Television DVDs

CLAYHANGER - COMPLETE SERIES   NETWORK 7953323

ClayhangerArnold Bennett’s series of novels about the Clayhanger Family are set in the ‘Five Towns’, a thinly-disguised version of the ‘six towns’ of Staffordshire’s Potteries. First published between 1910 and 1918, the novels tell the Victorian era coming-of-age story of Edwin Clayhanger as he leaves school, takes over the family printing business and falls in love with Hilda Lessways. The business was lovingly built up by Edwin’s father, Darius, but his son dreams instead of becoming an architect. The novels were adapted for television by ATV and this acclaimed 26 part series, originally screened in 1976, is now available for the first time as an 8-DVD box set. The huge cast includes Peter McEnery as Edwin (Willian Relton plays young Edwin in the first three episodes), Harry Andrews - magnificent as the overbearing Darius, Denholm Elliott as the splendidly named Tertius Inkpen and Joyce Redman - brilliant as slightly batty Auntie Hamps, with Louise Purnell as the charming Janet Orgreave, Denis Quilley as a scheming lawyer, Renée Asherson as the mesmerisingly anguished Miss Gaily and Janet Suzman, formidable as headstrong, determined Hilda. Not to mention the erotically-charged power of the champion female clog-dancer of the Midlands. Dramatised by Douglas Livingstone and beautifully acted, this series fully captures the sepia-tinted world of the Five Towns, revealing both the brilliant storytelling and acute psychological insights of Arnold Bennett. Highly recommended.

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME       ACORN AV9794

Inspired by a painting of the same name by Nicolas Poussin, Anthony Powell’s twelve-volume cycle of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time, was published between 1951 and 1975. Time magazine included it among the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005 and it was ranked 43rd greatest English-language novel of the twentieth century by the Modern Library. It’s an often comic examination of movements and manners, power and passivity in English political, cultural and military life during the mid 20th century as narrator Nick Jenkins reminiscences about the people he has met over the previous half a century. He starts out as one of a group of young men who have been raised to think they are destined to rule the world, when in fact the world may turn out to belong to someone called Widmerpool. One of the longest works of fiction ever written, it was heroically adapted by Hugh Whitemore into this epic television series, originally broadcast on Channel 4 in 1997. Simon Russell Beale gives a riveting, BAFTA-winning performance as the horrible Widmerpool and the strong cast also features James Purefoy as Jenkins and Miranda Richardson, superb as the enticing femme fatale Pamela Flitton. Others include Sir John Gielgud, Claire Skinner, Richard Pasco, Edward Fox, Sarah Badel, Alan Bennett as a left-wing Oxford don (‘Behave yourself, and have a rock bun’), Emma Fielding, Zoë Wanamaker and Michael Williams. This is sophisticated, engrossing television drama of a kind that rarely gets made any more. Special features with the two-disc DVD set include an Anthony Powell biography and bibliography.

THE SIMPSONS SEASON 12    TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

The Simpsons - Season 12Matt Groening’s fabulously successful animated sitcom is a brilliant satirical parody of Middle American lifestyle. Starring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie and set in the fictional town of Springfield, the show exuberantly lampoons the human condition, popular culture, society in general and television in particular. The family was conceived by Groening for a series of animated shorts with the producer James L. Brooks and named after members of Groening’s own family, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became part of The Tracey Ullman Show before being developed into a half-hour prime time show that launched in 1989 and became an instant hit. Since then well over 400 episodes have been broadcast and The Simpsons has won countless awards, including 25 Emmies. Time magazine named this the 20th century’s best television series and it has become America’s longest-running sitcom as well as its most durable animated show. This DVD set from Fox features the complete SEASON 12 released in limited edition packaging in the shape of Comic-book Guy’s head. The 21 episodes include such classics as ‘The Computer Wore Menace Shoes’ with guest voice Patrick McGoohan (Homer creates his own website and uses it to spread gossip, but gets sent to a weird island where people who know too much are imprisoned), ‘HOMR’ (in which Homer becomes temporarily intelligent after doctors discover a crayon lodged in his brain), ‘Worst Episode Ever’ (Bart and Milhouse are hired as his replacements at the Android’s Dungeon when Comic-book Guy has a heart attack), ‘Hungry, Hungry Homer’ with guest Stacy Keach (Homer goes on hunger strike after the owner of the Springfield Isotopes attempts to discredit him when he discovers a plot to move the team to Albuquerque, and ‘Simpsons Tall Tales’ (the family meet a singing hobo who tells them three tall tales in which Homer is Paul Bunyan, Lisa becomes Connie Appleseed and Bart is Tom Sawyer to Nelson’s Huckleberry Finn). THE SIMPSONS: COMPLETE SEASON 11 (TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX 2251560) followed the success of The Simpsons Movie, featuring America’s favourite dysfunctional family. The 22 episodes include guest stars such as Mel Gibson, Lucy Lawless, Kid Rock, Tim Robbins, John Goodman, Parker Posey, Willie Nelson and Britney Spears. Among many extras are an introduction from Matt Groening; audio commentaries on every episode with Groening and executive producers, writers, actors and directors; deleted scenes; animation showcases; original sketches; special language feature; featurettes, including footage of The Simpsons receiving their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Excellenttt...

THE MIND OF MR. J.G. REEDER - COMPLETE SERIES   NETWORK 7953001

The prolific British crime writer Edgar Wallace’s collection of stories about the self-effacing Mr J. G. Reeder was first published in 1925. Reeder is a police officer working for the Public Prosecutor’s office in 1920s London, though he has ‘the mind of a criminal’ and often finds himself straying into shady areas of the underworld as he seeks to crack some of the department’s most difficult cases. Mild-mannered, bespectacled and dressed in nondescript fashion, this unlikely sleuth invariably succeeds in his investigations of bank heists, jewel thefts, blackmail and murder, solving the crimes in his own remarkably unremarkable way. These quirky stories have been adapted several times, notably in this classic Thames Television drama originally screened as two series between 1969 and 1971. Hugh Burden is excellent and often very funny as the seemingly bumbling Reeder - an English precursor of the Columbo style of detection – and he is well supported by Mona Bruce as his bossy housekeeper and Willoughby Goddard as the rotund, splendidly overbearing Sir Jason Toovey, the departmental head who seems to require a new secretary every week.

THE INSPECTOR LYNLEY MYSTERIES - SERIES 6     ACORN AV9705

This highly enjoyable BBC series features characters created by American author, Elizabeth George - Detective Inspector Thomas ‘Tommy’ Lynley, 8th Earl of Asherton, and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. In between solving murder cases the two seemingly mismatched London detectives find time to bicker about the conflicts arising from clashes of personality, gender and class (Havers comes from a working-class background). Both naturally have troubled home lives but are dedicated to their jobs. In the Sixth Series, These two final episodes comprise the sixth and final series of this classy series. Lynley and Havers’ friendship is pushed to its limits as class divisions are tested and overcome by the desperate and sometimes personal demands of detective work. In the first story, Limbo, when the body of a child is discovered in the grounds of an Italian country villa it seems for the English parents that the past has finally been laid to rest – their child had been abducted 15 years ago but never found, until now. Lynley goes out to Italy to support the family but after he begins an affair with the family’s now grown-up daughter she is found dead in her Rome apartment. Is he guilty of her murder? In Know Thine Enemy, the body of a missing school girl is discovered in a lake wrapped in rubble sacks and chains. She has been raped and the bruising on her hands suggests she may have been held prisoner. Meanwhile another school girl is reported missing by her mother. Will Lynley and Havers be able to find enough leads to save her? Extras include cast filmographies, an Elizabeth George biography and bibliography, a picture gallery and subtitles.

THE BENNY HILL ANNUAL 1982     NETWORK 7953253

Alfred Hill was born in Southampton in 1924 and worked as a milkman, bridge operator, driver and drummer before changing his first name to ‘Benny’ (in homage to his favourite comedian, Jack Benny) and starting out in show business. His first job as a professional entertainer was as Reg Varney’s straight man, beating a then unknown Peter Sellers to the job, and he went on to have a long and productive career in variety, radio, films, recordings (‘Ernie - The Fastest Milkman In The West’) and especially television, first at the BBC and then with Thames. Combining high-speed farce, risqué jokes and gorgeous girls, Hill’s many fans included Charlie Chaplin and Michael Jackson. This DVD includes two programmes first shown in 1982, featuring a close encounter with a female vampire, Benny’s version of the Monte Carlo Show, and all-out warfare between the traffic wardens and street-cleaners of Dimpton Town! Regulars include Henry McGee, Bob Todd and Jackie Wright, as well as the controversial Hill’s Angels – at their surreal best in the meter maids’ cancan routine. This award-winning show, combining music hall bravura with imaginative technique, became one of the most successful television programmes of all time, seen in more than a hundred countries throughout the world. Political correctness and fashion led to the its cancellation in 1989, but Benny Hill’s unique talent as a comic writer and performer - original, inventive and bursting with energy - is surely due for rediscovery.

HEARTLAND       4DIGITAL MEDIA DIG3807

HeartlandThe talented young Canadian actress Amber Marshall was born in London, Ontario, and grew up around horses, making her the ideal choice to play Amy Fleming in the CBC series, Heartland. Loosely based on the best-selling books by Lauren Brooke, this is a heartwarming drama about a 15-year-old girl living on a ranch called Heartland in the fictional town of Hudson, Alberta. Set against the gorgeous scenery of the Rocky Mountains, we follow the story of sisters Amy and 20-something Lou (Michelle Morgan) and their ex-rodeo cowboy grandfather Jack Bartlett (Shaun Johnston) as they encounter the highs and lows of life on the ranch. Amy and Lou’s mother was killed in a car accident but the sisters continue to keep their mother’s dream alive, healing abused and neglected horses using psychologically based therapies instead of rough handling or force. Lou has reluctantly come home from a high-powered job in the New York City to take over the business of the ranch and Amy realises that she has inherited her mother’s special gift with horses. Eventually they are faced with tough decisions that put Heartland’s future at risk. Also starring regulars Chris Potter, Graham Wardle, Jessica Amlee and Nathaniel Arcand, Heartland is intelligently written and sensitively acted - an attractive mix of adventure, drama, romance and comedy. This 4-DVD set contains all 13 episodes from the award-winning first series, as well as Behind-the-Scenes featurettes including interviews with the cast and crew.

THE LITTLEST HOBO        MEDIUMRARE FHED2685

For a generation of children, this iconic long-running television series with its memorable theme song was essential viewing. In 1979, Canadian Television revived the series, now shot on videotape rather than film, and over six seasons the New Littlest Hobo (as it was sometimes called) featured many big-name Hollywood guest stars including Alan Hale, Jr., DeForest Kelley (best known for playing Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy in Star Trek), Morey Amsterdam, Patrick Macnee, Vic Morrow, Henry Gibson, John Carradine, Leslie Nielsen and a young Mike Myers. London is a highly intelligent, wandering German shepherd dog who walks into a different place in each episode and invariably befriends people struggling, down on their luck or in trouble. Plotlines ranged from traditional ‘dog helps boy’ stories to catching criminals and outlandish secret agent-type tales. When his job is done, London always declines to remain as a pet of those he has helped but instead leaves to continue his cross-country drifting. This is wholesome family entertainment from a more innocent era, making it all the more welcome in these cynical times. All 24 episodes from Season One of this heartwarming series are available here on DVD for the first time. Extras include a singalong version of the theme song, episode synopses and a short feature: ‘How to train a dog like London’ by Chuck Eisenmann, who trained all the dogs for the show.

KOJAK - COMPLETE SEASON THREE   MEDIUMRARE ENTERTAINMENT FHED 2688

This glossy 1970s American television series starred Emmy and Golden Globe winner Telly Savalas as the famously bald Detective Lieutenant Theo Kojak, a tough cop with a fondness for sharp dressing, snappy dialogue and lollipops. Created by Abby Mann, an Academy Award-winning film writer for Judgment at Nuremburg, the series is set in the New York City Police Department’s Thirteenth Precinct and revolves around the efforts of the incorruptible Kojak to bring criminals to justice, sometimes by bending the rules. His squad includes a young plainclothes officer, Det. Bobby Crocker (Kevin Dobson) and Detectives Stavros (played by Savalas’s real-life brother George). The show ended in 1978, after five seasons, but continues to be rerun regularly and Savalas reprised his role in a number of 1980s television movies. All 23 episodes of the third series (over 19 hours in all) are included here so this is a great chance to rediscover a gritty, iconic police procedural that was shot mostly on location at a particularly interesting time for New York’s finest. ‘Who Loves Ya, Baby?’

THE WORLD AT WAR - ON DVD & BLU-RAY

Originally broadcast in 1973 and narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier, this record-breaking 26-part documentary series interviewed important members of the Allied and Axis campaigns, civilian eyewitnesses, enlisted men, officers and politicians, and made use of the rare colour film footage to create a definitive history of the Second World War. In the years since its first broadcast, this award-winning series has had many imitators but remains one of the most revered documentaries ever made. Fremantle Media are undertaking a painstaking project in which each frame has been restored individually and the audio reconfigured and upgraded - more than 3.6 million fixes across the entire series. To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, this outstanding series will be released in September as an 11 DVD box set release and on 9 Blu-Ray discs. Extras will include 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and 2.0 Stereo sound, enhanced picture now in 16:9 aspect ratio, and ‘Restoring The World at War’ - a new feature detailing the process narrated by the original series producer, Sir Jeremy Isaacs.

WESSEX TALES       ACORN AV9706

Wessex TalesThomas Hardy’s collection of short stories he called Wessex Tales was published in 1888. Many of the tales are set before Hardy’s birth in 1840 and portray the hierarchy of shepherds and artisans, unlike the aristocratic literature of the Victorian era. To create these stories, Hardy studied Dorset’s old newspapers and parish records and spoke with older people of the town. They reveal the humorous and affectionate observations of rustic life that provided the foundation for Hardy’s Wessex, which he further defined in his wonderful Dorset novels. Through them, Hardy talks about nineteenth century marriage, grammar, class status, how men and women were viewed, and much more. The 1888 collection of Wessex Tales contained five stories, all previously published in periodicals, and for subsequent reprints Hardy added several others. In the 1970s, the BBC commissioned six writers, six directors and an exceptional cast of actors to adapt six of the Wessex Tales for an impressive television series, produced by Irene Shubik and impeccably photographed mostly on location. The chosen tales were The Withered Arm (starring the great Billie Whitelaw), Fellow-Townsmen (Jane Asher), A Tragedy of Two Ambitions (adapted by Dennis Potter and starring John Hurt), An Imaginative Woman (Claire Bloom), The Melancholy Hussar (directed by Mike Newell, with Mary Larkin) and Barbara of the House of Grebe (adapted by David Mercer and starring Ben Kingsley). These stories of witchery, revenge, thwarted passion, costly ambition, buried desire, madness and betrayal find their participants entrapped repeatedly by fate - always at liberty to make choices, but inevitably confronted by their destiny. At the time, writer Dennis Potter described them as ‘the kind of stories that countrymen tell. Full of outlandish incident, of wild coincidences.’ Special features with this two-DVD release of the BAFTA nominated series include a Thomas Hardy biography and bibliography courtesy of the Thomas Hardy Society and Dorset County Museum, cast filmographies and a picture gallery. Highly recommended.

IT’S GARRY SHANDLING’S SHOW   FABULOUS FILMS FHED2683

It's Garry Shandling's ShowAmerican comedian, actor and writer Garry Shandling began his career writing for sitcoms such as Sanford and Son, and became a frequent guest-host for Johnny Carson. In 1986, when he was poised to become a permanent guest host on The Tonight Show, he created It’s Garry Shandling’s Show for the cable channel Showtime. This innovative 30 minute sitcom was a sharp and surreal blend of reality set post-modernistically within the confines of a sitcom. Shandling would often break the ‘fourth wall’ during the show to include the studio audience and the viewers at home in on the making of the show. Experimenting with the form meant inviting the audience onto the set, playing with the passage of time (‘it’s now two weeks later’), generally exploding the genre and making art out of the debris. Teaming up with Saturday Night Live’s Alan Zweibel, Shandling ‘put on a fourth grade play’ every week for four seasons. With a crew of talented young writers including Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Al Jean, Michael Reiss, David Mirkin, (who would go on to Seinfield and The Simpson’s) and Ed Solomon, who wrote Men In Black, television history was made. Over the years, guest stars (playing themselves) included Tom Petty, Rob Reiner, Vanna White, Red Buttons, Dan Akroyd, Gilda Radner (in her last TV performance), Carl Reiner, Chevy Chase, Jeff Goldblum and The Turtles. From its infectious theme song to its closing credits, this joyous parody was a surprise success that has influenced many of the best TV comedies since, including Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Shandling’s own Larry Sanders Show. This four-DVD set includes all 16 episodes from the first series (with commentaries on five of them), as well as a documentary and extra sketches. Fabulous Films has also released a three-disc set with all 16 episodes from the first season of another American TV comedy series, SAVED BY THE BELL (FHED2670). Set in the fictional town of Palisades, California, this follows six teenagers through their fun-filled days at Bayside school as well as their antics at their favourite hangout, The Max. Heartthrobs Zack and A.C are forever vying for the attention of Kelly, the prettiest and most popular girl in school. Screech is the class clown and electronics genius, and fashion conscious Lisa is mostly occupied with expanding her wardrobe.

THE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES – SECOND SERIES     NETWORK

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes is an anthology series made by Thames television and based on the collected works of former BBC Director General Sir Hugh Carleton Greene, though Greene had no hand in the production of the series. The stories are prefaced with this explanation: ‘During the years 1891 to 1914, when the Sherlock Holmes series were serialised in ‘Strand Magazine’, Conan Doyle’s hero was not the only detective operating in London, he had rivals...’ Each one hour programme presented an adaptation of a short mystery, suspense or crime story featuring detectives who were literary contemporaries of the great Sherlock Holmes. The foggy, gas lit streets of the Victorian world are brought to atmospheric life in this intelligently written BAFTA-winning. The series begins with a Mysterious Death on the Underground Railway in which the lovely Judy Geeson stars as Polly Burton, with a young Richard Beckinsale and the irrepressible John Savident as an attorney with a sweet tooth. Other highlights include The Looting of the Specie Room (Ronald Fraser as Mr Horrocks investigates stolen gold on a steam-ship), The Secret of the Fox Hunter (Derek Jacobi as William Drew meets his most dangerous case to date) and Jaques Futrelle’s Cell 13 (Douglas Wilmer, who played the great Holmes many times, enjoys himself hugely as the remarkable Professor Van Dusen. This generous 4-DVD set contains all 13 episodes from the second series of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. The first series, also available as a 4-DVD box set from Network, features stories by authors such as R. Austin Freeman, Arthur Morrison (in which crooked private detective Horace Dorrington, played with rascally relish by Peter Vaughan, investigates The Affair of the Avalanche Bicycle and Tyre Company Limited), Guy Boothby (‘gentleman thief’ Simon Carne devises an ingenious scheme to obtain The Duchess of Wiltshire’s Diamonds) and Max Pemberton. Other actors include John Neville, Robert Stephens, Roy Dotrice, Donald Pleasence and Donald Sinden.

THE TURN OF THE SCREW      ACORN AV9742

Henry James’s chilling ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, was first published as a novella in 1898. Due to its ambiguous content it has been interpreted in many ways and been adapted often around the world as radio, films (most memorably in The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr), television, theatre, ballet, a graphic novel and an opera by Benjamin Britten. This re-working of the James classic is set in a 1920s when Britain was still grieving after the First World War. Michelle Dockery gives a strong performance as the young governess, Ann, with Sue Johnston as Mrs Grose and Mark Umbers as the Master. Ann is sent to a country house to take care of two orphans, Miles (Josef Lindsay) and Flora (Eva Sayer). Shortly after the governess begins her duties, Miles is expelled from boarding school for being ‘a threat to the other boys’ and Ann fears that there is something else behind the expulsion. She is too charmed by the adorable boy to want to press the issue but then starts to see the figures of a man and woman around the grounds of the estate. They appear to be supernatural and Ann learns that her predecessor and her lover, the abusive Peter Quint (Edward MacLiam), both died under curious circumstances. Gradually, Ann becomes convinced that the two children are secretly aware of the presence of the ghosts and she becomes obsessed with the belief that malevolent forces are stalking them. The story is revealed in a series of flashbacks as Ann is held imprisoned in an insane asylum, refusing to tell her tale until one man finds the key that will unlock her dark secrets. Also starring Corin Redgrave, this is a haunting tale of sexual predators, suspense and murder, in which ghosts are relentless in pursuit of those who believe in them, and curse those who do not. DVD extras include cast filmographies, a picture gallery and subtitles.

