I covered the debut season of Gotham earlier this week for Cinephiled. Here are a few more notable TV on disc releases of the past few weeks.

ScorpionS1Scorpion: Season One (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD) takes the familiar premise of the misfit geniuses who overcome the social dysfunction and often self-defeating impulses to work as a team.

Elyes Gabel is Walter O’Brien, who has an IQ of 197 but difficulty using his skills in real world situations, and he formed Scorpion with fellow misfits: Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), a psychiatrist with a gambling addiction, Happy (Jadyn Wong), a mechanical engineer with a surly, aggressive personality, and Sylvester (Ari Stidham), a math genius with OCD and anxiety issues. The unlikely fifth member of the team is Paige (Katharine McPhee), a waitress and single mother whose nine-year-old son is a genius with problems connecting and communicating with others. As the credit sequence explains, she helps the team communicate with the outside world while they help her son tap into his potential. She is also the emotional glue that keeps the team together when they act out.

Robert Patrick rounds out the cast as Agent Cabe Gallo, the Homeland Security agent who recruits the team to take on high-tech threats beyond the capabilities of the department and champions and protects them from the bureaucracy that can’t relate to the team’s unconventional manner and approach. Patrick has the least flashy part of the cast but he keeps it grounded. His character has a fraught past with Walter and this team is in many ways his way to redeem mistakes of the past and do right by Walter.

The series combines high-tech missions and makeshift solutions to time-sensitive challenges with character humor and the group dynamics of a dysfunctional but loyal makeshift family. It’s a gimmick, full of jargon and exaggerated character flaws and sentimental storylines, but one that works at least in part thanks to the camaraderie of the ensemble that helps overcome the exaggerated flaws that define the characters. I confess I kind of liked the show despite its (often glaring) weaknesses. The sentimentality gets thick at times, especially when emotional challenges turn the geniuses into (petty) children acting out against uncomfortable feelings, but it hits one of my TV sweet spots: damaged or emotionally walled-off characters learning to trust and commit.

22 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with a collection of featurettes and a gag reel plus an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the complete season (the DVD edition features Digital SD).

AffairS1The Affair: Season One (Paramount, DVD) is another strong original drama from pay cable channel Showtime.

Noah (Dominic West), a middle-class husband and father of four kids, brings the family to Montauk to spend summers with the wealthy, privileged parents of his wife (Maura Tierney). Alison (Ruth Wilson), a waitress at a local diner, is married to Cole (Joshua Jackson), whose family has lived in Montauk for generations but has hit hard times. He’s a schoolteacher and novelist whose first book didn’t sell and he’s struggling with his second while resenting the arrogance of his father-in-law, a major literary success full of advice. She’s still in mourning for the death of her young son in a drowning accident, which makes her distant to her patient, supportive, but increasingly frustrated husband.

As the title drama suggests, Noah and Alison being an affair, ostensibly a summer fling that gets more complicated, and the reverberations of their lies and betrayals is the core of the story. But creators Hagai Levi (In Therapy) and Sarah Treem (House of Cards) add a couple of twists: each episode is framed by a police detective questioning both Noah and Alison (we don’t even find out why until well into the season), and their recounting of events is often at odds. The facts are consistent but the details strikingly different. Noah recalls that she initiates the affair and he’s overwhelmed by her aggressiveness, while Alison remembers him as the handsome, seductive outsider who makes advances on her while she’s emotionally vulnerable.

That just scratches the surface of this dense story. There’s a tension between the affluent summer vacationers and the working class locals, and plenty of conflicts within families and communities, where everyone is compromised and keeping secrets. This is an adult drama in the very best description of the term, with flawed, complicated characters who have to face the consequences of their decisions and take responsibility for their actions. The performances are excellent and the direction nuanced. The second season begins on Showtime in October.

10 episodes on DVD, with bonus interview featurettes and a bonus disc with episodes of additional TV shows.

