Movies Till Dawn: TV Party II

12 a.m. – “Deutschland 83” – Drama/Political Thriller

2792(2015, Kino Lorber) While waiting for the return of “The Americans” in 2016, you might enjoy this U.S.-German suspense series, which hinges on a similar premise of assumed identities and espionage set during the tail end of the Cold War. Jonas Ray is an East German teen recruited by his imperious aunt (Maria Schrader) in 1983 to funnel information on the West by assuming the identity of a dead soldier serving under Wolfgang Edel (Ulrich Noethen), a top-ranking West German general. Lured by the possibility that his participation will help facilitate a life-saving kidney transplant for his mother, Ray is soon embedded with the general’s inner circle, which grows to encompass a romance with Edel’s daughter Yvonne, who’s linked to a pacifist group, and a shared room with his gay son, while also funneling information back to his aunt; things grow further complicated and compelling over the first season’s eight episodes, which manage a fine balance of the characters’ personal dramas with then-current events and the general unease (and occasional bleak comedy) of living under the constant threat of nuclear war. Kino Lorber’s three-disc set includes English-language interviews with the cast and creators and a Q&A filmed at the Goethe-Institut in New York.

1 a.m. – “The Returned” – Supernatural Thriller

51d2fQnIiFL(2015, A&E/Lionsgate) A lack of high-wattage scares and competition from two other series mining the same material (HBO’s “The Leftovers” and ABC’s “Resurrection”) spelled a quick demise for A&E’s remake of the French series “Les Revenents.” However, its single season is far from a total failure, as it offers fine performances from a solid cast and a remarkable degree of atmosphere for a small-screen effort. As with its parent series and its American counterparts, “The Returned” focuses on the residents of a small town as they react to the sudden reappearance of their deceased family members. Responses vary from a mix of shock and hope (Tandi Wright and Mark Pelligrino as separated parents reunited by the arrival of their daughter, four years after her death in a bus accident) to confusion (the return Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s deceased fiancé throws a wrench into her new wedding plans), but the survivors have little time to handle their feelings before a host of other strange phenomena becomes apparent, including a serial killer, a long-lost twin and a cliffhanger Biblical disaster. These latter elements don’t play well opposite the quieter interaction between family and returned, leaving some episodes feeling over-stuffed and others too light; what’s consistent are the cast, led by such reliable players as Pelligrino, Winstead, Jeremy Sisto, Michelle Forbes and Agnes Bruckner, and the cinematography, which casts the town in a seemingly permanent state of florid dusk. The two-disc set offers a few modest making-of extras along with all ten episodes.

2 a.m. – “The Bold Ones: The Senator”– Drama

product_images_modal_60717_20The_20Bold_20Ones_20The_20Senator_20Front_2072dpi__7B094de0c2-69bd-e411-bd0b-d4ae527c3b65_7D(1970-71, Shout Factory) Acclaimed second-season entry in NBC’s umbrella series “The Bold Ones,” which rotated episodes from four different drama series each week. Hal Holbrook is top-billed as a Justice Department official who takes over the Senate seat vacated by his father; over the course of the show’s eight episodes, he tackles a variety of social issues from the day, including political corruption, environmental issues, and in a tense two-part episode, the shooting deaths of two college students by National Guard troops during a protest, which was aired just six months after the real-life deaths at Kent State. Produced by longtime TV vet William Sackheim and David Levinson (“Ironside”), “The Senator” eschewed the bright polish of other Universal series – director and associate producer John Badham (“War Games”) drew from the work of documentarian Frederick Wiseman and Haskell Wexler’s “Medium Cool” (1969) for its semi-verite look and eliminated any music cues – and took a firmly liberal against its weekly topics, which may have contributed to its cancellation. Despite its early demise, “The Senator” earned five Emmys, including Best Actor for Holbrook, and remained a touchstone for series like “The West Wing” on how to fold committed political discussion into a TV drama. The three-disc set includes all eight episodes, as well as a new interview with a feisty Holbrook and a clip from his appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show” shortly after the show went off the air. Shout Factory also has “The Bold Ones: The Protectors” (1969-1970), a seven-episode drama with Leslie Nielsen as a conservative police chief and Hari Rhodes as a liberal district attorney.