LADY CHATTERLEY      ACORN AV9735

Lady ChatterleyD. H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, first published in 1928 in Italy, could not be published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960. The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical relationship between a working-class man and an aristocratic woman, with its explicit descriptions of sex and its use of then unprintable words. The story is said to have originated from events in Lawrence’s own unhappy domestic life, and he took inspiration for the settings of the book from Eastwood in Nottinghamshire where he had lived. The novel has been adapted several times for film, and in it became this BBC television mini-series entitled Lady Chatterley, directed by the irrepressible Ken Russell. Acorn Media has released this acclaimed mini-series on DVD, marking the fifty years since the original scandalous UK publication which led to a momentous court case on obscenity and freedom of speech. Russell’s powerful adaptation brings this vivid and extraordinary tale to life. Joely Richardson has the tricky role of Constance Chatterley, wife to the emotionally and physically paralysed Sir Clifford (James Wilby) in a post-war England which finds itself on the cusp of change. The old ways and class divisions have begun to crumble as the bulk of a nation’s youth fell in the trenches leaving a downtrodden but emboldened few. As Lady Chatterley, bereft of her husband’s attention, finds a re-awakening in the arms of a working man (Sean Bean), more is at stake than honour and more is at risk than marriage, in this dramatic and passionate re-telling of Lawrence’s classic tale. The underrated Shirley Anne Field is superb as Mrs. Bolton, the nurse who understands everything. Hetty Baynes plays Hilda, Connie’s spirited sister, and their father is Ken Russell, who was married to Baynes at the time. Special features include an interview with Ken Russell as well as text features on D.H. Lawrence and the famous Trial of Lady Chatterley.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE II         ACORN AV9739

This five-part BBC series, first broadcast in 2009, tells the story of Juliet Miller, the wife of a very successful barrister Joe Miller and mother of 13-year-old daughter Ella. When one night Juliet stabs Joe in their bed, she sets in motion a chain of events as hard and unbreakable as any the law can offer. As she travels through the criminal justice system under the constant scrutiny of police, prison officials and social services, her guilt isn’t questioned, but her motives are. As the case passes through family court towards a tense and unpredictable finale in the Crown Court, the terrifying blunt force of criminal justice is felt from the moment it is called into play right through to its terrible execution. Powerfully written by former lawyer turned screenwriter and playwright Peter Moffat, this slowly-paced and occasionally implausible drama is always engrossing and has superb performances by Maxine Peake as the fragile Juliet, Matthew Macfadyen as Joe and Alice Sykes as Ella, with fine support from Sophie Okonedo, Denis Lawson, Steven MacKintosh, Eddie Marsan, Zoe Telford and Kate Hardie.

DANGER MAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES 1  NETWORK 7953139

Danger Man‘Every government has its secret service branch: America, CIA; France, Deuxieme Bureau; England, MI5. NATO also has its own. A messy job? Well that’s when they usually call on me, or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake.’ Before Patrick McGoohan was incarcerated in The Village, he became famous as the smart, tenacious secret agent John Drake in Danger Man, a British television series first broadcast between 1960 and 1962. Created by Ralph Smart for Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment, Danger Man was a more realistic version of James Bond (Ian Fleming had originally been involved in the project but dropped out to assist on the American series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). The first series of 39 half-hour episodes showed the exemplary Drake working on tricky assignments, often at odds with his superiors as he goes about aiding democracy, solving murders and foiling criminals in exotic locations around the world. Patrick McGoohan’s simmering, compelling performance catapulted him into movies and paved the way for his undeniable tour de force - The Prisoner. Showcasing Edwin Astley’s memorable music, Danger Man features intriguing storylines from excellent writers and guest performances by stars such as Donald Pleasence, Patrick Wymark, Robert Shaw, Patrick Troughton, Warren Mitchell and Honor Blackman. One episode - The Vacation - marked an early directorial credit for McGoohan. Special features with this DVD boxset include a commemorative booklet on the making of the series by Archive Television Historian Andrew Pixley; extensive image galleries, including many unseen stills; and several mute trailers. This exciting, intelligent series from a golden era of British television will delight all fans of the great McGoohan. Buy Danger Man now at Amazon.

CHOICE OF COWARD: THE COMPLETE SERIES 1  NETWORK 7952793

‘Would you care for a drink?’ ‘Passionately.’ For four weeks in 1964, ITV’s prestigious Play of the Week slot was given over to a short series of plays by one of the most popular and best loved playwrights of the twentieth century, Nöel Coward, each one featuring a short, typically waspish introduction by the author. The plays here are amongst the finest he wrote and feature an exceptional cast list that includes Peter Wyngarde, James Bolam, Barbara Murray, Hattie Jacques and Philip Bond. All the plays were produced and directed by the legendary Joan Kemp-Welch - one of the first women television directors, whose work stretched from Shakespeare and Pinter to Oscar Wilde. In Present Laughter, Garry Essendine’s little indiscretions cause more than a slight upheaval in his household - particularly when everyone decides they are going to Africa with him. Blithe Spirit features Madame Arcati and a séance that seems like a terrific lark, but for novelist Charles Condomine it’s something rather more when the ghost of his first wife turns up to haunt him. In The Vortex, Florence Lancaster is a neurotic woman still living in the past. She was a great beauty and now finds pleasure in attracting younger men. Design for Living has Gilda, Otto and Leo carrying on a complicated three-way relationship. Entangled with first Otto and then Leo, Gilda finally marries Ernest, but cannot dismiss ‘the two’ from her mind.

ARMCHAIR THEATRE: VOLUME 1   NETWORK 7953221

Armchair Theatre was ITV’s flagship drama anthology series. Initially screened between 1956 and 1973, it was hugely popular, with viewing figures occasionally reaching twenty million, and became a byword for quality in televised drama. Pioneering, immensely influential and sometimes challenging in its content, the series consistently drew upon a wide range of talent. It became a showcase for the post-war generation of British writers who sought to place sensitive social topics, in particular the British class system, under the microscope. Throughout, the series featured a number of powerful, award-winning plays and its lasting influence was a testament to producer Sydney Newman’s passionate belief in bringing high-quality drama to the viewing public. For the first time, this collection brings together eight plays, broadcast between 1970 and 1973, featuring outstanding scripts by Colin Welland, Ian Kennedy-Martin, Fay Weldon, Donald Churchill, Roy Clarke and Dominic Behan. The plays feature outstanding performances by accomplished British actors such as Tom Bell, Billie Whitelaw (brilliant as the lonely divorcee Ruth in Brown Skin Gal, Stay Home and Mind Bay-Bee), Peter Barkworth, Rita Tushingham, Susan Jemeson (excellent in Welland’s Say Goodnight to Your Grandma), a young Richard Beckinsale and national treasure Beryl Reid. The sixties and seventies were a golden period for British drama and these committed, one-off plays show how much television is missing the format today.

THE PRISONER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION   NETWORK 7952663

The Prisoner - 40th Anniversary Special Edition02This British television allegorical science fiction series, created by and starring the charismatic Patrick McGoohan, tells the enigmatic story of a man who abruptly resigns from his position as a top-level government agent and is held captive in a small, colourful village by unknown people who are concerned about his resignation. Each episode typically features the imprisoned former agent - labelled ‘Number Six’ by his captors who refuse to use names - failing to escape ‘The Village’ (exteriors were filmed primarily on location at the Hotel Portmeirion resort village in North Wales) but resisting the interrogation and brainwashing attempts by his captors. This multilayered drama asks challenging questions about democracy and individual freedom, making its political commentary as relevant in today’s era of mass CTV surveillance and ID cards as it was when the series was first broadcast. Only seventeen episodes of The Prisoner were produced, with the first being shown on ITV on 1 October 1967 and the last airing on 4 February 1968. Network is now releasing a special edition DVD box set to mark the 40th anniversary of one of the most radical, thought-provoking dramas in the history of television. Newly restored from the programme’s original film elements, this is the only release of the show ever to be endorsed by Patrick McGoohan and is essential viewing for all fans of his surreal, mesmeric and enchanting masterpiece. The seven discs contain all 17 episodes digitally restored with Dolby 5.1 sound treatment, as well as an alternate version of first episode ‘Arrival’ with music only track. The generous array of extras include a 288 page book by television historian Andrew Pixley, original script PDFs including ones never filmed, seven audio commentaries by production members, a new 90 minute documentary titled Don’t Knock Yourself Out with contributions from cast and crew (including McGoohan, Annette Andre, George Baker, Wanda Ventham, Fenella Fielding, Earl Cameron, Sheila Allen, Leo McKern and ITV chairman Michael Grade), behind-the-scenes footage, a stills gallery with many previously unseen pictures, production documentation, trailers and Easter Eggs (including Television’s Greatest Hits clip with Patrick McGoohan and a McGoohan audio interview with Roger Goodman). An undisputed landmark in television history.

GARROW’S LAW   ACORN AV9768

Set in the Old Bailey of Georgian London, Garrow’s Law is a fascinating legal series created by Tony Marchant and inspired by the true story of young, idealistic barrister William Garrow. In a time when corruption was rife in the notoriously harsh legal system, where over-zealous bounty hunters who could earn rewards for hangings would often manufacture evidence against innocent people. Garrow fought against such injustice by pioneering the rigorous cross-examination of prosecution. Andrew Buchan stars as the ground-breaking legal maverick, with Alun Armstrong as his mentor John Southouse and Lyndsey Marshal as Lady Sarah Hill, his forbidden love interest. The lavish four-part series was made with remarkable attention to detail and uses real cases from the Old Bailey archives, including murder, assault, corruption and highway robbery, to ensure convincing authenticity and a gritty atmosphere to the stories. The pressures brought upon Garrow from the judge’s bench before him and the King’s ministers behind make for an intriguing and gripping drama. Special features with this double disc DVD release include a behind the scenes documentary filmed on location with cast and crew.

FRED DIBNAH’S BUILDING COLLECTION      ACORN AV9722

In this 3-DVD box set, which includes over five hours of unseen footage, Fred Dibnah explores his passion for great engineering and great building. He had enormous respect for those who really got to grips with the art and craft, the sweat and labour of building a brave new world from iron and steel, wood and stone. Here he brings history vividly to life, explaining how the builders and engineers of the past created great castles (from Roman and Iron Age fortifications to a medieval castle that became a Second World War command centre), houses (including visits to Bath, Winchester, York and a medieval tithe barn in Sussex), and churches, and developed a ship-building industry that was the envy of the world.

FRED DIBNAH’S RAILWAY & STEAM COLLECTION      ACORN AV9928

This superb six DVD set brings together the great enthusiast’s Railway Collection and Steam Collection, with previously unseen footage shot for the BBC’s popular series Fred Dibnah’s Industrial Age, Fred Dibnah’s Victorian Heroes, Fred Dibnah’s Age of Steam and Fred Dibnah’s Made in Britain. Dibnah endeared him to the British public and it’s a pleasure to share again his infectious passion for all things rail and steam. The collection includes The Story of Britain’s Railways; Great Little Steam Railways; Made in Britain: Railway Yards and Workshops; The Story of the Traction Engine; Britain’s Biggest Engines; and On the Road with Fred. Our hero travels the length and breadth of the country in search of the finest examples of anything and everything powered by steam - never missing an opportunity to pull a lever, open a valve and let off steam!

FRED DIBNAH’S INDUSTRIAL COLLECTION  ACORN AV9723

This three-DVD collection features five hours of previously unseen footage shot for the BBC as the great enthusiast explores Britain’s heritage, reminding us of the industrial genius that made this nation ‘the workshop of the world.’ THE INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPE is a journey around the industrial Britain of yesterday, taking in Armley Mills in Leeds, North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish, Coldharbour Mill in Devon, Etruria Industrial Museum, Helmshore Textile Museum, Hook Norton Brewery, Quarry Bank Mill, Queen Street Mill in Burnley, Tees Cottage Pumping Station, Wetheriggs Country Pottery and Wigan Pier. RICHES BENEATH THE EARTH was filmed on location at Big Pit National Mining Museum, Geevor Tin Mine, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, National Coal Mining Museum, North of England Lead Mining Museum, Scottish Mining Museum, Welsh Slate Museum and Wet Earth Colliery. In IRON AND STEEL, Fred Dibnah visits Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, often described as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, as well as a modern forge in Sheffield, Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, Finch Foundry in Devon and Workington Steel Works. This is a fine tribute to an endearing character who became a hugely popular television personality through his infectious enthusiasm, knowledge and unique view on life.

TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY     FABULOUS FILMS FHED2662

In a backwater corner of the South Pacific a young American adventurer, Jake Cutter, and his ragtag group of friends become involved in death-defying hi-jinx, transporting people-on-the-run in a picturesque though well-worn Grumman Goose seaplane and dealing with the assorted baddies who turn up. Set in 1938, just before the Second World War, this enjoyable adventure series captures the ambiance and character of a mysterious romantic era. Broadcast on the BBC in 1982, Tales of the Gold Monkey became a big hit following the success of Indiana Jones’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ around that time. This six disc boxset set from Fabulous Films includes the complete series, including the two hour pilot movie and the 20 subsequent hour long episodes - uncut. Stephen Collins is excellent as the intrepid Jake Cutter and Caitlin O’Heaney plays the spirited Sarah Stickney White, a secret agent posing as a singer. There is fine support from, among others, Jeff MacKay as Corky, Ron Moody, Roddy McDowall and Leo the Dog as the intelligent one-eyed dog Jack. Special features include a new ‘Making of’ documentary with Stephen Collins, Caitlin O’Heaney, writer/producer Tom Greene and director Harvey Laidman; Audio commentaries on five episodes; Cast and character biographies; Episode and series synopses; Stills, costume and artefacts galleries; A 24 page collectors booklet. Great nostalgic fun.

PEEP SHOW SERIES 6     4DVD

Peep ShowThis Golden Rose-winning British sitcom series stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb as sensible Mark Corrigan and lazy waster Jeremy ‘Jez’ Osborne who met while at the fictional Dartmouth University together. Now in their early thirties and living in Croydon, the reluctant flatmates lead often sexually-frustrated lives. Mark is a loan manager and the more financially successful of the two, but is socially awkward and pessimistic about almost everything. Jeremy, who at the start of the first series had recently split up with his girlfriend ‘Big Suze’, now rents Mark’s spare room. He usually has a more optimistic and energetic outlook on the world than Mark, though his self-proclaimed talent as a musician has yet to be recognised and he is not as popular or attractive as he would like to think. The sixth series of Peep Show series finds ‘The El Dude Brothers’ caught in the post-credit crunch and becoming increasingly desperate as they try in vain to find their place in the modern world, along with love and fulfillment. Having discovered that Sophie (Olivia Colman) is pregnant they have to face up to the possibility that either one of them might be a father. How will this effect Mark’s pursuit of Dobby (the excellent Isy Suttie)? And will it help or hinder Jeremy as he falls for his dream woman, dope-dealing-musician-activist Russian émigré bisexual Elena (Vera Filatova) who lives in the same block of flats? Brilliantly written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, with additional material by Mitchell and Webb themselves, Peep Show is that rare thing - a modern sitcom that is original, intelligent and sharply observed, as well as laugh-out-loud funny.

PRICELESS ANTIQUES ROADSHOW    ACORN AV9738

Antiques Roadshow, now in its 31st year, is Britain’s most popular long running factual TV programme. In the Sunday evening trawl through the attics and cupboards of the British public the Roadshow’s panel of experts has seen everything from incredibly valuable Feuilles Fougères vases to Matchbox cars. The show has produced countless memorable television moments, including the revelation by Eric Knowles that a Lalique vase, bought for £1, was actually worth £25,000. In Priceless Antiques Roadshow, current presenter Fiona Bruce introduces many of these classic moments, with contributions from former presenters Michael Aspel and Hugh Scully and resident experts such as the wonderfully avuncular Henry Sandon. This three-disc set also contains biographies of many of Roadshow appraisers and experts as well as their tips for which collectables to look out for during the credit crunch. From ceramics to jewellery and silver, they give the inside track on what’s valuable and what can be safely sent to the charity shop. Often imitated, but never bettered, Priceless Antiques Roadshow represents 30 years of collectable magic that can be relived in this three DVD celebration of a national institution.

BOOTSIE AND SNUDGE - THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES    NETWORK

This very successful British sitcom was a spin-off of another popular early television hit, The Army Game. Finally demobbed from the army, skiving Private ‘Excused Boots’ Bisley (played by Alfie Bass) and his blustering bully of a Sergeant, Claude Snudge (Bill Fraser), return to civilan life where they find themselves employed in the same Pall Mall gentleman’s club, The Imperial. The characters remain true to their original Army Game personalities with the eternal dreamer ‘Bootsie’ (now employed - appropriately - as the ‘boot boy’) and Snudge as the stuttering, apoplectic Major Domo who tries to keep Bisley on the straight and narrow. The series, originally written by Barry Took and Marty Feldman, of Round the Horne fame, also regularly featured Clive Dunn as bumbling old Johnson, effectively previewing his character as Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army, and Robert Dorning as the tyrannical club secretary Hesketh Pendleton (The Hon. Sec.). With the eccentric main cast and engaging support from the elderly gentlemen who frequent the club, much hilarity ensues. Over a hundred half-hour episodes were broadcast between 1960 and 1974 and this box set five DVDs from Network includes all of the first series (a total of 975 minutes). Alfie Bass was born into a Jewish family in Bethnal Green, London, the youngest of ten children, and appeared in a wide variety of stage, film, television and radio productions throughout his career. Scottish actor Bill Fraser was a bank clerk before moving on to acting. He became friends with Eric Sykes while serving with the RAF during the Second World War and was subsequently a stalwart of the British screen. Together, Bass and Fraser revel in their very English mangled dialogue and the invariably farcical situations that arise at The Imperial.

THE COMPLETE LORD PETER WIMSEY   ACORN AV9925

Lord Peter WimseyDorothy L. Sayers created the archetypal British gentleman detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, in a series of detective novels and short stories published between 1926 and 1934. The bon vivant sleuth, younger brother of the Duke of Denver, is an intellectual scholar with on time on his hands and a penchant for solving murder and other mysteries, helped his manservant by Bunter. Five of the novels were made into a very successful BBC television series that ran from 1972 to 1975, starring Ian Carmichael as the debonair detective and Glyn Houston as the impeccably unruffled Bunter. These five feature length tales are now available on DVD, either individually or in this opulent box set. Clouds of Witness finds Lord Peter grappling with a murder in the family; The Unpleasantness at The Bellona Club explores the mysterious death of an aged Colonel with an inheritance at stake; Murder Must Advertise sees Wimsey posing as a copywriter to investigate evil doings at an ad agency; The Nine Tailors finds an emerald necklace at the heart of a robbery with deadly implications; and Five Red Herrings allows the Lord a short vacation in Scotland before he becomes embroiled in the strange death of a local artist. Ian Carmichael brings great wit, charm and comic good humour to a character that he was born to play. Each DVD features an exclusive interview with him in this definitive collection of an enduringly popular series.

