TV on Disc Channel Guide: Superheroes or 'Misfits'?
Plus HBO's 'The Weight of a Nation,' the end of 'Melrose Place,' and more.
"Hatfields & McCoys" (Sony), starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, is the most ambitious program yet made for The History Channel, a three-part mini-series that humanizes the notorious story with engaging drama while exploring the complicated history. It's also their most watched program ever. Videodrone's review is here.
"Misfits: Season One" (BBC), a British series about a group of troubled teens imbued with super powers after a freak electrical storm, is not a superhero series, at least not in the conventional sense. These are troubled kids, each with their own issues, and the powers are extensions of their own private demons, fears, and identity issues. The shy, introverted Simon, for instance, becomes invisible when he feels especially vulnerable. It could be really tiresome if it wasn't handled intelligently and this is a pretty smart series. Like the best kinds of genre TV, it uses the conventions of fantasy as a way to get at human issues.
Lauren Socha, Robert Sheehan, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Iwan Rheon, and Antonia Thomas star as the five teens tossed together in community service, not friends in any way but forced to pull together when the powers manifest, and not just in their group. When their probation officer turns feral and attacks them, self-defense makes them conspirators to murder. I mean, it's not like anyone is believe this group of misfits, even if they're not the only ones changed in the storm.
These kids are not particularly likable in the first episodes, but they are compelling and they grow on you. They've essentially been abandoned and, for better or worse, this is the first time they've belonged to a group As they learn to stand up for one another, it's the first time that some of them have ever really made a commitment to anyone besides themselves. Comparisons to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Heroes" are inevitable, but this distinctly British take is more raw, less pulpy, and filled with anger and resentment. It's also filled with sexuality, foul language, and bad behavior, along with some violence.
The show has completed three series in Britain with a fourth ready to run in the fall. This set of six episode collects the complete first series from 2009. Six episodes on two discs, plus the featurettes "The Making of Misfits," interviews, and "Simon's Films," a collection of the videos made by the character in the show. DVD only.
"The Weight of the Nation" (HBO), presented in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine and produced in association with the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health, is a four-part documentary series that takes a hard look at the facts and myths of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. According to San Francisco Chronicle TV critic David Weigand, the series "pulls no punches, spares neither the multibillion-dollar food and advertising industries nor public officials for not only failing to fix the problem but actually making it worse, and essentially writes a prescription for the nation's health and economic future that we ignore to our peril." The three-disc set also features four hours of bonus shorts and a 20-page booklet. DVD only.
"Melrose Place: The Seventh and Final Season, Vols. 1 & 2" (Paramount) brings the splashy, sexy nighttime soap with bad girl Heather Locklear and friend and lovers (spurned and otherwise) from the nineties to its finale. There are 35 episodes packed with lying, cheating, seduction, betrayal, jealousy, and the other extracurricular activities at TV's steamiest address, spread across two volumes and eight discs. DVD only.
"Federal Men" (Film Chest), originally known as "Treasury Men in Action," was a half-hour true-crime drama from the 1950s, all based on actual Treasury criminal cases, or so the show insists. Walter Greaza stars as The Chief. The show ran for five seasons and 180 episodes. The 16 episodes presented on this three-disc set are all from the final season. DVD only.
"The Kent Chronicles" (Acorn) collects all three chapters of the mini-series based on the American historical novels by John Jakes: "The Bastard" (1978), with Andrew Stevens as the Frenchman who remakes himself in the new land as Philip Kent; "The Rebels" (1979), where Philip fights for American independence in the Revolutionary war, and "The Seekers" (1979), which takes us to the War of 1812. Three discs, DVD only.
"Going For Gold: The '48 Games" (BBC) is a remarkably well-timed release of the British telefilm starring Matt Smith (of "Doctor Who") and Sam Hoare as athlete from radically different backgrounds who are thrown together as sculling partner six weeks before the Olympic games. DVD only.
"The Story of the Costume Drama" (Acorn) is a five-part documentary series on the British TV costume drama, from the 1950s "Adventures of Robin Hood" with Richard Green through such landmark productions as "The Forsyte Saga," "Upstairs Downstairs," "I, Claudius," and "Pride and Prejudice" up to the present. Keeley Hawes narrates.
"Wolverine: Animated Series" (Sony) and "Blade: Animated Series" (Sony) are original Japanese takes on the American heroes, made by the legendary Madhouse animation house in partnership with Marvel and Sony Japan. The stories were written by Warren Ellis in a universe reimagined for this anime reboot of the American heroes. Both sets feature one long story arc over 12 half-hour episodes on two discs. DVD only.
"Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand" (Shout! Factory) is a feature-length version of a seven-episode story arc from the new CGI reboot of the classic giant robot animated series. DVD only.
"The Costume Drama Classic Collection" (Acorn) boxes up "The Story of the Costume Drama" (profiled above) with four classic British TV productions: the first series of "Upstairs Downstairs" from 1971, "Lillie" from 1978, the 1986 "Lost Empires" with Colin Firth and Laurence Olivier, and the 2003 "Doctor Zhivago" with Keira Knightly. DVD only, 15 discs in five cases.
"Surviving High School" (Lifetime) collects four Lifetime original movies (all about surviving high school, of course): "Odd Girl Out," "Augusta, Gone," "The Perfect Teacher," and "For One Night." "Jodi Picoult Collection" (Lifetime) presents three Lifetime original movies based on the Picoult's novels: "Salem Falls," "Plain Truth," and "The Pact." DVD only, two discs apiece.