By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
LARDY LARDY: TV cooks used to be large and ugly, because the point was a camera trained on a simmering pan of heart-stopping yum, not a perky, cute mug whipping an audience into a frenzy over “healthy alternatives.” Make your television crank happy with the complete collection of Britain’s beautifully filmed, oddball ’90s-era cooking show Two Fat Ladies (Acorn, $59.99), a calorie porn extravaganza in which Clarissa Dickson Wright and the late Jennifer Paterson – witty, lumpen gourmands with aristocratic “R”s and a hilariously open disdain for vegetarians, who traversed the U.K. on a sidecar-outfitted Triumph Thunderbird, cooking in a succession of fantastically rustic countryside kitchens — showed a sturdy adoration for the dish-augmenting power of cream, bacon and butter. (Recipes included! Lipitor, unfortunately, not.)
LAUGHS FROM THE SOURCE: Comedy isn’t groundbreaking anymore, television cranks like to say, not like it was when the BBC took a chance on an Oxbridge gang of zanies in 1969, or Comedy Central snapped up a bunch of pop culture–savvy Z-movie belittlers from Minnesota 20 years ago, or sitcom stalwart NBC allowed a bittersweet hourlong show about unpopular, outsider kids with straight As in Awkwardness on the air at the turn of the millennium. DVD can make these cranks whole again. For Python fans who’ve been wondering if A&E’s packaging addiction was over, The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Collectors Edition Megaset (A&E, $159.95) puts that question to rest. All 45 episodes are included, as are the entire “Personal Best” collection of members’ favorite sketches, live performances, Terry Gilliam discussing his title animations clip-art by clip-art, and two interesting new documentaries, one that traces the troupe’s individual pre-Python influences and formative gigs – from The Goon Show to working for David Frost — and another which relays how they infiltrated North America (thank Dallasites Owen and Luke Wilson’s dad, in part)! My favorite oddity, though, may be this credit at the end of the influences doc: “Dudley MooreT is a trademark of the estate of Dudley Moore.” Some new young sketch group needs to name themselves that immediately. The whip-smart Minnesota hecklers behind MST3K, meanwhile, chose to honor fans of the Peabody Award–winning salute to cheeseball cinema with Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition (Shout! Factory, $59.99), featuring four never-before-on-DVD episodes – including the uproarious “First Spaceship on Venus” – footage from the participants’ panel at ComicCon, and a three-part doc featuring new interviews with Joel Hodgson, Jim Mallon, Mike Nelson, Trace Beaulieu and everyone else. As for Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s heartbreakingly funny Freaks and Geeks, Shout! Factory has made the previously limited-run, extras-crammed Yearbook Edition ($169.99) available again. (Not so limited anymore, I know, but come on, cliques suck!) Packaged like it says, it’s an eight-disc invitation to host your own living room high school reunion, with an awesome, short-lived show that not only kick-started the careers of Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jason Segel but also probably helped you to put to laugh-filled, teary-eyed rest those indelibly awful teenage years.
ONE MAN, MANNING UP: Television cranks look at today’s ensemble crime dramas and think, why does it take a whole team of people to catch one scumbag? And when did the yoyos who examine hairs take over? What happened to hard, loner investigators who hit the pavement, the pool halls, the smoke-filled bars and seedy apartments by themselves (save for a brassy underscore), who sometimes had to get information, using a wisecrack, a left hook, a few trigger pulls and a high-speed car chase? Mike Connors’ Joe Mannix didn’t need no stinkin’ computer to catch a killer, as Mannix: Season One (CBS/Paramount, $54.99) entertainingly reminds us. The inaugural year (1967-68) of this long-running show introduced the scuffle-loving P.I. as working for Intertect, a corporate detective agency whose reliance on statistical analysis didn’t jibe with Mannix’s street smarts. (As a joke, the title sequence shows his name boldly imprinted on a hole-dotted readout card, as if to say, Punch this!) The crisply made pilot episode is a brutally efficient kidnapping yarn that includes brawls in a mud pond and on a hillside, and ends with Mannix chasing someone through Palm Desert and onto the greenest golf course you’ve ever seen (there’s that saturated ’60s color again) while a helicopter attacks him. Among the extras on this set is a new interview with a still virile-looking Connors in which he talks about how shooting the action in the pilot tore him up good. Somehow I don’t think CSI: Miami star David Caruso is wrecking himself by repeatedly taking off those sunglasses. Even Weeble-sized William Conrad got into occasional scrums with bad guys as private L.A. dick Frank Cannon, as if to show an action side to match the actor’s celebrated booming voice. (Yes, that was Conrad narrating the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, as well as The Fugitive.) On his early ’70s Quinn Martin–produced show, recently introduced on DVD with Cannon: Season One, Vols. 1-2 (CBS/Paramount, $64.99), the then-middle-aged Conrad had no problem suggesting a sharp-minded, intuitive crime-solver – investigating a corrupt small town in the pilot, he picks out a ceiling fan in the background of a menacing phone call, pinpointing which bar it came from – but he also proved that fat guys could have a physical intensity beyond playing motionless figures of power and intelligence.
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