JENNIE – LADY RANDOLPH CHURCHILL     NETWORK

This acclaimed television series, stylishly directed Cellan Jones, stars Lee Remick as Jennie Jerome, the vivacious, intelligent and beautiful American who married the son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. One of her sons went on to become the most celebrated British politician of all time, Winston Churchill. Jennie Jerome - subsequently Lady Randolph Churchill - became immensely popular in London’s high society upon her arrival from America. Her charm and social skills ensured that she remained a firm hit long after her marriage. It was at her much coveted dining table and saloon that the young Winston met and conversed with the most brilliant political figures of the time. Being a lady of sharp mind, Jennie not only recognised her son’s genius for politics, she nurtured and fostered it with great love, care and attention. Sir Winston would repeatedly pay homage to her energy, courage and dedication throughout his life. Lee Remick’s spirited performance earned her a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for Best Actress. First screened in 1974 as part of ITV’s commemoration of Churchill’s centenary year, this lavish production charts all the major events in Jennie’s life with much affection and truth. The award-winning costume designs and the gorgeous locations - including the family home, Blenheim Palace - lend a striking authenticity to this story of a remarkable woman. The cast also includes Barbara Parkins, Warren Clarke (as Winston Churchill), Ronald Pickup, Jeremy Brett and Patrick Troughton (as Benjamin Disraeli).

PRISON BREAK: SEASON 4      TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Prison Break is a glossy, fast-moving American television drama series with plenty of action and a high body count. Lincoln Burrows (played by Dominic Purcell) is on death-row for the murder of the vice president’s brother, though he insists that he is innocent. His brother Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) is the only one believes him. As an engineer who helped design the prison where Lincoln is being held, Michael takes drastic measures to help his brother by robbing a bank so that he is caught and jailed. The first season received positive reviews and its original 13-episode run was extended to include an extra nine episodes due to its popularity. Subsequent series have acquired a devoted following around the world and this new DVD box set features the nail-biting climax. Following their daring escape from the hellish Panamanian prison, ‘brothers on the run’ Michael and Lincoln discover a fresh determination as they seek retribution against The Company. This shadowy group was responsible for destroying their lives and supposedly killing the woman Michael loves, Dr. Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies). Michael’s quest for vengeance leads him to Los Angeles, where Sara makes a shocking comeback from the dead. As the two reunite Michael realises to be finally free he must destroy The Company and steal SCYLLA (the organisation’s ‘black book’). With the initial backing of Homeland Security, Michael and his gang commence their ultimate mission as the time has come for justice to finally prevail. Breaking The Company is far from easy and all is not as it seems. This is your chance to catch the long-awaited, unsolved conclusions and dramatic climax to TV’s greatest escape. Special features with the DVD box set include exclusive commentary from cast and crew, including Dominic Purcell and William Fichtner and acclaimed screen writer Seth Hoffman. Other featurettes that look at the making of the final series include Fade to Black: The Final Episode; The Plan, The Execution, and the Bullet and Directors World. With great cinematography, intriguing characters and a unique plot, Prison Break is a stylish treat.

AMERICAN DAD, VOL. 4    TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

American DadSatirical animated American comedy has been going through a golden age in recent years, with series such as Family Guy, South Park, King of the Hill and the all-conquering Simpsons. American Dad! is one of the sharpest and funniest, created by Emmy Award-winning Seth MacFarlane and two other former Family Guy writers, Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman. The series follows the outlandish misadventures of proud CIA agent Stan Smith as strives to protect his beloved America from harm. He also has to cope with a wacky family - his loyal but not-too-smart wife Francine, liberal 18-year-old hippie daughter Hayley, geeky 14-year-old son Steve, the selfish, sarcastic and alcoholic space alien Roger, and Klaus, a lascivious, attention-starved German speaking goldfish! This fourth season of American Dad sees this unlikely bunch of personalities try to find a way to love and trust each other during increasingly unpredictable times. Stand-out plots include Roger thinking that someone has stolen his identity after stealing his credit card and maxing it out, Steve plotting revenge against all of the popular girls at school who torment nerds and losers, and Stan suffering with depression and going on holiday back to Camp Refugee for three weeks. Special features with this three DVD set include an audio commentary for all of the episodes, deleted scenes, and two featurettes. The show’s brilliant political and social commentary makes fun of liberals and republicans alike and includes some of the wittiest, laugh out loud lines in television history.

SHAKESPEARE’S ‘TWELFTH NIGHT’      NETWORK

William Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy Twelfth Night, Or What You Will, was first performed 1602 but not published until the First Folio in 1623, seven years after the playwright’s death. The title suggests the mind games played out in the script as well as the darkness and loss of innocence. On the Twelfth Night of Christmas, the traditional festivities consist of drink, dance, and giving in to general self-indulgence as the author skillfully weaves a story of deception, disguise and frustrated love. The subtitle implies that the audience is interested in being provoked by the sexuality and merry spirit found in the play, which focuses on the aristocrats of society who are entitled to their pleasures while the only hard work being done is by the pompous and puritanical steward, Malvolio and the wise fool, Feste. Men dress as women, servants dress as their masters, and authority is usurped. The Vitagraph Studios released the silent short adaptation of Twelfth Night in 1910 and there have been many other versions since, including this 1969 television production directed for ITC by the critically acclaimed John Sichel. The illustrious cast features Joan Plowright as Viola, the shipwrecked young noblewoman, Alec Guinness as the vain Malvolio, Ralph Richardson as drunken Sir Toby Belch and Tommy Steele as an unusually prominent Feste. Network has also released two classic comedy series: PARDON THE EXPRESSION follows the mixed fortunes of former Coronation Street boutique owner Leonard Swindley (the great Arthur Lowe) in his new position as assistant manager at a Dobson and Hawks chain store. The punctilious but ambitious Mr. Swindley seizes every opportunity that might afford him the chance to scale the social heights - from organising strategic civic functions to securing lucrative new orders for the company. Arthur Lowe is perfect as the pompous, quietly floundering buffoon and Betty Driver - soon to be installed behind the bar of the Rover’s Return - also stars as canteen manageress Mrs. Edgeley in this popular sitcom, originally screened in 1965. SURGICAL SPIRIT features the irrepressible Surgeon Sheila Sabatini, (Nichola McAucliffe, who rules her operating theatre with a sharp tongue and acerbic wit. Her larger-than-life nature and dedication to her work not only make her a force to be reckoned with, yet beneath the stern, intimidating surface beats a kind heart that only the privileged few who are fortunate enough to discover Nichola McAuliffe’s memorable performance as the spiky Dr. Sabatini make this as unforgettable a creation as Basil Fawlty or Victor Meldrew.

PUBLIC EYE    NETWORK

Public EyeThis critically acclaimed, long-running private detective drama stars Alfred Burke as the Marlowesque, world-weary and down-at-heel Inquiry Agent Frank Marker. Always working the lower end of the spectrum - divorces, missing persons, bankruptcies - the public found a great affinity with Marker, making Public Eye a huge success. The four-disc DVD set contains all 13 episodes of this 1972/3 series. Also released by Network is WATCHING, an offbeat ITV comedy that follows the on-again, off-again romance of a mismatched Merseyside couple: fun-loving extrovert Brenda (Emma Wray) and shy, retiring birdwatcher Malcolm (Paul Bown). Also starring Liza Tarbuck and Patsy Byrne, the DVD includes the whole of the third series as well as a Christmas Special. John Esmonde and Bob Larbey’s GET SOME IN ran from 1975-78 and this complete third series has Robert Lindsay and Tony Selby turning in wonderfully comedic performances. A four-disc set of the fourth series of HADLEIGH stars Gerald Harper as the debonair young landowner - a man of privilege and inheritor of the magnificent Melford Hall. Guest appearance come from Stephanie Beacham, Michael Elphick, Gordon Jackson and Peter Sallis. The 1980s BAFTA-nominated family sitcom AFTER HENRY features Prunella Scales as the widowed Sarah. Though her deceased husband left her well-cared for financially, he also left her alone to deal with a demanding mother and a prickly, adolescent daughter. Joan Sanderson is the devious Eleanor and Janine Wood is the angst-ridden teenage daughter desperate to leave home.

Private Life of Henry VIIIMANHUNT is a tense drama about downed RAF Squadron leader Jimmy Porter, who together with Resistance agents ‘Nina’ and ‘Vincent’ attempts to sabotage the activities of the Germans in wartime France and smuggle stranded airmen to safety. This addictive, fast-paced series vividly captures the fear and complex personal dilemmas experienced by those caught up in the tragedy of wartime occupation. BOON is a four-disc set of the second series with Michael Elphick as the former fireman with the heart of gold, a passion for adventures and his trademark motorbike. Humour, and heart-warming story lines made Boon a ratings success and attracted guest stars such as Amanda Burton and Ray Winstone. THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII established Alexander Korda’s reputation as a director and was the first British film to be a major success at the US box office. Opening with the execution of Anne Boleyn at the same time that Jane Seymour selects her bridal gown, a dark, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour sets the tone for the rest of the film. Charles Laughton won a well-deserved Oscar for his portrayal of Henry as flamboyant womaniser, henpecked glutton and king of an empire. STORMY WEATHER is a riotous 1936 classic starring and directed by Tom Walls, one of the most influential figures in British comedy. Written by the great Ben Travers, Stormy Weather tells the story of Polotski, a shady Russian who had been married to a French woman, Louise. Convinced that Polotski is dead, Louise remarries and is now the wife of a prominent social figure. Polotski sees the situation as an opportunity he can manipulate to his own advantage. Many Aldwych farce regulars feature in this high energy Gainsborough film, packed with physical comedy and drama. Bernard Manning, Mike Reid, Frank Carson and many others star in the THE COMEDIANS, featuring performers who honed their jokes to perfection in gritty Northern working men’s clubs. Featuring the unmistakable David Frost, FROST ON SUNDAY concentrated on light entertainment with sketches from Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker, with guests such as Rolf Harris, Matt Monro, Michael Bentine, Ted Ray, Kenneth Williams, Vincent Price and Michael Palin as Julie Andrews. This set includes the first ever show from 1968 and an edition from the London Palladium presenting 1970’s British Film and Television Awards. The complete drama series based on Howard Spring’s best-selling novel, SHABBY TIGER, stars John Nolan as Nick Faunt, the heir of a millionaire in 1930s Manchester. Rather than embracing the comfortable life that his family is able to provide, he leaves home to be an artist and immerse himself in bohemian life. He encounters Irish serving girl Anna (Prunella Gee) and a strange love story begins. Depression era Manchester is convincingly reconstructed, providing an authentic backdrop for the unfolding drama. THE COLLECTION stars Alan Bates, Helen Mirren, Malcolm McDowell and Laurence Olivier in a play by Harold Pinter Directed by multi-award winning Michael Apted and set in the exclusive world of West End boutique owners and fashion designers, the story opens as the lives of four people are shaken by the slight whiff of infidelity. A sinister phone call foreshadows an ominously deepening mystery which threatens to get out of control. Special features include a South Bank Show interview in which Harold Pinter speaks frankly to Melvyn Bragg. See the Network website for more details of these and other new releases.

BRITAIN’S BEST DRIVES - RICHARD WILSON     ACORN AV9709

Presented by Richard Wilson and timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the first motorway, this BBC series saw the classic comedy actor steer six classic cars round the twists and turns of six of the best drives of the 1950s, as described in various motoring guide books of the period. Driving in those days wasn’t just a stressful means to an end, it was a pastime and a Sunday drive was often looked forward to as a highlight of the week. This all changed with the introduction of the motorway in 1958, when getting from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible became the priority. Richard Wilson puts his modern automatic in the garage - having only driven automatic cars since passing his test in 1981 - and gets behind the wheels of six classic cars - Morris Traveller, Mini, Austin A30, VW Camper Van, Austin Cambridge and Bentley - all with manual gear boxes. Along the way he meets colourful characters who have valuable insights into how each route has changed, and how Britain has changed with it. The six drives cover most regions of the UK, including the English Lake District, the Cornish Coast, the Scottish Highlands, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Wye Valley and Snowdonia. Stopping off at famous historical sites such as Tintern Abbey, sites of natural beauty like The Duddon Valley in Cumbria and The Pass of Llanberis, Wilson takes the scenic route in this entertaining and educational series, which debuted to great acclaim on BBC Two on 19 February 2009. The entire series is now available on this double DVD set. Richard Wilson makes an agreeably quirky companion on these nostalgic jaunts, though the vehicles’ owners may want hide behind the sofa as he crunches the occasional gear.

LIFE ON MARS – COMPLETE SERIES 2    CONTENDER CTD10517

Life on MarsThe much-acclaimed Life on Mars series, mixing time travel with police drama, was a huge hit when was shown on BBC One between 2006 and 2007, winning BAFTA and International Emmy awards. The central character is DCI Sam Tyler of Greater Manchester Police (John Simm), who, after being hit by a car in 2006, finds himself in the year 1973, the era of ‘Sweeney’ type policing, Mark III Cortinas, sheep-skin jackets and flared trousers. In his new situation Tyler works for Manchester and Salford Police CID as a DI under DCI Gene Hunt (a rumbustious performance by Philip Glenister) and faces various culture clashes, often regarding differences in his approach to policing compared to that of his colleagues. The series also features a strong ambiguity concerning Tyler’s predicament: it is unclear whether he really has travelled back in time, is in a coma in 2006 and imagining his experiences, or if he is from 1973 but mentally unstable. The final episode of series two gained the largest audience figure for the second run, with an average of seven million people despite competition from Champions League football on ITV. This splendid four-DVD box set features every episode from series two as well as more than two hours of extras. The cast is first-class and the Seventies setting is designed to perfection - although part of the fun is looking for the occasional anachronism. With great scripts, knowing humour and intriguing mystery, Life on Mars is essential viewing.

JUST WILLIAM - THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES    NETWORK

The writer Richmal Crompton Lamburn was born in Bury, Lancashire, in 1890, and is best known for her books of stories about the irrepressible William Brown, a mischievous 11-year-old schoolboy, his dog Jumble and his friends Ginger, Henry and Douglas - collectively called the Outlaws. Crompton’s first published short story featuring William was ‘Rice Mould’, which appeared in Home Magazine in 1919. The first collection, titled Just William and memorably illustrated by Thomas Henry, came out in 1922 and the author went on to write 38 more. The last one - William the Lawless - was published posthumously a year after her death in 1969. The wonderfully funny and beautifully written William books remain extremely popular and have sold over twelve million copies in the UK alone as well as being translated into many languages around the world. They have also been adapted for films and plays as well as for radio and television. The most popular television version of Richmal Crompton’s high-spirited tearaway was this Sunday series from LWT (1977-78). Scruffy, crafty but utterly likeable, William lives his life as an endless series of adventures. He cannot help but be wholly engaging despite his mischief and escapades. His liveliness is made all the more compelling set against the stultifying, self-satisfied dullness of his middle-England family - his banker father, terribly reasonable mother, desperately inspirational older sister Ethel and pompous ladies’ man brother Robert. The series features Adrian Dannatt as the eponymous William - fearless, ingenious and the bane of parents everywhere. The only one that would dull the spring in William’s steps is Violet Elizabeth Bott, the ghastly daughter of the nouveau riche family Mr. and Mrs. Bott, who has a fail-safe master plan for whenever William should fail to give in to her demands. Bonnie Langford plays the appalling Violet Elizabeth and featured guest stars include Diana Dors (an exuberant Mrs. Bott), Julian Fellowes and Ronald Lacey.

THE HARD WAY     NETWORK

The Hard WayActing heavyweights Patrick McGoohan and Lee Van Cleef star in this pulsating thriller, executive produced by John Boorman. The life of the mercenary is transitory and violent. They roam the world in packs, feeding off obscure political upsets, war and the general shabby consequences of man’s appetite for destruction and power. Some, though, are loners. Patrick McGoohan is Irish hit-man John Connor, who has grown weary of watching men die. The anonymous hotel rooms, wet streets and ever-present fear of a tap on the door in the dead of night have led him to retire and settle down in Ireland. But ‘The Co-ordinator’, played by the Hollywood legend Lee Van Cleef, has other ideas. This is a taught thriller with a typically brooding performance by McGoohan and fans of Prisoner will find intriguing parallels with that legendary series. The film makes full use of Brian Eno’s innovative readymade ‘soundtrack’ from his Music for Films CD and has a poignant narration by the gunman’s estranged wife, played by Irish author Edna O’Brien in her only screen role. DVD extras include a trailer and a stills gallery. Atmospherically shot in and around Dublin and in the wild west of Ireland, this underrated film transcends its humble television origin to provide an existential study of violence and what it means to men who live the hard way.

ESPIONAGE   NETWORK

This acclaimed 1960s drama series of plays, produced by George Justin and Herbert Hirschman, was one of Lew Grade’s earliest successes. With a transatlantic production team, Espionage featured both British and American writers and directors (including three plays by Oscar-nominated director Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death). The stories cover everything from the then-current Cold War to 19th century China. One play – The Whistling Shrimp – was actually shot in New York. The series attracted the cream of the acting fraternity, including Roger Livesey, Stanley Baxter, Anthony Quayle, Sian Phillips, Donald Pleasence, Bradford Dillman, John Gregson, Dennis Hopper, Patrick Troughton, Barry Foster plus many more. This six-disc box set of the complete series includes extras such as script PDFs for Castles in Spain and Snow on Mount Kama, and extensive image galleries - many in colour.

FIRST AMONG EQUALS         NETWORK

This BAFTA-nominated adaptation of Jeffrey Archer’s best-selling novel delves into the world of power, public life and private scandal. In 1964, four newly elected MPs take their seats at Westminster: grammar school boy Raymond Gould (Tom Wilkinson), born above a Leeds butcher’s shop; Andrew Fraser (David Robb), the son of a Conservative Lord Provost who joins the Labour Party; Simon Kerslake (James Faulkner), a career Conservative and Charles Seymour (Jeremy Child), a ruthless Tory landowner. Each man has his sights on Number Ten – but who will succeed? Drawing upon real situations encountered by Jeffrey Archer early in his career, the portrayal of key contemporary figures (Margaret Thatcher and Colonel Gadaffi among them) lends the series an air of authenticity that is further enhanced by the celebrated replica of the House of Commons specially constructed for the 1986 series. This three-disc DVD set includes the complete and uncut series as well as an alternate ending never been shown in the UK before.

HARDWARE - THE COMPLETE SERIES   NETWORK

The Office’s Martin Freeman plays Mike, who works at Hamway’s, perhaps the most over-staffed and incompetent hardware store in London - or anywhere else. Alongside Mike are Kenny, student trainee Steve and their boss Rex, who is in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Mike’s girlfriend Anne works in a nearby café, run by Julie, where refreshment is provided and the motley crew congregate. Amidst the cheerful havoc and hilarity, Mike and Anne’s relationship is often tested by outbreaks of laddish behaviour, dangerous DIY and the occasional unwanted house guests. Written by Simon Nye, creator of Men Behaving Badly, Hardware has the same wry sense of humour, realistic and less than glamorous settings, sharp dialogue, quirky plots and flair for physical comedy. No one does hapless better than Martin Freeman and there are fine comic performances also by the excellent Susan Earl as Anne (see her wrestle with a recalcitrant ironing board), the droll Peter Serafinowicz as Kenny, Ryan Cartwright as put-upon Steve, Ella Kenion as Julie and Ken Morley (Coronation Street’s Reg Holdsworth) as the irrepressible Rex, who gets most of the best lines and delivers them with relish. This double DVD features all twelve episodes from both series One and Two of this quintessential modern British sitcom, complete and uncut.

7-49 UP - APTED      NETWORK

Director Michael Apted’s unique series is arguably the best and most thought-provoking sequence ever made for British television. The longest running factual programme in the history of UK TV follows the lives of wide range of people from different social backgrounds, showing how they evolve between 1964 and 2005. The first captivating instalment was broadcast as a one-off World in Action special, featuring children talking about their hopes and dreams for the future. As members of the generation who would be running the country by the year 2000, what did they think they would become? Inspired by World In Action editor Tim Hewat’s passionate interest in both the Jesuit saying: ‘Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man,’ and the rigid class system of 1960s Britain, Seven Up set out to discover whether or not the children’s lives were pre-determined by their background. ‘If I can’t be an astronaut I’ll be a coach driver.’ This forward thinking television show and the longer follow-up documentaries have won an array of accolades and awards. Director Michael Apted, who also directed Hollywood films such as Gorillas in the Mist and The World Is Not Enough, returned every seven years to chart the children’s progress. Over the past five decades, the series documented the group as they became adults and entered middle-age, dealing with whatever life throws at them. The result is an inspired, engrossing series that shows how life developed for a group of ordinary people and how the world changed around them. Watching lives unfold this way is a moving and revelatory experience. The entire series so far is now available on DVD for the first time in this splendid six-disc box set. Special features include an interview with the director about making the series, a featurette with Michael Apted on his career, and audio commentary with producer Claire Lewis, film editor Kim Horton and cameraman George Jesse Turner on segments of 28 Up. ‘An inspired, almost noble, use of the film medium’ - Roger Ebert.

