TV on Disc Channel Guide: Charlie Sheen enters 'Anger Management'
Plus Emmy winner 'Game Change,' first seasons of 'Enlightened' and 'Dallas,' new seasons of 'The Hour' and 'Archer,' and more
"Smash: Season One" (Universal), a backstage drama set around the creation of a (wholly fictional) Broadway production of a musical, gets high marks for convincingly ready-for-the-big-time original showtunes, but the rest of the show, warbles between contrived backstage drama and soap opera silliness. Videodrone's review is here.
"Anger Management: Season One" (Lionsgate) is Charlie Sheen's return to the sitcom after his Tiger Blood-fueled public meltdown, and the show opens with a direct (and very funny) shot at the whole media circus delivered directly to the camera. Yes, Sheen can laugh at himself and goof with his image, and he's still got the easy presence, bemused reactions, and stealth timing that made him a sitcom superstar on "Two and a Half Men." This scaled-down production, which casts him as a former pro ballplayer and reformed rage-aholic turned anger management counselor, just slips the persona into a new situation and lets him do his thing.
Think of Charlie Goodson as a Bob Newhart for a dysfunctional era, an effective counselor whose private life is a mix of bad decisions and oddly functional survival mechanisms. He's sleeping with his own therapist (Selma Blair), who is arguably more of an emotional mess than he is, has a surprisingly mature détente with his ex-wife (Shawnee Smith), and really, really wants to be a good dad to his daughter (Daniela Bobadilla), easily the healthiest and most aware character in the show. Along with a solid cast of co-stars (Brett Butler as his local bartender, Michael Boatman as his neighbor, and Barry Corbin as the obligatory crotchety old man of his weekly group), Martin Sheen makes a guest shot as Charlie's dad.
It's a perfectly familiar sitcom format made for FX, but the production format is unique. The initial ten episodes were created as a tryout run, with 90 to follow over the next two years should FX pick it up. It was a success, needless to say, and the back 90 are now in production. 10 episodes, plus an interview with Sheen, a featurette on his patients, and a gag reel, on two discs on Blu-ray and DVD.
"Enlightened: The Complete First Season" (HBO) - "I will change and I will be an agent of change," chants Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern), a woman who returns to work after a very public breakdown and a subsequent holistic treatment program, and vows to live a more centered, peaceful, helpful existence. Of course, it's not that easy, and that's what this HBO original comedy, created by Dern and Mike White and written largely by White, is really about: someone who hasn't got it figured out. Even as Amy tries to come to terms with her ex-husband (Luke Wilson) and connect with her emotionally-distant mother (Diane Ladd), she hasn't conquered her own anger and solipsism. She's so concerned with other people in the abstract that she fails to see how her behavior impacts the real people around her every day.
But while the show doesn't shy away from her failures or her contradictions, it doesn't ridicule her or criticize her. It's more interested in the process, of watching her figure things out and make slow progress to the person she imagines she is. But the line between positive action and righteous vengeance is still a little fuzzy, as the final images of the debut attest.
10 episodes on two discs on Blu-ray and DVD, with commentary on four episodes by members of the cast and crew and brief "Inside the Episode" featurettes with comments by creator Mike White on each episode.
"Game Change" (HBO), the HBO original movie about the stranger-than-fiction drama of the Sarah Palin circus of the 2008 election, won five Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Actress for Julianne Moore's amazing incarnation of Palin, Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, and awards for director Jay Roach and screenwriter Danny Strong, who collaborated on the 2005 HBO original "Recount." As in their earlier film, "Game Change" straddles the line between drama and political satire, a dissection of an event and a cutting commentary on it.
Moore doesn't do an impression so much as an interpretation of Palin as a natural media creature who is utterly out of her league on the national political stage and sorely uninformed on issues of state and world affairs. Even while she tries to maintain a sense of authenticity in scenes at rallies and with her family, there's an edge of insincerity to her pose of loyalty to McCain. She's petulant, immature, and borderline manic depressive (no surprise that the real Palin was less than pleased with Moore's approach) while Ed Harris plays John McCain like a national hero maintaining his honor and dignity in the face of a hard ball campaign.
Blu-ray and DVD, with two featurettes. The Blu-ray also features a bonus DVD, a digital copy of the film for portable media players, and an UltraViolet digital copy for download and instant streaming.
