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Headsup: Singers, Hustlers and the Selling of Sex

There’s a lot of stuff that comes out all the time, and the companies are want your attention and mostly…your coin. But, you know, it’s your coin and you have to take care where you spend it. With these posts we try to take you through recent releases so you can make up your mind. If you find the info here to be of use, do us a favor and purchase stuff from Amazon through us. Especially if you were going to buy the stuff anyway. That gives us kickbacks, which help pay for things. Like the server. And coffee. And therapy. We thank you.

Glee: The Complete Second Season Blu-Ray
How to Make It In America: The Complete First Season Blu-Ray
Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]There are a lot of people who enjoy Glee. And if you are one of the Gleekers or whatever the hell that club is called, then I’m not your enemy. I have been loved many a show or movie that others just Didn’t Understand. So I am not here to persecute you. When I initially tried watching it, it struck me as High School Musical but safe for adults to say they like it. That and with the positive rancid dialogue I was subjected to, it’s got the feel of a parody that doesn’t know it’s a parody. But I think Night of the Lepus is fantastic in its dreadfulness, so again, I Will Not Judge You. The second season, here presented on Blu-Ray by Fox, has all twenty-two episodes across four discs. The season as a whole is about the road to get to the national show choir competition in New York while punctuated with shows About Something. Not to mention the hit-making machine, with the cast now having the most charted songs in history. Which is…just sad, really. (I’m judging the music industry, Not You.) Anyway, this set comes with the making-of the Rocky Horror episode, deleted scenes, a set featurette, some behind the scenes bits, interviews with guest stars and a number of montages. Plus more. The price per episode comes out to about $2 each and the audio and video are both good enough for what you might desire. True Gleeheads (or whatever) will probably want to own this just to show support, but everyone else, just on replay value, will probably want to rent. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The show How to Make It in America concerns two friends who are trying to do exactly what the title implies, although they’re trying to do so through a combination of hustling, scheming and the New York fashion scene. Using at times questionable methods, the plan is to create a new line of jeans called Crisp. I don’t know about you, but when I think about jeans and the word “crisp” I then turn around and think “best launder those immediately.” But whatever works. The point is they are trying to overcome a series of obstacles and make big money without killing themselves to do so. I think we can all relate to that, even without the purchasing of stolen goods part. The HBO series hits with all eight episodes across two discs. The audio and video are both pretty choice and the features are worthwhile. You get eight commentaries, though they’re double commentaries (cast and then producers/crew) for four of the episodes. You also get deleted scenes, a skateboarding featurette, and some bits about hustling. If you’re a huge fan of the show I can see having this on your shelf, but replay factor, usually a personal thing, comes to play here. Even if you wanted to plow through the entire boxed set and all the nice features, a Netflix could let you do that for less. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I’m so glad Thomas Jane is doing well. You ever have one of those actors who just like and you can’t even say why? That’s me with him. Poor guy. You were a good Punisher, don’t let anybody tell you differently. Anyway, he’s now on Hung, the HBO show about a guy who, when trying to make ends meet, enters the world’s oldest profession. He has to deal with his ex-wife, his pimp, in this season his other pimp and other mayhem from being in the smacked-down city of Detroit. All ten episodes are here across two discs with decent audio and video for the hi-def format. It’s got a decent array of features as well, with deleted scenes, a featurette and a series of five commentaries with members of the creative team. Again, replay factor is here: giving this a spot on your shelf is just under $3 an episode and if you’re a fan of the show that will want to peruse it often, that would be worth catching. But is it worth a fan owning? I would think so, yes. Everyone else should at least give the show a watch. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Kennedys DVD
Lost Empires DVD
Visions of Europe Blu-Ray

