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Chris Hicks: New DVDs explore Vietnam and collect ’50s TV shows for boomers

Western TV series from the 1950s and ’60s have been collected in "Howdy, Kids!! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup," new to DVD this week.
Western TV series from the 1950s and ’60s have been collected in "Howdy, Kids!! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup," new to DVD this week.
Shout! Factory

A documentary series on the Vietnam War and a collection of TV westerns from the 1950s and ’60s are new to DVD this week and aimed directly at the baby-boomer audience.

“Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War” (TimeLife, 1980-82, color and b/w, four discs, $39.95, 26 episodes). This documentary series, narrated by the late actor Richard Basehart, covers a lot of ground as it develops an overview of the Vietnam conflict, although it too often merely skims the surface.

But this is a look at the history more than the politics of the war, and as such it can be informative and enjoyable, if perhaps more thorough if watched in tandem with “Hearts and Minds” or another of the more politicized documentaries that have a point of view. Especially by young viewers who don’t know much about the era.

Having said that, this ambitious production, produced by Canadian filmmakers, is a good place to start in understanding the complicated breadth and width of the war that so divided the United States during the 1960s and ’70s.

“Howdy, Kids!! A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup” (Shout!, 1950-63, b/w, three discs, $24.97, 24 episodes). Aimed squarely at baby boomers that grew up watching black-and-white TV during the 1950s and ’60s (an audience that includes yours truly), this is a collection of 14 “Saturday Afternoon” western shows, though some were popular during primetime before being relegated in reruns to “the kiddie hour.”

This is sort of a sequel to Shout!’s earlier collection “Hiya, Kids!! A ’50s Saturday Morning,” and just as nostalgically entertaining. That earlier set featured episodes from only two westerns, “The Roy Rogers Show” and “Annie Oakley.” Those two shows are also here, along with multiple episodes of “The Rifleman,” “Fury,” “The Adventures of Kit Carson,” “The Cisco Kid,” “Sky King” and seven others.

“Boss: Season Two:” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray, 2012, two discs, $39.97, 10 episodes, audio commentaries, featurette). Kelsey Grammer is back for a second term on this Starz cable channel series (which was canceled after this season) as a ruthless Chicago mayor whose debilitating brain disease has motivated him to right some of the wrongs he put in place with his corrupt political machine. (Also on DVD, $39.98)

“The Adventures of Merlin: The Complete Fifth Season” (BBC, 2008-12, four discs, $49.98, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, outtakes, storyboards). This British show is a reimagining of the Arthurian Legend focusing on magician Merlin in his youth. This season, Morgana plots revenge on Arthur and Merlin faces up to his destiny. The show has been airing on the Syfy cable channel. (This was announced as the show’s final season.)

“Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! Best of Walden” (Nick Jr./Anchor Bay, 2013, $14.98, six episodes, bonus episode, music videos, coloring activity sheets). Wubbzy’s pal takes the spotlight in these episodes of the children’s animated program.

“Aloha Fluffy: Gabriel Iglesias Live From Hawaii” (Comedy Central/Paramount, 2013, $16.99, deleted scenes, featurette; also on Blu-ray, $22.98). Iglesias is a very funny guy doing his stand-up act with voices and sound effects, and less crude than most.

“Craig Shoemaker: Daditude” (eOne, 2012, $14.98, deleted scenes, featurettes). Shoemaker is another funny comic, albeit too reliant on vulgar material.

“Kristen Schaal: Live at the Filmore” (Comedy Central/Paramount, 2013, $14.98, bonus performances, excerpts from “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart”). Schaal is also crude, but her set is not traditional stand-up comedy but instead an eccentric “performance art” show.