GET SMART - THE COMPLETE SERIES     HBO VIDEO

Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, Get Smart is a satirical American television comedy show that ran from for a total of 138 episodes between 1965 and 1970. A send-up of the James Bond movies, it starred Don Adams as the incorrigibly inept secret agent Maxwell Smart (otherwise known as Agent 86) and the delightful Barbara Feldon as his devoted Agent 99. Edward Platt played it commendably straight as ‘Chief’, the long-suffering head of a secret U.S. government spy agency, CONTROL, based in Washington, D.C. Constantly threatened by an international organization of evil called KAOS (pronounced chaos), Smart and Agent 99 are called into action to save the world on a regular basis and somehow always succeed. Other characters include Hymie the Robot (an android built originally by KAOS but now working for CONTROL), put-upon agents 13 and 44, and Fang (Agent K-13), a poorly-trained dog. Despite its intrusive laghter track, the series won seven Emmy Awards and was nominated for an additional fourteen, as well as two Golden Globe Awards. Its iconic credit sequence, absurd gadgetry and inspired silliness helped Get Smart become a cult that has produced four feature-length versions. This splendid 25 disc box set contains every digitally remastered episode of the shows five series as well as eight hours of special features that include the Museum of Television and Radio Get Smart reunion seminar, footage from Don Adams’ 75th birthday roast at the Playboy Mansion, audio commentaries by Mel Brooks, Buck Henry and Barbara Feldon, behind the scenes footage, and interviews with creators and cast. Get Smart is a witty and engaging time capsule that captures the essence of a colourful decade.

MRS MERTON AND MALCOLM       NETWORK

Mrs Merton first appeared on The Mrs Merton Show in 1994. Wonderfully played by Caroline Aherne, she poked outrageous barbed fun at the likes of Debbie McGee (‘So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?’) and Bernard Manning. The character was given a spin-off series, Mrs Merton and Malcolm, an underrated and inky black comedy featuring the elderly but feisty chat show hostess in her domestic setting. She is the oppressively doting mother of 37 year old Malcolm (played by co-writer Craig Cash), who appears to be stuck in a time capsule. Apart from his physical maturity, everything else about him (mentality, intelligence, attitude etc.) seems to have frozen at the age of about nine. Also present is the neglected and bedridden, cruelly neglected Mr Merton - never seen or heard although Mrs Merton invariably carries out a one-sided conversation with him after tucking Malcolm into bed at the end of each day. Brian Murphy gives a scene-stealing performance as the wondrously forgetful family friend Arthur Capstick and Steve Coogan is a smug disc jokey on the radio, the voice of Malcolm’s motivational tapes and a vicar with Bugs Bunny teeth. All six episodes of this unique and darkly comic series are included on the DVD, complete and uncut. Marvel at Mrs Merton river-dancing, see Malcolm almost get a girlfriend and prepare to be moved by Arthur Capstick’s rendition of The Drugs Don’t Work. Champion!

HINGE AND BRACKET – DEAR LADIES 2    ACORN AV9678

Dr Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket inhabit a genteel English inter-war world of cucumber sandwiches, bell-ringing, church fetes and old-fashioned values, affectionately recalled through an act that was frequently decorated with double entendres. Hinge and Bracket were the stage names of George Logan and Patrick Fyffe respectively. The characters of Hinge (somewhat brittle and acerbic) and Bracket (more flamboyant) were elderly, intellectual, female musicians; in these personae the male Logan and Fyffe played and sang songs to comic effect. The ladies shared a house (The Old Manse) in the small English village of Stackton Tressel in Suffolk, where they employed an eccentric housekeeper called Maud and amused themselves with recitals of Gilbert & Sullivan, Noel Coward and Ivor Novello. This DVD features all six half hour episodes of the hugely popular Dear Ladies, series two, written by George Logan and Patrick Fyffe, as well as the hilarious Dear Ladies Masterclass. This was one of the most successful drag acts ever in the saucy British variety tradition of Old Mother Riley (Arthur Lucan) and Mrs Shufflewick (Rex Jameson), and this series reveals the ladies in their delightful prime.

THE RONNIE BARKER COLLECTION      NETWORK

The much-loved actor and comedian Ronald William George Barker was best known for his roles as Fletcher in the television series Porridge, as a wide range of characters in The Two Ronnies, and as Arkwright in Open All Hours. His skills as a character actor, his sublime facility with the English language, and his gift for comedy made him one of the country’s most highly regarded performers. Network has now released three DVD titles showcasing the versatility and talent of this fine comedian. In Hark at Barker, written by Alun Owen, Alan Ayckbourn and others, he stars as the doddering, decrepit Lord Rustless - hereditary owner of Chrome Hall and professional pontificator on whatever takes his fancy. Barker plays several roles in each show and is ably supported by David Jason as shambling gardener Dithers, the excellent Josephine Tewson as his Lordship’s secretary Bates, Frank Gatliff as the butler, and the statuesque Moira Foot as maid Effie. Pauline Yates also appears as a beautiful children’s TV presenter harassed by glove puppets. Six Dates with Barker was made in 1971 and had scripts by such luminaries as John Cleese, Spike Milligan and Barker himself (writing as Gerald Wiley). Each show featured a different story, ranging from the Phantom Raspberry Blower terrorising Victorian London to a far future where laughter is compulsory. Hark at Barker and Six Dates with Barker are available separately, or together as part of The Ronnie Barker Collection (three disc set).

STAR FLEET - NAGAI        FABULOUS FILMS FHED2474

Originally known as Ekkusu bonbâ (X-Bomber) this classic marionette TV series was created by manga master Go Nagai and first aired in Japan in 1980, billed as being filmed in Sūpāmariorama similar to Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation works. The series was renamed Star Fleet and dubbed by English speaking actors for broadcast by LWT in the UK in 1982. The action and story line are more reminiscent of anime than Andersons Thunderbirds and Stingray, with puppets controlled from below by rods to avoid difficulties with strings. As the year 3000 approaches and people on Earth begin to enjoy peace following the end of space war 111, the imperial alliance under its imperial master launch a new assault. Powerless to defend itself, the Earth Defense Forces Pluto base is destroyed and the evil Commander Makara reveals that the same fate awaits the Earth unless the mysterious F-Zero-One is handed over to her. Earth’s defending forces are ill-prepared for another war and pin their hopes on Dr Benn Robinson and his new X-Bomber programme. Now released for the first time on DVD, this collectors edition features all 24 episodes of the series fully restored. The box set also includes a cornucopia of extras and collectables including stills galleries, character and machine profiles, Brians Mays Star Fleet promo video, a 56 page comic book, postcards, a double sided poster, and an excellent Making Of documentary featuring interviews with creator Go Nagai, director Louis Elman, the voice of Dr Benn (Peter Marinker), composer Paul Bliss and the great Gerry Anderson.

THE MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD   FABULOUS FILMS FHED2048

The Mysterious Cities of Gold is a Franco-Japanese animated television series first shown in 1982. The series comprises 39 episodes told in a single continuous narrative and is a mix of ancient South American history, archaeology, and science fiction. It tells the story a young Spanish boy named Esteban who joins a voyage in 1532 to the New World in search of the lost Cities of Gold. He hopes to find his father, from whom he was separated on being rescued from a sinking ship by Magellan’s expedition. On arrival in South America, Esteban and his companions begin uncovering evidence relating to the Cities of Gold and various ancient technologies, and also become deeply embroiled in a conflict between the Spanish, the various native populations and later, a strange race called the Olmecs. The travellers encounter the Mayans and Inca, and the wonders of the Mu Empire, including a solar powered ship (the Solaris) and The Golden Condor, a huge solar-powered ornithopter (mechanical bird), capable of travelling considerable distances under solar power. They are constantly pursued by antagonists Gomez and Gaspard, who are also in search of the Cities of Gold. The story was written by Jean Chalopin and Bernard Deyriès, and is loosely based on the children’s novel The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell. The series was directed by Bernard Deyriès, Edouard David, Kenichi Murakami and Kenichi Maruyama, with a musical score composed by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy. Colourful and sophisticated animation is allied to a stirring, fantastical story that appeals to imaginations of all ages. As well as all 39 fully restored episodes, this long-awaited box set includes a vast range of extras, including documentaries, deleted scenes, character biographies, two booklets and a poster.

HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET, SERIES 3   FREMANTLE FHED2059

Homicide Life On The StreetThe highly acclaimed American television police procedural series Homicide: Life on the Street chronicled the work of a fictional Baltimore Police Department homicide unit. Based on David Simon’s nonfiction book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the series ran for seven seasons between 1993 and 1999. Many of the characters and stories were based on individuals and events depicted in the book, and Simon would also later use them in his own series, The Wire. Homicide was developed by Paul Attanasio, with Oscar-winning film director Barry Levinson as executive producer and writer-director Tom Fontana as the main guiding hand behind the series, which provided viewers with a gritty, no-nonsense glimpse into the lives of of inner-city detectives, opting for a bleak sort of realism that showed the repetitive, spiritually draining, existential essence of the job. Homicide developed a trademark feel and look that distinguished itself from its contemporaries. Filmed with hand-held 16mm cameras almost entirely on location in the Fells Point area of Baltimore the show was notable for its use of music montages, jump-cut editing and occasional audacious repetitions of crucial shots. Great writing and a brilliant ensemble cast also helped Homicide win an Emmy and become the first drama ever to win three prestigious Peabody Awards for best drama. The complete third series is now available from Fremantle as a six disc-set featuring all 22 episodes, with guest stars such as Chris Rock and Lily Tomlin. As well as the surprise marriage of Meldrick Lewis, the series includes the unpopular promotion of Howard to Sergeant, a gripping final episode with Det. Frank Pembleton in mortal danger, and a new character named Mike Kellerman, played by Reed Diamond, who joins Homicide from the ‘barbecue squad’. The outstanding cast also includes charismatic Andre Braugher as Frank Pembleton, Richard Belzer as the droll John Munch, Kyle Secor as Tim Bayliss, the brilliant Clark Johnson as Lewis, the pre-Raphaelite Melissa Leo, Isabella Hoffman as Capt. Megan Russert and Yaphet Kotto as the formidable Lt. Al ‘Gee’ Giardello. HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET, SERIES 2 (FREMANTLE FHED2058) is available as a five disc-set featuring all 20 episodes, including a dramatic trilogy in which three detectives are seriously wounded as a result of a gunman’s ambush. Meanwhile, the rest of the unit grapples with this reminder of their own mortality as they hunt for the perpetrator. The team also mixes their personal and professional lives, with several affairs among the department’s officers and two of them deciding to buy their own bar. These superb box sets are an ideal way to appreciate television’s most compelling, authentic and hard-hitting detective series.

JASON KING – THE COMPLETE SERIES SPECIAL EDITION   NETWORK

The Jason King television series first ran from 1971 to 1972 and featured the further adventures of a strange character who originally appeared in Department S, where he was a happy dandy working as part of a team of investigators. In Jason King he had left that service and was concentrating on writing adventure novels following the adventures of the fictional Mark Caine, who closely resembled Jason King in looks, manner, style, and personality. In the course of visiting international locations as part of his research, or through being summoned by people needing assistance, King would find himself embroiled in adventure stories featuring glamorous women, exotic locations, menacing villains, political turmoil or espionage intrigue. Peter Wyngarde reprises his starring role with flamboyant relish as Jason King, despite being continually harassed by British Intelligence and his publisher, continues to enjoy his playboy lifestyle to the full, from good food to beautiful women. This splendid seven-disc set includes all 26 episodes complete and uncut – more than 21 hours of entertaining frivolity. Special features include a television play called The Cross Fire, also starring Peter Wyngarde and set in Algeria during French colonial rule. ‘A bit too early for coffee; I’ll have a Scotch’ - Jason King.

THE VERY BEST OF FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE       NETWORK

The innovative television comedy and music show Saturday Live was broadcast in the UK by Channel 4. Heavily influenced by the American show Saturday Night Live, it made stars of Ben Elton, Harry Enfield, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, and featured appearances (in some cases debut television appearances) by Patrick Marber, Morwenna Banks, Chris Barrie, Emo Philips and many others, including Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall as The Dangerous Brothers. The show was succeeded by Friday Night Live, a shorter and slightly more tightly-formatted version with Elton as the permanent host, which ran for a single series in 1988. Network has now released a double DVD set featuring highlights of this successful show, which stars some of Britain’s brightest comedians. Impeccably held together by Ben Elton in his prome, Friday Night Live has the first ever appearance of Harry Enfield’s now iconic, loud-mouthed ‘Loadsamoney’ character, as well as turns by Stephen Fry, Lee Evans, Moray Hunter, Jack Docherty (who co-wrote the series with Ben Elton), Josie Lawrence, Hugh Laurie, Jo Brand (in her television debut), Josie Lawrence, the outrageous Dame Edna Everage, Robbie Coltrane and many others. Highlights include Harry Enfield’s immortal Stavros (‘Power to the Peeps’), Julian Clary’s Leader of the Pack and Ben Elton on ‘Hateful Adverts’. The producers of Friday Night Live had an unerring instinct for finding the best new comedy talent around at the time and most of it stands up remarkably well.

SAPPHIRE & STEEL - THE COMPLETE SERIES SPECIAL EDITION   NETWORK

Set in a world in which the future and past collide and time overturns reality, Sapphire and Steel will capture your consciousness and transport you to altered states. Eerie, frightening forces are at work and only two superhuman agents, Sapphire and Steel (Joanna Lumley and David McCallum), can stop the strange events and restore natural order to the universe with their uncanny powers. Produced by ATV as its answer to the BBC’s Doctor Who, Sapphire & Steel was created by Peter J. Hammond, who conceived the programme after a stay in a haunted castle. The stories are often cryptic, raising more questions than answers, and have an eerie atmosphere, being as much ghost stories as they are science fiction. Time is like a corridor that surrounds everything, but there are weak spots where Time – implied to be a potentially malignant force – can break into the present and take things. This Special Edition 6-DVD set from Network features the complete series of this thought-provoking, unsettling and powerful drama, which built up a massive following when it was originally broadcast almost thirty years ago and remains much talked about to this day. Joanna Lumley and David McCallum are perfectly cast as the two agents, and despite modest budgets the sets look great and this much underrated series packs a wonderfully creepy punch.

THE STRAUSS FAMILY   ACORN AVNE5005

The Austrian composer Johann Strauss II is famous for his waltzes, such as The Blue Danube, and the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century is due in large part to him. Son of the composer Johann Strauss I and brother of composers Josef and Eduard Strauss, Johann II – ‘the waltz king’ - revolutionised the waltz, elevating it from a lowly peasant dance to entertainment fit for the royal Habsburg court. He also wrote many polkas and as as well as the evergree operetta, Die Fledermaus. This triple DVD set features this most famous of musical families as portrayed in a lavish eight part drama series first broadcast by ITV in 1972, when it was the year’s thirteenth most most popular programme. The saga spans 85 years and brings to life Johann Strauss and his sons, his marriage, mistresses, public adulation and humiliation – a story of music, passion, jealousy, tragedy and the lives and loves of two generations. The talented cast includes Eric Woofe as Strauss senior, Stuart Wilson as young Johann and the excellent Anne Stallybrass as long suffering, devoted wife and mother Anna Strauss. The music was provided by the London Symphony Orchestra. The eventful lives of the Strauss family lend themselves splendidly to the soap-opera treatment and the costumes, sets and music enjoyably capture the spirit of the era.

THE SHIELD - SERIES FOUR      SONY CDRP2197

The Shield is an award-winning American police series created by Shawn Ryan and The Barn Productions for Fox Television Studios and Sony Pictures Television. Shown on Five in the UK and currently in its sixth season, the show features an experimental division of the Los Angeles Police Department located in the fictional Farmington district (‘the Farm’) of Los Angeles, using a converted church (‘the Barn’) as a police station. Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) is leader of the Strike Team, a four-man anti-gang unit that adopts a variety of often illegal and unethical methods to bring justice to the streets, while making a profit through drug protection schemes and robbery. The cops are shown to be not above planting drugs on and coercing confessions out of gang members. Common themes are the citizens’ distrust of police, the social impact of drugs and gang warfare, and the conflict between ethics and political expediency. Controversial for its portrayal of corrupt police officers, The Shield has won critical praise for its realism, particularly in its portrayal of gang violence. Season Four saw the first appearance of the formidable Glenn Close as Farmington’s new Captain and deals with the fallout from the Strike Team disbandment. Michael Chiklis still has top billing as Mackey and the ensemble cast also includes Walton Goggins, (Michael Peña, Kenneth Johnson, David Rees Snell and the excellent CCH Pounder, who together with Close was nominated for an Emmy. Extras with this four-DVD include commentaries from the entire cast (including Glenn Close) and a documentary showing day-to-day production with behind-the-scenes footage. Close and Chiklis might seem an unlikely duo but their screen partnership is riveting and the rest of the cast are in fine form. Gritty, fast-paced and often gory, The Shield may sometimes be confusing but is never boring.

NEW STREET LAW      ACORN AV9488

Set in Manchester, this gritty British television series features two rival barristers chambers, one headed by the principled Jack Roper (John Hannah), which deals with defending clients, the other by Laurence Scammel Q.C. (Paul Freeman), Roper’s former mentor, which deals with prosecuting them. Professional rivalry becomes personal when Scammel’s beautiful and talented daughter, Laura (played by Lisa Faulkner) becomes more deeply embroiled in the two men’s struggle, forcing her to choose between family loyalty and her conscience. Encouraged by his glamorous wife, the ruthlessly ambitious Honor Scammell (Penny Downie), Laurence resolves to crush the opposition for good, no matter what it takes. With both sides drawn into ever fiercer conflict, there can only be one winner. Other regular characters include Jack’s old friend Al Ware (Chris Gascoyne), lovable chancer Charlie Darling (John Thomson), no-nonsense Annie Quick (Lara Cazalet) and cocky Joe Stevens (Lee Williams). This first series was shown on BBC1 in 2006 and features guest stars such as Diane Keen, Mark Womack, Les Dennis and Nikki Sanderson. Intelligently written by the award winning G.F Newman, who also created Judge John Deed, this gripping, contemporary legal drama makes compelling viewing. The triple DVD set contains all the episodes from the first series of New Street Law together with extras such as an introduction by the excellent John Hannah, cast filmographies and interviews, and a behind-the-scenes picture gallery.

LONESOME DOVE – SIMON WINCER   ACORN AV9200

Based on Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in the late 19th century, this acclaimed television mini-series stars Academy Award winners Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. In an epic tale of the Old West, two aging cowboys and former Texas Rangers leave the small town of Lonesome Dove and head out on an adventurous 2500-mile cattle drive to the lush ranch country of Montana. They steal a herd from a gang of Mexican cattle rustlers and battle horse thieves, Indian tribes and a renegade half-breed killer named Blue Duck (Frederic Forrest) along the way. The exceptional cast also includes Robert Urich as a cardsharp, Anjelica Huston as an old flame, Danny Glover, Ricky Schroder, Diane Lane, Chris Cooper, D.B. Sweeney, Steve Buscemi, and a cameo role for Larry McMurtry. The Australian director Simon Wincer cleverly balances sweeping drama and intimacy against the stunning landscape of the American Southwest while creating a host of memorable characters. Duvall and Jones are superb in the main roles. The production is extremely faithful to Larry McMurtry’s great novel and this is the kind of film that can be watched over and over again with undiminished pleasure. If you enjoy classic Westerns such as Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Shane, you will find this grand and touching epic is a film to relish. As well as a stirring story, glorious scenery and great performances (especially by Duvall, Jones and two scene-stealing pigs) there is a fine Emmy-winning musical score by Basil Poledouris. Extras include interviews with writer Larry McMurtry and producer Suzanne De Passe.

