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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Religion > Corruption > Art > Science > Sexploitation > Cable TV > Drama > TV Situation Com > DaVinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season (2013/Starz/Anchor Bay DVD Set)/Eight Is Enough: The Complete Fourth Season, Part 1 + Part 2 (1979 – 1980/Warner Archive DVD Sets)/Parade’s End (2012/BBC/HB

DaVinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season (2013/Starz/Anchor Bay DVD Set)/Eight Is Enough: The Complete Fourth Season, Part 1 + Part 2 (1979 – 1980/Warner Archive DVD Sets)/Parade’s End (2012/BBC/HBO DVDs)/The Thick Of It – Seasons 1 - 4 (2005 – 2012/BBC DVD Set)


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



PLEASE NOTE: Eight Is Enough is only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



Now for some new TV releases…



DaVinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season (2013) is a new show for the Starz cable TV network that is part of a larger, under-discussed cycle of TV adventure shows where a young, noble antagonist (here, no less than the historical figure Leonardo DaVinci in a hardly historical show) fights again evil happenings against all odds.  These shows started to surface more often in the 1980s, but really have flooded in in recent years.  David S. Goyer is the creator of the show and instead of calling it revisionist or an alternative take, he calls it post-modern and that is just too lite in dealing with what happens here in eight episodes.


Our title character is a brilliant man who will change the world, but must fight evil oppression and right in the beginning, we get a religious authority figure who is gay (implied as a secret, especially since he has a family) and then we get an even meaner authority figure with more power and cunning who is possibly gay and likes to have sex with young boys nude in his indoor swimming pool taking about God with a knifepoint to the victim’s throat.  DaVinci by contrast has a healthy sexual relationship with a sexy, beautiful woman he likes to paint naked (on her body and on canvas) in the only healthy sexual relationship of any kind on the show.


Add forced bestiality in one scene and the homophobia and you have a show with the most heavy handed politics and problems of any Goyer work to date.  While his work on the Dark Knight films, Dark City and Blade films are his best work, his genre work (which is most of his resume) is usually more problematic from bad horror sequels early in his career to the unfortunate Ghost Rider sequel (see the Blu-ray 3D review elsewhere on this site), the awful Man Of Steel and somewhat overrated Jumper are more typical of his work.


In stages, it goes form starter work to peak work to work now that is commercially successful, but cynical and increasingly problematic with this series some of his most awkward and formulaic to date.  The cast is not bad and the money is on the screen, but I was disappointed and expected a possible surprise, but Goyer is in corporately competent mode and if this show is not the nadir of his work, it is close.  I also liked the instrumental theme song, but it is much ado about very little for the most part.


Extras include audio commentary tracks on six of the eight shows led by Goyer, a Second Screen Promo to access more extras that will not count as content here, three Making Of/Behind The Scenes featurettes on music, costumes and more on the show, Worldwide Fanfare featurette on getting fans for the show, and Deleted Scenes.



On the other end of the spectrum, we have Eight Is Enough: The Complete Fourth Season, Part 1 + Part 2 (1979 – 1980) which continues the popular drama/comedy TV show with Dick Van Patten that by this season was about to end it original cycle and arc of storylines.  If you are unaware of the show, try this link to learn more about it from our coverage of the Third Season now also on Warner Archive DVD:




Faced with the obvious age of the cast and that the children were growing older, we get the clichés of characters moving on, leaving home, starting new careers, making life changes and maybe getting married.  It is obvious, kept the show a ratings hits, but the chemistry, pace, fine writing and smart approach continued on, making this as good as the previous seasons.  It is also a winding down of the 1970s in ways even the makers may not have realized, but if you like the show, it is a set worth your time and is here in two volumes of 14 and 12 hour-long shows respectively that hold up well and have some interesting nostalgia to them, which was the most pleasant surprise of all here.


There are again, sadly, no extras.



Susanna White’s TV series remake of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End (2012) could have been just another stuffy, tired, unnecessary retread of a great literary work (or works in this case), but the BBC and HBO have teamed up to remake this one, brought on no less than Tom Stoppard to pen the teleplay adaptation and the result is an impressive production that more people should see.


Set just as WWI is about to happen, we have covered an excellent 1964 BBC version with no less than Dame Judi Dench that I though was excellent at this link:




This time, Adelaide Clemens is Valentine Wannop, the mistress of the protagonist Christopher Tietjens (played very well by Benedict Cumberbach, replacing the great Ronald Hines from the 1964 version) and Rebecca Hall (replacing Jeanne Moody (in a great turn) from that version) is the wife.  I landed up liking this version much more than I thought I would, though I still like the 1964 version a little more despite its age, but both do amazing justice to the material easily making it one of the best Mini-Series of the last few years.


The money is on the screen here too and they also have come up with a fine supporting cast in the best tradition of these productions including Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson, Janet McTeer, Rufus Sewell, Freddie Fox, Anne-Marie Duff and Brit Stephen Graham, who audiences will recognize as Al Capone on the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire (reviewed elsewhere on this site) so this is a top notch production, deserves much more attention than it has received and is worth going out of your way for.


The only extra is Tom Stoppard interviewed on radio about the mini-series.



Finally we have the political comedy series The Thick Of It – Seasons 1 - 4 (2005 – 2012) which ran every two seasons and allegedly inspired the HBO series Veep and film In The Loop, but despite some good jokes, sometimes sharp humor and comments that maybe only British viewers would get, it is a run-on show that starts neurotic with its single camera that never stop shaking (even shaking more than it needs to or ought to) supposedly impressing with its clichéd approach the stress of this post-modern city life with pressures and awkwardness.


The mostly unknown cast is somehow always up to the task of these shows, but despite the intelligence and talent involved, it comes across as more of a blur (like Veep eventually does, see our review elsewhere on this site) than a show with a coherent narrative and ultimately, its approach betrays itself undermining any points it might have to make about Britain at the moment.  Now you can see for yourself.


Extras include audio commentary tracks, Outtakes, several Behind The Scenes featurettes and Deleted Scenes.




The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all the sets but Enough, a 1.33 X 1 color show shot on 35mm film, can look good but are still on the soft side, but Thick is especially problematic with more motion blur (and not just because the camera is shaking no=-stop) and does not improve much over the seasons.


The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on Demons and End are the sonic champs here with much more surround information than expected (both would sound better on Blu-ray, we hypothesize) demonstrating fine recording, mixing and decent if not always consistent soundfields.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Thick and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Enough are also well recorded and tie for second place sonically, but add that Enough has audio that has held up surprisingly well like its predecessor set.



To order Eight Is Enough, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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