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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Drama > TV > Mystery > Mini-Series > Thriller > Action > Comedy > British TV > Nighttime Soap Oper > Bonanza – The Official Fourth Season, Volume One + Volume Two (1962 – 1963/CBS DVDs)/The Ice House (1997/BBC DVD)/Kidnap & Ransom: Complete Series 1 & 2 (2010 – 2012/Acorn Media DVDs)/The Kingdom: Sea

Bonanza – The Official Fourth Season, Volume One + Volume Two (1962 – 1963/CBS DVDs)/The Ice House (1997/BBC DVD)/Kidnap & Ransom: Complete Series 1 & 2 (2010 – 2012/Acorn Media DVDs)/The Kingdom: Season One (2007/BBC DVD)/90210: The Fourth Season (2011 – 2012/CBS DVDs)/Vexed: Series One (2010)/Waterloo Road: Series 1 (2006/Acorn DVDs)


Picture: C+/C+/C/C+/C/C+/C+/C     Sound: C+ (Kidnap: B-)     Extras: B-/B-/C+/C/C/D/C-/D     Episodes: B-/B-/B-/C/C/D/C+/C



With the holidays coming, more sets of various TV shows are arriving on DVD and here are is deep sampling of the latest…




Bonanza – The Official Fourth Season, Volume One + Volume Two (1962 – 1963) is as strong a set of the show as we have seen since CBS started issuing sets with the best camera materials available after so many bad public domain home video releases.  The popular Western series and early color TV show was still picking up speed and moving along at a more natural, tight, energetic pace than it began with despite being set-bound and that helped to make it as popular as any Western on TV.


The first set has 18 episodes, the second 16, but the real highlight here are the extras, which are the most we’ve seen for the show to date.  Volume One has Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker spoofing the show on Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall (on black and white kinescope), stills section including some rarities, NBC spots and logos, Chevrolet spots and logos and audio commentary tracks (three of them) on select episodes including Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) on Elegy For A Hangman.  Volume Two adds two more audio commentaries, NBC spots and logos, Chevrolet spots & logos and rare stills.


However, the best extra is not even noted on either case.  At 51:33 on the first episode on DVD 1 on Volume One, a full color Ponderosa Party promo film to promote the latest (1963) cars from Chevrolet with guest stars Fred MacMurray, William Frawley and the actors playing My Three Sons, George Maharis and Martin Millner from Route 66 (both shows reviewed elsewhere on this site) with cast members from Bonanza.  Ending at 57:02, that short film runs 5 minutes, 29 seconds and is a nice promo.  The best extra to date on any of these sets, how and why did CBS forget to print this in big letters for fans?  Big mistake!



With Daniel Craig’s third James Bond outing (Skyfall) arriving in a few weeks, BBC Video has decided to issue the two-part TV murder thriller The Ice House (1997) with a younger Craig as one investigator among a few trying to figure out what (and what kind of) dead body severely eroded and decayed has been found in the buried backyard locale of the title behind someone’s house.  It leaves the owners and residents as suspects, but there is more to this crime tale adapted from the Minette Walters novel.


Can the investigators figure all this out?  Can the killer or killers be found?  How and why did this all happen?  Is someone else next?  Though not great, this is well acted, watchable and not bad with Craig staring as a background character and slowly working his way into the main action.  Corin Redgrave and Kitty Aldridge are among the rest of the decent cast that makes this worth a look, especially if you like Craig or a mystery that is not bad if not great.  The featurette Minette Walters On Writing A Novel is the only extra.



Less believable is Kidnap & Ransom: Complete Series 1 & 2 (2010 – 2012) where we are supposed to believe the lead (Trevor Eve) could solve one such case, then miraculously turn up in another such situation coincidentally a season later.  Created by Patrick Harbinson (who has previously been connected to Law & Order: SVU and 24, both reviewed elsewhere on this site), the first set of episodes is watchable, but not great, then we get to the second and it just gets silly, complete with that 24 talk-at mentality that is far from riveting and tries too hard.  Also, the subject itself becomes exploitive as the kidnappings start to trivialize the crime becoming plot points, rendering the show further unrealistic.


For the extremely curious only, text kidnapping statistics, intro by writer Michael Crompton and 10-minutes-long Trevor Eve interview are the extras.



Also about a missing person and comparatively more comical, The Kingdom: Season One (2007) has Stephen Fry as the title character, a country solicitor trying to find where his brother (also his business partner) has gone.  Is he dead, kidnapped or what?  This runs six episodes and though they are watchable at best, the show overall is flat and climax unthrilling and even dumb.  No doubt Fry can carry the show, but I was disappointed and without him, it is easier to see what a dud the show really is.  A behind-the-scenes documentary is the only extra.



The worst dud of all is 90210: The Fourth Season (2011 – 2012) which continues to be a shallow, empty carbon copy of a show that was not that good years ago to begin with.  I still see no breakout actors, breakout work, breakout performances, solid talent and even anyone here the camera likes, so this is for serious fans only, what few there are.  I guess it is enough for the show to continue, but it is no match for the original and that says something sad.  Six featurettes, a Gag Reel to make you gag the wrong way, lame Deleted Scenes, a lame Music Video and select audio commentaries are the horrid extras.  Yawn!



Much wittier is Vexed: Series One (2010) which wants to be a descendent of sorts of the likes of The Avengers, Hart To Hart and Moonlighting as its couple (Lucy Punch and Bond alum Toby Stephens) talk in their own bubble while discovering dead bodies.  He drives around in a Mercedes convertible like Jennifer Hart and they have a little chemistry, but all this really lands up being is a police procedural with dialogue by people who don’t seem to be on auto pilot or in a coma/zombie state.


No match for its predecessors, you could do worse and we only get three episodes.  Stills and 5 minutes of promo trailers are the only extras.



Last and not least is Waterloo Road: Series 1 (2006) which attempts to be a raw drama about a school with tough kids in modern times and how one new teacher (Jamie Glover) is so shocked and unhappy with what he sees that he starts challenging everyone from the idiotic students to the complacent and comatose teachers.  At first, this looked like it had the potential to be another Room 222 type of serious drama taking on the issues with realism and real character development, but it becomes so much a formulaic soap opera, it makes Daria look like The Sopranos and Welcome Back Kotter look like All In The Family.  That’s a shame since they have a great cast and set up.


I’ll be curious to see the next season, but with limited expectations of improvement.  I also did not buy all the plot turns.  There are no extras.


The 1.33 X 1 on Bonanza may have limited color range to suit early analog TVs, but the prints look great and are very consistent in quality throughout both sets, resulting in performance that can compete with anything on this list.  Shot on 35mm film, nice CBS has the original camera materials.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Ice House actually contains a 1.66 X 1 frame likely shot on film of some kind, but it is softer than expected and has detail issues.  Everything else on the list (five remaining titles) are here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image presentations and should be the best performers on the list, yet Kingdom and Waterloo (both HD shoots) are much softer then they should be as well and disappoint throughout.


Lossy Dolby Digital is featured on all eight titles, with 90120 the only 5.1 title and very disappointing in that respect.  Compared to its 2.0 Stereo tracks and the difference is minimal.  The 2.0 Mono on Bonanza is professionally recorded and in better shape for its age than expected, leaving it able to compete with the 2.0 Stereo on the rest of the releases here except on.  Kingdom may be 2.0 Stereo, but it is the only one with healthy Pro Logic-type surrounds.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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