TOMMY COOPER: THE VERY BEST OF & MISSING PIECES  FREMANTLE MEDIA FHED1977

The great British comedian and magician Tommy Cooper was born in Caerphilly, Wales, in 1921. He entered show business on Christmas Eve, 1947, after seven years in the army and rapidly became a top of the bill variety act before television brought him to national recognition. After his debut on the BBC talent show New To You in March 1948, he started starring in his own shows, most notably for Thames Television from 1968 to 1980, and was hugely popular for four decades. Despite being an accomplished magician and member of the Magic Circle, he made an art form of getting magic tricks wrong, becoming one of the most recognisable and inventive British comedians since Charlie Chaplin. Sample Joke: Two Cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other, ‘Does this taste funny to you?’ Famed for his red fez and much imitated catchphrases such as ‘Just like that!’ he continued to perform despite health problems and died in 1984 after collapsing from a heart attack in front of millions of television viewers, midway through his act on a popular variety show, Live from Her Majesty’s. Most of the audience thought it was part of his act and continued laughing until it became apparent that he was seriously ill. These two specially compiled collections of timeless clips selected from the Thames Television archives show the ‘comedian’s comedian’ at his best, featuring all his classic routines. DVD extras include a biography and a book of gags. This is essential viewing for all classic comedy fans. ‘No other comic would work with him, he was too good. If you didn’t like Tommy Cooper the comic, you didn’t like comedy’ - Eric Morecambe.

THE KING OF QUEENS: SEASON 1        PARAMOUNT

This clever situation comedy series debuted in 1998 and is currently in its ninth and final season, making it the longest-running American live-action sitcom on the air. Blue-collar couple Doug Heffernan and Carrie Heffernan (Kevin James and Leah Remini) share their home in Rego Park, Queens, New York with Carrie’s idiosyncratic dad, Arthur Spooner (brilliantly played by veteran Jerry Stiller, who was Frank Costanza in Seinfeld). Burly Doug, who makes a living as a parcel deliveryman often has to scheme to find time alone with Carrie, who works as a legal secretary at a large law firm. This is complicated by Arthur, who can be quite a handful - so much so that they hire a dog-walker, Holly (Nicole Sullivan), to look after him. When he’s not working, clashing with Arthur, or spending time with the sexy Carrie, Doug hangs out with his advice-giving buddies Deacon Palmer (Victor Williams), Spence Olchin (Patton Oswalt), and his cousin Danny Heffernan (Gary Valentine). This deceptively simple yet smartly scripted comedy bounces along because Doug, though completely a guy’s guy, constantly struggles to keep the world around him in a delicate emotional balance. Meanwhile, his wife Carrie, though utterly feminine, uses the kind of no-nonsense rational approach that’s usually a man’s province. Add to this mix Carrie’s fussy, self-absorbed father and you’ve got the building blocks for an excellent and durable show. The King of Queens: Season 1 will delight audiences with storylines firmly rooted in the everyday world, with much of the humour centring around Doug and Carrie’s petty neuroses, ill-advised scheming and much juggling of obligations to friends and family. In one classic moment, Doug and Carrie have a furious argument in absolute silence at a cello concert - a scene typical of this hit comedy that fuses deft physicality and well-developed characters with delightful silliness.

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL       UNIVERSAL 8244001

All Creatures Great and Small was the title given to a U.S. book first published in 1972 comprising James Herriot’s first two publications, If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet. The name was borrowed from the second line of the hymn All Things Bright and beautiful, and derived from a suggestion by Herriot’s daughter, who thought the book should be titled Ill Creatures Great and Small. The books were part autobiography and part fiction, based on Herriot’s life as a young veterinary surgeon working in and around Thirsk, Yorkshire just before and during the Second World War. They became hugely successful, inspiring two feature films and this popular television series as well as a lucrative James Herriot tourism industry around Thirsk. For television, Christopher Timothy played James Herriot, the novice vet who joins the practice of Siegfried Farnon (Robert Hardy) and his easygoing brother Tristan (Peter Davison). Set in the fictional Yorkshire Dales town of Darrowby, initially in the 1930s, the programme reflected a much gentler time when life moved at a slower pace. The shows ended in 1980 after three series, with Herriot and Tristan Farnon heading off to World War Two, but public pressure brought about a return for the series in 1988. First rate performances and production values helped ensure that All Creatures Great and Small stand out as a shining example of British television at its best, and this excellent four DVD set from Universal features all 14 episodes from the third series, which finds the vets concerned about the coming war and how life will change in the Dales. The usual characters are featured such as Mrs Pumphrey with Tricky, her hypochondriac poodle, and Dr Bennett who never misses a chance to get the ‘vit’nery’ drunk. This is the most emotional of the three original seasons, with both Siegfried and James eventually called into service and Tristan passing his tests to run the practice on his own merit. Well-crafted scripts, great characters and period details combine with memorable performances (especially by Robert Hardy) to produce one of the most enjoyable television series of all time.

THE BIG BOTTOM COLLECTION       UNIVERSAL 8246909

The early 1990s British television sitcom Bottom was written by and starred Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson as Richard Richard (Richie) and Edward Elizabeth Hitler (Eddie), who share a flat in Hammersmith, West London. The idea for the show came about when, in 1991, Mayall and Edmondson co-starred in a West End production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and decided to create a cruder cousin to this classic play about the pointlessness of life. Bottom went on to ran for three series, and is famous for its extravagantly violent slapstick style. The programme also led to five live theatre shows, in which the performers often (apparently) ad lib and are able to be far cruder than in the television incarnation. This DVD brings together all five live shows plus Best of Bottom Live, a celebration of what were some of the most anarchic, squalid, violent and hilarious comedy tours ever seen, with all the best bits as well as interviews with Rik and Ade’s unlucky neighbours and a ‘making of’ documentary revealing how they managed to sink to such depths of depravity. As an added bonus, the collection also includes the duo’s riotous feature film, Guest House Paradiso, made following the ‘Hooligan’s Island’ tour. Mayall and Edmondson wrote the film’s script and it was directed by Edmondson in 1999. The characters, based on Richie and Eddie, run a filthy hotel next to a nuclear power plant, with guests that include the ubiquitous Bill Nighy and outrageous ‘Mrs Foxfur’ (Fenella Fielding). This anarchic blend of slapstick, farce and abuse is quintessentially British, so it’s no surprise that the public has taken these two head-banging morons to its bosom.

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN & THE BIONIC WOMAN    UNIVERSAL

The Six Million Dollar Man was an American television series about a cyborg working for a U.S. secret service called OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence). Based on the novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin, the show first aired between 1973 and 1978, with Steve Austin ruggedly played by Lee Majors. The background story is the crash of former astronaut Austin in an M2-F2, shown in the opening credits. Severely injured, he is ‘rebuilt’ in an operation that costs six million dollars. His right arm, both legs and left eye are replaced by experimental bionic (cybernetic) implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above the human norm. He uses these enhanced abilities to work as a secret agent and as a guinea pig for bionics, investigating foreign spies, mad scientists, bombers and even space aliens. The second season of Six Million Dollar Man has now been released for the first time on DVD in this six DVD set (Universal Cat No: 8243285), including all 21 episodes and with a total running time of 17hrs 42mins. Steve meets a glamorous blonde (played by his then real-life wife and Charlie’s Angel Farrah Fawcett) and also becomes engaged to former girlfriend, Jaime Sommers (the delightful Lindsay Wagner), who has a near fatal accident when skydiving. She too is cybernetically modified and starred in several successful television series of her own as The Bionic Woman, the second of which is also now released on DVD. These six discs (Universal Cat No: 8243291) contain complete second season of 22 episodes with a running time of 17hrs 32mins. After fully recovering from her near fatal bout of bionic rejection, Jaime is assigned to spy missions of her own. Outfitted with bionic legs, a bionic arm and a bionic ear, she leads a double life as a schoolteacher and an undercover OSI operative. The second season finds her involved in many weird and wonderful missions in which she is forced to become a female wrestler, don a nun’s habit and become the private tutor to a young prince. With their charmingly dated special effects, cold war paranoia and entertaining 1970s clothes, both series provide many hours of slick entertainment and enjoyable nostalgia.

THE COMPLETE RUMBLING HEARTS    REVELATION FILMS FUN72400

Originally a computer adventure game, Rumbling Hearts was later adapted as an anime that first aired in Japan between 2003 and 2004. Regularly voted one of top ten anime films, the complete series is now available first time in this box set of three DVDs. Volume One introduces four high school friends, Haruka, Takayuki, Mitsuki and Shinji. Life’s promise shines brightly on them until an accident leaves Haruka in a coma and her boyfriend, Takayuki, can’t forgive himself. Mitsuki dedicates her life to helping this tragic young man and the pair fall into a guilt-ridden relationship. When Haruka awakens after three years, Takayuki is torn between his unhappy real-life relationship and daydream high school romance. In Rumbling Hearts Volume Two, Haruka’s condition has everyone living out a warped high school daydream, as they are forced to act as if the three years since the accident simply have not occurred. Sworn to uphold the façade for the young girl’s sake, Takayuki spends more and more time at the hospital and his old feelings for first true love begin to resurface and he begins to neglect the reality for the fantasy. In Volume Three, the entire world has gone crazy, with Haruka collapsing back into a coma and Mitsuki leaving Takayuki for good. When Haruka wakes up for the second time, she realises that three years have passed and wants to know why she lost three years. Faced with unpleasant reality, the young girl must have courage enough for them all. Dealing sensitively with big themes such as guilt, friendship and faith, love and betrayal, Rumbling Hearts tells of the silent sufferings of real life. The amazing art work is fluid and smooth and the music helps draw you in the story takes that takes time to show how such a dramatic event can make everyone involved into a victim.

DEPARTMENT S - COMPLETE SERIES SPECIAL EDITION  NETWORK 7952234

The cult espionage/science fiction adventure series Department S was first shown on British television in 1969-70 and starred Peter Wyngarde as flamboyant crime writer Jason King (who later had in his own spin-off series), Joel Fabiani as straight laced action man Stewart Sullivan and Rosemary Nicols as glamorous computer expert Annabelle Hurst. The trio were agents for a fictional special department of Interpol, headed by Sir Curtis Seretse (Dennis Alaba Peters), and attempt to unravel bizarre and inexplicable mysteries which have other police forces beaten. ‘When a case proves too baffling for the minds of Interpol, they turn to the talents of Department S.’ The series was created by the prolific writer Dennis Spooner and producer Monty Berman for ITC, which also produced other 1970s classics such as The Prisoner. Department S is typically quirky and sophisticated, with witty dialogue, unexpected plot twists and excellent performances from a talented cast. The plots are highly inventive – often enjoyably absurd – and invariably feature beautiful women, nostalgic glimpses of 1960s cars and technology such as reel-to-reel tape recorders. This splendid box set from Network includes all 28 episodes (almost 24 hours in all) of this lavishly photographed series. The stories have intriguing titles such as One Of Our Aircraft Is Empty, The Man In The Elegant Room, The Double Death Of Charlie Crippen, A Cellar Full Of Silence and The Bones Of Byrom Blaine. Extras include a new documentary on the making of Department S, with contributions from Joel Fabiani, Rosemary Nicols, Peter Wyngarde, Cyril Frankel and others, plus an extensive image gallery (more than 1300 images, including many behind the scenes) accompanied by a suite of incidental music from the series. Effortlessly entertaining.

THE MORECAMBE AND WISE SHOW   NETWORK 7952274

Morecambe and Wise were Britain’s most famous and successful comic double act, lasting for 43 years until Eric Morecambe’s death in 1984. Morecambe (the tall one with glasses) and Ernie Wise (he of the ‘short, fat, hairy legs’) perfected their characters in the 1970s at the BBC, where their Christmas Day shows became a national institution watched by up to 28 million people, a record that will probably never be broken. Morecambe and Wise subsequently moved back to ITV under contract to Thames Television and made The Morecambe & Wise Show with scripts by themselves, Barry Cryer and John Junkin, and later Eddie Braben. Unseen for many years and available for the first time on this double DVD, The Morecambe & Wise Show - The Thames Years comprises not only their first series for Thames Television in 1980 but also the first four Thames Specials - including three Christmas Shows. Dreadful puns, botched song and dance routines, and a little bit of magic are brought together into hilarious entertainment with the help of showbiz stalwarts such as Hannah Gordon, Hugh Paddick, Deryck Guyler, Gemma Craven, David Frost, Glenda Jackson, Donald Sinden, Judi Dench, Leonard Rossiter and Alec Guinness. Great script writing combined with the comic timing of Eric and Ernie to ensure that The Morecambe & Wise Show stands up to repeated viewing and this DVD is one for all fans of television’s golden age. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, The Morecambe & Wise Show was placed 14th. In 2006, they were voted number two in a poll of TV’s greatest stars.

AGATHA CHRISTIE’S SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY   ACORN AVNE5013

Dame Agatha Christie has been called the best-selling writer of books of all time, and the best-selling writer of any kind together with William Shakespeare. Only the Bible sold more with about 6 billion copies. An estimated four billion copies of her novels have been sold and she is the most translated individual author in the world. Altough she also wrote romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott, she is best remembered for her 80 detective novels and her successful West End theatre plays, including the perennial Mousetrap. Her works, particularly those featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple, earned her the title the ‘Queen of Crime’ and made her one of the most influential writers in the genre. The Seven Dials Mystery was first published in 1929 and brings back the characters from an earlier Christie novel, The Secret of Chimneys. Two mysterious deaths mar an otherwise pleasant weekend in the English countryside, unflappable flapper Lady Eileen Brent teams up with the dashing Jimmy Thesinger to solve the dastardly deeds. Their sleuthing leads them into a world of espionage and international intrigue as they discover a secret society known as The Seven Dials and the attempted theft of top-secret government documents. The typical Christie plot involves a mysterious formula, shots in the night, a sumptuous country house, vintage cars, and people called Pongo and Bundle. Following the success of their version of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans the previous year, The Seven Dials Mystery was adapted by London Weekend Television as a drama and transmitted in 1981. The large cat enjoy themselves immensely and there are splendid performances by Cheryl Campbell as the delightfully sparky Lady Eileen Brent, Harry Andrews as wily Supt. Battle, Terence Alexander, Joyce Redman (a hoot as Lady Coote), Leslie Sands, James Warwick, Brian Wilde as a wonderfully dubious butler Tredwell, and Sir John Gielgud, all too briefly, as the Marquis of Caterhan. DVD extras include filmographies of the main actors and an Agatha Christie biography.

HETTY WAINTHROPP INVESTIGATES - SERIES IV    ACORN AV9619

Gently amusing, occasionally dramatic, quirky English television series starred national treasure Patricia Routledge as the sprightly Hetty Wainthropp, a retired working-class woman who has a knack for jumping to conclusions and solving crimes of varying bafflement which are often too minor to concern the police. was First broadcast in 1996 by the BBC, the series was based on characters from the novel Missing Persons by David Cook, who co-wrote the series with John Bowen. The incidents in the book were inspired by his own mother’s real-life experiences. Hetty Wainthropp, a sprightly, intelligent pensioner looking for a new challenge, decides to become a private investigator much to the disapproval of her husband Robert. Once she has made up her mind she becomes an unstoppable force as she gads about the Lancashire countryside with local teenager Geoffrey in search of resolution and justice, armed with little more than her pocketbook and undaunted common-sense. This double DVD contains all six episodes of the fourth series, with the Wainthropp Detective Agency busier than ever as Hetty and Geoffrey help a miner’s widow search for a book her husband was working on at the time of his death and then when a friend’s husband is brutally attacked in a pub washroom, Hetty tries to deduce whether it was a random attack or whether the man provoked it. Our sleuth is reunited with her long-lost cousin, but their happy reunion is short-lived when she stumbles across a criminal plot. Patricia Routledge, best known for her work with Alan Bennett and as Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances, is in determined form as Hetty and receives sturdy support from Derek Benfield as her patient husband and Dominic Monaghan as Robert. Nigel Hess composed the music, which in 1997 was awarded the Ivor Novello Award for best television theme.

DARK KNIGHT, 1        BLUE DOLPHIN BDVD2005

Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel Ivanhoe, written in 1819 and set in 12th century England, tells the story of Wilfred of Ivanhoe, son of a Saxon family. He falls out of favour with his father due to his unsuitable courting of a Saxon Princess named Rowena and his allegiance to the Norman king Richard I of England. There have been many subsequent adaptations of the Ivanhoe legend and Dark Knight is a radical re-imagining that adds fantastical, supernatural elements to an already captivating story. Ancient evil is about to be unleashed on the land and the only hope is the sharp sword, the pure heart and the mysterious force that protects the ‘Chosen One’, Ivanhoe. Set in the dark ages, a time of fear, magic and mystery, Dark Knight shows its hero battling tyranny, oppression and a legion of terrifying, magical and hellish creatures as he attempts to restore King Richard to the throne and bring peace to England. This spectacular sword and sorcery television adventure series of was made in New Zealand, using extensive CGI to create a magical world filled with elves and goblins, as well as monsters from the underworld. Ben Pullen stars as Sir Ivanhoe of Rotherwood, with the beautiful Charlotte Comer as Rebecca, Peter O’Farrell as the ex-sorcerer’s comical apprentice Odo, Cameron Rhodes as the despicable Prince John and Jeffrey Thomas as evil necromancer Mordour. With brisk storytelling, exotic locations, stunning costumes and fine action sequences, Dark Knight has become cult viewing and this three-DVD set brings all twelve episodes of the first series together for the first time. Brilliantly filmed, this is a highly enjoyable romp through the dark ages will delight fans of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and Xena: Warrior Princess.

TIME TEAM DIGS - A HISTORY OF BRITAIN  D D HOME ENTERTAINMENT DD21502

In the hugely popular Time Team history programme on Channel 4, Tony Robinson and his team investigate archaeological sites around the UK. Each dig has three days to uncover to piece together as much evidence as possible in order to build a picture of the people living in Britain through the last 6000 years. Even the most mundane digs are given an entertaining slant by this accessible format and in thr right hands even a few pottery fragments can reveal a fascinating picture of a pre-historic culture. Time Team Digs - A History of Britain shows a complete chronological history of life in the the British Isels, from the Bronze and Neolithic age up to Medieval times. Each of the eight episodes describes a different epoch and uses the finds of Time Team digs to produce an outline of life at the time. Ten hours of content ensures that most of the best bits from the series are included, along with extras that haven’t previously been seen. Anyone who enjoys Time Team on TV, as millions have done every week, will find this an entertaining release and excellent value.

GREAT AUTHORS - CHARLES DICKENS        OPUS ARTE OA 0876 D

This comprehensive DVD set devotes over eight hours to an enjoyable exploration of the phenomenal life, times and work of Charles Dickens. Much about the great Victorian author’s amazing life remains unknown but what we have is a fascinating rags to riches story; complete with bankruptcy, prison, forced child labour, followed by fame and fortune, always overshadowed by guilt and secrecy. On the first disc, ‘Uncovering the Real Dickens’, Peter Ackroyd presents a mix of documentary and dramatic reconstruction, vividly recreating the author’s life. Disc two features a brilliant 1999 BBC three-hour televised version of David Copperfield. The third disc includes ‘A Christmas Carol’, where at Dickens’ house a group of his friends and relatives attend a private performance of the classic Christmas story, with an authentic dramatisation by Anton Lesser as the novelist. In ‘Songs from Grope Lane’, 12-year old Dickens escapes his miserable daily life in a brief spell of raucous tavern entertainment. The making of ‘Uncovering the Real Dickens’ is a revealing look behind the scenes of this production. ‘Anton Lesser made an emotionally charged, almost tremulous, Dickens, especially recreating the writer's inspirational public readings’ - The Times.

JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH - 500 BUS STOPS   CHIC KEN DVD010

John ShuttleworthJohn Shuttleworth is an aspiring singer/songwriter in his late 50s from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, with a quiet manner and slightly nerdish tendencies. His musical talents are usually expressed through his Yamaha PSS portable keyboard, and include such greats as the classic ballad, Pigeons in Flight – a song which he attempted to have selected for the Eurovision Song Contest. Supporting characters in John’s world include his waspish wife Mary (a professional dinner lady whose hobbies include Step Class) and Malibu-drinking next-door neighbour Ken Worthington, who is John’s sole agent as well as an impresario. He was also TV’s Clarinet Man, traumatised by coming last on New Faces in 1973. John and Mary’s daughter, Karen, plays the recorder and their son, Darren, works for Victoria Wine (Augustus Barnett having failed to poach him from his employers). Not to mention Joan Chitty (work colleague and on/off friend of Mary, qualified as a physio some years ago), Doreen Melody (owner of the camper van which John and Mary borrow for their holidays), Julie Satan (Leeds based personality singer and client of Ken), Alan the Opera Singer (another of Ken’s clients, who sang on ‘Up And Down like A Bride’s Nightie’), Joyce (widow from Hope - keen on gardening but doesn’t have a garden) and Rhiannon (Ken’s ex-wife, who left him for a builder, taking everything but two wicker chairs). All these quintessentially English characters and more are the inspiration of comic genius Graham Fellows, who first came to fame as ‘Jilted John’ with a novelty hit single in 1978. John Shuttleworth and his hilariously mundane crew have featured in television and radio shows such as The Shuttleworths and Radio Shuttleworth, with Fellows supplying all the voices and performing his own compositions on the Yamaha organ. This four-part television series, 500 Bus Stops (a reference to Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels), is a no holds barred ‘rockumentary’ about John’s ill-fated UK national tour, filmed by the incompetent Ken. The early demise of John’s revered Y-Reg Austin Ambassador meant that the tour mostly took place by means of public transport, and the venues visited often fail to inspire. This is beautifully observed humour, gently poking fun at its lovable main character yet always aware of his tragi-comic predicament. John Shuttleworth’s other memorable adventures on DVD include EUROPIGEON (YREG1DVD), which documents his quest to enter the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest. This has a long list of extras, such as appearances on Saturday Zoo, ‘Catch The Fox’ on Packing ’Em In, John Does The Riverdance (remarkably well, as it happens), ‘I Don’t Want To Dance’ with Richard Whiteley, Later With Jools, The Paradise Club and ‘5 Essential Don’ts For Aspiring Artistes’. In ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVY (LAFFDVD0176), filmed live on stage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire during his 2001 tour, John performs many favourite songs, old and new, and takes a serious look at such important issues as flooding, earthquakes, fleeces, Richard E. Grant and the little cardboard trays no longer found in Bounty bars. Brian Appleton, a rock musicologist and media studies lecturer from a college of further education in the Newcastle-under-Lyme area, makes a welcome guest appearance. In his acclaimed debut feature film, IT’S NICE UP NORTH (CHIC KEN DVD011), John travels to the Shetland Islands to test his theory that the further north you go the nicer people get - Shetland being the most northern part of the United Kingdom. He meets various real Shetland people en route, including a ubiquitous local tour guide, Elma Johnson. DVD extras include deleted scenes and a poignant animated short, Unaccompanied Lady.

THE GREAT INDIAN WARS 1540-1890   DELTA 86240

The indigenous Native American peoples of what is now the United States comprise a large number of distinct tribes, states and ethnic groups, many of which still endure as political communities. The year 1540 was a crucial turning point in American history, when the Great Indian Wars were incited by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado when his expedition to the Great Plains launched the inevitable 350 year struggle between the white man and the American Indians. From that point forward, the series of battles between the United States and the Native American Indians began where blood was shed and ultimately tens of thousands of lives were lost on both sides. The Battle of Tippecanoe, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, all three Seminole Wars and the Battle of Little Big Horn were some of the most important conflicts that led up to the last massacre, the Battle of Wounded Knee, where America’s landscape would be forever changed. This comprehensive three DVD set documents the true and often heartbreaking story of America’s Indian Wars in the bad old days of the wild west, when there were atrocities as well as heroes on both sides. The bloody struggle between the white man and the American Indians is told in an informative, entertaining and balanced way that reveals the depth of this sad strand in the country’s history. Extras include a gallery of rare photographs and maps as well as biographies of notable participants such as Tecumseh, Colonel Custer, Black Kettle, Wild Bill Hickock, Crazy Horse, Kit Carson, Geronimo and Sitting Bull.

THE COMMANDER  ACORN AV9671

Amanda Burton first came to the attention of British television in early episodes of Brookside and she has subsequently gained an even bigger following by starring in highly successful series such as Peak Practice and Silent Witness. Most recently, she has been Commander Clare Blake in Lynda La Plante’s gritty and well-crafted crime drama, The Commander. Clare Blake is a strong and capable police officer who has fought her way to the top of the male dominated Metropolitan Police Service. Hard nosed and in control, she investigates tragic deaths and mysterious murders while struggling to stay on top. The Devil You Know deals with a distressing case that arises when the body of a two-year old girl is found sealed inside an oil drum in a derelict mental hospital. As the search for the main suspect intensifies, Commander Blake is forced to make tough decisions while struggling to assert her authority. In Fraudster, a millionaire businessman comes to a suspicious end in his swimming pool days after being arrested by the Serious Fraud Office. The investigation reveals his hidden life, riddled with affairs, lies and deceit. Windows of The Soul sees the brutal murder of a priest on a grim and volatile East London estate. Suspicion falls on a talented fighter from the local boxing club but Blake and DCI James, excellently played by Mark Lewis Jones, find themselves at odds over the boxer’s innocence. DVD extras include: a biography of writer Lynda La Plante, cast filmographies and picture galleriesTONY HANCOCK - THE COMPLETE COLLECTION   BBCDVD2168

Hancock‘Stone me, what a life!’ Anthony John Hancock was born in 1924 in Hall Green, Birmingham, but from the age of three was brought up in Bournemouth, where his father ran the Railway Hotel and worked as a comedian and entertainer. Tony left school at the age of fifteen and after failing his audition for ENSA ended up with The Ralph Reader Gang Show, which led to work in radio programmes such as Workers’ Playtime and Educating Archie. In 1954 he was given his own BBC radio show, Hancock’s Half Hour, scripted by the great Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. This became a huge hit as the lugubrious, misunderstood genius Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock spent five years and over a hundred episodes living in East Cheam’s shabby Railway Cuttings. The show transferred triumphantly to television in 1957, making Hancock an even bigger star. Experienced film actor Sid James became increasingly important in the show, with his down to earth approach always ready to puncture Hancock’s pretensions. Tony Hancock began to feel that his work with the incomparable James was turning them into a double act, so his last BBC series in 1961 was made without him. Despite this, the series included many of Hancock’s most memorable shows, such as The Blood Donor and The Radio Ham, where Hancock enters the world of the amateur wireless buff only to find he has to deal with a mayday call from a ship in distress. Sadly, his highly strung personality and alcoholism caused increasing difficulties in his private and professional lives and brought about his death aged only 45. This definitive DVD collection features all 39 surviving episodes of the Hancock’s Half-Hour and Hancock television shows. The boxset also includes many extras, such as John Freeman’s revealing in-depth ‘Face To Face’ interview with Hancock, audio commentaries featuring Ray Galton, Alan Simpson and Paul Merton on three episodes, and missing scripts from several Half-Hours. Essential viewing and a splendid tribute to the lad himself.

BRITAIN’S LOST ROUTES   ACORN AV3011

This excellent four-part BBC documentary series sees Griff Rhys Jones setting out on an epic adventure to uncover the lost routes across Britain that have shaped the country’s landscape and history. Britain was once a difficult country to travel, with few roads and obscure paths. Yet for pleasure, profit and piety our ancestors travelled from one end of the country to the other along a vast network of routes spread throughout the nation. Jones follows four routes; each one associated with the historic movement of people, trade or commodities, and along the way he provides his own perspective on contemporary British life. By walking a Welsh pilgrim’s route, transporting hay around the Essex coast, recreating a Tudor Royal Progression and driving cattle across Scotland he explores the landscapes and meets the people who inhabit them today. From the luxury of a Rolls Royce to the more basic surroundings of a barge, from transporting a bus-load of contemporary pilgrims to the perils of moving a cow, Griff Rhys Jones gets to grips with exactly how our ancestors journeyed from place to place - and how they amused themselves en-route. With his unending curiosity and inherent wit, he investigates the stories of those who travelled these now forgotten paths and considers the cultural as well as environmental impact they have had on the history of Britain. Jones is an engaging and often intrepid guide and this beautifully photographed series brings history painlessly to life. The journey through Wales with an odd and endearing bunch of modern pilgrims is a particular delight. Highly recommended.

THE GOLDEN BOWL  ACORN AV3020

Henry James’s complex 1904 novel, The Golden Bowl, is set in England and Italy during the first decade of the twentieth century and explores the tangle of relationships between a father, his pretty daughter and their respective spouses. Impoverished Italian aristocrat Prince Amerigo is to marry Maggie, devoted daughter of American tycoon and art collector Adam Verver. The Prince has a lover, Charlotte Stant, who by a strange twist of fate marries Adam Verver, so that the lives of the four people become almost incestuously entwined into one family. This acclaimed BBC television adaptation by Jack Pulman shows how a damaged golden bowl reflects the truth in a hidden relationship and redirects the lives of all the characters into whose hands it has been placed. Daniel Massey is the charismatic Prince, Jill Townsend is the attractive Charlotte, and the fine cast also includes Barry Morse, Gayle Hunnicutt and the wonderful Cyril Cusack as a beguiling storyteller. The Golden Bowl joins The Portrait of a Lady and The Spoils of Poynton in The Henry James Collection from Acorn Media.

THE SIMPSONS SEASON 12  TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Matt Groening’s fabulously successful animated sitcom is a brilliant satirical parody of Middle American lifestyle. Starring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie and set in the fictional town of Springfield, the show exuberantly lampoons the human condition, popular culture, society in general and television in particular. The family was conceived by Groening for a series of animated shorts with the producer James L. Brooks and named after members of Groening’s own family, substituting Bart for his own name. The shorts became part of The Tracey Ullman Show before being developed into a half-hour prime time show that launched in 1989 and became an instant hit. Since then well over 400 episodes have been broadcast and The Simpsons has won countless awards, including 25 Emmies. Time magazine named this the 20th century’s best television series and it has become America’s longest-running sitcom as well as its most durable animated show. This DVD set from Fox features the complete SIMPSONS SEASON 12 released in limited edition packaging in the shape of Comic-book Guy’s head. The 21 episodes include such classics as ‘The Computer Wore Menace Shoes’ with guest voice Patrick McGoohan (Homer creates his own website and uses it to spread gossip, but gets sent to a weird island where people who know too much are imprisoned), ‘HOMR’ (in which Homer becomes temporarily intelligent after doctors discover a crayon lodged in his brain), ‘Worst Episode Ever’ (Bart and Milhouse are hired as his replacements at the Android’s Dungeon when Comic-book Guy has a heart attack), ‘Hungry, Hungry Homer’ with guest Stacy Keach (Homer goes on hunger strike after the owner of the Springfield Isotopes attempts to discredit him when he discovers a plot to move the team to Albuquerque, and ‘Simpsons Tall Tales’ (the family meet a singing hobo who tells them three tall tales in which Homer is Paul Bunyan, Lisa becomes Connie Appleseed and Bart is Tom Sawyer to Nelson’s Huckleberry Finn). THE SIMPSONS: COMPLETE SEASON 11 (TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX 2251560) followed the success of The Simpsons Movie, featuring America’s favourite dysfunctional family. The 22 episodes include guest stars such as Mel Gibson, Lucy Lawless, Kid Rock, Tim Robbins, John Goodman, Parker Posey, Willie Nelson and Britney Spears. Among many extras are an introduction from Matt Groening; audio commentaries on every episode with Groening and executive producers, writers, actors and directors; deleted scenes; animation showcases; original sketches; special language feature; featurettes, including footage of The Simpsons receiving their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Excellenttt...

SMALLVILLE: THE FINAL SEASON   WARNER HOME VIDEO

Watch Clark Kent come of age as the tenth and final season of Smallville is released on DVD and Blu-ray alongside the Complete Season 1-10 Box Set. This intriguing and intelligent modern retelling of Superman’s legendary origin blends realism, action, heart and humour as Clark Kent (the excellent Tom Welling) soars toward claiming his birthright. Over the past ten years, Smallville has explored Clark Kent’s teen years in a recognisable real-world setting, dealing with angst and conflict as he struggles to find his true identity. Season 10 opens with him awakening from a near-death experience, haunted by the ghosts of his past, both friend and foe. Given a new lease of life, he must find a way to rid himself of every last temptation and become the beacon of hope the world needs as he transforms into Superman. A real threat from his past challenges his ascent, causing him to question the nature of his crusade, and Lois Lane (Erica Durance) faces a crisis of her own as she tries to keep the mild-mannered reporter at arm’s length. In this final series, the outstanding regular cast are joined by Hollywood guest stars such as Teri Hatcher and Terence Stamp as the legendary DC Comics superhero says goodbye to Smallville in some of the show’s most exciting episodes leading up to an amazing finale. Special features with this box set include a commentary from the writers, producers and directors of the series; Back in the Jacket: A Smallville Homecoming featurette; The Son Becomes the Father featurette; ‘How Do We Do’ music video; deleted scenes.

BILL BRAND - THE COMPLETE SERIES  NETWORK 7953605

Bill BrandThe BAFTA-nominated Bill Brand is an intelligent, groundbreaking political drama written by Oscar-nominated dramatist Trevor Griffiths and starring Jack Shepherd as a newly elected left-of-centre Labour MP. He struggles to reconcile his socialist principles with the realpolitik of Westminster but is determined to improve the lives of his textile-worker constituents. This inevitably brings him into conflict with the whips, his constituency party and his own conscience, in a world of oblique negotiations and hidden bargains. Brand’s fundamental belief in the Party is assailed by doubts, while his troubled personal life further endangers his tenuous political career. Shepherd is superb in the title role of this challenging, epic British drama, giving a sensitive, thoughtful and engaging performance throughout. The series, produced by Thames Television in 1976, also stars Lynn Farleigh, Alan Badel, Arthur Lowe, Rosemary Martin, Cherie Lunghi and Colin Jeavons.

BAR MITZVAH BOY  ACORN AV9851 

Bar Mitzvah BoyProlific author Jack Rosenthal’s outstanding ‘Play for Today’, directed by Michael Tuchner, tells the story of a young Jewish boy, Eliott Green (played by Jeremy Steyn), in a lower middle class family living in Britain during the 1970s, and the apprehensions the boy feels over his forthcoming Bar Mitzvah, when a boy becomes a man and the party that celebrates it is the event of a lifetime. For his mother, Rita (Maria Charles in a spectacular hairdo), it’s a grand stage on which to present the accomplishments of her family to a waiting world. To her husband Victor (Bernard Spear), it’s an expensive party that gets more expensive every day. To Lesley, his sister (the excellent Adrienne Posta), it means endless responsibility and pouring oil like a troubled daughter. To Grandad Wax (Cyril Shaps) it’s tradition, and to Rabbi Sherman (Jack Lynn) it’s another Shabbat, another Bar Mitzvah over and time to put his feet up - or so he thinks... Warm, funny, insightful and beautifully observed, Bar Mitzvah Boy is rich in universal humour and created some of Jack Rosenthal’s most memorable characters. This new DVD release comes with an introduction by his widow, Maureen Lipman.

THE LAKES  SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3230

The LakesJohn Simm gives an electrifying lead performance as gambling addict Danny Kavanagh in one this complex, controversial and gripping series written by the great Jimmy McGovern. Leaving the dole queues and an unpromising home life of Liverpool behind him, Danny heads off to make a fresh start in the Lake District. He soon finds work in a hotel, falls in love with a local girl and settles into the off-duty booze and sex culture of his new life. This is rocked when a series of events shatter the close-knit local community and Danny find himself implicated in the tragedy and emotional turmoil that result. The Lakes is an intelligent, influential and superbly acted BBC drama from the 1990s that remains just as challenging and exhilarating today. The Complete Series One and Two are now available on this four-disc set with special features that include First Episode commentaries by John Simm and director David Blair. Essential viewing.

WATERLOO ROAD - SERIES SEVEN  ACORN AV9894

Waterloo RoadThis award-winning British television drama series is set in and around a fictional comprehensive school in Rochdale. The students, aged 11 to 18, are notorious for bad behaviour, and their teachers aren’t much better, but each new head has strived to improve the school’s reputation. In between the love affairs, friendships, rivalries, drinking and drug-taking, Waterloo Road has confronted social issues such as abortion, divorce, cancer, suicide, gang warfare and knife crime. Series Seven, Spring Term, finds new head teacher Michael Byrne arriving at the school having survived a brutal stabbing incident, possibly from a former pupil. Greeting him are Waterloo Road’s hardcore staff, Tom, Grantly and Chalky, along with new faces Jeremy ‘Jezz’ Diamond (football star turned PE teacher) and his wife Sian as well as an old companion of Michael’s, English teacher Linda Radleigh. New students include Phoenix and Harly Taylor, twins Shona and Rhona Mansfield, and Tariq and his sister Trudi. All is set up for some unpredictable mayhem in the life of Waterloo Road, with Michael constantly at risk from his young attacker and an unfinished relationship with Sian, not to mention a one-night stand that finds him open to much greater risk. More trouble comes as Finn is attracted to young muslim Trudi and Vicki and Ronan’s rocky relationship finally hits the rocks. With old boys becoming new threats, parent evenings, orchestras, student prize-givings and a live radio broadcast from the heart of the school, it seems there’s a ticking time-bomb at every turn. This enjoyable mix features a lively cast that includes Alec Newman as Michael Byrne, Philip Martin Brown, the ever reliable Mark Benton, Jason Done, Alec Newman, the excellent Sarah Hadland as brittle Linda Radleigh, Alex Walkinshaw as Jezz and Jaye Jacobs as beautiful Sian. Originally commissioned for the BBC in 2006, Waterloo Road has gone from strength to strength, pulling in excess of 6 million viewers per episode. Series Seven keeps the pace breathless and the energy at its peak.

THE SPOILS OF POYNTON    ACORN AV3022

Spoils of PoyntonHenry James’s classic novel, The Spoils of Poynton, was first published as a book in 1897. With subtly ironc humour it describes the struggle between the widowed Mrs Adela Gereth, a woman of impeccable taste and iron will, and her son Owen over the destiny of a houseful of precious antique furniture and art. The story is largely told from the viewpoint of the sensitive Fleda Vetch (James was never great at names), who is in love with Owen but sympathetic to Mrs Gereth’s obsession over losing the antiques she lovingly collected. Mrs Gereth wishes to stop Owen from marrying the coarse Mona Brigstock and hopes that he will instead choose the seemingly innocent Fleda. Passions seethe beneath the icy politeness as valued possessions become playing pieces in a manipulative battle of wills that can only end badly. Following on from The Portrait of a Lady, this release in Acorn’s Henry James Collection features a compelling BBC Television adaptation from 1996 of The Spoils of Poynton. Gemma Jones is perfect as the not so innocent Fleda and Pauline Jameson is a formidable Mrs Gereth, reminiscent of Lady Bracknell. Diane Fletcher plays the tasteless Mona and Ian Ogilvy convinces as the ineffectual, wayward Owen. Highly recommended.

THE PAUL TEMPLE - BLACK & WHITE COLLECTION  ACORN AV9871

Paul TempleFrancis Durbridge created the character of amateur private detective and best selling crime fiction writer Paul Temple in 1938 for a BBC radio serial called Send for Paul Temple. Together with his journalist wife Louise Temple, affectionately known as ‘Steve’, he deftly solves crimes using deductive reasoning, humorous dialogue and occasional fisticuffs when required. Between 1938 and 2011, the Temples appeared in more than 30 BBC radio dramas, 12 German radio serials, a BBC television series with memorable theme music by Ron Grainer, a German animated series, four feature films, several novels and a long-running comic strip in the London Evening News. Stylish, cool, incisive - and always protective of his loving wife - Paul Temple was a cross between Miss Marple and Poirot, with the slick cutting-edge style of The Saint. This two-disc DVD set features the final five episodes from the immensely popular BBC TV series starring suave Francis Matthews as Temple, with Ros Drinkwater as the sparky Steve and George Sewell as former villain Sammy Carson, perfectly encapsulating crime-busting sophistication 70s style. The skilfully plotted episodes included are The Guilty Must Die; Game, Set and Match; Long Ride to Red Gap; Winner Takes All; and Critics, Yes! But This is Ridiculous! - essential viewing for retro-detective and thriller fans everywhere. Extras include a Francis Durbridge biography and filmographies of the cast.

