As the wife and I catch up on our stories, I’m mindful that the concept of “the new fall TV season” is rapidly going by the wayside. Fact is, traditional schedules and cycles are gone, as nowadays the latest episodes and even entire series can drop pretty much whenever. But disc remains the king of “whenever,” with a reliability that even streaming can’t match. So if you can wait for your favorites and new discoveries to hit physical media, there’s plenty of great entertainment in store.
Outer Limits Seasons 1&2 Blu-ray
Night Gallery Season 2 Blu-ray (all Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
Perhaps not coincidentally following a few months after the fourth season of CBS’ The Twilight Zone, which saw a shift to a one-hour format, the arrival of ABC’s The Outer Limits in 1963 was met with big ratings and enviable viewer loyalty. Season 1 deftly combined science fiction and horror, quickly embracing the trope of a creature–often a pretty scary alien or monster–at the center of the weekly tale, a pattern largely abandoned for the more sci-fi-leaning second season. The distinguished stable of writers included creator Leslie Stevens, Joseph Stefano, Robert Towne and Harlan Ellison, with sophisticated camerawork by the likes of future Oscar winner Conrad Hall, special effects by Gene Warren and Jim Danforth, and makeup effects by John Chambers. Specific episodes would go on to inspire everything from Watchmen (Season 1’s “The Architects of Fear”) to The Terminator (the Season 2 premiere “Soldier”) and beyond, while talent and specific props would be extensively employed for Star Trek. Season 1’s “The Zanti Misfits” would even go on to crack TV Guide‘s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” list. And years later, a weird phenomenon would occur as viewers thought back on Outer Limits episodes and insisted that they were Twilight Zones, and vice versa. Like I said, perhaps not coincidence. Between the two glorious black-and-white seasons, which are sold separately, there’s a total of 40 expert audio commentaries, in addition to alternate cuts, vintage promo spots, interviews and more.
By the late ‘60s, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling had moved on to another small-screen drama/fantasy/sci-fi anthology series, this one looser in structure as each story could be as long or as short as the material demanded. This second and lengthiest season introduced quick comedic sketches between some of the more substantial narratives, an idea that Serling reportedly loathed yet was ultimately powerless to stop. Newly mastered for Blu-ray, this five-disc set is also loaded with extras, notably 32 audio commentaries from experts and superfans (including Guillermo Del Toro), an original actress (Laurie Prange) and even the director of half-a-dozen episodes (the wonderful John Badham), alongside video interviews with talent from in front of and behind the camera, more discussion about the difficulties of syndicating the show, and a segment with artist Tom Wright about his memorable and crucial paintings.
Come to think of it, I bet people confuse Outer Limits and Night Gallery episodes, too.
Charmed The Complete Series Blu-ray (CBS/Paramount)
If one pretty witch trying to master suburban life was a hit, then three can’t miss, right? Even the title of Charmed is a subtle riff on Bewitched, although creator Constance M. Burge’s hour-long approach went for action, suspense and personal drama more than comedy, and would go on to last a none-too-shabby eight seasons. Halliwell sisters Piper (Holly Marie Combs), Phoebe (the stalwart Alyssa Milano) and Prue (Shannen Doherty) are collectively known as “the charmed ones,” half-sister Paige (Rose McGowan) later swapped in when Shannen decided to fly off on her broom. The audience, like the world at large, learned to cope with the disappearance of Doherty: all in a day’s work for executive producer Aaron Spelling, no stranger to dealing with Ms. Doherty’s idiosyncrasies (on Beverly Hills 90201) and to replacing his starlets (on Charlie’s Angels). Even a younger novice, Billie (Kaley Cuoco), arrived on the scene in ultimately futile hopes of extending the run. Lucky for Ms. Cuoco that didn’t work out, freeing her up to star in The Big Bang Theory the following year, although I’m surprised that Tori wasn’t offered the gig….
