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Headsup: From the Stone Age to the Stones

An ongoing attempt to make sense of the onslaught of new swag that people want you to buy. Should you? I’ll try and help.

Clash of the Cavemen DVD Cover Art
The Strauss Family DVD Cover Art
A Woman of Independent Means DVD Cover Art

Clash of the Cavemen, just to make sure you know what we’re dealing with here, is not Cro-Magnon Gladiators. Nor is it a terrible attempt to revitalize the Geico ads. Instead it’s a DVD release from the History Channel and New Video which features what happens when Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals fight for whose descendants will eventually have Big Macs and blue jeans. Using the latest research available to them, not to mention fancy pants CGI, this disc lays out what scientists think happened. I mean, we know what happened happened–there’s not going to be a lame M. Night Shyamalan twist or anything. You know what I’m saying. Clocking in at 94 minutes, I’m not sure when they’re going to air it again, so if you want to check it out, a rental’s probably your best bet. No bonus bits. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

The Strauss Family is going to catch the eye of lovers of classical music…well, let’s face it, first because of the name. But beyond that, this 1972 British TV miniseries also has a score by the London Symphony Orchestra. So we know that such fans are going to want to at least rent it. But adding to the interest is the fact that Derek Jacobi and Jane Seymour are both in the cast–and while I appreciate classical music as well as the next mostly sedentary webmaster, Jacobi gets my eyebrows up every single time. And Stuart Wilson (last seen by most of you as the town doctor in Hot Fuzz) is Johann, Jr. Nice. From what I can tell, this is the first time it’s hit DVD, so worth a rental if what I’ve outlined here appeals to you. You’re looking at close to seven hours of content across two discs. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

Is there anyone who doesn’t like Sally Field? It’s like a law that you have to like Sally Field. Well, then, by law you’re going to be interested in the 1995 miniseries A Woman of Independent Means, out on DVD from A&E. It’s her (nominated for an Emmy), Ron Silver, Tony Goldwyn, Jack Thompson and Brenda Fricker. Based on the book by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, Field plays a woman who marries her childhood sweetheart, only to fulfill the lyric that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Despite the losses that she suffers (and some wins that turn out to be losses), she perseveres, and we get to follow her life for seven decades. Total running time is just under four hours and it’s across two discs. Worth a rental as we said that’s covered by law. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

Shine a Light DVD Cover Art
Centennial The Complete Series DVD Cover Art
Las Vegas Season Five DVD Cover Art

Fans of the Stones are going to want to check out Shine a Light from Paramount. It’s Martin Scorsese documenting a 2006 concert and capturing it so that you can watch it in the privacy of your own home rather than having to, you know, actually leave and pay for a high-priced ticket that leaves you half-a-mile from the stage. It’s roughly two hours of concert, although there’s a bit of interview footage and pre-concert footage in there as well. Also, Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy and Jack White pop in for guest appearances. The DVD comes with four bonus performances, which includes “Undercover of the Night” and “Paint It Black.” There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette. For the Stones faithful this is worth at least a rental, and non-faithful will at least respect the fact that these guys are still able to put on a helluva show even after all these years. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

These days people don’t appreciate what a big deal the mega-series of old used to be. Just like megafauna once roamed the surface of the earth, big-ass limited series television shows were Events. This was back, you youngsters, when there were only three channels. And you couldn’t, you know, watch any damn thing you wanted anytime you wanted. And they would always stack these things with lots of stars, thus underscoring the whole Event nature of them. Such is the case with Centennial, a 1978 twenty-hour series based on James “Big Book Writer” Michener. It follows a certain town in Colorado from 1795 to what was then the present day. The full cast is far too huge to mention here, but here’s a taste: Raymond Burr, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad, Timothy Dalton, Andy Griffith, Brian Keith, Lynn Redgrave, Robert Vaughn…see what I mean? Huge. It’s across six discs and comes with a retrospective featurette. This is out from Universal. Honestly, if you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to at least rent it. Me I’d want to own it just for nostalgia reasons. But either way, it’ll take you some time to get through. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