INSPECTOR MONTALBANO    ACORN AV9780

Inspector MontalbanoBased on the bestselling novels of Andrea Camilleri, this gripping Italian TV series features Luca Zingaretti as astute and unorthodox Commissario Salvo Montalbano. Operating within Italy’s precarious justice system, irascible detective is immersed in a world of murder, betrayal, temptation and politics - the latter proving as dangerous as any of the former. As he solves crimes in the fictional town of Vigata, Sicily, Montalbano has to balance his relationships with girlfriend Livia and his family, often failing to resist the seductive qualities of fine Italian food. Sicily’s stunning landscapes and architecture, steeped in history and culture, look stunning in the brilliant Mediterranean light and this beautifully paced series will be welcomed by those who miss the sadly short-lived BBC’s Zen stories, based on the books of Michael Didbin. This first collection of Inspector Montalbano features four feature-length episodes now available on a generous double DVD set. Extras include an Andrea Camilleri biography as well as introductory text by Dr Eric Haywood, head of Italian Studies at University College Dublin, a picture gallery and subtitles.

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY    ACORN AV3021

Portrait of a LadyAdapted for the screen by Jack Pulman, this superb 1968 adaptation launches Acorn Media’s Henry James Collection. The Portrait of a Lady is a powerful and dramatic classic starring Suzanne Neve as the spirited young heroine, Isabel Archer. On the death of her father, Isabel refuses the hand of Mr Goodwood and leaves her married sisters for Europe, stubborn, independent, and in the company of her rich eccentric Aunt Lydia (Beatrix Lehmann). Welcomed into the bosom of her aunt’s family, she is soon befriended by her elegant cousin Ralph (Richard Chamberlain) who respects and admires her spirit. Ralph persuades his father, on the aged man’s deathbed, to divert half his fortune to Isabel, while he watches to see what she makes of her now fully-funded freedom. The choices she makes, both good and bad, have a deep and long-lasting impact on those around her, arousing much passion and weighted with much grief. In his book ‘The Realists’, author C P Snow described this gripping and compelling production as ‘a supreme television achievement, aesthetically and in all other ways.’ Richard Chamberlain is excellent as always and Pulman’s script brilliantly captures the Jamesian world. This adaptation also stars Edward Fox as the bored Lord Warburton, James Maxwell as villainous Gilbert Osmond, Rachel Gurney as the devious but charming Madame Merle, and Kathleen Byron as Countess Gemini.

GARROW’S LAW, SERIES 3  ACORN AV3031

Garrow's Law, series 3Set in the Old Bailey of Georgian London, Garrow’s Law is a fascinating legal series created by Tony Marchant and inspired by the true story of young, idealistic barrister William Garrow. In a time when corruption was rife in the notoriously harsh legal system, where over-zealous bounty hunters who could earn rewards for hangings would often manufacture evidence against innocent people. Garrow fought against such injustice by pioneering the rigorous cross-examination of prosecution. Andrew Buchan stars as the ground-breaking legal maverick, with Alun Armstrong as his mentor John Southouse and Lyndsey Marshal as Lady Sarah Hill, his forbidden love interest. Following SERIES 1 & 2, Series Three starts as the French Revolution turns Europe upside down, new philosophies, new passions and new demands sweep through England. Attempted regicide, industrial sabotage, colonial brutality, police intimidation and election rigging are all on trial as the Establishment battles to retain their grip on the status quo. In his personal life - lived very much on the public stage - Garrow, caught up in an irregular relationship with Lady Sarah Hill, now finds himself ostracised and impoverished. It is a time when both British Law and William Garrow will be mercilessly tested. Special features include Garrow’s law: From Dawn to Dusk (a documentary with cast and crew interviews), cast filmographies, and a picture gallery. ‘William Garrow is my new hero.’ - The Guardian.

SECRET BRITAIN  ACORN AV3036

Secret BritainThis BBC1 series is presented by the adventurous Julia Bradbury and Matt Baker (of Countryfile fame) and explores some of the UK’s hidden corners, such as deserted beaches and tumbling waterfalls, showcasing the best of what the British countryside has to offer. This two disc set contains all four episodes from the series: The first episode, The Crowded South, starts in Cornwall and travels east as far as Dover. The Hidden Heart begins in the flatlands of East Anglia and ends at the wild, rugged Welsh coast. True North takes us north from Derbyshire to the coast of County Durham. The final episode, Borderlands and Beyond, sets off from the borders and reaches the North West point of Britain. From Pentire Point to Langdon Bay; from Heigham Holmes to Castlemartin Range; from Fin Cop Hillfort to Castle Eden Dene; and from College Valley to Cape Wrath. Local experts and members of the public add their often poignant comments as the presenters take in an extraordinary range of pikes and fells, coves and commons. Secret Britain offers a rich visual smorgasbord that lets you see these fascinating and stunning landscapes afresh.

CITIZEN JAMES  ACORN AV9880

Citizen JamesWhen Tony Hancock decided for artistic reasons to stop working with his close friend comedy sparring partner he let the BBC tell Sid James the news. James, who had always been supportive and heled Hancock make the transition from radio to television, was understandably hurt. As compensation, the BBC offered him his own sitcom series, Citizen James, written by Alan Simpson and Ray Galton and also starring another former Hancock cohort, Bill Kerr. The first series was set around ‘Charlie’s Nosh Bar’, a cafe in Soho, and concerned Sid’s get-rich-quick schemes. He is helped by ‘Billy the Kerr’ and frequently frustrated by the local bookmaker Albert Welshman (the excellent Sydney Tafler). Liz Fraser played Sid’s long-suffering girlfriend who has been waiting for seven years for him to set the date for their wedding. Changes were made to the format after the first series as James became something of a people’s champion, campaigning for social justice, and Bill Kerr and Liz Fraser left. Tafler played a different character, Charlie Davenport, who together with Sid takes on teenagers, watch dogs, trial by jury and a very crusty loaf. The second and third series were written by Morecambe & Wise scriptwriters Sid Green and Dick Hills, who often gave the characters Johnny Speight-like dialogue. This double DVD set features the only known surviving episodes and comprise the complete Series One, along with two episodes each from Series Two and Three. Extras include an entertaining interview with Liz Fraser, cast filmographies, and Galton and Simpson’s comments on the series.

LOST KINGDOMS OF AFRICA   ACORN AV9870

Lost Kingdoms of AfricaThis eye-opening, four-part series became the highest-rated factual show ever when it first aired on BBC Four and then on BBC Two. The series reaches back in time to explore extraordinary realms that rivalled Egypt, buildings as inspiring as medieval cathedrals, and art that speaks across the centuries. Lost Kingdoms of Africa casts new light on a long-neglected area of the world’s cultural heritage. In the first programme, presenter Gus Casely-Hayford explores Nubia, starting in the desert north of Khartoum and journeying to the ancient sites of Kerma, Jebel Barkal and Meroë, parts of a long-lost kingdom that may have fallen victim to climate change. In Ethiopia, he asks whether the emperors of Ethiopia really did descend from the Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba as he surveys Judeo-Christian influences in the land’s art, language and architecture which date back centuries. Shrouded in mystery, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe rise from an unlikely spot in Africa’s interior and we trace an ancient gold-trading route inland from the eastern coast, exploring the city that served as its source. a we see how the magnificent Benin bronzes in the British Museum inspire a quest for their origin in modern-day Nigeria and Mali, where the art of fine metalworking has thrived for generations. Special features with this double DVD set include picture galleries shot on location and a biography of Gus Casely-Hayford, a PhD in African history from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

RED LETTER DAY - THE COMPLETE SERIES  NETWORK 793538

Red Letter DayThis television series from 1976 focuses on days of unusual significance, perhaps a turning point in career, romance or fortune. Each play and film is as individual as the people and events portrayed, and features outstanding writing by the likes of Jack Rosenthal and Donald Churchill. In the brilliant Ready When You Are, Mr McGill, directed by Mike Newell, a film extra has a chance for the big break in his career with two crucial lines in a television film, but nothing goes according to plan. ‘I’ve never seen that young Lady in my life before, and I’ve lived here fifty years’. Jack Shepherd is hilarious as the stressed director, Mark Wing-Davey cleverly underplays his assistant and Marty Cruickshank is wonderful as the leading lady, shivering bravely in the rain as comical mishaps accumulate and mounting chaos ensues. The Five Pound Orange, features terrific performances by Peter Barkworth as middle-aged Gilbert’s fantasy of a mistress turns from wistful pipe-dream into reality, though he becomes uncomfortable when his mistress (the wickedly persuasive Sara Badel) forces him to burgle his wife’s flat. In Well Thank You, Thursday, registrar Miss Shepherd (Judy Parfitt) gets a new desk but things don’t go entirely as expected. The cast also includes Andrew Ray, Richard Griffiths in a minor role and Frank Crompton, funny and touching as the recently bereaved Mr Crabtree. Amazing Stories is a weird sci-fi tale of a family who are apparently being taken over by vegetables, disguising a message for mankind. In Matchfit, written by Willis Hall and based on a story by Brian Glanville, a grumpy Scottish soccer boss with a grudge (Roddy McMillan) meets a young fan in a TB sanatorium and juggles two women, his wife and his mistress (an early role for national treasure Anne Reid). For Services to Myself stars Alan Dobie as a man torn between staying true to his socialist beliefs and accepting an honour from the Queen. Bag of Yeast, written by and starring Neville Smith, tells the story of a teacher who leaves his job to become a priest. The film also stars Liverpool stalwarts Bill Dean and Peter Kerrigan and features an early role for Alison Steadman. The complete series of Red Letter Day is now available on this excellent two-disc set.

THE ARTHUR HAYNES SHOW, VOLUME 2  NETWORK 7953442

Arthur Haynes ShowThe Arthur Haynes Show has been the subject of a Paul Merton documentary on BBC4 and Haynes is held in high esteem by many old school and new wave comedians. Reigning supreme for almost a decade on ITV, he was as popular as Tony Hancock and his show ran to over 150 editions. His robust working-class delivery, often with a wickedly mischievous glint in his eye, was inspired, especially in the roguish character of Hobo Haynes - a belligerent, heavily decorated tramp fond of recounting tales of patriotic bravery whilst being ‘up to me neck in muck and bullets’. Invariably tormenting Nicholas Parsons, who would frequently break up with laughter, Arthur Haynes became one of television’s best loved and highest paid stars. The brilliant scripts are by the Johnny Speight and there are exuberant musical interludes by droll pianist Ken Morris and his vivacious wife, Joan Savage, a soubrette who could sing, dance, pull comedy faces, wink and put out her tongue all at the same time. These shows remained firmly in the top ten until Haynes’s untimely death in 1966 robbed the world of a comedy genius. Lack of repeats ensured that subsequent generations were scandalously denied his brilliance until Network released Volume 1 of the Arthur Haynes Show on DVD earlier this year. Volume 2 is a two-disc set featuring more hilarious episodes of this influential comedy show from television’s Golden Age, all digitally restored and available for the first time in over fifty years. ‘Arthur Haynes is a forgotten King of comedy.’ - Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy.

MORECAMBE & WISE: TWO OF A KIND  NETWORK 7953259

Morecambe & WiseMorecambe and Wise were Britain’s most famous and successful comic double act, lasting for 43 years until Eric Morecambe’s death in 1984. Eric (the tall one with glasses) and Ernie (he of the ‘short, fat, hairy legs’). Britain’s best-loved comedy double act first achieved television success with this hit series for ATV, written by Sid Green and Dick Hills with additional material by Morecambe and Wise. Their mildly anarchic humour, impeccable sense of timing and keen eye for the absurd are all evident here in thirteen classic shows, released complete and uncut. Originally broadcast in 1962, each half-hour show features fast-moving skits and musical parodies, with Eric and Ernie giving us their very own Telstar and inimitable versions of television favourites Supercar, Face to Face and Candid Camera - turning to crime with a satirical take on every police series ever screened. They also reveal their keen appreciation of Shakespeare by enacting Brutus and Cassius’ quarrel in Julius Caesar, and, in a nod to contemporary theatrical trends, Cleopatra’s death scene is played in modern dress. To clear up any possible confusion, there’s even a sketch to help viewers remember which one is which. The duo would later perfect their characters in the 1970s at the BBC, where their Christmas Day shows became a national institution watched by up to 28 million people, a record that will probably never be broken. They subsequently moved back to ITV under contract to Thames Television and made The Morecambe & Wise Show, also now available on DVD from Network. ‘Two of a Kind’ captures Eric and Ernie at a time when they were fizzing with ideas and confidence, clearly enjoying themselves before the burden of fame and expectations brought their inevitable pressures. Musical guests include the Beverley Sisters and some of the finest bands from the 1950s British trad jazz boom. Extras with this double DVD set include a photo gallery.

THE EBONY TOWER  NETWORK 7953581

The Ebony TowerFeaturing a larger than life lead performance by Laurence Olivier, the 1984 BAFTA-nominated television play The Ebony Tower was adapted by John Mortimer from the 1974 novel by John Fowles. The wily Henry Breasley (Olivier) is an venerable painter whose secluded retirement in an idyllic country house is invaded by David Williams (Roger Rees), a brash young artist commissioned to produce a biographical study of the great man. Breasley shares his home in the South of France with two young English girls, both former art students, Diana, ‘The Mouse’ Greta Scacchi and Anne ‘The Freak’ (Toyah Willcox). In this strange ménage, David is left in no doubt about his host’s views on modern abstract art. However, he is puzzled by the old man’s relationship with the girls, especially when he also finds himself strongly attracted to Diana. Filmed in Limoges, Haute-Vienne in France, The Ebony Tower is a classy production directed by Robert Knights, who memorably captures the painter’s bohemian lifestyle and the quartet’s attitudes towards life and art. This is one of three excellent new releases by Network starring Laurence Olivier. In LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (NETWORK 7953580) the world’s most celebrated actor and one of America’s greatest playwrights, Eugene O’Neill, are brought together in an acclaimed stage production by the National Theatre Company of O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (NETWORK 7953582) is a lavish production in which Olivier takes on one of literary history’s most enigmatic and challenging characters: the vengeful moneylender of Venice, Shylock. Adapted from Jonathan Miller’s brilliant London stage production, this updated interpretation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece shifts the setting from Elizabethan times to the late 19th Century - allowing for a new relevance for contemporary audiences, and a deeper understanding of the central character.

THE GOOD SOLDIER   NETWORK 7953569

The Good SoldierFord Madox Ford was two-thirds an assumed name. The novelist, poet, critic and editor started life, in Surrey in 1873, as Ford Hermann Hueffer, changing his name to Ford Madox Ford (allegedly because it sounded too German) in honour of his grandfather, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Ford Madox Brown. The title of his best novel, The Good Soldier, was also changed after birth. Originally called The Saddest Story, it is frequently included among the great literature of the 20th century and is one of The Guardian’s ‘1000 novels everyone must read’. Subtitled ‘A Tale of Passion, it is set just before World War I and chronicles the tragedy of Edward Ashburnham, his seemingly perfect marriage and that of two American friends. In 1981, Jeremy Brett, Susan Fleetwood, Robin Ellis and Geoffrey Chater starred in this television adaptation by Julian Mitchell of Ford’s classic Edwardian story of love and deception. Brett is outstanding in the title role and the film was subtly directed by Kevin Billington. The complex plot evolves around two outwardly ‘perfect’ married couples who meet annually in the German spa town of Bad Nauheim, a resort favoured by those with heart conditions. But as the friendships deepen, the intricacies of the relationships are gradually laid bare, and the carefully concealed flaws, destructive passions and infidelities of the protagonists bring about a sequence of tragic events that will consume them all.

THE GLUMS – THE COMPLETE SERIES  NETWORK 7953545

The GlumsThe British radio comedy programme Take It From Here, broadcast by the BBC between 1948 and 1960, was written by incomparable Frank Muir and Denis Norden. Starring Jimmy Edwards, Dick Bentley, June Whitfield and Alma Cogan, the show is perhaps most famous for introducing The Glums and for influencing later radio comedy classics such as Round the Horne as well as many television programmes. The premise of The Glums was the long engagement between the resolutely dim Ron Glum (Bentley) and his aspirational fiancée, a plain girl called Eth. A typical episode would start in the pub, with Mr Glum (superbly played by Jimmy Edwards) talking to the barman and telling that week’s story as a ruse for obtaining another pint of or two of brown ale. The stories would be about some recent episode in the lives of Ron and Eth (Whitfield). One of the constant sources of delight in The Glums, apart from the brilliant dialogue and beautifully conceived comic situations, was the voice which June Whitfield found for Eth - sincere, affectionate and touchingly vulnerable. The Glums were a highlight of the radio week and remembered sufficiently for the format to be revived in 1978 as part of the unsuccessful Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night programme. Two series of The Glums were later made by London Weekend Television, mostly drawing on the original radio scripts. Ron was now played by Ian Lavender and Eth by Patricia Brake, while Edwards reprised the role as the bibulous, malapropism-prone Pa Glum, one of comedy’s finest creations. This double DVD set consists of all eight episodes of the TV series complete and uncut along with the remaining short sketches that were used in Bruce Forsyth’s Big Night.

THE STRANGE WORLD OF GURNEY SLADE  NETWORK 7953388

Strange World of Gurney SladeThis pioneering British television series was made by ATV and first aired late in 1960. Devised by Anthony Newley, the six whimsical episodes were written with Dick Hills and Sid Green, later of Morecambe and Wise fame. Newley stars as an actor who walks off the set of a banal sit-com in disgust and ennui, and into a world of his own imagination. In this picaresque odyssey through his own personal alternative reality, he indulges in random conversations with both animals and inanimate. Characters step out of advertising posters and he can hear the most intimate thoughts of passers by! His Chaplinesque adventures take him into an Alice in Wonderland world where he meets Hugh paddick as an Italian-suited fairy, meets an upper class cow (voiced by Fenella Fielding) and is put on trial for having no sense of humour. Others involved in the shenanigans include Una Stubbs, Graham Stark and Bernie Winters. Newley explained at the time: ‘There is no rhyme or reason for what I do, I merely take life and turn it upside down. We hope to achieve humour without setting out to be deliberately funny.’ The surrealism of the cult series was undoubtedly ahead of its time and the first show proved unpopular with a bemused mainstream audience, resulting in further episodes being moved to a late-night timeslot and rarely seen again. This existential, quirky take on reality was an influence on the young David Bowie as well as comedies such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Marty Feldman’s Marty, The Beatles/Dick Lester films, and the conspiracy drama The Prisoner. The complete series of this off-beat fantasy has been newly transferred from its original 35mm film elements specifically for this long-awaited DVD release. With its infectious Max Harris theme music and irrepressible invention, The Strange World of Gurney Slade is an absurdist delight.

