TV Treasures Featuring Thriller & Checkmate: The Complete Series

thriller_cardBo Knows Horror:  Boris Karloff hosts Thriller: The Complete Series, an impressive 14-DVD set of the classic horror anthology from the 1960s. Image Entertainment has snagged the rights to the much-requested series, in which Boris introduced (and was also featured in an episode).  Some of the creepiest moments in TV history ever abound in this 67-episode marathon, where performers such as Mary Tyler Moore, Elizabeth Montgomery, Rip Torn and John Carradine enact atmospheric stories penned by such greats as Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch and Cornell Woolrich. The cult fave, which ran on NBC from 1960-1962, will have some interesting extras on it as well.

San Francisco Treat:  One of the best cop shows of the far-out sixties was Checkmate, a San Fran-based detective series created by thriller best seller Eric Ambler (A Night to Remember, Topkapi) and boasting Doug McClure, Anthony George and Sebastian Cabot. The 14-DVD set of Checkmate: The Complete Series also showcases such terrific guest stars as Inger Stevens, Robert Vaughn and Jane Wyman. Loads of interesting locations, a particularly eerie take on the crime elements and a terrific theme song by John Williams are among the highlights of this well-remembered 1960-1962 CBS excursion involving detectives trying to outsmart the crooks before they commit their misdeeds.

Straight Out Of Brooklyn: A quirky HBO confection that debuted in 2009, Bored To Death stars Jason Schwartzman as a Brooklyn-based, pot-smoking, wine-sipping failed novelist who answers a Craigslist ad and becomes an unlicensed private detective.  Adding to the fun of Schwartzman’s off-the-wall, low-key persona are Zack Galifianakis as his illustrator pal and Ted Danson as his ganja-smoking magazine editor mentor. The two-disc set Bored To Death: The Complete First Season runs about 240 minutes.

Bow Wow Wow: If you think Russell Crowe is the only guy with an accent running around shooting off arrows on screen these days, you’re wrong. Consider The Black Arrow: The Complete Series, a British production from 1972-1975 based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s story. Set during the War of the Roses, the series tells of a mysterious hooded hero who uses his archery expertise to battle against tyranny and violence. The three-disc set features Robin Langford as the lead in the early episodes, and Simon Cuff later.

BILKO_camelSilver’s Streak: In many TV critics’ opinion, one of the funniest shows ever to grace network TV was Sgt. Bilko, featuring Phil Silvers as the conniving lead character. Also known as The Phil Silvers Show and You’ll Never Get Rich, this 1955-1959 CBS enterprise offered bespectacled comic Silvers as a sergeant at a Kansas Army base who uses any number of schemes—most of them involving U.S. government-owned property—to bring in cash. His nemesis is Sol. Hall, memorably played by Paul Ford, who fruitlessly tried to put an end to Bilko’s swindles. The top-notch supporting cast comprising Bilko’s complicit squad included Allan Melvin, Harvey Lembeck, Maurice Gosfield, and Billy Sands. The deluxe five-disc set Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show: The First Season includes commentaries, commercials featuring cast members and even The Lucy Show episode Lucy and the Efficiency Expert with guest star Silvers.

Courtney Loves: A divorced woman in her forties, looking for romance –and finding it with guys in their twenties—is the premise of the hit ABC series Cougar Town: The Complete First Season. Friends star Courteney Cox plays the gal with a near-grown son (Dan Byrd), who sees her friends going through similar life changes, and attempts to create a new and sexy time in her life. Ian Gomez and Kristen Miller also star in this three-disc set that includes bloopers and deleted scenes.