The last season of Las Vegas is here, post-James Caan with Tom Selleck becoming the headliner taking the role of owner of the Montecito casino. Everyone else, apart from Nikki Cox, returns from Season 4 with Josh Duhamel’s character filling Caan’s character’s shoes as President of Operations. All nineteen episodes are here, two of which are double-sized, along with a gag reel, an effects featurette, webcasts and more. Fourteen and a half hours of main content are here across four discs. The show is currently being played on TNT as I write this, so if you’re truly a hardcore fan it might be worth picking up. Otherwise, you could rent it to get at the bonus bits. This is out from Universal. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

A History of Britain DVD Cover Art
Life After People DVD Cover Art

A History of Britain is from Simon Schama, and I’ll go ahead and reveal that I have a huge bias towards Schama. I’ll pick up just about anything the man does, because he’s in the same realm as Simon Winchester–whatever he’s talking about, I want to know about. And man, this series is huge. It’s over fifteen hours of main content plus biographies of various historical notables. And it takes you from before-before all the way up to the 20th century. And of course you could delve into any bit of it and go as granular as you like, but Schama packs in the information. This is a re-release of the previous boxed set and contains no new content but it does have the added benefit of being a slimmer version rather than the five full DVD cases it took last time. Yes, five discs are here. If you don’t already own this set, I would say go ahead and buy, because Schama does excellent work and this is a great series. Don’t take my word for it, though, if you’re not the Anglophile I am: you should at least rent it if you’re uncertain. But it, like most BBC documentary programs, is worth owning. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

Speaking of documentaries worth owning, Life After People is pretty badass. It’s like a better version, as I’ve stated before, of The World Without Us. And it’s the jumping off point for many a sci-fi writer’s thoughts about post-apocalyptic scenarios. It answers the question: If people, all of them, just decided to check out one day and leave all of their stuff here…what would happen to that stuff? Whether it’s our homes, the big cities or Hoover Dam…everything has a shelf life (if you consider the world a big shelf–anyway, work with me here) and this film takes you through it. Especially amazing is the visit to places where you can see what life without people looks like–like Chernobyl. This is now available even at your local Wal-Mart, so there’s no excuse not for having a copy. Me, I’d say own it, just because it stands up to multiple viewings. And is good for inspiring crazy dystopian fiction. It’s out from the History Channel as well, and comes with additional scenes. Click here to buy it from Wal-Mart.

Law & Order SVU Season 7 DVD Cover Art
Dallas Season 9 DVD Cover Art

The Law & Order machine keeps rolling on that’s a good thing. Because really, it’s the television equivalent of pulp fiction, isn’t it? Of beach reading. You can sit down to any episode of any season of any flavor of L&O and spend a good hour (minus commercials, especially on the DVD) entertained. Just to show you how good the format is, the L&O family of shows were the last ones I watched before giving up television for good. Now, though, if I want TV and L&O–I can just grab a boxed set. Like this one–the seventh year of SVU with the majority of the big players intact. There’s all twenty-two episodes from Universal here across five discs. The only problem is that with no bonus bits–and indeed, with L&O of some fashion playing somewhere most of the time–it’s sort of hard to justify a purchase unless you’re one of the hardcore. But if you are, go for it. Click here to buy it from Amazon.

As we stated on the contest page where we’re giving this away, this is probably one of the most infamous seasons in television history. Because it’s an egregious retconning that makes even most of what DC and Marvel do look like nothing. After killing off Patrick Duffy’s character–and finding out that the show was suffering without him–the decision was made to bring him back. I’m not spoiling anything here–when you’ve become the punchline of a Family Guy episode you’re way past spoilage. As a result, this entire season is just a dream. And really, that’s a more elegant solution than most of what DC and Marvel do. So there’s that. There’s all thirty-one episodes–mayhap the longest dream sequence in history–on four discs. You also get a featurette talking about this plus the return of matriarch Barbara Bel Geddes. Click here to buy it from Amazon.