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on four of the five releases (save Presidents in 1.33 X 1) can be soft and Egypt is particularly blurry in shots, though War should be better and Presidents is soft showing its age from the low def/standard def period of its production.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in all cases is about even, as good as it is going to get and just fine for there respective age.  The newer reality shows have location audio issues and even a slightly over-digital sound at times, but that is normal for those types of shows.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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