“Hi, Bob!” Button-down comedian Bob Newhart plays TV’s most famous therapist, Chicago psychologist Bob Hartley. It was the comedian’s first TV show and he was perfect casting for the ever-calm (at least on the outside) in the center of the neurotic storm swirling around him, be they friends — the insecure airline pilot neighbor Howard Borden (Bill Daily) and overconfident orthodontist Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz, who also directed many episodes) – or patients. Bob only seems like a rock of stability until he’s next to his down-to-Earth wife, elementary school teacher Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), who has the corner on normalcy in this professional couple.
It may not have seemed like it at the time, or even necessarily in retrospect, but The Bob Newhart Show was a pioneering sitcom in ways similar to Mary Tyler Moore, and it’s no coincidence that it was created by two veteran writers from Mary Tyler Moore, Lorenzo Music and David Davis, and produced by the same production entity, MTM Enterprises. Bob and Emily were a happily married childless couple in a Chicago high rise condo and in a break from age-old conventions, where every married couple slept in separate beds, they shared a king sized bed and a continuing sex life.
Marcia Wallace co-stars as his lively receptionist Carol, yet another distinctive personality in the defining mix of the series, and Jack Riley, Florida Friebus, and John Fiedler were among the regulars in the weekly group therapy sessions in Bob’s downtown office, where Bob Hartley did what Bob Newhart did best: watch, listen, react. As series co-creator Lorenzo Music observed, “Bob listens funny…” Newhart’s muted delivery and blank stares make him not only the funniest straight man on TV, but a master of the deadpan gag, the slow motion stammer, and the delayed reaction laugh.
The hit sitcom ran for six seasons, anchoring CBS’s unbeatable Saturday night comedy block from 1972 to 1978, when Saturday nights were still a major ratings bonanza for the networks. The show even spawned drinking game: knock one back every time someone says “Hi, Bob.”
Seasons One through Four have been previously released on DVD by Fox. This set makes the entire series available for the first time: 142 episodes of the show’s six seasons on 19 discs in a box set, plus the original unaired version of the series pilot episode, the “Bob Newhart Show 19th Anniversary” reunion special from 1991, and the new interview featurette “Group Therapy” with Newhart, stars Peter Bonerz, Jack Riley, and Bill Daily, and producer / director Michael Zinberg. Carried over from the previous disc release are commentary tracks by Bob Newhart, Suzanne Pleshette, Peter Bonerz, Marcia Wallace, Jack Riley, Tom Poston, writer / co-creator David Davis, director James Burrows, and others, on 13 episodes across seasons two through four. The set’s only design flaw is failure to identify the commentary tracks on episode listings, the episode guide booklet, or the discs themselves. You have to go through the “Bonus Material” section of the disc menus to find them.
Barbary Coast: The Complete Series (Acorn, DVD) is the short-lived show starring William Shatner as undercover government agent Jeff Cable in 19th century San Francisco, working out of a gambling house owned by Cash Conover (Doug McClure), who has essentially been blackmailed into playing along with Cable. It’s like an old west version of Mission: Impossible with Shatner playing a master of disguise and concocting elaborate plots to infiltrate criminal organizations and try to tame the vice and rampant crime of the San Francisco waterfront. Shatner was quite the appealing ham in this era and though the show didn’t last beyond a half season, he’s great fun to watch goofing under elaborate costumes and make-up. Dennis Cole plays Cash in the original TV movie pilot and he’s quite a stiff, replaced by McClure in the regular series, and McClure has a more playful approach to the role, grinning and charming his way through the show. In fact, the show improves in every way after the pilot, with more colorful stories and clever capers in the hour-long incarnations.
The four-disc set features the 1975 TV movie that launched the series (with guest stars Michael Ansara, Neville Brand, John Vernon, Lynda Day George and Leo Gordon) and all 13 regular episodes of the show. No supplements.
Jack Irish: Set 2 (Acorn, Blu-ray+DVD Combo, DVD) is actually a single feature-length telefilm,the third from the Australian TV mystery series starring Guy Pearce as the once-successful lawyer working as a private investigator while he recovers from the murder of his wife. By this time Jack has cleaned himself up a bit and even identifies himself as a lawyer while he investigates a case for his father-in-law, a respected judge played by Australian comedian Barry Humphries in a rare dramatic role. But he’s still doing private detective work and this case lands him in the middle of a conspiracy involving stolen drugs, police corruption, and a sex club where famous clients are blackmailed. Pearce is likable and low-key as Jack, who values friendship and family and justice and remains loyal to the race track denizens and pub buddies he befriended in his darker days, and his straightforward approach to investigation tends to get him into trouble. The pace and style will be familiar to fans of British TV mysteries, which this show most resembles, while the addition of an Australian setting and sensibility gives it an interesting angle. Both editions include a short behind-the-scenes featurette.
