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Category:    Home > Reviews > Reality TV > Antiques > Collectibles > Mystery > Detective > Murder > Drama > Police > Politics > TV > American Pickers, V.3 (A&E/History Channel DVD Set)/Doc Martin: Series 5 (2010)/New Tricks: Series Seven (2010/Acorn DVD Sets)/Pawn Stars, V.4 (A&E/History Channel DVD Set)/Washington Behind Closed Do

American Pickers, V.3 (A&E/History Channel DVD Set)/Doc Martin: Series 5 (2010)/New Tricks: Series Seven (2010/Acorn DVD Sets)/Pawn Stars, V.4 (A&E/History Channel DVD Set)/Washington Behind Closed Doors (1977/Acorn DVD Set)


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



To make a key contrast, I have combined some of the latest A&E/History Channel DVD releases with Acorn Media releases to make a point about change.  At first, A&E was considered a sort of cable version of PBS, but they became so successful, that they moved into other programming and then started to make programming of their own.  It may not be what PBS might have always done, especially the reality TV, but their shows still tend to be the better ones.  In the meantime, Acorn has, despite not having an actual cable channel, become a PBS surrogate in their place.



That still does not stop several of their shows in the Antiques Roadshow vein from being really good like American Pickers, V.3, which is as strong a show as ever as the co-hosts Frank and Mike try buying product at lower prices and sell higher.  This is especially when they are old and unusual, but it is also obvious they keep some of the items and enjoy riding all over the country (not unlike the Route 66 series) but they are looking for ways to make money primarily.  Sometimes we find out the results and other times, it is an estimate, but it is a fine show that has become even better as it has gone along.  If they could ditch the obvious Reality TV moments, they could fit a few more items in.  This is from A&E/History Channel and has no extras, but look for other releases on the site.



Doc Martin: Series 5 and New Tricks: Series Seven are both from 2010 and Acorn Media DVD, continuing the exploits of two different kinds of detectives.  Martin (played by Martin Clunes) is semi-solo, but has assistants) while Tricks offers a team of four terrific actors (again, Amanda Redman, James Bolam, Allin Armstrong and Dennis Waterman) continuing their problems with aging as they find themselves dealing with their latest case load.  Despite having more comedy than usual, the writing and mysteries are well written like the Martin show.  They are not my favorite shows in the genre, but two of the better ones being made today.


Extras on Martin include a photo gallery, text cast filmographies and a 62 minutes behind-the-scene featurette, while Tricks has 10 funny minutes of bloopers and an 8 minutes long behind-the-scene featurette.  You can find more on both shows elsewhere on the site.



Pawn Stars, V.4 continues three generations of the Harrison Family buying and selling product at their Las Vegas store that to date, has never closed.  Like American Pickers, it is amazing what comes into their store, although obviously in the cases of all such shows, they are editing the best moments together for the most impact and highest ratings.  My feelings about this show mirror Pickers and I might like it just a sliver more, but it is definitely worth your time and these shows always play better on VDD or in HD than otherwise.  Hope we get some Blu-ray compilations sometime, so these collectibles can look really good.  There are no extras.



Finally we have the fictional political TV mini-series Washington Behind Closed Doors (1977) which Acorn is issuing and shows both the positive PBS effect on the Big Three networks and offers another look at the last Golden Age of TV.  We get a fine cast including Cliff Robertson, Stephanie Powers (just before Hart To Hart), Jason Robards, Robert Vaughn, David Selby, Lara Parker, Alan Oppenheimer, Linden Chiles, Thayer David, Joseph Sirola, Barry Nelson, Lois Nettleton, Meg Foster, John Randolph, Regis Cordic, John Houseman and Andy Griffith.  My problem now as then is that it so fictionalizes real events (I.e., the Nixon White House fiasco) that it never seemed to capture or truly be able to compete with the real thing, but that did not stop the show from being a hit and one people remembered in good ways.


It has aged decently thanks to its cast and some money put into it, but I was not a big fan, though I still think everyone should see this once as a time capsule of history, historic reaction and the kind of ambitious TV the Big Three used to make all the time.  Also, what a cast!  The only extra is an 8-page booklet on the show and the events that inspired it.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on the newer title (the first four on the list) should all be superior and there should even be a breakout visually, but they are all about even, save Martin which is softer than it should be and as soft as the filmed 1.33 X 1 image on Washington which has a disclaimer that it might look rough.  With some restoration, they could do a high definition Blu-ray version if the film elements survived.  All have lossy Dolby Digital sound with all in stereo but Washington, which is monophonic and the weakest of the five.  Otherwise, they are all simple stereo recently recorded that are good, but not great.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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