Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New DVDs of note

More years ago than I like to admit, I sat in a conference room in Hollywood and listened to Cybill Shepherd talking about this new show she had called ''Moonlighting.'' But I, and many of the other people at the press conference, were more curious about her absent co-star, a then-little-known actor named Bruce Willis.
''Moonlighting'' was the first place most people saw Willis, and his wisecracking, motor-mouthed character helped get him a movie career that continues to this day. And, unlike some TV stars gone big-screen, he's willing to acknowledge his roots, joining in the special features on the new DVD release ''Moonlighting: Seasons One and Two.''
Not that he remembers his rise with complete happiness; in a making-of segment on the DVD, he makes a passing reference to Shepherd that suggests he hasn't forgotten their reported conflicts on the show. (Shepherd also took part in the DVD extras, although she appears apart from Willis.)
The package includes 23 episodes along with the TV-movie premiere, as well as extras.
For more than a decade I've happily held onto a VHS collection about the great newsman Edward R. Murrow. There's now a DVD collection, although it differs somewhat from the VHS set.
The VHS ''Edward R. Murrow Television Collection'' released by Fox Video in 1992 included four tapes: ''The Best of 'See It Now','' ''The Best of 'Person to Person,' ''The McCarthy Years'' and the full-length documentary ''Harvest of Shame.''
The DVD set, ''The Edward R. Murrow Collection,'' from Docurama, includes three of the VHS items: ''Harvest of Shame,'' ''The McCarthy Years'' and ''The Best of 'See It Now.' '' It replaces the ''Person to Person'' video with ''This Reporter,'' a 1990 documentary about Murrow for PBS's ''American Masters'' series.
''This Reporter'' is a good enough documentary and a reminder of what TV news was once upon a time. But I miss the ''Person to Person'' segments, which had Murrow interviewing celebrities and offered a counterpoint to his more hard-hitting news efforts. So while I'm happy to have the DVD, I won't be giving up my VHS set.
Also out of TV's past is ''This Is Your Life: The Ultimate Collection, Volume 1,'' an 18-episode sampler from the show's long run on NBC and in syndication.
For those of you tuning in late, ''This Is Your Life'' host Ralph Edwards would tell the story of a celebrity's life to the celebrity, with the account punctuated by visits by people from the star's past. Making this even more uncomfortable for the star was the ambush aspect of the show; stars would think they had been summoned to a meeting, a rehearsal or some other event and then find out they were the focus of ''This Is Your Life.''
As you can tell from that description, the show was a precursor to what we now call reality television -- and you can more often than not see celebrities were less than delighted to have Edwards and his associates spilling their lives on TV. But it is even more entertaining because of that.
The package includes segments on Laurel & Hardy, Lou Costello, Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash, Bette Davis, Jayne Mansfield athlete Jesse Owens and others. A companion booklet features not only synopses of the episodes but suggested links to Web sites associated with the stars.


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