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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Crime > Comedy > Cops > TV > Mystery > Detective > Murder > Telefilms > Drama > WWII > Nuclear Weapons > CHiPs: The Complete Fourth Season (1980 - 1981/MGM/Warner DVD Set)/Manh(a)ttan: Season Two (2015 aka Manhattan/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume Five (1993 - 1995/CBS DVD Set)/TU

CHiPs: The Complete Fourth Season (1980 - 1981/MGM/Warner DVD Set)/Manh(a)ttan: Season Two (2015 aka Manhattan/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume Five (1993 - 1995/CBS DVD Set)/TURN: Washington's Spies: The Complete Second Season (2015/AMC/Anchor Bay DVD Set)

Picture: C+/B/C/C Sound: C+/B+/C+/C+ Extras: D/D/D/C Main Programs: C+/B/C/B

Here's an interesting mix of old faves and two new shows that got better in their sophomore seasons and are among the best new shows on TV...

First we have CHiPs: The Complete Fourth Season (1980 - 1981) on a roll with its original cast in its peak with the MGM TV show (the last big hit the studio came up with before merging with United Artists) that remained one of the few hits NBC had at the time. Corny as ever, it is amazing the top name talent behind the camera (writers, directors, et al) with a plethora of great character actors the show was landing in this dumbed-down formula police show that did not get the memo that Hill Street Blues (another NBC show, which ironically was never a hit until the end) had happened.

If anything, it was the end of the cycle of 1970s cop shows that started with Columbo and Kojak, but ended with Starsky & Hutch and Charlie's Angels as a younger demographic dragged and dragged down the reading level of the audience. By today's low standards, CHiPs seems a bit ambitious, if not by much. But the show found its audience and they were not going anywhere yet.

As much as Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox were the main stars, the support of regulars Robert Pine, Randi Oakes and Michael Dorn at this point created a serviceable enough 'family' for the show and viewers, but I want to also give credit to the incredibly talented guest stars who graced the show this season, who ultimately gave the show the heart and soul above its meager writing to become a money machine. This time out, they include Larry Storch, Sonny Bono, Alan Stock, Sandy Alan, Erin Donovan, Kathleen Freeman, K.C. Martel, Robert Ginty, Michael Ansara, Cassandra Gava, Cliff Emmich, Ken Berry, Tina Louise, Milton Berle, Alex Rocco, Mickey Jones, Christine Belford, Adam Roarke, Richard Roundtree, Barbi Benton, Cindy Morgan, Danny Bonaduce, Dwight Schultz and Michael Cole among the many who appear in the 21 hour-long shows included in this set.

A feature film revival is on the way, but who knows how cheesy it'll be. Though there are plenty of curios throughout this season, this is still for fans only.

On the other hand, Manh(a)ttan: Season Two (2015) is the kind of show that started out mixed but with potential when we saw its debut a while ago, which you can read about at this link...


Though the show takes a few liberties with history, it is also very watchable and much more so this time out, asking more questions about the situation of building what turned out to be the first atomic bombs via The Manhattan Project and strives to show what people might have been thinking or even doing without the hindsight of knowing the outcome of WWII. William Petersen is back in great form as the military official who runs the 'city' that is involved in the building of the bombs, while the rest of the cast (John Benjamin Hickey, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Chernus, Christopher Denham) are even better this time out (and they were good in the first place). Griffin Dunne also turns up and things start to tighten up narratively and situationally speaking.

However, it looks like the show was axed a bit early, though it might still get picked up for what looks very much like one more intended season. Maybe the issues with the debut season got in the way, but they all delivered as much as I had hoped after seeing the first shows and hope we get to see more. See both seasons back to back!

Perry Mason Movie Collection: Volume Five (1993 - 1995) concludes the unexpected success of a series of TV movies that brought Raymond Burr back to the role of the lawyer/detective fighting crime by uncovering the truth and he's never lost a case. They tried to replace Burr with a revival in between the original show and these telefilms, but it did not work. No revival has occurred in the 21+ years since his final appearance as the character. The final six mysteries are The Case Of The... Telltale Talkshow Host (with guests Regis Philbin, Montel Williams & G. Gordon Liddy (!?!)), Killer Kiss (Linda Dano & Genie Francis), Wicked Wives (Maud Adams (!), Shelley Hack, Kim Alexis, Kathy Ireland & Beverly Johnson (!!!), Lethal Lifestyles (Dixie Carter, Diahann Carroll & Tristan Rogers), Grimacing Governor (Ryan Philippe, James Brolin & Tony Curtis) and Jealous Jokesters (Tony Roberts, Tina Youthers & Dyan Cannon).

Its not that these are awful or unintelligent. They all respect their audience and at least take themselves seriously, but these six puzzlers are somewhat flat, dull, not very memorable and really slow. Thus, these are only for completists of the show and fans of Burr. A last hurrah for fans, They were lucky to have an audience (mostly skewing older) and turns by Barbara Hale,William R. Moses, Hal Holbrook and Paul Sorvino in reoccurring roles don't hurt. Some of the other guest stars are odd choices, but others are real curios, so you get that factor going for these final flings. Still, these are for fans only.

TURN: Washington's Spies: The Complete Second Season (2015) was the other show that stuck with me not enough people were watching and it also got better this time around. Here's what I had to say about the original shows...


Though again, liberties are being taken a bit historically, the cast is great, the writing witty and smart, plus it looks pretty good all around. This is ambitious, intelligent television we are not seeing enough, especially as HBO has a downturn and any golden period of TV we've been in can only go on for so long. I will say this can be a very violent and bloody show, so be prepared, but it never wallows in that because is moves onto the next part of the story. Will these spies get caught before the pressure on George Washington himself becomes too much and the British go on another killing spree to keep control of the colonies?

Half the fun and suspense is getting there and the show (10 episodes in all here as well) has solid pacing that is even better than before. This set has been issued as the third season is under way and again, start at the beginning for best impact, but see it all and judge for yourself. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Jamie Bell leads a truly fine cast.

Playback performance across these releases have a few surprises, though the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Manh(a)ttan is easily the visual playback winner, looking good, consistent and solidly period. A few shots may have some blur and a few others minor issues, but this is as good or better than most TV productions today.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on CHiPs takes, in a new trend for classic TV, the show was shot in a 1.33 X 1 frame on 35mm film for older low-def square TVs, so the image is centered in the wider frame and bookended with black blocks like pre-1950s feature films. The image may seem smaller in one way, but you get no overscan and the prints used look as good ass the show ever has.

The 1.33 X 1 image on all the Mason telefilms were also shot on 35mm film, but these are older copies finished on analog videotape and introduce flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and staircasing. It is not as bad here as I have seen in so many such 1980s TV productions, but its still dated looking,

Thus, the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on TURN should look better, being a recent HD shoot and having looked so good on Blu-ray in its debut season, but this reduced-definition DVD presentation is just too soft throughout for its own good and makes me miss the Blu-ray.

As for sound, Manh(a)ttan not only again offers DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 or 5.1 lossless mixes as it did before, but the sound is actually deeper, clearer and more detailed than the debut season and most TV on Blu-ray of late, so that's a pleasant surprise indeed.

TURN should be second place being the only DVD to offer lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but the soundfield is not as good as the debut season's Blu-ray had. Thus, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on CHiPs and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Mason can just match it.

Very sadly, none of these releases have extras save Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices and a little sheet of paper listing the 10 episodes on Manh(a)ttan that we won't really count (especially since I wanted to hear from the great cast), while TURN adds an Inside behind the scenes featurette, plus featurettes A Treacherous Trio and Washington & Lee and Deleted & Extended Scenes.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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