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TV on DVD: Tuesday, October 15, 2013

by Ethan Alter October 15, 2013 6:00 am
TV on DVD: Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Travel back (forward?) to a time when Syfy was Sci-Fi.

Defiance: Season One
In a bid to reclaim its sci-fi mantle, Syfy went all-in on their first honest-to-God science fiction series -- as opposed to horror (Being Human), reality (Ghost Hunters, Masters of Cosplay) and whatever the hell Warehouse 13 is supposed to be -- in some time, a series involving spaceships and aliens and all those other elements that the network seemed to be looking to get away from. Set some thirty years in the future, Defiance (which, in classic Star Trek tradition, is as much a Western as a sci-fi show) unfolds in a frontier town on a drastically altered Earth, where humans and extraterrestrial races now live uneasily alongside each other. The pilot episode finds outlaw-with-a-heart-of-gold Nolan (Grant Bowler, who acted opposite an actual alien when he co-starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in the Lifetime movie, Liz & Dick) and his out-of-this-world sidekick Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas) rolling up in Defiance and promptly getting mixed up in the town's hotbed of intrigue, eventually becoming the designated sheriff around those parts. Both a case-of-the-week series and a long-form serialized narrative (mainly to help the tie-in online game that launched alongside the show), Defiance's first season was never appointment television like Battlestar Galactica, but it's solid meat-and-potatoes sci-fi that has the potential to get better the longer it remains on the air. Mainly, it's nice to see Syfy remembering what their brand name used to stand for.
Extras: A gag reel, deleted scenes and three behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Click here to read our Defiance recaps

Vikings: Season One
The History Channel rolled the dice on a Norse-themed action/adventure hour for their debut in the ongoing scripted television series realm and they came up big winners. Upon its premiere last spring, Vikings instantly became a sizable hit, winning the biggest numbers in the channel's history. And -- surprise, surprise – the critics kinda liked it, too, although most were quick to classify it more as "guilty pleasure" than "great TV." And while the show is pretty goofy -- particularly in the facial hair and wardrobe department, with the characters often resembling an adjunct gang of SAMCRO bikers rather than Vikings -- it offers an enjoyable mix of broad emoting and bloody action that's viscerally (if not exactly intellectually) satisfying. Hey History, after Vikings ends its run, how about tackling the samurai next? We as a country need to collectively atone for The Last Samurai, after all.
Extras: Commentary tracks with the series creator, deleted scenes, two interactive features and three making-of featurettes.

The Fall: Series 1
Gillian Anderson gets her own Prime Suspect cop drama with this acclaimed made-in-Ireland limited-run series that will thankfully be back for a second year despite its star's increasingly busy schedule. Anderson plays Stella Gibson, a detective superintendent with the Metropolitan Police who is tasked with tracking down a Belfast-based serial killer after the local cops are unable to find him within their designated 28-day window. Arriving on DVD after a buzzed-about run on Netflix, The Fall is worth catching up with either on disc or online, boasting one of Anderson's best post-X-Files performances and a gripping narrative. It's not as groundbreaking as Prime Suspect, but a reminder of just how addictive the procedural format can be when it's executed just right.
Extras: A lone behind-the-scenes featurette.

Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States
Noted raconteur Oliver Stone puts his own distinct spin on American history, walking viewers through the second half of the 20th century and into the early years of the 21st, covering everything from World War II to the Cold War to the War on Terror. But this isn't your traditional textbook history lesson; Stone has a very deliberate agenda here, one that involves ferreting out conspiracies and secrets at the highest-levels of power in an effort to connect the dots between major world events. Stone can be a persuasive debater and there are certainly ideas advanced in the series that are tempting to accept as flat-out fact, rather than supposition. Provided you go into this with a certain degree of skepticism, the show functions as an interesting alt-history of the last six decades of U.S. history.
Extras: Two prologue episodes tackling World War I and the rises of Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt and a conversation between Stone and author Tariq Ali.

Also on DVD:
Now that Star Wars is a Walt Disney brand, the Cartoon Network's spin-off series The Clone Wars went to a galaxy far, far away, releasing its final season Star Wars: The Complete Season Five on DVD and Blu-ray as a farewell. And if you don't get enough superhero action on the big screen, PBS capitalizes on the "comics are cool" trend with the documentary series Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle which chronicles the past, present and future of these colorfully-clad crimefighters.

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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