3 a.m. – “Jack and the Beanstalk” – Musical/Children

71nUENJlOFL._SL1000_(1967, Warner Archives Collection) Emmy-winning revamp of the classic children’s story produced and directed for NBC by Gene Kelly, who also stars as a peddler who sells Jack the magic beans that led to the giant (voiced by Ted Cassidy), the goose with the golden eggs, and a princess in need of a kiss. Hanna-Barbera, who previously teamed with Kelly to create a live-action/animated duet with Jerry Mouse in “Anchors Aweigh” (1945), created the animated characters and backgrounds, while the songs (just enough and plenty sweet) are by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen. A host of H-B talent provides additional voices, including Janet Waldo (Judy Jetson), Don Messick (Scooby-Doo) and Leo DeLyon (“Top Cat”), while Marni Nixon handles the songs for the princess.

4 a.m. – “The Rebel” – Western

81Zp3gdMFSL._SL1500_(1959-1960, Timeless Media Group) A cult favorite among small-screen Western fans, “The Rebel” starred Nick Adams (“Rebel Without a Cause”) as Johnny Yuma, a Confederate veteran wandering through Texas after the war. Unlike many of his TV cowboy counterparts, Yuma wasn’t looking for adventure or even justice; having suffered untold trauma during the war (and upon returning home, discovering that his father had been murdered by an outlaw gang, as detailed in the first episode), he mostly wanted to be left alone to sort out his thoughts. But a stranger in a small town with a sawed-off double shotgun at his side and a face full of dark thoughts is likely to attract attention, and much of “The Rebel” was devoted to Yuma extricating himself (or others) from unsavory types. Adams, who played a significant role in the show’s production, was a smart choice for Johnny Yuma, having played troubled teens and wayward men for much of his early career, and much of the show’s appeal centered around the guest heel of the week underestimating Yuma’s small stature and boyish face and then receiving his comeuppance. The show’s brooding tone and hero made it popular with younger viewers, who undoubtedly sympathized with Yuma’s impatience with grown-ups messing with him each week; however, their patronage wasn’t enough to keep “The Rebel” on the air for more than two seasons, though it remained a favorite in syndication. Timeless Media’s five-disc set offers all 36 episodes of “Rebel’s” debut season; the episodes are a bit grainy and appear to have been culled from 16mm sources, but they retain the original, booming theme song by Johnny Cash, which is a highlight unto itself.

5 a.m. – “Hee Haw” – “Episode #19: 1-28-70” – Comedy/Music

91eksBaqG+L._SL1500_(1970, Time Life) This particular episode of the long-running country music and comedy series (which aired shortly before I was born) opens in the usual manner, with regulars Grandpa Jones, Junior Samples, Lulu Roman and others trading (terrible) jokes on the Cornfield setbefore co-host Buck Owens, Don Rich and the Buckaroos perform “We Were Made For Each Other,” Buck’s 1969 duet with Susan Raye. Gordie Tapp does his Mark Twain knock-off, Samuel B. Sternwheeler, and Archie Campbell passes along questionable medical advice as Dr. Campbell before Roy does an amusing contortionist bit for the “Hee Haw Amateur Minute.” Archie and Gordie (who handled much of the show’s writing) do the venerable “PFFT! You Was Gone” routine (a comic duet which concludes with the title lyric), Don Harron tells a joke about a “Ubangi” on “KORN News,” and then Buck turns it over to Merle Haggard for the 1968 title track from his “I Take A Lot of Pride in What I Am” LP. Grandpa, Lulu, Gordie and Junior ham it up through the radio soap spoof “The Culhanes.” Then it’s time for the Hager Twins’ go-go take on Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on the Road,” Grandpa Jones shilling porcupine meatballs on “Grandpa, What’s For Dinner?” and Loretta Lynn, sporting a colossal updo, with a great take of “Fist City.” Roy joins Jimmie Riddle and Jackie Phelps for a demonstration of eephing and hamboning, which can be best described as country beatboxing, before showing off his extraordinary guitar skills on the instrumental “Meet Mister Callaghan.” Then it’s more Cornfield gags, Merle Haggard looking melancholy on a front porch set while lip-synching to “I Started Loving You Again,” and then Grandpa and the cast brings it home for a rambling gag about a preacher. There’s just enough time for Loretta to come back for the weepy “Dear Uncle Sam,” Roy and Buck to do their “Pickin’ and Grinnin’” sketch (corny gags between excellent guitar and banjo interplay) and Buck and Susan Raye’s jaunty version of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love is Strange.” Time-Life’s three-disc set culls five episodes from “Hee Haw’s” network run on CBS from 1969 to 1971, before it became a syndicated juggernaut for the next two decades, and includes interviews with Roy, Lulu and George “Goober” Lindsay, among other castmates, as well as a sort of Whitman’s Sampler of favorite sketches.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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