GoodWifeS6The Good Wife is a rare legal drama on American TV. It’s intelligent, mature, witty, both cynical and optimistic, and well aware of the difference between law and justice, and it gets better as it builds on the experiences of previous seasons. This is a series that evolves with its characters.

The Good Wife: The Sixth Season (Paramount, DVD) is built around Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) run for Attorney General of Chicago, which as any fan of the show knows is a brutal contest of political gamesmanship and personal attacks. Meanwhile she and her partners in her breakaway firm defend Cary (Matt Czuchry), who has been targeted by the state’s attorney for his work defending a client, while fighting with their former firm and struggling to maintain their identity in the midst of their growing pains, new associates, and legal battles. The series acknowledges the dirty politics of Chicago in both parties and the reality that lawyers represent guilty parties as often as innocent ones, and it explores the toll the election takes on Alicia’s family as she attempts to strike a balance between playing the kind of political hardball it takes to both win and hold office and remaining true to her beliefs in justice and fair play. What makes the campaign more interesting is her opponent (David Hyde Pierce) is even more determined to run a clean campaign, and they battle their own campaign managers to keep it that way.

As with previous seasons, the show manages to be serious and playful at the same time, using humor and character relationships to keep things entertaining and lively without downplaying the gravity of the issues, including her separation from Peter (Chris Noth), which they manage to keep private and out of the press, and the future of their personal relationship outside of politics. Other notable guest stars this season include Oliver Plat, Linda Lavin, Edward Asner, Taye Diggs, Carrie Preston, Kyle MacLachlan, Gary Cole, and Michael J. Fox. The seventh season begins in September 2015.

22 episodes on DVD, with three featurettes.

ElemtaryS3Elementary: The Third Season (Paramount, DVD), the American network updating of Sherlock Holmes starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes, here a recovering heroine addict, and Lucy Liu as Watson, a former surgeon and addiction counselor turned Holmes protégé, partner, and friend, is just as interesting and intelligent a take on the classic Holmes characters and conventions as the more acclaimed British series Sherlock.

Season two ended with Holmes leaving New York to work with British Intelligence—a deal made in part to save his brother Mycroft—and abandoning Joan Watson with hardly a word. Season three begins with Watson running her own successful detective practice and in a serious romantic relationship when Sherlock abruptly returns with a new protégé: Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond), a young woman with her own demons. The separation of Holmes and Watson is temporary, however, and the familiar team is back together by the season’s halfway point.

Elementary follows a more conventional procedural format than Sherlock and Miller’s portrayal of Holmes is more subdued and internalized than that of Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock, but he’s also more believably human and his eccentricities are bound up in his past and his character, and the series gives him room to evolve as he comes to value his friendships with Watson, NYPD Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn), and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill), who he makes an effort to know better this season. The show makes Watson his equal and offers perceptive reinterpretations of the characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories.

24 episodes on DVD, with commentary on one episode by actress and episode director Lucy Liu and five featurettes.

DetectoristsMackenzie Crook (who played Gareth in the original British The Office) writes, directs, and stars in Detectorists (Acorn) as Andy, one half of a team of obsessed detectorists (the correct name for someone who uses a metal detector, as they are quick to remind anyone and everyone) searching for ancient Saxon treasures in their little pocket of rural Great Britain. Andy lives with his longtime girlfriend (Rachael Stirling), who doesn’t share his obsession but understands his passion and his connection to the eccentric characters of their local club, while his best friend Lance (Toby Jones) still moons over his flaky ex-wife (Lucy Benjamin), who constantly takes advantage of Lance’s fantasies of winning her back from her self-absorbed boyfriend.

