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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Talk Show > Satire > Crime > Drama > Murder > Mystery > Serial Killer > Adventure > Family > Animals > Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Complete First Season (2013/IFC/Anchor Bay DVDs)/Copper: Season Two (2013/BBC Blu-ray Set)/The Following: The Complete First Season (2013/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD Set)/Gentle Ben:

Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Complete First Season (2013/IFC/Anchor Bay DVDs)/Copper: Season Two (2013/BBC Blu-ray Set)/The Following: The Complete First Season (2013/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD Set)/Gentle Ben: Season One (1967 - 1968/CBS DVDs)/Top Of The Lake (2013 TV Mini-Series/BBC DVDs)

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

Here are the latest TV releases...

Comedy Bang! Bang!: The Complete First Season (2013) wants to be another series about a talk show that tries to be the actual talk show, though even with actual name guests is actually fictitious and strives to be as surreal and odd as it can be. It has its success in this regard, but never gets as surreal as classic Ernie Kovacs or David Letterman, so it has to come up with something more and different to do to stand out and be memorable. Unfortunately for these first 10 episodes, even interesting turns by Weird Al Yankovic, Jon Hamm, Seth Rogen and Michael Cera cannot make this work as well as it should.

Scott Aukerman is the host, real and fake, as well as a co-creator of the show and he plays his talker persona as generic and lost in his own world slightly, but the show is just more one-joke throughout than I would have liked, yet that might be just enough oddness to find it an audience. He's hoping the show will get better. It sure has the potential and between their wacky title theme song and it counterculture animation, I would like to see that matched with better shows.

Extras include audio commentary tracks with characters from the show to add to the attempts a surrealism, Alternate Title Sequence, Deleted Scenes, SFX Test Shoots, Full-Length Alternate Celebrity Interviews, Supercut of Reggie Watts' Commercial Intro/Outros, Ultimate Teaser Trailer, IFC Promos for the show and Insult Supercut from The Assassin.

Copper: Season Two (2013) follows the noteworthy Season One that many really liked, including our writer who discusses how much he liked the Blu-ray release at this link:


It is certainly nice to see the BBC do something darker and grittier than their usual stuffy TV or their action cycle led by the Doctor Who revival still going strong. However, despite the accolades and having many possibilities for a show set in 1865 New York, the show has been cancelled, wrapped up and did not capitalize on its early good press. Why? Well co-producers Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson know how to make quality TV with edge so they (joined by Will Rokos) held nothing back and the cast (including Tom Weston-Jones as Detective Corrigan) mesh well.

This time, the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln is about to happen (a subject that has been overly discussed, even though it produced one of Spielberg's better dramas of late) and though the 13 episodes here are smart, mature, clever work down to a certain sense of palpability and capturing the period in a decent way, the story arc just starts to loose itself when it should have become more intense (presidential killing, killers or not) somehow does not.

Not that it is playing it safe, though the show gets graphic, which seems more so in the absence of new dynamics. The grittiness is not gritty enough at times, there is not enough mystery here and having anything take place in the face of actual history is always a risk and he teleplays have a problem resolving themselves with real life events. Still, the show is as good as anything we are looking at here, is at least ambitious and fans of the debut season should at least enjoy much of it. Donal Logue and Franka Potente also star.

Extras include Set Tours, Insiders and Character Profiles.

The Following: The Complete First Season (2013) is yet another serial killer TV show, but it has some twists that make it more than just a formulaic repeat of such shows as Kevin Bacon plays a detective coming out of semi-retirement to track down an old nemesis (James Purefoy, perfectly cast, especially against Bacon, which is a plus for the show) that runs 15 hour-long shows and has its moments. Unfortunately, some of the twists are based on formulaic ideas where characters suddenly get dumb, but the idea the followers of the kill want to kill the one hook the show has going for it that has not really been done before.

