Get a Life is not new to DVD, but Shout! Factory’s “Un-Special, Non-Anniversary Edition” is, and it’s the one to get. Chris Elliott’s groundbreaking television “anti-sitcom” has aged considerably well, arguably more hilarious now than in its low-rated 1990-92 run on Fox. Loaded with new bonus features, the set’s real draw are the 35 episodes themselves, featuring such irony-laden classics as the Cats-parodying “Zoo Animals on Wheels” and “Spewey and Me,” in which Chris befriends a vomiting E.T. I still can’t believe this show ever saw air, but the world is better off that it did.
Another comedic genius (before he sold his soul to Family Movie Hell) is celebrated in Steve Martin: The Television Stuff. Also from Shout! Factory, the box set rounds up his legendary ’70s TV specials that helped him transition from stand-up comedian to movie star. While creaky, they’re a blast to witness after only hearing about them for decades. Disc three includes bits and appearances from seemingly everywhere, including the stages of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live.
Without the ’60s-set Mad Men, there would be no Magic City, a Starz original on the goings-on in a glitzy hotel in 1950s Miami. While nowhere near that show’s league, Magic City grew on me, working its seductive charms enough to keep me engaged over the course of its eight episodes. It helps to have Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Possession) as our guide, Danny Huston (Hitchcock) as our villain and Jessica Marais (TV’s Legend of the Seeker) as breakout eye candy. Pour an out-of-season mojito while watching this one, and forgive the pilot’s scene that shamelessly cribs from The Crying Game.
Opt for tea, however, if you choose Downton Abbey: Season 3. It won’t finish airing on PBS until mid-February, but you can watch it all today. Just have Kleenex ready, judging from my wife’s reaction to the season’s midpoint and finale. Conflict abounds at the majestic English countryside abbey, and most of it manages to rise above the level of pure soap. Creator Julian Fellows somehow continues to manage juggling roughly two dozen characters under one roof. It’s the lone costume drama pulled off with such biting humor and panache, I can’t bring myself to dislike it.
I’m also iffy on Copper: Season One, the first original scripted program from BBC America. The cable channel does just fine importing top-notch UK programming, but maybe you’ll like this gritty, grimy, 19th-century procedural from the creator of Homicide: Life on the Street. To me, it feels like a detective spin-off of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York — far from that director’s best work. Sherlock, it’s surely not.
Remember Wolf Lake? Me neither. The 2001 series died a quick death on CBS (and then UPN), perhaps ahead of its time, considering today’s paranormal craze. Starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Tim Matheson and a young Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the single-season wonder makes for a nice surprise, with all nine hours and an unaired pilot collected on the three-disc Complete Series set. As TV werewolves go, it beats MTV’s Teen Wolf and Syfy’s Americanized Being Human.
And finally, actual movies. Alfred Hitchcock got the short shrift by fall’s tepid Hitchcock biopic; better tribute is paid by Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray reissues of two solid suspensers: 1951’s Strangers on a Train and 1954’s Dial M for Murder. The former is superior, while the latter has been restored to its original 3-D presentation (assuming you have the proper equipment).
Grace Kelly in three dimensions? It’s a compelling visual argument for the oft-misused technology. —Rod Lott
Hey! Read This:
• Downton Abbey: Seasons One & Two Limited Edition DVD review
• Episodes: The First Season DVD review
• Hitchcock film review
• Mad Men Blu-ray review
• The Possession Blu-ray review
• Sherlock: Season Two Blu-ray review