With The Kennedys, which had an interesting time getting shown on television–Google it if you really give a damn about such things, there is one thing for certain: you could go either way. If you’re willing to go with it down a road of fast and loose history into soap opera junction then you might be okay. If you’re looking for a strict retelling of history, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I said I wouldn’t bring this up, but just to put it in perspective, the so-called History Channel passed on it. And they have Ancient Aliens in their stable. I’m just saying. There is another thing for certain: Barry Pepper as RFK and Greg Kinnear as JFK are both fantastic, even when the material around them is collapsing. Tom Wilkinson is Tom Wilkinson, so he’s excellent as always, but the two Kennedy sons make this worth watching, hands down. The only bonus bit is a behind-the-scenes piece that comes with interviews. Should you check it out for the performances? Yes. And I think you could be more pleasantly surprised beyond that. As for owning it–I guess if you’re a Kennedy completist I could see doing so, but replay factor will have to guide you on that one. But do bear in mind the Blu-Ray is only a $1 more. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Lost Empires, a miniseries out from Acorn Media on DVD, will be of interest for three reasons. One, yes, that is a very young Colin Firth on the cover there. He’s playing a character that’s 18, although he was actually in his mid-20s and that picture makes him look 15. Two, it’s one of Laurence Olivier’s final roles. And three, it’s about the theatre…and folks who work in theatre appreciate films that are about the theatre. The shot is this: Firth’s character signs on with his uncle (John Castle, you’ll recognize him from Lion in Winter) and his traveling theatrical act. In the mix is Olivier, playing a faded comedian. This in the year leading up to the outbreak of World War I. Also of note to you Downtown Abbey fans, Jim Carter plays an inspector towards the end. And as I must always point out with glee, Carter was also Deja Vu in Top Secret. Anyway, all seven episodes are here across three discs. The set is pricey (almost $6.50 an episode), so definitely try it before you buy it. But Firth or Olivier completists will want to own, and again, there’s just something about shows and films that involve the theatre. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Visions of Europe is a collection of previous Acorn Media releases, forming the entirety of this series: twelve programs. Italy, France, Greece, Austria, Germany, Sicily and “The Great Cities of Europe” are all explored via helicopter. So you get sweeping grand tours from the air of places while music plays and somebody tells you some factoids about what you’re seeing. That’s about the long and short of it. If that seems like an excellent use of your time, then you’re in for a treat. If you would like a bit more meat on those bones then you will go hungry. There’s bonus footage to go along with most everything–and that forms your bonus features. While this is admittedly gorgeous to look at–the video is decent enough, indeed–it is a roughly $6 an hour affair to buy the set. I would recommend renting or Netflixing one of the programs and seeing if it’s your bag before you plonk down the coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Diana Rigg at the BBC DVD
Doc Martin Movies DVD
Murphy's Law: Complete Collection DVD

So it’s Diana Rigg at the BBC and Dame Diana Rigg is always worth watching, Avengers catsuit or not. Case in point: this boxed set from BBC Home Video has a bunch of stuff from the BBC vaults across five discs. There’s six episodes from the show Three Piece Suite, five episodes of Mrs. Bradley Mysteries, along with TV movies Unexplained Laughter, Little Eyolf, and Genghis Cohn. That samples her work from 1977 to 2000. Fans of hers will want to check this out in order to sample her in lesser known roles that are still worthwhile because, if for no other reason, she’s the one providing them. And to their credit, BBC provides two bonus bits as well: a retrospective interview with the lady herself and an episode of Morecambe & Wise she appeared on. Rigg completists will want to own this but the curious will at least want to give it a watch. The price, considering it’s a five disc set, isn’t terrible: close to $7 an episode. Watch it and decide on the replay or fan library factor that would tip you towards plonking coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Fans of Martin Clunes and Doc Martin will be interested to catch this newest release from Acorn Media: The Movies. Interestingly, I’m more familiar with the backstory now, since between now and previously, when we looked at the Series 1-4 Collection, I’ve listened to the audiobook of Craig Ferguson’s autobiography. Ferguson, who discusses the film that gave birth to the character–Saving Grace. Interestingly, I don’t recall him mentioning the fact that it spawned two prequels (which are collected here), and those were later retooled into the Doc Martin character/show we’re all more familiar with. So this two-disc set (one for each telefilm) is worth checking out if you’ve enjoyed the show and want to go back to the almost-primary source material. Watch it first and then decide if you want to plonk the coin–it’s a pricey set (it’s almost $36 at the moment–for two films) so just bear that in mind. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I was sitting here trying to think of how to relate the whole of Murphy’s Law to you. It’s about an undercover cop who puts himself into harm’s way and gets behind the scenes with the bad guys in order to crack cases. And as the series progresses, things get darker and harder as it moves into worlds of pornography, drugs, assassinations and other such fun things. If you like Brit cop shows with grit, then this is definitely worth a watch. The Acorn Media set has all twenty-three episodes across nine discs, less than $3 an episode–not a bad price. I would recommend giving it a view before you buy the set–and watch it a bit. The show evolves as it goes, so it’s not exactly the same as how it started. If you have already bought the individual seasons sets, no need to double dip: there’s nothing extra here–but if you do want to purchase some seasons, by the time you’ve bought two you might as well snag this. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Art of the Western World DVD
Bill Moyers: God and Politics DVD
Bill Moyers: Wisdom of Faith DVD

