The Telefile

TV on DVD: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

by Ethan Alter August 6, 2013 6:00 am
TV on DVD: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Worst Halloween (episode) ever.

Community: The Complete Fourth Season
Continuing the adventures of Greendale Community College's most self-absorbed study group without the institution's architect, Dan Harmon, was always going to be a dicey proposition. Still, few were prepared for just how big a creative belly flop Community's fourth season was going to be, with occasional bright spots (most notably the Jim Rash-penned body switching episode and the one where Britta organized the world's first Sophie B. Hawkins dance) lost amidst a sea of mediocrity (the InSpecTiCon outing and the Jeff half of the Thanksgiving episode) and outright awfulness (the Scooby-Doo-like Halloween half-hour, the season finale with the unwelcome return of the Darkest Timeline characters and paintball and, above all, that infernal puppet episode). The always likable cast tries their very best to recapture the spirit of Harmon's tenure, as do replacement showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port… and that's actually part of the problem. By straining to replicate the show Harmon made, they ensured that their season would never seem like anything more than a pale imitation. Some series are built to carry on long after their creator leaves; the Community so many loved is a very specific product of Harmon's warped brain. Now that he's back in the principal's seat where he belongs, we can all pretend that Season 4 was just one long stint inside Abed's Dreamatorium.
Extras: Cast and crew commentary tracks on each episode, outtakes, deleted and extended scenes, a behind-the-scenes tour of InSpecTiCon and a featurette devoted to those cute, but obnoxious puppets.
Click here to see our Season 4 report card
Click here to see our weekly Community File

Smash: Season Two
Much like Community, Smash fired its original showrunner, Theresa Rebeck, between seasons and started its sophomore year over with Josh Safran, late of Gossip Girl. But unlike Community, Smash didn't noticeably get any worse (or, for that matter, any better) with the change. Mostly, it proudly stayed the course, remaining a show about Broadway that really didn't seem to understand Broadway at all. The big innovation Safran came up with was the introduction of a Rent-like upstart musical to go head-to-head with Season 1 holdover, Bombshell. This essentially dissolved the Ivy/Karen rivalry that drove the first year, spinning Megan Hilty and Katherine McPhee off into completely separate storylines with only occasional overlap. While the Bombshell material was a lot of treading water, the Rent rip-off, Hit List brought back some of the demented lunacy that made Season 1 so much fun to hate-watch, whether it was the introduction of instantly detestable songwriter Jimmy (Jeremy Jordan) or trying to piece together what the hell the show was actually about. After its eventual exile to Saturdays, the show really took the brakes off and built to a series finale that brought the curtain crashing down in suitably implausible fashion. So farewell, Smash, you'll always be our giant mess of a star.
Extras: Never-aired musical numbers (yay!), deleted scenes and a gag reel. You mean, the entire season wasn't a gag reel?
Click here to read our full Season 2 recaps
Click here to see what we'll miss (really!) about Smash

Political Animals: The Complete Series
Speaking of shows filled with unrealized potential, USA's bid to launch the next West Wing, with Sigourney Weaver as a Hillary Clinton-esque Secretary of State with presidential aspirations, never marshaled the viewer enthusiasm necessary to last beyond its initial six-episode run. It's not hard to understand why; despite a powerhouse ensemble surrounding Weaver, one that included CiarĂ¡n Hinds, Ellen Burstyn, Carla Gugino and James Wolk, the plotting was often eye-rollingly dumb and the dialogue lacked that special Sorkin sparkle. Where The West Wing almost effortlessly combined political drama and soap opera, Political Animals lurched inelegantly from one to the other and the characterizations were all over the place, with personalities changing on a dime in order to push a particular storyline forward. The arrival of the far superior House of Cards essentially sealed Political Animals's fate. But, in the end, the show's creators may have had the last laugh as the six-episode, one-season run allowed it to qualify for the "Movie or Miniseries" category at the Emmys, which earned it a number of nominations it really didn't deserve and almost certainly won't win. On the other hand, its demise freed Wolk up to go play Bob Benson on Mad Men so we're the winners in that respect.
Extras: Just a batch of deleted scenes.
Click here to read our full Political Animals recaps
Click here to see the casts' political pasts

Strike Back: The Complete Second Season
"Diplomacy is overrated" boasts the cover of Cinemax's macho action series, which sends a pair of globetrotting warriors -- an American and a Brit -- to various international hot spots to do the dirty work diplomats apparently can't. Confirmed bad-ass Rhona Mitra also joins the cast in the second year, playing the duo's new boss, who tags along on firepower-intensive trips to South Africa, Kosovo and Hungary. If we saw Mitra coming for us, we'd know diplomacy was out the window.
Extras: Commentary tracks with various members of the cast and crew.

Also on DVD:
The quacks of A&E's improbable reality hit Duck Dynasty: Season 3 return for another batch of clearly scripted "reality" programming. The early '80s BBC drama Smiley's People continues the adventures of Alec Guinness's George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Conceived as the next Saturday Night Live, the ABC sketch comedy series Fridays had a great line-up of talent, including Larry David and Michael Richards, but only lasted two seasons as opposed to SNL's almost-40. See what you missed via the Shout! anthology The Best of Fridays. Finally, revisit the original Galactica through Battlestar Galactica: 35th Anniversary, a high-def disc with the two-hour pilot that launched the '70s series.

Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.




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