Naked City: The Complete Series (Image, DVD) – “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.” The acclaimed cop show set and shot on the streets of New York City is ostensibly inspired by the influential 1948 film of the same name, a film noir with documentary immediacy, but it plays more like a Playhouse 90 anthology wrapped around a criminal investigation than a traditional crime drama, thanks in large part to meaty stories by Stirling Silliphant, who set the tone with his scripts and stayed on as executive story consultant. (Silliphant went on to create Route 66, another mix of continuing series and anthology storytelling.)
It debuted in 1958 as a 30-minute show, starring James Franciscus as the rookie detective and John McIntire as his veteran partner, and expanded to an hour in season two with Paul Burke in the lead. He debuts as idealistic young Detective Adam Flint in “A Death of Princes,” the premiere episode of the second season. Eli Wallach is the special guest star, playing Flint’s violent, corrupt partner who engages in such extra-curricular activities as blackmail and burglary, with George Maharis co-starring as a boxer coerced into a heist and Peter Falk in a bit as a sniper in the edgy pre-credits sequence, a shoot-out in a city street in the shadow of the Brooklyn bridge. That opening volley nicely sets the tone and atmosphere of the rest of the series, which is strongest in the hour-long format.
This kind of anthology TV benefited from strong guest star casting, drawing from stage and screen, up-and-coming talents and veteran stars. Lois Nettleton is an innocent Greek bride who marries ne’er do well gambler Steve Cochran in “Debt of Honor,” scripted by the great W.R. Burnett. Keir Dullea discovers his model citizen father is actually a hit man for a NY gangster in “Murder is a Face I Know.” An unstable William Shatner wakes up to find his wife stabbed to death with his own palette knife in “Portrait of a Painter,” and he confesses to the crime even though he can’t remember anything. Walter Matthau is a married psychiatrist who has a fling with a Vegas showgirl who follows him back to New York in the inspired “Don’t Knock It Till You’ve Tried It,” a mid-life crisis black comedy with a wicked twist. A form of urban road rage explodes in the intense “Alive and Still a Second Lieutenant,” one of the most ambitious dramas of the series. Jack Klugman finds “The Tragic Success of Alfred Tiloff” as a two-time loser pressured into the kidnapping of a little girl. Robert Duvall is a gangster confronted by his past when he holes up in the house of his aunt, Sylvia Sidney, in “A Hole in the City.” Carroll O’Connor stars as a businessman on the other end of a blackmail scheme in “Spectre of the Rose Street Gang.” Martin Sheen and Peter Fonda are a pair of young street hoodlums in “The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos.” Other guest stars include Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Telly Savalas, James Caan, Christopher Walken, Jean Stapleton, and Dennis Hopper.
There are eight million stories in the Naked City. Here are 138 of them, collected on 29 discs in four cases in a paperboard box. There are episode listings in each case but no guide to guest stars or creators.
Doctor Who: Series 1-7 Limited Edition Gift Set (BBC, Blu-ray) collects every episode of the 21st century Doctor Who reboot before the upcoming 50th Anniversary special and the new incarnation of The Doctor. Russell T. Davies remade the series after a 15-year hiatus with Christopher Eccleson as the rogue Time Lord, hopping through time and space in his souped-up TARDIS (once again hidden inside a seemingly ancient Police Public Call Box), bringing a dynamic sense of energy, a fun-loving sense of humor and a childlike love of adventure to the role. Billie Piper is his spunky companion Rose, a live wire of a working class London girl who jumps in to the TARDIS and across the universe with The Doctor, and she sticks around as Eccleson hands the mantle of the Doctor off to David Tennant, who made the part his own for three seasons and a collection of specials.
Davies created a colorful, stylish show filled with humor and action, with more self-contained episodes than the serial format of the old low-fi show and a new slant on the Time Lord mythology, and he passed the TARDIS off to the prolific and creative Steven Moffat to carry on the tradition in the fifth season with a brand new Doctor in Matt Smith. His boyish energy and animated face (seriously, he looks like a clay animation character) channels all we’ve come to love in the last of the Time Lords. Red-headed spark plug Karen Gillan gets an even more active role than usual as his companion and Arthur Darvill clicks as her devoted boyfriend, as much a hero in the quantum adventure as the Doctor himself, and in the seventh season welcomes a new companion, Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), a sassy, self-assured young woman who climbs aboard the TARDIS with confidence, wit, self-possessed character, and courage. The seventh season ends on a cliffhanger that sets the stage for the 50th Anniversary Special coming to cable (and select theaters for a special big screen event!) on November 23.
The set basically collects all the previous season collections in box with a Doctor Who comic book, postcard portraits of the three doctors, and a replica of the Eleventh Doctor’s trusty sonic screwdriver designed as a remote control for a home theater system. Yes, it doesn’t get much geekier than that.
Exclusive to the set is a bonus disc with three specials: “The Brit List’s Doctor Who Ultimate List of Lists” with Asha Leo and John Barrowman, the previously unreleased “The Best of the Christmas Specials” from 2011, and the complete “Doctor Who at the Proms,” the first release of the full 90-minute symphonic performance of music from the series performed at Royal Albert Hall with hosts Karen Gillan and Arthur Davill and featuring Matt Smith in character as The Doctor.
Mad Men: Season 6 (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD) drags the partners and creatives into the heart of the 1960s, where they are still hopelessly the establishment trying to get a handle on the new culture. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) responds in the usual ways – he chafes at the independence of his young wife (Jessica Pare), has an affair with his upstairs neighbor (Linda Cardellini), and blithely sabotages a relationship with a problem client – and ends up merging the firm with a rival, which brings Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) back into the fold. Meanwhile marriages end, relationships sour, and a speedball-fueled weekend work session sends the old guard on a bender. Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery (who also directs two episodes), January Jones, and Christina Hendricks co-star.
Once the signature original series on AMC, Mad Men has slipped behind Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead in terms of the national conversation but it is still one of the best shows on TV and it ends its penultimate season poised for a real change in the firm’s dynamic and Don’s own life as he finally confronts his past and his identity. 13 episodes plus the featurettes “Recreating an Era” and “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” and an interactive gallery on the Summer of Love.
Under the Dome (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD), based on a Stephen King book about a town suddenly cut off from the world by a transparent barrier (which cuts through everything in its path with some gory effects), was originally presented in the summer of 2013 as a limited, self-contained series. It was a study in society under pressure with King’s take on panic and fear bringing out the despots and its success inspired the network to bring it back for another short season next summer. In the meantime, the original run is now on disc. Mike Vogel, Rachelle Lefevre, Dean Norris, and Natalie Martinez star. 13 episodes plus five featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and “Joe’s Blog.”
Clear History (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD) is an HBO original movie co-written by and starring Larry David as a marketing executive at a start-up electric car company who gives up his stake in a fit and leaves the company, only to see it make billions. Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Danny McBride, Eva Mendes, and Amy Ryan co-star. The Blu-ray edition features a bonus digital copy.
Weeds: The Complete Collection (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It (BBC, DVD)
Keeping Up Appearances: The Collector’s Edition (BBC, DVD)
Robotech: The Complete Set (Lionsgate, DVD)
Beverly Hills 90210: The Complete Series (Paramount, DVD)
Boy Meets World: The Complete Collection (Lionsgate, DVD)
Saved By the Bell: The Complete Collection (Lionsgate, DVD)
Happy Tree Friends: Complete Disaster (Flatiron, DVD)
Affinity (BFS, DVD)
Magic City: The Complete Second Season (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD)
Law and Order: The Thirteenth Year (Universal, DVD)
Ice Road Truckers: Season 7 (History, DVD)