We have three releases from Athena here, kicking off with the originally-aired-in-1989 Art of the Western World, hosted by Michael Wood. It’s nine hours and promises to cover “Art history, from Ancient Greece to Andy Warhol.” If you consider this an introductory sprint through centuries of art, then you’ll be fine. If you’re an art history major, you might find this a bit tedious. But I don’t know…I don’t get sick of well done art docus and apart from being a bit dated in his video quality and, well, you know, hairstyles and such–it holds up fairly well considering that it’s focusing on stuff that’s already held up just fine for centuries. While you don’t get anything video-wise that’s a bonus, there are text-on-screen bios and a booklet with an interview and other articles. As for owning this, you could consider it a digital coffee table book–just pop in a disc when you want to sit down and watch something for a bit. I have some titles like that. But I would recommend checking it out first before buying and gauge the replay value for yourself. $6 an episode might make sense for you but you’ll have to judge that for your own artistic leanings and pocketbook. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The next two are releases from Bill Moyers, the first being The Wisdom of Faith With Huston Smith. Smith is the author of The World’s Religions and the program is basically a chat between Moyers and Smith covering the five major religions on the planet, talking about them and through them and trying to get at what is shared between them rather than what keeps the believers of each apart. People interested in hearing from Smith having read his book will want to give it a look as well as those interested in the study of comparative religions. This isn’t the sort of thing you just pick up and gnaw on because you feel like it. Rent it or Netflix it as necessary, unless you run purchasing for a library or plan to use bits of it in a class you yourself teach. The other release is God & Politics. Yeah, nothing potentially incendiary here. From the late 80s, it takes a look at the intersection between both topics: covering missionaries, fundamentalists vs. non-fundies and those who want Christianity to just call the shots on everything. The whole separation of church and state out the window sort of thing. Plus more. There’s also a bonus docu from 2006 called “Is God Green?” which covers the intersection between the Bible and environmentalism. Plus additional content hosted by Moyers in the form of a roundtable discussion. Saddest thing about the set, I think, is that it’s still so relevant so many years later. There’s also a booklet enclosed covering the history of politics and Christianity in America. Again, might be worth watching once but unless you’re a teacher or run a library, not sure it’s the sort of thing you just sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch. Or maybe you do. But if you do, just make sure you want it…because it’s not cheap. (Click here to buy Wisdom of Faith from Amazon; Click here to buy God and Politics from Amazon.)

Holly's World: Complete Seasons 1 & 2 DVD
Kendra Seasons 2 & 3 DVD

Girls Next Door, the reality TV show that put three of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends front and center, has finally died. Apparently, after the ladies broke up with Mr. H, it was sort of hard to have a show about them being his girlfriends. Go figure. However, and to their credit, the ladies tried to move on with their own shows. Holly’s World features Holly Madison living in Vegas with friends. Kendra has Kendra Wilkinson and focuses on her life being married to an NFL football athlete (Hank Baskett, currently a free agent–since I know nothing about sports I guess that means he’s an assassin for hire?) and dealing with having spawned. Both of these sets are out from MPI Home Video and my assumption is if you were a fan of the original show, then you’ll probably find the spinoffs worth checking out, if you haven’t done so already. People either dig a particular reality show or they don’t, and there’s seldom, in my experience, a lot of middle ground. Both are three disc sets with uncensored episodes, deleted scenes and outtakes and each has two seasons’ worth of episodes on them (the first two for Holly’s World–18 episodes, the second and third for Kendra–23 episodes). The sets aren’t expensive on a per episode basis so fans will want to own them and with the little bit of bonus stuff on there, it’s probably easier for them to do so. (Click here to buy Holly’s World: Seasons 1 & 2 from Amazon.; Click here to buy Kendra: Seasons 2 & 3 from Amazon.)