Despite the… charms of its stars, this is a somewhat feminist show, as the sibs are defined by their strength and courage rather than their beauty and certainly not by the men in their lives. I was happy to see the individual seasons arriving on Blu-ray beginning in 2018, and equally pleased to see this hefty high-definition box land this summer, a 39-disc affair with a few choice extras on The Final Season only, mostly dating back to the DVD era (in SD) but with one new HD interview from last year’s single-season release.
Pam & Tommy DVD (Lionsgate)
While our younger readers might not be familiar with Mötley Crüe, Barb Wire or the epic controversy embroiling the star-crossed drummer and centerfold, Hulu’s decidedly adult-skewing miniseries lays it all bare, in fascinating detail. Their celebrity romance was big news in its day, but nothing compared to the theft and subsequent release of their infamous sex tape, which would ultimately have a profound influence on the burgeoning internet. Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) is no stranger to hard-hitting biopics, and the transformation of his titular stars (Lily James & Sebastian Stan) is remarkable… so some behind-the-scenes footage instead of the nothing here would have been welcome. The original stream was also 4K/HDR, just saying, so the 480p quality is comparatively meh, but I can imagine why plenty of folks would want to add this to their library.
Star Trek: Picard Season Two Blu-ray (CBS/Paramount)
Nostalgia is a somewhat ironic feeling to tap into when you’re visiting a world wherein time travel is performed again and again, but that’s ultimately the reason that Picard stands out from the growing horde of new Star Trek series streaming on Paramount+, as we’re given the chance to check in decades later with the crew of the Enterprise-D. Jean-Luc is now a retired admiral, dealing first with a terminal illness and then… with being dead, but he’s still finding a way to make the galaxy a better place as only he can. The show often puts character and relationships above action, but if you’re a Next-Gen fan, you’ll definitely want to give Picard a spin, especially now that Season Two is serving up a plethora of familiar faces–with some new wrinkles–in this Starfleet-studded sophomore season. (Even a certain Voyager fave beams in for good measure.) Blu-ray is the way to go, the better to enjoy the state-of-the-art special effects and killer DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.sound mix. Extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes reveal the triumphs in design, the Emmy-winning makeup artists at work, in-depth cast interviews and gag reel plus deleted scenes.
South Park The Complete Twenty-Fourth Season Blu-ray (Comedy Central/Paramount)
I couldn’t quite believe it so I checked and yes indeed, Season 24 of South Park consists of only two episodes, albeit both double-length: “The Pandemic Special” and “South ParQ Vaccination Special,” which originally aired September 2020 and March 2021, respectively. (Creators Matt & Trey inked a $900M contract last year, so why should they break a sweat?) As the titles suggest, these specials irreverently explore life during COVID, in the town of South Park, Colorado and beyond, the second tale being the superior, highlighted by multiple visits to Walgreens for the shot. There are no extras whatsoever, but completists like me will want this one for their collection.
Yellowjackets Season One DVD (CBS DVD/Showtime)
Showtime’s recent series boasts an intriguing setup in its dual timelines that share the ordeal of the surviving members of a girls’ high school soccer team crash-landed in the wilderness and their lives today, decades after the trauma. Despite standout performances by grown-up Melanie Lynskey, Juliette Lewis and particularly Christina Ricci, the teenagers’ storyline is the more compelling, although the weird supernatural twist seems unnecessary–trying to check that Lost box?–and is not adequately developed by season’s end. As a subtle bonus, tough, the show is a meta callback to Ms. Ricci’s 1995 film Now and Then, wherein she was cast as a younger incarnation of Rosie O’Donnell.) It’s still a fun and surprising ride, and the standard-definition/5.1 presentation is solid, enhanced by a couple of moderately fluffy featurettes.