TALES OUT OF SCHOOL - FOUR FILMS BY DAVID LELAND  NETWORK 7957040

Tales Out Of SchoolDavid Leland wrote the screenplay for the critically acclaimed thriller Mona Lisa and became internationally famous with his directorial debut, Wish You Were Here in 1987. He began his career as an actor before collaborating with the great British television director Alan Clarke on their film Made in Britain, which won the Prix Italia in 1984. This is one of four controversial, thought-provoking eighties dramas written by David Leland and now available in a 2-disc limited edition Blu Ray set as well as on DVD. Originally broadcast on ITV, then Channel 4 and commissioned by the producer of Scum (Margaret Matheson), these dramas paint a shocking picture of Thatcher’s Britain and how individuals within society cope with social breakdown. Within the current socio-political climate and the ongoing debate about the British education system, Leland’s work is just as relevant to a contemporary audience. In Made in Britain, Tim Roth makes his debut as a hate-filled teenage skinhead on a self-destructive campaign destined to lead to permanent incarceration. Birth of a Nation, directed by Mike Newell, features Jim Broadbent and Robert Stephens in a drama about the conflict between old, authoritarian teaching methods and the more relaxed approach of progressive educationalists. The teachers are under extreme pressure as they try to deal with their provocative pupils and keep mayhem at bay. Flying into the Wind stars Graham Crowden in a play depicting the battle between parents who want to home-educate their children and the local education authority. R.H.I.N.O. tells the harrowing story of Angela, a disenfranchised young black girl living in 1980s London, and her encounters with a well-meaning but often ineffectual social system. David Leland’s brand of heightened naturalism clearly has its heart in the right place and generally has the ring of uncomfortable truth. Special features include ‘Digging for Britain’ in which Leland and other cast and crew reflect on the making of Made in Britain; ‘Twice Told Tales’ (Leland, producer Margaret Matheson and a group of high school pupils look back at Tales Out of School 30 years on); an image gallery; and a 36-page booklet by Alan Clarke biographer David Rolinson.

TO THE MANOR BORN - SERIES THREE  ACORN AV9884

To The Manor Born 3To Tha Manor Born 2National treasure Penelope Keith returns as superior upper class widow Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, alongside loveable cad and self-made grocery shop millionaire Peter Bowles in the last series of this classic British sitcom. Originally created as a radio series by Peter Spence, this hugely popular show was brought to on BBC1 TV with the help of comedy producer Christopher Bond and aired from 1979 to 1981. It received exceptionally high viewing figures and its final episode achieved the highest ever, a record it held for 15 years. The complete Series Three, featured on this elegant double DVD set, was first broadcast in 1981 and takes the relationship between Audrey and businessman Richard to new and unexpected levels. The once-successful businessman finds that he has everything to lose and the only thing that might save him is the selling of Grantleigh Manor. Quite how this new challenge resolves itself kept viewers of the series, when originally broadcast, gripped until the now famous closing episode. TO THE MANOR BORN - SERIES TWO (ACORN AV9883) was first broadcast in 1980. The war of words, wits and witticisms escalates as Richard De Vere attempts to bring his expertise to the running of Grantleigh Manor, often in direct opposition to the wishes of its previous owner. ‘Rationalising’ the estate and ploughing new fields are just two of Richard’s plans, when he’s not sniffing out poachers and disappearing vases or playing host to a friend of Marjory’s who once went by the name of ‘Podge’. But the frost between them may yet be melting as familiarity begins to breed the opposite of contempt. Penelope Keith is wonderfully stylish and both she and Peter Bowles deliver their witty dialogue with impeccable comic timing. This collection also includes the excellent Christmas Special that followed Series One of this comedy classic.

FIRST OF THE SUMMER WINE - SERIES ONE  ACORN AV9860

First of the Summer WineRoy Clarke’s phenomenally successful sitcom, Last of the Summer Wine, ran for 31 series from 1973 to 2010, making it the longest-running comedy programme in Britain and the longest-running sitcom in the world. It told the whimsical stories of three old men from Yorkshire who never grew up as they face the trials of everyday life and stay young by reminiscing about their youth and attempting feats not uncommon to the elderly. First of the Summer Wine, also created by Roy Clarke, is the equally gentle prequel series in which the principal characters explore their younger selves. Peter Sallis, aka the older Norman Clegg, appears, suitably cast in the role of his own father, Clegg Senior. He is joined by the scruffy and immature Compo Simmonite; the meek and deep-thinking Norman Clegg; the snobbish ladder-climber Seymour Utterthwaite; the eager soldier Foggy Dewhurst; the love-smitten Wally Batty and the object of his affections, the young Nora Renshaw. First of the Summer Wine takes place between May and September 1939, in the months leading up to World War II, and revolves around the diary entries of the young Norman Clegg as it follows the antics of the young men of a small Yorkshire village and their more level-headed female counterparts, all of whom are grappling with the world around them, their youth, and their experiences with the opposite sex. With rumblings of war on the European continent as Nazi Germany and Great Britain become increasingly poised for battle, the lives of the young men and women are equally on the cusp of great changes. Featuring alongside Peter Sallis are Paul Wyett as a convincing young Compo, David Fenwick as Norman Clegg, Gary Whitaker as Wally Batty and Helen Patrick as Nora, the object of his affections. The immediate pre-war era is lovingly recreated, the music and scenery are lovely, and the acting is excellent throughout, especially by the understated Peter Sallis and David Fenwick as his innocent son.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST   FABULOUS FILMS FHED2833

Beauty and the BeastCreator Ron Koslow’s updated version of the famous fairy tale tells the story of Vincent (Ron Perlman), a mythic, noble man-beast, and his relationship with Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton), a savvy assistant District attorney in New York. From the moment these two cross paths, they share a strong psychic bond, and though they live in separate worlds, their love continues to grow without measure. Vincent dwells among a secret Utopian community of social outcasts in a subterranean sanctuary beneath the city. Through gift for empathy, Vincent senses Catherine’s emotions and becomes her guardian as their relationship develops and we learn more about the division between New York and a hidden world below. This Emmy Award-winning fantasy-crime drama makes its DVD debut on this excellent 6-disc set that includes all 22 first-season episodes. Extras include a Making Of documentary and an extensive stills gallery. Strange, romantic and often touching, the series was beautifully filmed in New York and features excellent performances, especially by the two leading actors.

CANAL WALKS WITH JULIA BRADBURY  ACORN AV9827

Julia Bradbury's Canal WalksFollowing the successful Wainwright Walks and Railway Walks series, Britain’s favourite walker Julia Bradbury is back to explore Britain’s canals in her latest enjoyable BBC series of Canal Walks. The charming and indefatigable Julia puts on her boots once again to explore some of this country’s treasured canals and their towpath trails, taking four walks that lead to a hidden network of locks, bridges, aqueducts and tunnels. We see some of Britain’s most beautiful waterways and countryside as Julia explores the North Wales Llangollen Canal, Scotland’s Caledonian Canal, the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the Bath Kennet and Avon Canal, giving historical insights into this incredible industrial heritage as she meets up with experts and canal enthusiasts on her inspirational journeys. DVD extras include a Julia Bradbury biography and a breathtaking picture gallery.

JEMIMA SHORE INVESTIGATES – THE COMPLETE SERIES NETWORK 7953328

Jemima ShoreAntonia Fraser is an acclaimed writer of historical biographies, many of which have been international bestsellers. Formerly married to the playwright Harold Pinter, she was made CBE in 1999 and awarded the Norton Medlicott Medal by the Historical Association in 2000. Lady Antonia also has a sideline in crime fiction featuring her determined feminine protagonist, Jemima Shore, who made her first appearance in 1977 in the novel Quiet as a Nun. Fellow writer P D James described Shore’s character as ‘a contemporary heroine, a successful television investigator, liberated, prosperous, unencumbered with husband or child, and with all the fashionable accoutrements of success.’ Appropriately enough, TV’s consummately professional investigative journalist became the basis of a Thames Television series, Jemima Shore Investigates, starring Patricia Hodge in the title role. First shown in in 1983, it also features wonderfully extravagant hair styles and guest appearances by Tom Baker, Don Henderson, Bill Nighy, Brian Cox and Lysette Anthony. This three-disc set includes all twelve episodes of this intelligent, enjoyable series with a coolly sexy performance by Patricia Hodge as the poised, determined and smart Jemima. Such fun!

DANIEL DERONDA   SECOND SIGHT 2NDVD3198

Daniel DerondaGeorge Eliot’s final novel, published in 1876, was the only one of Eliot’s novels set in the contemporary Victorian society of her day. Daniel Deronda’s mixture of social satire and moral searching, together with its close examination of the position of Jews in British and European society, made it extremely controversial then and now. As Eliot’s lover, George Henry Lewes, predicted: ‘The Jewish element seems to me likely to satisfy nobody.’ The eponymous hero is an idealistic young aristocrat who comes to the rescue of a young Jewish woman, Mirah Lapidoth. In his attempts to help her find her family he is drawn steadily deeper into the Jewish community and the ferment of early Zionist politics. This sumptuous, BAFTA award-winning BBC TV adaptation of George Eliot’s late masterpiece was adapted by renowned writer Andrew Davies and directed by Tom Hooper, recent Oscar-winner for The King’s Speech. This highly acclaimed production features stunning costumes, high drama and fine performances from a cast that includes Hugh Dancy as the hero, Romola Garai as the annoying and frivolous Gwendolen Harleth, Hugh Bonneville in dastardly form as sadistic Henleigh Grandcourt, with Celia Imrie, David Bamber, Edward Fox as the fruitily-voiced Sir Hugo Mallinger, Greta Scaachi trying unsuccessfully not to look beautiful, Barbara Hershey as Contessa Maria Alcharisi, and Jodhi May, outstanding as Mirah Lapidoth. ‘The very model of a BBC costume drama’ - Daily Telegraph.

ALAN PLATER AT ITV   NETWORK 7953547

Alan PlaterOne of Britain’s most prolific and acclaimed screenwriters from the 1960s onwards, the late Alan Plater was born in Jarrow and originally trained as an architect. He made his debut as a scriptwriter with the ground-breaking Z-Cars and subsequent credits included the musical Close the Coalhouse Door (written with songwriter Alex Glasgow), The Beiderbecke Trilogy, a film adaptation of George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and the television version of Flambards. Famous for his integrity, dry humour and love of jazz, Plater excelled in the creation of credible, engagingly ordinary characters embroiled in drama and intrigue. His skilful dialogue, once described as combining ‘The voice of Coronation Street with the spirit of Chekhov’, won him three BAFTA Awards, a CBE, and a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Witty, humane and proud to be ‘a naïve, old-fashioned socialist’, Plater was an exceptional wordsmith. This double DVD anthology form Network brings together six hours of his work, including the first episode of The Beiderbecke Affair (an outstanding series starring James Bolam and Barbara Flynn as the sparring lovers, plus Sue Jenkins as the Platinum Blonde), The Party of the First Part (Michael Gambon and Jan Francis in a Marx Brothers inspired comedy), Dawson’s Complaint (Les Dawson explores the capitalist world seeking redress for a faulty pen), Coming Through (two related plays set in different eras examining polarised attitudes towards D H Lawrence, starring Kenneth Brannagh and Helen Mirren as Bert and Frieda, with Alison Steadman), an episode of Flambards (based on the novels of K M Peyton), and The Intercessor, starring John Duttine. Special features include a revealing ‘Calendar People’ interview with Alan Plater, Alan Ayckbourn and Colin Welland from 1976. This excellent collection is a well-deserved celebration of one of the cleverest, wittiest and most humane writers of the last fifty years.

THE COMPLETE LARRY SANDERS SHOW   MEDIUMRARE ENTERTAINMENT FHED2841

Larry SandersAmerican comedian, actor and writer Garry Shandling began his career writing for sitcoms such as Sanford and Son, and became a frequent guest-host for Johnny Carson. In 1986, when he was poised to become a permanent guest host on The Tonight Show, he created his innovative an highly influential This sharp and surreal post-modernist blend of reality and sitcom influenced many of the best TV comedies since, including Shandlings own Larry Sanders Show. Starring Shandling, the outrageous Rip Torn and Jeffrey Tambor, this ground-breaking show was first broadcast in the UK on BBC 2 throughout the 1990s and was a massive hit, considered by many to be one of the greatest comedy series of all time. The original meta-sitcom, its a wish fulfilling peak behind the chat show curtain into a hilarious world of egos, backstabbing and paranoia. Hey now, no flipping! The nastiest and funniest comedy of the 90s, it inspired the creators of Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Alan Partridge and The Office. In 1999 the show won the prestigious BAFTA Award for Best International TV Programme and Garry Shandling received the American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Performer in a TV series. Funniest Male Guest Appearance went to David Duchovny for his cameo in the show. This magnificent box set brings together on 15 discs all 89 episodes of a series that is ‘The most important sitcom of a generation’ - Ricky Gervais.

LEXX: THE COMPLETE SERIES  MEDIUMRARE ENTERTAINMENT FHED2831

LEXXFollow the adventures of a group of desperate fugitives aboard the Lexx, ‘the most powerful destructive force in the two universes.’ The Lexx is a massive living bio-engineered spacecraft that resembles a wingless dragonfly that is capable of destroying a planet with ease. The crew of the Lexx are motivated largely by fear, lust and hunger: factors that gradually come to dominate their lives more and more. Funny, philosophocal and darkly entertaining, this cult hit series, first broadcast in the UK on Channel 5, features startlingly graphic imagery, skimpily clad women, and quirky, sexually charged adult storylines that ‘boldly’ take Sci-Fi where others had not gone before! Sometimes described as ‘the American Red Dwarf’, Lexx stars Brian Downey, Michael McManus and the gorgeous Xenia Seeburg, with guests such as Tim Curry, Rutger Hauer, Malcolm McDowell and Ralph Brown. This splendid 19 disc DVD set includes all 61 full length episodes, ‘making of’ featurettes, behind the scenes interviews, deleted scenes and on set interviews.

JUST WILLIAM   ACORN AV9861

Just WillamRichmal Crompton’s first book of short stories about mischievous eleven year old school boy William Brown was published in 1922. The charismatic William would eventually appear in thirty nine books written over a period of almost fifty years, though the protagonist remains the same eleven years throughout. There have been many television, film, theatre and radio adaptations and the books have a large and dedicated fan following. Following its acclaimed run on BBC One over the festive season, this most recent four part series based on Crompton’s immortal characters sees the stories updated to the 1950s and narrated by Martin Jarvis. The settings are lovingly recreated and there are vibrant performances by a cast that includes Daniel Roche (best known for Outnumbered) as William, Rebecca Front and Daniel Ryan as his long-suffering parents, and Lily James and Harry Melling as sister Ethel and brother Robert. The young actors playing the outlaws are excellent and best of all are the Bott family, played by Warren Clarke, Caroline Quentin and the brilliant Isabella Blake-Thomas, stealing the show as precocious daughter Violet Elizabeth. Others involved in a starry cast include John Sessions, Denis Lawson and Roy Hudd. William is outfoxed by Violet Elizabeth, gets involved with rival parrots, rescues Great Aunt Augusta (Judy Parfitt) and Traffikunconventionally attempts the role of Hamlet. A joyous treat for all the family. DVD Extras include an author biography & bibliography as well as cast filmographies. Also released by Acorn TRAFFIK (ACORN AV9822) - the original, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning drama which inspired the Oscar-winning film Traffic. Powerful, gripping and compelling viewing, Traffik explores the murderous business of the heroin trade from opium fields in Pakistan and Aghanistan to our own front door. This spiderlike tale of creeping intensity revolves around Jack Lithgow (Bill Paterson) a government minister, whose engagement in tempering the drug trade flowing from Pakistan is affected by the discovery that his young daughter (a brilliant performance by Julia Ormond) is a heroin addict – and the realisation that his efforts are empty politics with little result. Parallel to this runs the story of Fazal, an opium farmer who, when his crop is destroyed, enslaves himself to a ruthless drug-dealer, crossing one line after another until everything he cares for is at risk. Meanwhile in Germany, two cops risk their lives to break the traffic of heroin into their country, imprisoning one importer, only to discover that his wife can be even more ruthless and more deadly. The series was directed by Alastair Reid, who skilfully weaves together the various story lines while maintaining the pace. Engrossing, shocking and Buccaneerssuperbly acted by a multi-national cast, this is British television drama at its best. The issues raised are as relevant today as when the grittily realsitic series was originally broadcast on Channel 4 in 1989. Edith Wharton’s THE BUCCANEERS (ACORN AV9841) is a sweeping drama that lifts the heavy velvet curtains of the upper classes to reveal reveal how much scandal and debauchery lurk behind them. Based on the last novel by the great American author Edith Wharton this lavish series tells the story, seen through the eyes of a family governess, of four ambitious American girls - Virginia and her sister Nan, their friend Lizzy Elmsworth and their Brazilian friend Conchita - as they try to secure husbands and position in England in order to live happily ever after. But life bears little resemblance to the fairytales; and castles appear a lot less magical when you have to live in them. They soon find themselves trapped by wealth, and discover that beneath fine manners and social graces lie some very shabby vices. Originally broadcast on BBC One in 1995, the stunning scenery and costumes are matched by a superb cast that includes Michael Kitchen, Cherie Lunghi, Mira Sorvino, Dinsdale Landen, Rosemary Leach, Sheila Hancock, Greg Wise, Connie Booth and Jenny Agutter. ‘A Delight!’ – The Times.

SHADOW SQUAD     NETWORK 7953497

Shadow SquadA highly successful late crime show from the late 1950s, Shadow Squad initially featured the adventures of ex-Flying Squad Detective Vic Steele (Rex Garner) who, tired of being boxed in by rules and regulations, resigned from the force to form his own detective agency with the help of crafty Cockney Ginger Smart (the excellent George Moon) and their stalwart cleaning lady, Mrs Moggs (Kathleen Boutall), who often noticed clues her employers had missed. Steele subsequently disappeared on a mission to Australia and running of the Squad was then taken up by ex-DI Don Carter (Peter Williams). Doris Speed worked on the series, partly written by her friend Tony Warren, who later created the soap opera Coronation Street, writing the character of Annie Walker specifically for her. Unfortunately none of his or her episodes survive and time has not treated Shadow Squad at all well. Only four shows now remain in the archives and these are included on this set alongside the sole remaining episode of Shadow Squad spinoff Skyport, featuring Ginger Smart as an airport security guard. In Race Against Time, an outsider wins a race which will make one man a great deal of money, so Carter becomes suspicious and investigates the shady word of horse racing. In The Missing Cheese, Don and Ginger investigate a string of unsolved robberies and a mysterious man on a bicycle. Despite its occasional glitches and enjoyably stereotyped characters, what remains of Shadow Squad is an entertaining glimpse into the past.

GARROW’S LAW, COMPLETE SERIES 1 & 2  ACORN AV9992

Garrow's LawThe lavish series was made with remarkable attention to detail and uses real cases from the Old Bailey archives, including murder, assault, corruption and highway robbery, to ensure convincing authenticity and a gritty atmosphere to the stories. The pressures brought upon Garrow from the judge’s bench before him and the King’s ministers behind make for an intriguing and gripping drama. In Series Two, Garrow makes powerful enemies as he challenges a brutal trade that regards slaves as cargo not human beings, and defends a man accused of sodomy, a capital offence in Georgian England. His work becomes entwined with his personal life when he takes on the case of a British sailor out to expose the abuse of sailors in Greenwich Hospital and finds himself on trial for ‘Criminal Conversation’. Garrow must give the performance of a lifetime if he is to survive. Special features with this comprehensive four disc DVD set include a behind the scenes documentary filmed on location with cast and crew.

EDWARDIAN FARM   ACORN AV9786

Edwardian FarmFollowing the success of highly acclaimed Victorian Farm, the same team returns to experience what a difference the decades make on an Edwardian Farm. This time they have set up home at Morwellham Quay in Devon, where the intrepid trio get to grips with the trials and tribulations of life at the turn of the 20th century. Morwellham Quay was once one of the busiest ports in Britain, but has long since come to a standstill. It’s now down to Alex, Peter and Ruth to bring it back to life as it would have been in its hey-day during the reign of King Edward VII. They have to learn new period skills and crafts, using only the tools and materials that would have been available at the time. From investigating the impact of water-powered machines and the world’s first tractor, the team engage in a host of challenging activities, delving into Britain’s rural heritage to unearth how Edwardian farmers recovered from the agricultural depression leaner, fitter and more diverse than ever before. This series of twelve one-hour episodes is an intelligent, entertaining and perceptive examination of rural life as it was lived around a hundred years ago. The key to its success, as with the previous series, rests largely with the knowledge, charm and admirable good humour of the presenters - archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn and domestic historian Ruth Goodman. Together with other experts they show life on an Edwardian Farm in fascinating detail, revealing the immense skill and resilience required for survival.

 

 

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