The half-hour comedy is set within a distinctive little culture of folks whose idea of a good time is taking their metal detectors to open fields for hours on end, pushing through coins and nails and beer can pop tops strewn through the sod in the hopes of unearthing ancient history. The humor, however, is amiably low key and the easy pace focuses on the characters, their frustrations, and their very human core. Crook lingers on throwaway conversations between Andy and Lance, easygoing moments that define their friendship, and the bad decisions that threaten to unravel the things that really matter: friendship, romance, trust. The meandering pace gives the series the space to settle in to the characters and their culture and the underplayed humor allows the actors to fill out the characters.

The series was produced for BBC and the six half-hour episodes of the first season provides a satisfying arc while leaving things open for a second season, which has already been announced on British TV.

NCISNewOrleansS1NCIS: New Orleans: The First Season (Paramount), the second spin-off of the CBS warhorse NCIS (still the most popular scripted drama on network TV) is a different kind of military gumbo. Scott Bakula takes the lead as Dwayne Pride, a veteran investigator whose love of New Orleans is greater than his fidelity to military protocol. He operates out of a reclaimed brick warehouse rather than a high-tech government HQ and his team consists of two field agents—amiable good old boy Christopher LaSalle (Lucas Black) and Midwest transfer Meredith Brody (Zoe McLellan)—plus an idiosyncratic forensic scientist (Rob Kerkovich) and the city Medical Examiner (C.C.H. Pounder), who offers sage advice and unwavering support to Pride.

The series attempts to weave the distinctive culture of the city into the fabric of the show and make the team more a part of the city at large than the military structure, but it’s otherwise yet another familiar procedural that ladles on the local color like gravy over yesterday’s leftovers.

In addition to the 23 episodes of the first season, the set includes the two-part NCIS story “Crescent City” that launched the characters, and characters from the original NCIS make guest appearances to help ease viewers into the show. Also features an Ultraviolet Digital copy of the complete season.

BlacklistS2The Blacklist: The Complete Second Season (Sony) continues the same formula as the first season of the high-concept conspiracy / espionage thriller. Each episode is focused on apprehending a different criminal on the blacklist provided by renegade agent and international criminal turned FBI secret informant Red Reddington (James Spader, utterly commanding and entertaining) while the larger conspiracy plays out through the course of the season. This season, the conspiracy tangles up profiler Liz Keen (Megan Boone), the agent that Red has insisted be his official FBI contact, and her boss (Harry Lennix), who becomes an unwitting collaborator of the government cabal (called, of course, The Cabal). And amidst the international intrigue is Liz’s personal story, trying to unlock her repressed memories while Red tries to keep them suppressed, for reasons that become clear in the final episodes.

It’s a slick show with lots of ambiguous figures and a fine roster of guest stars and villains (including Mary-Louise Parkler, Ron Perlman, Krysten Ritter, Paul Reubens, Peter Fonda, and Peter Stormare), and it wraps its dark conspiracies up in high-end production values and elaborate action scenes, but it’s still Spader’s show. He’s a heavyweight and he lifts the show out of its otherwise familiar patterns with a terrifically entertaining performance.

22 episodes on Blu-ray and DVD, with two featurettes. The Blu-ray edition features commentary on two episodes and additional exclusive featurettes, plus an Ultraviolet Digital HD copy of the complete season (the DVD edition feature Digital SD). A third season begins in September.

ChicagoFireS3Dick Wolf, the man behind the Law & Order franchise that dominated the police procedural for years, is going strong with a second franchise of shows that are even more integrated. Chicago Fire: Season Three (Universal, DVD), the founding show of the expanded Wolf TV universe, is a sturdy drama of the men and women of a firehouse who face danger and death every day. Fires are only one element of their job, of course; they are first responders to car wrecks, collapsed building and other structures, and other potentially fatal accidents, and an emergency medical team is part of their unit. Season two ended with an explosion in a warehouse fire with the crew still inside and the first episode picks up with the death of a team member in the conflagration. The reverberations of that loss are felt throughout the season, as is the drive for justice when they discover that the fire was an act of arson.

