Alice – The
Complete Second Season (1977 –
1978) + The Complete Second Season
(1978 – 1979/Warner Archive DVD Sets)/The
Bible: The Epic Mini-Series (2012/Fox Blu-ray)/Dirk Gently (2010 – 2012/Acorn DVDs)/Sugartown (2011/Acorn DVD)
C+/Bible: B- Sound: DVDs: C+/Bible: B- Extras: D/D/C/D/D Main Programs: B+/B+/C/C+/C+
PLEASE NOTE: The full season sets of Alice
are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and
can be ordered from the link below.
Now for a
interesting range of recent TV releases you should know about.
massive Linda Lavin hit series Alice continues its
rollout on DVD exclusively from the Warner Archive website with two very strong
follow-up seasons in The Complete Second
Season (1977 – 1978) and The
Complete Second Season (1978 – 1979) sets on DVD and for starters, you can
read more about the classic in its debut season at this link:
continued to be thoroughly hilarious, developed more into its own separate show
like nothing else on television and continued to be both a critic’s favorite
and ratings powerhouse. Besides the
great cast getting better and better in their roles and working together, the
writing continued to be strong and legendary voice and character actor Marvin
Kaplan became a great asset to the series as Henry the Bell Telephone repair
man, all made even funnier now that the Bell monopoly is long gone and we have
so much wireless.
plus was the writing team of Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis also
co-producing the show and doing some of the best work of their careers as they
penned several of the teleplays. Best
known for I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show, they left the latter and
this was their first big show since the entertaining The Mothers-In-Law (all reviewed elsewhere on this site) and they
must have saving up some howlers because this show is still a total riot 35+
years and going. Lavin got to show off
her music and stage skills, one-time tough guy Vic Tayback proved his comedy
work on the debut season was no fluke and with the characters well-established
with those first shows, the makers could now go all out to be even funnier and
we get some real gems in each set. Tom
Whedon (related to the writing Whedon family), a story editor on the show, also
write some great shows here along with some seriously excellent talent.
The Complete Second Season includes Alice moonlighting as a
lounge singer with guest star Morey Amsterdam, the gang covering for a gangster
turned informant, a decent Christmas episode, the George Burns episode where
Vera thinks he is God (from seeing the Warner hit film Oh, God!), Flo refuses to get glasses, Tommy’s basketball-playing
tutor falls for Alice, the gang stops talking to each other until Alice tries
new psychological approaches, the Secret Service visits the diner when a man
tries to call the U.S. President from the diner, an insane show where Flo is
about to marry an ultra-wealthy Arab Oil Sheik that has aged in all kinds of
ways, Desi Arnaz as an old friend of Alice’s visiting during relationship
troubles, Mel getting hilariously roasted Dean Martin style, Nedra Voltz
selling pies to the diner, an exceptionally strong episode with Jerry Reed that
is some of his best work ever, Vera’s psychic premonitions becoming all too
true and two episodes that did not air until the Fourth Season: an episode about a man on the run from the mob and
one on unionizing.
The Complete Second Season adds great shows about Tommy
living with Mel because he cannot stand Alice’s rules anymore, Mel selling his
VW Beetle to the gals with wacky results, Mel refuse to be a witness in a bank
robbery, Vera dating a new fellow movie fan named Brian (who should have stayed
a regular), the decent vices episode, a young Jim Varney great as an old friend
of Flo’s visiting when Alice is held at gunpoint at the diner for money, their
Thanksgiving show, Alice moonlights as a singing telegram tap dancer, Vera’s
dreams start becoming true, Alice starts dating Tommy’s school principle (Gary
Collins in a funny turn), a New Year’s Eve show, Alice’s new businessman
boyfriend Eric (Alan Haufrect as yet another character who should have stayed a
regular) has tickets to a big charity ball including some extras though not
enough for the gang including Mel wanting very badly to see & even meet
O.J., Simpson (!), a visit from Mel’s younger brother, Tommy getting in trouble
with a new girlfriend, Alice trying to get a big gig at the local Playboy Club,
Hans Conreid in a two-parter where Mel sells the diner to him with bad results,
Alice falls for a young stage director with uncomfortable results over a Cinderella production another
two-parter that leads to Vera getting a TV commercial ad, a poignant show about
Flo’s estranged father (played by the great Forrest Tucker of F-Troops and The Ghost Busters) in one of the more serious shows and Martha Raye
debuts as Mel’s mother!