Guess the Charles Manson legacy is too ugly to deal with until now, but Warner Bros. produced the show and the money is on the screen. Shawn Ashmore is a plus as Bacon's assistant and Maggie Grace as the survivor who becomes a target again is well handled. The supporting cast of mostly unknowns are also effective, but I must note that the underrated Cheri Christian is wasted in a brief scene in the Pilot whereas she should have been a regular character. All in all, the show is worth a look thanks to all this and its ambitions.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the discs add audio commentary tracks on the Pilot with focus points by the Executive producer in Maximum Episode Mode & a commentary on the season finale show, Deleted Scenes and six Behind The Scenes featurettes including interviews with Bacon and Creator Kevin Williamson.

Gentle Ben: Season One (1967 - 1968) is a family drama with comedy produced by Ivan Tors, best known for his classic underwater cinematography and work (along with Ricou Browning and Lamar Boren among their great team) had the company diving into family entertainment with some success. Besides big screen comedies like Hello Down There (1968, reviewed elsewhere on this site), they decided to do nature TV shows like this one.

An early moderate hit for Dennis Weaver (McCloud, Spielberg's Duel), the show is also remembered for the casting of Ron Howard's brother Clint as his son in a move to parallel The Andy Griffith Show as much as possible and a trained bear in the title role, though we get more adventure here. 29 half hours were produced and though the show is no classic, it is solidly made and holds up well enough as child-friendly television. Ron Howard, Bert Williams, Simon Oakland, Burt Reynolds, Albert Salmi, Robin Mattson, Jay Silverheels, Howard Da Silva, Sidney Blackmer, Pat Hingle, William Windom, Robertson White, Guy Rennie, Strother Martin, Tom Poston, Frank Logan, Juanita Moore, Fritz Weaver, Andy Jarrell, Bruce Gordon, Slim Pickens and baseball player Bob Gibson as himself.

Beth Brickell plays the mom on the show and Rance Howard also plays a regular. The show used to be in syndication for a brief period, then disappeared, but it deserves rediscovery after being out of circulation too long. Not bad.

Extras include a Rare Photograph Gallery and audio commentary on two episodes by Clint Howard, including one where he is joined by Rance Howard.

Top Of The Lake (2013) is Producer Jane Campion's interesting attempt to take a police procedural situation and narrative, then via a TV Mini-Series, try to subvert it and add women's issues and character study throughout. Meeting with some success, there is still just too much familiar throughout its 6 episodes, but the performances are good and lead Elizabeth Moss just won a Golden Globe for her lead work as a Police Detective investigating the mysterious disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl on New Zealand.

Peter Mullen is a bullying criminal type who fights with everyone, hated women, was connected to the missing girl and wants a camp of older women (all together being in pain from various bad life experiences) to go away, but they have a leader (Holly Hunter as a mysterious counterculture figure) who is among those who refuse to leave. Fortunately, this has more good moments than it should, though I still had my disappointments with mixed expectations. It is worth a look to see for yourself and by its ambitions to be something different.

There are no extras.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the Blu-rays have a slightly dark, styled down look on purpose, but that is their style and for a change in both cases, it is not a fake look but ones that make narrative and visual sense for their respective time periods. The anamorphically enhanced Following DVDs are not as good looking, coming across as much softer and not the best way to see the show. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Bang! gets second place for playback performance by simply being a straight-out well shot studio talk show with consistent color and only some softness, so the same framing on Lake, Following and the 1.33 X 1 color image on Ben are softer and the softest playback performers and could look better. Ben was shot on color 35mm film, but these are older video masters with aliasing errors and digititis.

The sound situation is almost the same as both Blu-ray sets offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes that are good, but have inconsistent soundfields and might be a bit more towards the front channels than I would have liked, but in both cases, this comes out of their dialogue-heavy natures in fairness to both productions. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the Following DVDs have the same mixes, but a bit weaker and Bang! Is actually able to tie those DVDs for second place in performance. That leaves the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Lake and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Ben the weak performers with Ben a generation down like its picture.

However, Lake should sound much better for a new production and the problem here is that the sound has been transferred at too low a volume, so be careful of high levels and volume switching. Otherwise, the actual recording is good as far as we can hear.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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