In 2002, there a second attempt to bring He-Man TV success on an animated series that took the toys and the original ‘80s animated series and re-imagined them in a major way.
Where the original series was more or less a series of standalone episodes, the 2002 version came up with a satisfying origin and backstories for all the main characters. These concepts were realized over the course of the series’ first three episodes, in a series of cliffhangers.
Back in the late sixties, while North Americans were enjoying William F. Dozier’s inspired camp version of Batman, Japan was enjoying the exploits of a much bigger superhero – Ultraman – in a show modestly entitled Ultraman – A Special Effects Fantasy Series! Though it was, basically, a man-in-a-rubber-suit monster series, it was fast-paced science fiction fun. After a false start elsewhere, Ultraman: The Complete Series has finally hit stores thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment.
Sometimes, when you watch a show you loved years ago, you wonder why you loved it so much in the first place. Wiseguy is not one of those shows.
The Stephen J. Cannell series revolved around Vincenzo Terranova [Ken Wahl], an undercover member of the Organized Crime Bureau. Terranova had just come out of eighteen-months of jail time and leveraged his way into a position as a right-hand man to mob boss Sonny Steelgrave [Ray Sharkey]. This, ten years before Donnie Brasco…
Like most of Cannell’s productions, Wiseguy was notable for its solid, frequently brilliant writing and compelling performances. Unlike the majority of Cannell productions, Wiseguy was consistently grittier and nastier than anything else that aired at the time. Whether Vince and Sonny were bare-knuckle boxing [The Pilot], or facing down the attempts of Pat “The Cat” Patrice, the action was harsh, the relationships being juggled were unequalled, and the feel was very real. Even the accountants had attitude!
Another first [or near first] had Vinnie ordered into group therapy because of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome in an ep called Last Rites For Lucci – and ep that showed both the positive ways therapy can help and what can happen if someone refuses to admit he’s got a problem.
The first season of Wiseguy also featured an arc with Vinnie working on a guy named Mel Profit [Kevin Spacey] who was an entirely different species of silky but crazy evil.
Important regular/recurring cast members included Terranova’s boss/handler, Frank McPike [Jonathan Banks]; “Lifeguard” [Jim Byrnes], his phone/emergency contact, and Carlotta Terranova [Elsa Raven], his mother.
The first season of Wiseguy has been out of circulation for awhile, but thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, it’s back in a very affordable package. Because Mill Creek has picked up the rights to the series for a decent price, in combination with a very basic package [unique box which contains the four DVDs in black paper envelopes with cellophane on the title side of the discs], they can offer the series for a quarter of what it might cost. The picture and sound are very good, suggesting that Mill Creek had access the show’s masters.
In the late fifties [1955-60], there was a fair bit of swashbuckling on TV – Zorro, Elfego Baca, The Scarecrow [all courtesy of Walt Disney] and more. Of the lot, none was more popular than the British import, The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Richard Greene [who bore a passing resemblance to Errol Flynn] as Robin and sporting a theme song that was so universally known that Monty Python poked fun at it [along with the whole Robin Hood thing].
The premise was simple: a bunch of kids who play Dungeons & Dragons suddenly find themselves in a world where the roles they’ve played become real – and they gain the abilities of those characters for real.
One of the great things about Mill Creek Entertainment [besides their commitment to make available inexpensive volumes of cult TV shows] is that they also collect and release B-movies… lots and lots of B-movies.
GoreHouse Greats is their latest such collection of horror movies. To review all twelve titles would kill a bit too much bandwidth, so, following the jump, there’s a look at a few of the titles with assessments of the set’s overall quality.