is not even all the episodes. The rest
are also terrific and are built on their relationships with even more laughs,
which is why this show continues to be an all-time classic. Sadly, there are no extras, but most of the
cast is still around, so maybe someone can do an interview featurette?
commercially successful but loud, cynical and highly problematic is The Bible: The Epic Mini-Series (2012)
whose subtitle is so smug that it tells us what to think about it. In reality, though some money is on the
screen, this one goes on and on and on and on with people talking and sometimes
yelling at each other throughout as if it were 300, Game Of Thrones, Rome or a bad action film. Already being criticized in all kinds of
ways, including some inaccuracies from scholars and followers of the good book
who know it better than I ever will, The 4-Blu-ray set actually ends on the
Jesus period, so guess the rest of the book is not as important?
just not as good as it thinks it is and its look is flat and dull, the acting
is very mixed and worst of all, we have see all this before, so this is
somewhat watered down for commercial effect, but it backfires badly and in a
few years or so, it will not age well.
In addition, its big scenes pale in comparison to the best Biblical
works (John Huston’s The Bible: In The
Beginning… (1966) trounces the Old testament segments here badly, the
digital parting of the Red Sea by Moses her is like a bad overdone videogame
versus the 1956 De Mille/Heston version in two of the more blatant examples) so
to say this is for the already converted is an understatement.
surround will keep waking pup the rest of us and it is yet another example of
how the creative, innovate years of the mini-series are dead. See it at your own risk, but don’t pay
attention to the hype. Extras include six
Making Of featurettes and (this is
not joke, but you’ll decide if it is sacrilege) a Music Video! Oh Geez!
we have two comical TV entries from England courtesy of Acorn
Media. Dirk Gently consists of a 2010 pilot episode and three regular 2012
follow-up episodes with Stephen Magnan as the title character created by Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author
Douglas Adams and this has some of the same quirky uses of technology. Funny and amusing at times, his character is
an eccentric wreck running a half-witted detective agency (in his name) with
partner Richard MacDuff (Darren Boyd), but this is too predictable and we have
seen this kind of thing too many times before.
the actors are good and there are some moments worth seeing if you have the
patience, including a funny old car that barely runs (they picked a Austin
Leyland Princess 2200 XL as their clunker) but they never make enough of that
or anything else that could make the show better than it is. Now you can see for yourself. There are no extras.
Sugartown (2011) includes as its title song
a fairly good remake of the Nancy Sinatra hit in this also-predictable
semi-soap opera about a mom and pop candy and cake company that a younger
vulture capitalist wants to put out of business so he can make more money with
the property as a sleazy club or the like, but the owners and employees fight
back, yet there are additional complications and interrelationships. Again the cast is decent, but the show never
seems to really take off like it should and when the final episode was over, it
was hard to tell if it was the end of the story line or not.
not make it Fellini’s 8½ either, but
a victim of playing it too safe. Still,
I liked the idea and it has some good moments.
There are no extras.
X 1 NTSC professionally analog taped episodes of Alice
across the two sets here look pretty good for their age with some shows looking
softer than other, but color is usually really good and ironically has some of
the bets color range on the list here.
Halos are common in various episodes which is to be expected for its
age, but the shows look as good as they ever did and it is great to see them
looking this good. They were originally
captured on 2-inch reel-to-reel NTSC videotapes.
1.78 X 1 AVC @ 33 MBPS digital High Definition image transfers on the various Bible episode are the visual champs
here, but detail and depth issues, mixed CGI visual effects, motion blur and
tempered-down color hold back the look and make it a bland-looking show
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Dirk
and Sugartown are almost as styled
down, but not always as badly since we get some good color shots. Still, we get motion blur and their own
detail and depth limits. I bet Blu-ray
would benefit these shows, as they are both HD shoots.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix in the Bible episodes are a little more towards the front speakers during
its many episodes, but it has the best sound on the list by default, but not by
the margin I expected. Sound can be
loud, forward and even a tad shrill at times.
The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the Alice episodes hold up well for their age and are well recorded for
a analog videotape show of the time, though there are a few moments where we
get second blips of no sound, but they are rare and are not pops or clicks, so
they will not harm your speakers or sound system. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Dirk and Sugartown are well recorded, but a little lite and lack Pro Logic
surrounds, so they are passable but not exemplary.
all three seasons of Alice and
counting, go to this link for those sets and many more great web-exclusive