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Kevin's Digital Week

Blu-Ray of the Week

The Prisoner
The Complete Series (A&E)
For a series of only 17 episodes, it’s no exaggeration to say that The Prisoner is still among the most influential TV shows ever. With Patrick McGoohan playing a retired secret agent who awakes to find himself imprisoned in a mysterious place, The Village, where all inhabitants have numbers, The Prisoner embodies late-60s counterculture in film and television: a skeptical attitude toward authority and fearless experimenting with previously taboo subjects, e.g., hallucinatory drugs, mind control and indoctrination. The quality varies from episode to episode--some merely mark time in order to put “number six” through his weekly paces--and the large white balloon, the “Rover,” which tracked down those members of the village who tried to escape, remains rather silly. But overall, The Prisoner is an absorbing and quite surreal viewing experience.

The high-definition masters used for this Blu-ray release are gorgeous, with colors that literally pop out of the TV screen to make the show’s bizarre yet familiar setting more realistic, as does the newly remixed 5.1 surround sound track. The bonus disc of extras contains a feature-length documentary about the series, Don’t Knock Yourself Out; new featurettes, The Pink Prisoner and You Make Sure It Fits!; alternate edits of two episodes; audio commentaries on selected episodes; and much more.

DVD of the Week

It’s Garry Shandling’s Show! The Complete Series
(Shout! Factory)
In 1986, when Garry Shandling‘s first “sitcom“ appeared on a network called Showtime, there was nothing like it on TV--and, nearly a quarter-century later, it‘s still a unique series. Although I prefer The Larry Sanders Show to this--the later HBO series was more polished, more consistently funny, and had better supporting actors and guest stars--there‘s no denying the originality of Shandling and Alan Zweibel‘s conceit of a show about a comedian living the single life: Shandling constantly looks into the camera and talks to the studio audience (and us) and there are hilarious cameos from then-current celebs like Vanna White, Martin Mull, Rob Reiner, and Gilda Radner (whose last TV appearance this was).

The 72 episodes from the series’ four-year run are included in this 16-disc boxed set, beautifully packaged with a 36-page book that includes appreciations by Larry Gelbart and Judd Apatow; the image and sound quality are quite good. The bonus features that are scattered among the discs feature several audio commentaries by Shandling, Zweibel and other writers, six new featurettes about the series, and outtakes from selected episodes. 

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