TV on DVD: 'Eli Stone,' 'Life,' 'The Office'
3 stars = Good
ABC's cute, whimsical drama about a lawyer with an aneurism who sees people singing and dancing when they are not comes to DVD ($39.99, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) with its first 13 episodes and extras that make you believe the cast is having a good time making this program.
The series stars Jonny Lee Miller as a lawyer who has visions. Is it due to his medical condition or is he a prophet? The extras don't answer that question, but they do reveal the good-natured humor of the show's cast, particularly Natasha Henstridge and Sam Jaeger, who mock espouses all the usual actor platitudes. Co-star Victor Garber jokingly calls Jaeger "a nightmare to work with."
A commentary track on the episode "Soul Free," the first-season finale, includes a bevy of participants. Even George Michael, who's often in Eli's visions, shows up to talk about the series in the featurette "Acting on Faith."
-- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV editor
3 1/2 stars = Very good
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! "Life: Season One" ($29.98, Universal) is entertaining, different, fun and not obnoxiously sexified. Bloody? Not comparatively so. It's a 21st-century cop show after all. No it's not a show for 8-year-olds. But "Life" is for those who find quirky, cerebral detectives a hoot to watch.
What else makes "Life" good? The story, the writing and the acting.
Creator Rand Ravich ("The Astronaut's Wife") devised an original story involving LAPD officer Charlie Crews. Set up for killing his business partner/buddy, the man's wife and one of his children, Crews serves 12 years of a life sentence. On the inside Crews teaches himself Zen Buddhism and savagely fights to stay alive. Then, DNA evidence clears him. Next, he wins a $50 million lawsuit and a promotion to detective. How compelling is that?
The first episode's writing hammers into viewers that 12 years in the Pelican Bay SUH, security housing unit, changes a man. These contrivances smooth out in later episodes. But Ravich shows that prison takes away more than physical freedom. Crews is forever feeding a fruit fetish because he never got any inside. Mundane conversations with him turn into audiences with the Buddha. Crews says things about being-here-but-not-here-but-more-likely-to-be-here-than-not-here.
None could have fit better than ginger-haired Londoner Damian Lewis. The 39-year-old, known for appearing in HBO's "Band of Brothers," puts forward a convincing air of guilelessness while he keeps the viewer mindful -- in a variety of ways -- that betrayal and imprisonment has torn Crews' psyche.
-- Monessa Tinsley-Crabb, Post-Gazette staff writer
3 1/2 stars = Very good
Bonus extras are not among the Finer Things in this 14-episode set, which chronicles a season weakened by the writers' strike. Still, it's "The Office," and the show itself, while struggling a bit along the way, has the power to make you laugh out loud at the stupidest things.
Mostly, that would be Michael Scott.
Steve Carell's office manager continues to roll through his painfully un-self-aware life. Whether he's hitting a co-worker with his car or trying to extract $10,000 investments for a startup aromatherapy candle operation (could there be more of a misnomer for the company than "Serenity By Jan"?), Michael is at the heart of more cringeworthy scenes than anyone, save, perhaps, Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." The four-disc DVD set ($49.98, Universal Studios Home Entertainment) includes a wealth of deleted scenes, some with great one-liners worthy of making the final cut. A too-long blooper reel isn't very entertaining but does show a very-pregnant Angela Kinsey in the background of some shots. There's also audio commentary on several episodes, including "Local Ad," which was directed by "Juno's" Jason Reitman.
-- Maria Sciullo, Post-Gazette staff writer
"Cheers: The Tenth Season"; "Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season"; "Ghost Whisperer: The Third Season"; "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Three"; "Supernatural: The Complete Third Season."
First Published September 4, 2008 12:00 am