Less acclaimed is "Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden" (Anchor Bay), a docu-drama-styled account of the mission that debuted on the National Geographic Channel. Time Magazine TV critic James Poniewozik warns that "the movie is at best a competent, bland docudrama, mixing file footage with re-enactments and familiar news accounts with just enough behind-the-scenes character conflict to spike a little -drama into the docu-." John Stockwell directs and Cam Gigandet, Anson Mount, Freddy Rodríguez, Alvin 'Xzibit' Joiner, and Kathleen Robertson (as the CIA analyst played by Jessica Chastain) star. Blu-ray and DVD, with a featurette.
"Dallas: The Complete First Season" (Warner) present the cable reboot of the iconic nighttime soap of the 1980s starring Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing. Hagman is back, along with Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, in this incarnation, with Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalf as the next generation struggling for control over the Southfork family business. Ten episodes on three discs, plus a handful of featurettes and the usual deleted scenes. DVD only.
The Showtime original series "Episodes: The Complete First and Second Seasons" (Paramount), Matt LeBlanc's first series since "Friends," is a comedy with LeBlanc playing a parody of himself, a dim-witted actor wreaking havoc on sitcom developed by an acclaimed British duo (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) and systematically dumbed down by his demands. 16 episodes on two discs, DVD only.
"The Hour: Season Two" (BBC) ups the ante of the superb British series about a BBC news hour in the 1950s with a government conspiracy and a new team member: the superb Peter Capaldi as the head of news, joining ambitious producer Romola Garai, fearless (and somewhat reckless) investigative reporter Ben Wishaw, and presenter Dominic West, a high-living celebrity whose ego and womanizing is a cover for his self-doubt. If anything it's even better than the show's first season, with more complex character dramas and a terrific tale of political corruption and blackmail wrapped up in a cold war nuclear controversy.
This hour-long show runs, like pay cable dramas, a full 60 minutes sans commercials, and the discs are uncut and uncensored, unlike the BBC American showings (which are slightly trimmed for commercials and censored for content). Six episodes, plus a brief promotional featurette, on Blu-ray and DVD.
"Midsomer Murders: Set 21" (Acorn) collects the first batch of mysteries in the long running series with Neil Dudgeon taking over as lead detective from the retiring John Nettles. Jason Hughes sticks around as the earnest younger partner unfazed by the alarming rate of homicide in this sleepy rural British county. Four feature-length episodes on four discs on DVD.
"Red Dwarf X" (BBC) marks the return of the British science fiction farce, about a misfit crew lost in space, after a hiatus of three years. Six episodes on two discs, plus a documentary, deleted scenes, and outtakes. DVD only.
"An Idiot Abroad 2" (BBC) presents more comic adventures with Karl Pinkerton sent on an epic world tour (ostensibly against his will) by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. 8 episodes on two discs, plus supplements. DVD only.
"Archer: The Complete Third Season" (Fox) continues the adventures of Sterling Archer (code name: Duchess), the mama's boy of a secret agent who has worked his way to the top of the spy game with a combination of arrogance, recklessness, hard-drinking, womanizing and nepotism. 13 episodes of the FX animated cult hit on DVD and Blu-ray, with commentary on three episodes, an extended episode, and other supplements. The fourth season begins on FX on January 17.
"The Goode Family: The Complete Series" (Shout! Factory) presents the short-lived series about an ecologically-aware, politically-sensitive, community-activist family trying to live a socially-responsible life in the material world. Produced for ABC, the 2009 summer series created by Mike Judge ran for only 13 episodes and then disappeared. The two-disc set collects all 13 episodes, with commentary tracks and deleted scenes, on DVD.
Also arriving this week: the animated shows "Monsuno: Volume 1" (Shout Factory), an anime fantasy adventure seen on Nickelodeon, and "Tiny Toon Adventures: Vol. 3" (Warner), with two discs of cartoons from the second generation of the cartoon series. Both DVD only.
"Inventing David Geffen" (PBS) is the fawning portrait of the American entertainment entrepreneur made for the PBS series "American Masters" by the series producer, Susan Lacy, herself. The feature-length documentary is supplemented with 25 minutes of bonus footage. Blu-ray and DVD.
"Arts and the Mind" (PBS) is a documentary that explores the connection between arts education and human development. Lisa Kudrow hosts the two-part production made for PBS. DVD only
"Dance Moms: Season 2, Volume 1" (Lionsgate) and "Dance Moms: Season 2, Volume 2" (Lionsgate) collects 25 episodes of the Lifetime reality series on two volumes of three discs apiece, each with bonus shorts. DVD only.