TV on Disc: The complete "Mission: Impossible" and "JAG"
Big sets with high concept packaging and hundreds of episodes
A pair of TV mega-sets arrive just in time for the holiday gift-giving season. One is vintage, one is more recent, and both are pretty hefty.
"Mission: Impossible – The Complete Television Collection" (Paramount) collects all seven seasons of the original sixties/early seventies incarnation of the secret agent series of special missions and elaborate international confidence games plus the 1980s revival with Peter Graves commanding a new team.
Years before he was the weary, legally war-torn District Attorney of "Law and Order," Steven Hill was head of the most versatile spy team on sixties television, the operatives of the Impossible Missions Force. The burning fuse credits, Lalo Schifrin's pounding, flute-and-bongo-laced signature theme, and the pre-recorded mission message are there from the "Pilot," where Hill handpicks his group from a folder of civilian agents: master of disguise (and sleight-of-hand expert) Martin Landau, electronics genius Greg Morris, muscleman Peter Lupus, and femme fatale Barbara Bain. The "your mission, should you decide to accept it" and the self-destructing tape message came later, and new agents were brought in to supplement the core team every episode (with safecracker Wally Cox in the swing spot in the "Pilot").
Peter Graves took over as team leader Jim Phelps in the second season, and Leonard Nimoy (fresh from three seasons of "Star Trek") joined the IMF in Season Four as a master magician and master of disguise, filling the hole left by the departing Landau. Season Five introduces Leslie Ann Warren in the essential "undercover babe" role left absent since Barbara Bain left the show, with Lynda Day George taking over that position in Season Six.
The series ended after seven seasons, outliving the Cold War conceit of the original show and moving on to missions against international dictators and American mobsters, but it was revived in 1988 with Peter Graves returning to duty as team leader Jim Phelps. The format is pretty much the same as the old show: he gets his instruction from a recording that self destructs (though this time it's a CD rather than a tape) and then puts his team into the field: Thaao Penghlis (soon to be a soap opera mainstay) as the impersonator, Tony Hamilton as the muscle, Phil Morris (yes, the son of Greg Morris) as the electronics expert and Terry Markwell as the actress. It lasted two episodes.
The 56-disc set is packaged in a high-concept case designed like a stick of dynamite with long fuse. Inside are canisters holding each season in plastic sleeves, like a CD carrying case. It's more cool than useful and not particularly easy to access, I confess, but as far as conversation pieces go, this is a design that matches the personality of the show. Exclusive to this set is a bonus disc of additional supplements: featurettes, a segment of "Hour Magazine" featuring Martin Landau, Peter Lupus, and Greg Morris, an archival interview with Greg Morris, episode promos, and other supplements.
"JAG: The Complete Series" (Paramount) collects all ten seasons of the military legal series starring David James Elliott as Lieutenant Commander Harmon 'Harm' Rabb Jr., a former Navy flyer grounded after an accident and reassigned as J.A.G., or Judge Advocate General. It's something of a military twist on the legal drama, as the J.A.G. is investigator and attorney, for internal military cases, trading off between prosecutor and defender on the various cases to which they are assigned. It was something of a stealth series, becoming a sleeper hit that lasted ten strong seasons, ultimately spinning off the series "NCIS" with Mark Harmon. Tracey Needham plays his partner in the first season but was replaced by Catherine Bell as his by-the-book Marine partner, Col. Sarah 'Mac' MacKenzie, in Season Two, and she remained through the end of the run in 2005, where Harm and Mac are promoted and assigned to different bases thousands of miles away. The finale finally wraps up their complicated history.
Every episode, along with the previously available featurettes and other supplements, on 56 discs in ten flimsy paperboard boxes in a handsomely designed box set. Yes, those epaulets are the snaps holding the sturdy military-looking box closed. Exclusive to the set is a bonus disc with the featurettes "The Jagged Edge" and "JAG: Beyond the Scenes" and a gallery of archive materials.