NCIS The Nineteenth Season DVD
NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 DVD
NCIS: Hawai’i Season One DVD (all CBS/Paramount)
What hath JAG wrought? Originally spun off from Donald P. Bellisario’s weekly tales of the Judge Advocate General, NCIS reveals the inner workings and personal lives of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). The perpetually dreamy star shocked fans when he left the series in this most recent season, but NCIS will endure, with Harmon staying on as executive producer. I won’t attempt to decode Bellisario’s secret formula for success, beyond the fact that viewers apparently have an insatiable appetite for brave heroes taking on a parade of nasties with the show’s often unspoken patriotic flair. It’s CBS’ longest-running scripted primetime series and one of the longest running series of all time, so it’s not surprising that it has, in turn, spawned spinoffs aplenty, and which one you watch (if not all) depends largely upon which characters you find most engaging. NCIS: Los Angeles is led by the winning chemistry between LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell, set against the palm trees and smog of L.A. NCIS: Hawai’i (I’m digging the culturally sensitive spelling), meanwhile, fills the twin voids of both the cancelled NCIS: New Orleans and the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, with a team led by the determined Special Agent Tennant (Vanessa Lachey), defending national security from the heart of paradise. Varying by show, extras on DVD might include deleted and extended scenes, gag reels, character featurettes, and even a bit of well-intentioned self-congratulation. Crossover episodes between series are also thoughtfully provided so we don’t need to buy multiple sets to follow along.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force The Baffler Meal Complete Collection DVD ([adult swim]/Warner)
Survey the 138-episodes spanning 11 seasons and 15 years–the longest-run for an original show on Cartoon Network’s [adult swim]–and you’ll discover that ATHF is more than just a super-catchy theme song. The brief weekly adventures of this sentient food; specifically a meatball, a pistachio shake and an order of fries; routinely achieve a low-key vibe as they… solve crimes? They’re like detectives, I guess? Don’t expect a whole lot of logic (did I mention that all the food talks and the milkshake is really obnoxious?) and it soon makes sense that creators Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro hail from Space Ghost Coast to Coast, another show that’s way funnier late at night, ideally with some herbal refreshment passed around between you and your buds. Also included in this impressive 20-DVD megaset is roughly 30 hours of bonus content that has accumulated over past DVD releases, with Easter eggs for us to discover, plus the first feature film, the R-rated Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, about a deadly exercise machine. Kind of.
Doctor Selleck in the Multiverse of Magnum:
Blue Bloods The Twelfth Season DVD
Magnum P.I. Season Four DVD (both CBS/Paramount)
A dozen seasons in as patriarch of the NYC law-enforcing Reagan Family, Tom Selleck has reigned far longer here than he ever did in what many still consider to be his signature role as the o.g. Magnum, P.I. There’s no end in sight for one of CBS’ most popular shows, as an impressive troupe of actors embodies multiple generations of the clan, facing more tough cases and personal drama. The five-DVD set includes deleted scenes, featurettes and an amusing gag reel.
Tom left some big shoes to fill, inherited by former pretty-boy (now pretty-man) actor Jay Hernandez, adopting a new backstory, dropping the comma from the title and teaming with a gender-swapped Higgins (Perdita Weeks) who’s more ally and possible g.f. than good-natured nemesis. There’s quite a bit of mayhem in the Aloha State for Magnum to set right, and whether or not you’re on board with his reboot will depend largely upon your fondness for the current cast. All that beautiful Hawaiian scenery, now in 16:9 for a new audience, looks swell on DVD, joined by deleted scenes and a gag reel. (The show was actually canceled at the end of this season, but later rescued for the in-production fifth season.)
Melrose Place The Complete Series DVD (CBS/Paramount)
An expansion of the wildly successful Beverly Hills 90210 “universe,” even sharing the FOX Wednesday scheduling for its first two years, Melrose Place was the trashiest guilty pleasure of the ’90s. The juicy, over-the-top backstabbing and bed-hopping starred a rotating roster of hotties as an impossibly attractive group of neighbors in a West Hollywood apartment complex, almost as if the kids from West Beverly High grew up and had to get jobs. Employment at every level of success and struggle is a theme central to this primetime soap opera in fact, making for must-see TV across seven seasons and 200+ episodes, here in glorious 4:3 and filling a whopping 54 discs. This box carries over all of the extras created for the original DVD releases of Seasons One, Two and Three , including featurettes, interviews, and even an audio commentary by series creator Darren Star.