The show has a direct connection to spin-off Chicago P.D.: Season Two (Universal, DVD). EMT Gabriela (Monica Raymund) has a cop brother, Antonio (Jon Seda), on the intelligence unit of District 21 of the Chicago Police, run by Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe), an old-school cop who served time. Elias Koteas and Sophia Bush co-star.

ChicagoPDS2There are crossover stories between Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. as well as Wolf’s Law & Order: SVU, and the Chicago Fire season ends with firefighter Matt Casey (Jesse Spencer) recruited by the Chicago police to be their undercover operative in a nightclub run by a former fireman involved with the Russian mob and human trafficking. But the primary stories revolve around EMT Gabriela (Monica Raymund) becoming the first female firefighter on the squad and the tension between the truck crew and the rescue crew (again), in part due to suspicions of a new squad member whose friendship with the Rescue Squad Team Leader Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) blinds the boss to criticisms.

And there is two epic crossovers between all three shows, one involving an interstate child pedophilia ring, the other involving a serial killer (Dallas Roberts) and a victim discovered by the Chicago Fire team which leads to an arrest and a trial Law & Order: SVU. All the crossover episodes are featured on the DVD releases of both Chicago Fire: Season Three and Chicago P.D.: Season Two: all 23 episodes of each series, plus 5 bonus episodes per set.

MadamSecretaryS1I can’t review them all, but here a few more notable releases from the past few weeks:

Black Jesus: Season One (Warner, DVD)
Madam Secretary: Season 1 (Paramount, DVD)
Star Wars Rebels: The Complete Season One (Disney, Blu-ray, DVD)

Release calendar for the week:

Digital / VOD / Streaming exclusives:

Love & Mercy (Lionsgate, VOD) – Friday, September 11
Secrets of War (VOD)

Available for digital purchase in advance of disc:
Avengers: Age of Ultron (Disney, Digital HD, Digital 3D, Disney Movies Anywhere)
Chain of Command (Lionsgate, Digital HD, VOD)

New releases:

The Age of Adaline (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Little Boy (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD)
Queen and Country (Warner, DVD)
American Heist (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD)
Misery Loves Comedy (Cinedigm)
Best Last Day Ever (Vega Baby, DVD, VOD)
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2015) (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Editor (Scream Factory, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD)
Morituris: Legions of the Dead
(Synapse, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Dempsey Sisters (Alchemy, DVD)

Classics and Cult:

Angst (Cult Epics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Love at First Fight (Strand, DVD)
The Last Impresario (Kino Lorber, DVD)
Dressed to Kill (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)
Shocker: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray)
Turkey Shoot (Severin, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Man Who Wasn’t There (Universal, Blu-ray)
The Life of David Gale (Universal, Blu-ray)
At Close Range (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
10 To Midnight (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Fat City (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Emperor of the North (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Angel (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Vigilante Force (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Defiance (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Hornet’s Nest (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Honey Pot (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Abbott & Costello Meet the Monsters Collection (Universal, DVD)
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (Image, Blu-ray, DVD)
Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV (Troma, Blu-ray)
Madcow (Troma, DVD)
The Epic of Everest (Kino Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)

TV on disc:

Gotham: The Complete First Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
Supernatural: The Complete Tenth Season (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Homeland: The Complete Fourth Season (Fox, Blu-ray, DVD)
Blue Bloods: The Fifth Season (Paramount, DVD)
Haven: Season Five, Volume One (eOne, Blu-ray+DVD)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season Two (Universal, DVD)
The Goldbergs: The Complete Second Season (Sony, DVD)
The Hee Haw Collection (Time Life, DVD)
Over the Garden Wall (Warner, DVD)
Hill Street Blues: Season Six (Shout! Factory, DVD)
DCI Banks: Season Three (BBC, DVD)
Death in Paradise: Season Three (BBC, DVD)
Scott & Bailey: Season Three (BBC, DVD)

Calendar of upcoming releases on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, and VOD