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TV series shine in three new DVD collections

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

This week's DVD column is chock full of television series.

The High and the Mighty

In the last column, I wrote about Island in the Sky, the John Wayne feature just now making it to the home video market. This week, it's The High and the Mighty, another Wayne film he produced and was directed by William Wellman.

While Island in the Sky fell into obscurity, The High and the Mighty was a film many Wayne fans remembered. It was a tremendous hit when it was released in 1954 and was nominated for six Academy Awards.

Well, I think that the previous film is more enjoyable and less clichd than this one primarily because in the years since its release many other films have copied its plot.

Wayne is part of an ensemble cast. He plays a veteran pilot who was at the controls of a plane that crashed. The accident killed his wife and son. He is now a co-pilot and on a routine flight from Hawaii to San Francisco. When the plane develops serious engine trouble, a decision must be made make an emergency landing in the Pacific or risk everyone's lives and try to make it to the mainland.

On board are a number of passengers all with their own story and personality, played by some of the best character actors of the era.

The trouble is that I've seen the classic spoof Airplane a number of times and I couldn't get it out of my head. Of particular note is that Robert Stack, who plays Wayne's pilot here, was in the cast of Airplane.

The film is expertly made and Wayne, once again, shows that under-playing a role that has built-in tragedy is effective.

The DVD is a two-disc set with some very interesting behind-the-scenes features including interviews with surviving cast members.

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You probably won't remember this situation comedy from several years ago. It ran a mere 17 episodes on FOX before the plug was pulled, but if you want relief from the summer television doldrums, you should check out Undeclared.

It's freshman year from a new group of students at an unidentified college and the show portrays the many problems that beset kids at that time of their life. You have the skinny, but smart high school nerd hoping that college will allow him a life remake; the resident assistant who is hopelessly out of touch with his charges; the cute girl down the hall who is trying to keep up a long-distance with her smothering boyfriend and several characters who are so easily defined but reveal their personality as the show progresses.

This show was very funny and well worth discovering. It's another gem snatched from oblivion by Shout Factory

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Wire in the Blood:

The First Season

This is a huge hit in Great Britain and stars one of that nation's most popular television actors, Robson Green. It has proven to be popular with American audiences as well, as the show has been on BBC America.

Green plays a clinical psychologist who works with a police detective on serial killer murders. His specialty is serial killers and Wire in the Blood should appeal to fans of CSI and other procedural cop shows that are on the blood and guts side.

They are well-made often-grisly police dramas.

The three-disc collection features three 97-minute films. The extras are minimal.

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Divine Intervention: A Chronicle of Love and Death

Here's something most Americans don't have the chance to see a bleak comic commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict told from a Palestinian perspective. Elia Suleiman wrote, directed and stars in this highly episodic film whose narrative structure only makes sense by the film's end.

Essentially, the film chronicles the inhabitants of a Palestinian neighborhood and shows their interactions not only with the guards at an Israeli checkpoint, but also with each other.

It is grimly real and wildly surreal. Suleiman isn't afraid of switching directorial gears at a moment's notice.

This is a film that will undoubtedly outrage some people, particularly the final sequence in which a shooting target of a Palestinian woman comes alive, but it should inspire an interesting discussion.

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The Brady Bunch: The Complete Second Season

Okay, an odd film such as Divine Intervention holds my interest, but this "classic" American sit-com still bewilders me. What was its appeal?

I suppose I should just accept that this 1970s comedy has become a staple due to its stubbornly blind approach in depicting an "ideal" American life. This has had enormous appeal to those who didn't live through the 1970s.

This four-disc set features 24 episodes and features the original Mike Brady hair cut. His 'fro always bothered me.

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