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Chris Hicks: Funny 'Psych' among new TV series on DVD

Corbin Bernsen, left, James Roday and Dule Hill in "Psych."
Corbin Bernsen, left, James Roday and Dule Hill in "Psych."
Kwaku Alston, USA Network

The very funny USA cable-channel series "Psych" leads off this collection of new DVDs of TV shows, scheduled in stores on Tuesday.

TV series

"Psych: The Complete First Season" (Universal, 2006, four discs, $59.98). This goofy comedy-mystery series is akin in some ways to "Monk" (which it follows on the USA cable channel); the detective is eccentric and has a brilliant mind for noticing clues others have missed.

In this case, however, Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is a young, womanizing layabout, who explains his talent by pretending to be a psychic (a contrived plot device explained in the hilarious pilot). Dule Hill is a great foil as Shawn's longtime, long-suffering best friend, and Corbin Bernsen is also good as Shawn's father, a by-the-book former cop.

And the comedy is some of the best-written on television. Or anywhere. (The second season begins July 13.)

Extras: Widescreen, 15 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentary

"Monk: Season Five" (Universal, 2006, four discs, $59.98). "Monk" is still sharp and funny, with Tony Shalhoub pitch-perfect as the phobia-plagued San Francisco detective. The mysteries are also fun, many played out "Columbo"-style, where arrogant killers underestimate Monk until he trips them up. Traylor Howard, as his assistant Natalie, leads the fine supporting cast — and Dan Hedaya is well-cast as Monk's estranged father in one episode. (The sixth season begins July 13.)

Extras: Widescreen, audio commentary, Webisodes, pilot episode of "Psych"

"This Is Tom Jones" (Time/Life, 1969-70. three discs, $39.99). These episodes from Jones' two-season variety show feature comedy from Peter Sellers, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope — but the emphasis is on music, with such rock legends as The Who, Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, Little Richard, Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker and Aretha Franklin.

This is real time-capsule fun for those of us who were young in the late '60s and early '70s; it seems a bit campy now, but there's a lot to enjoy. Jones sings his biggest hits — "What's New, Pussycat?" "I (Who Have Nothing)" and several renditions of "It's Not Unusual."

Extras: Full frame, new interviews, vintage interviews, promos; 12-page booklet

"Poirot: The Classic Collection 2" (Acorn, 1990-96, 10 discs, $99.99). These episodes (which aired on PBS's "Mystery!") are the feature-length TV movies, starring David Suchet as Agatha Christie's prickly Belgian detective. Among them are "The ABC Murders" and "Hercule Poirot's Christmas."

Extras: Full frame, nine episodes, "Agatha Christie's Garden" show, text biographies/filmographies, trivia

"Porterhouse Blue" (Acorn, 1987, two discs, $39.99). This British miniseries is a scathing social satire that pits a reform-minded new headmaster (Ian Richardson) at a 500-year-old school against the dogged traditions of the aging faculty, led by the particularly devious head porter (David Jason). Edgy and dark, with a fabulous cast; dry wit of the first order.

Extras: Full frame, four episodes, text biographies/filmographies

"Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.: The Second Season" (CBS/Paramount, 1965-66, five discs, $42.99). More military comedy with "Andy Griffith Show" alum Gomer (Jim Nabors), as he drives his Marine sergeant (Frank Sutton) — and everyone else — to distraction. Griffith and Ron Howard guest toward the end of the season.

Extras: Full frame, 30 episodes

"Film School" (IFC/Docurama, 2005, three discs, $29.95). Three New York University Film School students make movies they hope will give them a foot in the Hollywood door in this reality series, with guest appearances by Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Oliver Stone. Most interesting for aspiring filmmakers.

Extras: Full frame, 10 episodes

"Mail Call: S.N.A.F.U." (History, 2004, not rated but R-level language, $12.95). Former Marine sergeant R. Lee Ermey (best-known as the drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket") headlines what is essentially a bonus disc for the History Channel "Mail Call" series, in which Ermey goes into all things military. These are bloopers that can be viewed in either a "family-friendly" or an "x-tra salty" version.

Extras: Full frame, two versions

"Reno 911! The Complete Fourth Season Uncensored!" (Comedy Central/Paramount, 2006-07, $26.99). More adventures with the raunchy Reno, Nev., deputy sheriffs.

Extras: Full frame, extended scene, audio commentary, featurette

"Louis C.K.: Shameless" (HBO, 2007, $19.97). The stand-up comic cuts loose in this HBO special.

Extras: Widescreen, 30-minute TV special

Documentaries

"The Spaghetti West" (IFC/Docurama, 2005, $26.95). If, like me, you're a fan of Italian Westerns of the '60s, this is an enjoyable, clip-filled documentary exploring the genre. Clint Eastwood and Ennio Morricone are among on-camera interviewees.

Extras: Widescreen

"Nixon: A Presidency Revealed" (History, 2007, $24.95). Interesting look at Nixon's presidency. Not quite as riveting as "The Fog of War," but still attention-grabbing.

Extras: Full frame, bonus documentary: "Inside the Presidency: Eisenhower vs. Nixon"

"Epidemic: Ebola, AIDS, Bird Flu and Typhoid" (WGBH, 1996-2004, four discs, $49.95). Three reissues and one new disc make up this latest "NOVA" box set with "Epidemic" themes: "Ebola: The Plague Fighters," "Bird Flu: How Safe Are We?" (narrated by Brad Pitt), "Typhoid Mary" and, the new disc, "Surviving AIDS." All are first-rate real-life horror stories with wider implications.

Extras: Full frame/widescreen, featurettes ("Bird Flu"), printable materials for educators

Kids shows

"Bozo: The World's Most Famous Clown: Collection 1" (Infinity, 1966, four discs, $39.98). This is, of course, the children's program with red-haired Bozo the Clown, who was played through the years by various actors in cities around the country. These are color half-hours from the nationally syndicated show with Frank Avruch as Bozo, and each episode includes a Bozo cartoon.

Extras: Full frame, 30 episodes

"Arnie the Doughnut ... and other Fantastic Adventure Stories" (Scholastic, 2007, $14.95). More wonderfully animated (in a variety of styles) short stories, including the title tale, "Roberto the Insect Architect," "Hondo & Fabian," "That New Animal" and "Swamp Angel."

Extras: Full frame, five stories

Animated shows

"The New Adventures of Superman" (Warner, 1966, two discs, $26.99).

"The New Adventures of Batman" (Warner, 1977, two discs, $26.99). These are early TV cartoons that preceded the more-famous animated series of the '90s, therefore providing a nostalgia factor for those of a certain age. Adam West and Burt Ward, of the '60s "Batman" TV series, provide the voices for Batman and Robin.

Extras: Full frame, 36 episodes ("Superman"), 16 episodes ("Batman"), audio commentaries ("Batman"), featurettes

"Tokko: Volume Two" (Manga, 2007, $24.98).

"Noein: To Your Other Self" (Manga, 2007, $19.98). These Japanese anime series are fantasies peppered with strange creatures. "Tokko" includes episodes 6-9; "Noein" has episodes 15-19.

Extras: Full frame, five episodes, featurettes, photo gallery


E-mail: hicks@desnews.com