Larry Fine: Larry McMurtry’s celebrated novel Lonesome Dove and its sequels have launched many small-screen adaptations and Lonesome Dove: The Series: The Complete Season 1 is a collection of the initial installment of the syndicated series that ran from 1994 to 1995. The show focused on Woodrow Call’s son Newt (Scott Bairstow) and his new bride Hannah Peale (Christianne Hirt) as they try to carve out a life in a small Montana frontier town. Unfortunately, the locals are under the thumb of a duplicitous former Confederate officer (Eric McCormack) who has a liking for Hannah, who resembles his dead wife. Dennis Weaver, Billy Dee Williams, Olivia Hussey, Diahann Carroll, and Robert Culp also make appearances in this rugged sagebrush saga.  The six-disc set includes all 21 episodes.

headroomTV Max: Max Headroom was considered visionary when it ran on TV back in the ‘80s, and it comes to DVD, still ahead of its time with its cult of appreciation very much intact.  The show started on cable TV, then moved over to NBC where it gained a strong cult following, but not much in terms of mainstream viewers during the 1987-1988 season. Matt Frewer stars as an investigative journalist working “20 minutes into the future” who always has help from his associates, including the weird and wild artificial intelligence Max Headroom (also Frewer),  to get the scoop. The sharply satirical series also stars Amanda Pays, Chris Young and Jeffrey Tambor. The five-disc set Max Headroom: The Complete Series includes all sorts of way-out extras.

Con Artist: The USA Network series White Collar: The Complete First Season showcases Matt Bomer as a white- collar criminal who is given a chance to work as an informant for the Feds after he’s been captured from a prison escape. Boner uses his shady brand of expertise to thwart criminals while attempting to locate girlfriend Tiffani Thiessen, who may have some trouble of her own to deal with. Tim DeKay and Willie Garson also star in this exciting series, offered on three discs with lots of excellent extra material.

Seaside Frights: The MTV phenomenon Jersey Shore: Season One: Uncensored showcases a group of eight Italian-American youths from North Jersey who vacation in the Garden State’s popular summer hangout of Seaside Heights. With highly questionable morals, the young Turks get lots of sun, enjoy tussling with members of the opposite sex and cause trouble, reality-TV style, whenever the camera are pointed at them. Or so it seems. Snooki, Mike “The Situation,” JWowww, Sammy Sweetheart, Pauly D, Vinny and Angelina are all on board for this uncensored three-disc set, so expect lots of profanity and more not for the squeamish.

Scare U.: In the mysterious 2009 British series Trinity, a new student at a venerable college begins looking into the death of her professor father, and discovers that the university offers such unusual elective activities as secret societies, odd behavior among staff and students and more. Trinity: The Complete First Season is available on three discs and runs six hours. Antonia Bernath, Charles Dance, Claire Skinner star.

mother_sin_lawOh, Kaye!: With its catchy theme song and top-notch comic cast, The Mothers-in-Law never really caught on big with audiences, but certainly offered its share of hilarious moments on NBC from 1967 to 1969. The Desi Arnaz-produced show starred Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard as pals and neighbors contending with domestic problems, some involving their newlywed-to-each-other children (Deborah Walley and Jerry Fogel) who live in Arden’s garage, or their husbands (Herbert Rudley and Roger C. Carmel, replaced in the second season by Richard Deacon). Of course, all of the principals have their own wacky idiosyncrasies, which make this one funny show. The eight-disc set The Mothers-in-Law: The Complete Series includes 27 hours (56 episodes) of sitcom bliss.

Doctor My Skies: Action and medical drama mix in Trauma:  Season 1, an exciting and realistic 2009 NBC series centering on the adventures of a group of first response paramedics on the ground and in the air from San Francisco City Hospital. Produced by Friday Night Lights’ Peter Berg, the show makes great use of Bay Area locales and stars Derek Luke, Cliff Curtis, Anastasia Griffith, Aimee Garcia and Jamey Sheridan as the group’s mentor. The four-disc set showcases 18 hair-raising episodes, including the pilot.

Health Ledger: Mercy: The Complete First  Season is a first-rate medical show that ran on NBC over 2009-2010, which focuses on the exploits of the events occurring at a New Jersey hospital as seen through the eyes of the facility’s nurses. Taylor Schilling plays the caregiver who has just returned from the Middle East and who uses her experiences to inform her workmates. Jaime Lee Kirchner, Michelle Trachtenberg, James Tupper, Guillermo Diaz and James LeGros also star in this top-notch offering.