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD) isn’t the first time the entire series has been collected in a single set – a Blu-ray box came out when the series ended – but it does mark the first time it’s been in a single DVD set and this Blu-ray edition adds an exclusive new two-hour documentary: “No Half Measures: Creating the Final Season of Breaking Bad.” All told there are 62 episodes and hours of bonus features on 16 discs on Blu-ray and 21 discs on DVD. The press release adds up over 50 hours of special features on DVD and over 55 hours of special features on Blu-ray, all carried over from the original disc releases. Note that those hours are dominated by commentary tracks, but it also includes hours of interview and featurettes.
Graceland: The Complete First Season (Fox, DVD) is the FX original series about undercover FBI agents working out of a beachside manor on Los Angeles, a kind of hardcore clubhouse for attractive young agents who play hard to work off the stress of a dangerous assignment. Daniel Sunjata (of Rescue Me) stars as the veteran leader of this bunch, Aaron Tveit is the young hotshot on his first assignments, and Vanessa Ferlito co-stars. 12 episodes on three discs on DVD, plus the featurette “The Real Graceland,” deleted scenes and a gag reel.
The Bridge: Season One (Denmark) (MHz, DVD) is the first American release of the original Danish series that inspired the American remake. The show opens with a murder victim found in the middle of a bridge between Sweden and Denmark, but that’s only the beginning of the complications. Police from both countries discover that it’s actually two bodies cut in half and stitched together into a single corpse, and have to work together across borders. 10 episodes on four discs on DVD, all in Swedish and Danish with English subtitles, with cast and crew interviews.
True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD), the penultimate season of HBO’s cult series of sex, blood, and vampires among us, tips even further into excess and self-indulgence with a conspiracy by the New Orleans governor (Arliss Howard) to kill all vampires (which he experiments on in a secret vampire concentration camp) and Vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) playing messiah in the wake of his brush with Lilith. Rutger Hauer guest stars as a Stackhouse ancestor. 10 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with ten “Inside the Episodes” featurettes and commentary on five episodes. Exclusive to the Blu-ray is the featurette “Vamp Camp Files” and the interactive “True Blood Lines.”
Longmire: The Complete First and Second Seasons (Warner, Blu-ray) presents the rural mystery series based on the novels by Craig Johnson and starring Australian actor Robert Taylor as laconic Sheriff Walt Longmire in rural Wyoming. They’ve both been on DVD before but the canvas of this film, with its carved-in-the-landscape imagery, benefits beautifully from the high-definition presentation. 20 episodes on six discs. This one is released through the Warner Archive, but it is a traditionally pressed disc.
Falling Skies: The Complete Third Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD) takes the war to the invaders, with newfound help from another alien race and its ambassador to the humans, Cochise (Doug Jones). 10 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with the featurettes “Warrior Poet: Creating the Character and Emotion of Cochise” and “Karen: The Overlord Next Door” and episodes of the recap / discussion show “Second Watch” with host Wil Wheaton talking over nine episodes of the season with members of the cast and crew. The Blu-ray also includes an UltraViolet Digital HD copy of the season.
Wallender: Season 3 (Sweden) (MHz, DVD)
Suits: Season Three (Universal, DVD)
Covert Affairs: Season Four (Universal, DVD)
Pretty Little Liars: Season Four (Warner, DVD)
Workaholics: Season Four (Comedy Central, Blu-ray, DVD)
New Tricks: Season 10 (Acorn, DVD)
The New Adventures of Superman: Seasons 2 & 3 (Warner, DVD)
The Killing: Season 3 (Fox, DVD)
The Glades: Season 4 (Fox, DVD)
The Adventures of Batman (1968) (Warner, DVD)
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: Series 2 (Acorn, Blu-ray, DVD)
Cimarron Strip: The Complete Series (eOne, DVD)
Rawhide: The Eighth and Final Season (Paramount, DVD)
Pioneers of Television: Season 4 (PBS, DVD)
Diagnosis Murder: The Sixth Season (Paramount, DVD)
Diagnosis Murder: The Seventh Season (Paramount, DVD)
Diagnosis Murder: The Eighth Season (Paramount, DVD)
The Universe: Season 7 (History, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Kennedys: Triumph and Tragedy (PBS, DVD)
Nova: Inside Animal Minds (PBS, DVD)
Frontline: TB Silent Killer (PBS, DVD)
Nature: My Bionic Pet (PBS, DVD)
Nature: Snow Monkeys (PBS, DVD)
Nature: Touching the Wild (PBS, DVD)
Craft In America: Industry (PBS, DVD)
Hitler and the Nazis (Cinedigm, DVD)
Komodo: Secrets of the Dragon (BBC, DVD)