Adventure Time: My Two Favorite People DVD
Cleveland Show Season 2 DVD
Mad Season 1, Part 1 DVD

It’s what the world has been craving: an animated series about a boy and his friend, a magical dog, set in an odd world of even more magic. The boy in question is Finn and his companion is Jake. And they want adventure. And battle. And a place to live when a vampire kicks you out of your home. And how to deal with your princess girlfriend. And what to do with evil beans. You know, the things any of us want in life. This Adventure Time DVD release is a smattering of twelve of the short episodes from across the first two seasons–so they’re not in any order and not a complete collection of anything. The one bonus bit is just a few instances of text-on-screen material. The show is airing on Cartoon Network, so unless you just want this on your shelf for the moment, I’d hold off. Not even the original short that started everything is on here, which leads me to believe a better set is coming…eventually. Good news is it’s less than $10, so you at least get a decent price per episode. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I’ve mentioned before about how Seth MacFarlane‘s Family Guy was a “Monkey’s Paw”-like cautionary tale. I was among the many who clamored for it to return but I had no idea its resurrected self would be so lame. And that it would bring with itself more lameness, spreading like an animated virus. I can only hope that MacFarlane will bring something different to the table for his reworking of The Flintstones. That all being said, we all can’t have the same taste so some people enjoy Seth’s empire, including the Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show. Fox has the second season released to DVD with all twenty-two episodes across four discs. You get deleted scenes, commentary tracks on some episodes, and more. For those that are fans and want to own, the set isn’t badly priced: currently around $1.25 an episode. So they can plonk coin with relative abandon without fear of being completely had. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Mad returns to the small screen, this time in chaotic animated form, serving up mashups and goofings on various and sundry pop culture targets. With rapid fire bits and short episodes so you don’t get overwhelmed and/or sick of proceedings, it’s an attempt to update the mag for new audiences, who are probably now at the right age–like we were when we first picked it up. There’s enough callbacks to the source material for even old people like us to appreciate: yes, you have “Spy vs. Spy” and yes, you have Don Martin. You also have thirteen episodes here on this one disc collection–and if you want to own, the price point isn’t terrible…around $1.25 an episode. But they’re 11 minute episodes, so bear that in mind. Sample the show before you buy, but I suppose hardcore fans of the franchise will want it on their shelves. No bonus bits. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens audiobook
Red Green Show: Geezer Years DVD

On one hand, Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens is great because it’s exactly what the title says it is. But on the other hand, it is a collection of essays. As an example of what I mean, it’s hard to write book reviews that are worth reading if you don’t have a direct and immediate interest in the book in question. Trust me, I know–I’ve written book reviews and it’s hard enough to stay interested when you’re writing the damn review, much less from the outside reading it. But Hitchens brings to the table for those and all of his other pieces in this the same sharp intellect and wit that drew me to him in the first place, when I was hearing him tear down Mother Teresa. And I’ll be damned (and probably will be, considering that was one of the first steps to my own atheism) but he’s so convincing. What is sad is that Hitchens is battling (whether he likes the term or not, that’s how I think of it) cancer. So we hope that there will be tons more of this sort of output, but it’s hard to say. This Hachette Audio release is unabridged and goes for twenty-nine hours. It’s like the audio equivalent of a coffee table book: I don’t recommend trying to plow through it. It’s just too dense and you’ll wind up hurting yourself. It’s best to take the essays one at a time and give yourself some time for digestion. Reader Simon Prebble is probably the best we could hope for if Hitch himself isn’t available to read his own stuff. Fans of Hitchens will want to check this out, although I would recommend finding some of his work online first–or checking out God is Not Great–this isn’t an introductory book, in my opinion. (Click here to buy the actual book from Amazon. Click here to buy the audiobook on CD from Amazon. It’s also available for the Kindle or from Audible.)

The Red Green Show came to an end in 2005 and this set from Acorn Media, The Geezer Years, collects the last three seasons with a total of fifty-five episodes across nine discs. The setup for those who are unfamiliar: titular character Red Green and his friends are denizens of the Possum Lodge and have their own TV show in which they provide handy advice normally involving duct tape and madness. It’s an import from our friends to the north and strikes a chord with some, as the damn thing ran for three hundred episodes–an achievement to be sure. While there’s nothing stopping you from jumping in at the deep end of the show’s pool, so to speak, as always I recommend checking out an episode from Amazon Instant Video or Netflix or the like before taking the plunge. The $79.99 price tag might seem steep, but that comes out to about $1.50 an episode, so it’s not terrible. And you get bonus bits in the form of a retrospective and intros by star Steve Smith. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)