TV on Disc Channel Guide: The original BBC 'House of Cards" is back
Plus the Britcom 'Spy,' the 25th anniversary of 'The Power of Myth,' and more
"Southland: The Complete Second, Third, and Fourth Seasons" (Warner) is a return to the gritty, human, life-on-the-streets drama of uniform cops and detectives on the LAPD. This set collects all the TNT seasons of the best cop show on television. Videodrone's review is here.
The original "House of Cards Trilogy" (BBC) stars Ian Richardson as Francis Urqhart (F.U. to his friends), the Machiavellian Chief Whip of Britain’s conservative party and the most seductively ruthless politician you’ve ever had the pleasure to watch claw his way to the top (over the corpses of his rivals).
In "House of Cards" (1990), he declares war on everyone who stands in way to power, using deceit, blackmail, murder, and even a lovely young journalist (Susannah Harker) until she becomes a liability to him. Having reached the pinnacle of power in "To Play the King" (1994), he takes on an idealistic monarch (Michael Kitchen) who uses his symbolic office to curb Urqhart’s power and corrupt abuse of it. And just as he's ready to retire with his reputation and his fortune assured, he finds himself the pawn in another political game in "The Final Cut" (1995), the juicy conclusion to the rocket rise and fitting fall of the most despicably fascinating political devil to worm his way into the halls of power. Richardson turns to the camera for intimate asides that make us not just privy to his maneuverings, but practically accessories to his crimes, in this ferociously cynical satire on the inner workings of party politics that drips venom from every hard smile.
Adapted from the Michael Dobbs novels by Andrew Davies, Britain's premiere writer of smart, elegant television drama in the 1990s, and presented in a series of three BBC mini-series, it originally played in the U.S. on "Masterpiece Theatre." Now, with the American remake starring Kevin Spacey on Netflix, the original ferocious political satire gets rereleased on DVD and makes its Blu-ray debut.
Both editions feature commentary on episode one on each season with writer Andrew Davies and star Ian Richardson, an interview with Davies on the controversy in Britain over the second series, "To Play the King," and the featurette "Westminster Behind Closed Doors with Tony Benn."
It's also available for instant streaming on Netflix.
"Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth: 25th Anniversary Edition" (Athena), Bill Moyers’ acclaimed six-part documentary series, explores the connections between the stories and myths of diverse cultures through interviews with author Joseph Campbell. The show was originally broadcast on PBS in 1988. The three disc set features new introductions by Bill Moyers, extended interviews with Campbell from "Bill Moyers Journal," and excerpts from Moyers' interview with George Lucas. DVD.
"Testimony of Two Men" (Acorn) is the 1977 TV miniseries based on the novel by Taylor Caldwell and starring David Birney, Barbara Parkins, and Steve Forrest. DVD.
"Spy: Series One" (BFS) is one of the funniest new shows I've seen come out of Britain. Darren Boyd as a sad-sack single dad fighting for custody of a son (who hates him) who is inadvertently recruited as an agent for MI-5 and put through a training program by the excitable Robert Lindsay, a man who loves his work and his weapons. A sense of the absurd runs through the show, especially when Lindsay gets excited, but Boyd is no Maxwell Smart. In fact, he's strangely adept at this kind of work. It's just the rest of it -- sustaining personal relationships, avoiding inappropriate remarks, impressing an intellectually precocious son -- that eludes him. Six episodes on two discs, DVD.
"Public Enemies" (BFS) is a three-part crime drama starring Daniel Mays as a 28-year-old released trying to adjust to civilian life after serving 10 years for murder and Anna Friel as his probation officer, herself back from a suspension. DVD
"Above Suspicion: Set 2" (Acorn) presents three more episodes in the cop drama starring Kelly Reilly and Ciaran Hinds, and "She-Wolves: England's Early Queens" (Athena) is a new three-part BBC documentary series hosted by historian Dr. Helen Castor. Both DVD.
"Cougar Town: The Complete Third Season" (ABC), the final network season of the Courtney Cox sitcom, hits DVD before the fourth season debuts on TNT.
"Animaniacs: Volume 4" (Warner) presents the fourth and final season of the Emmy-winning animated series produced by Steven Speilberg. DVD, 24 episodes on three discs.
"Gunsmoke: The Seventh Season, Volume 2" (Paramount) collects the final 17 episodes of the season on five discs. DVD.