“Beverly Hills 90210: The Ultimate Collection” (1990-2000, 2019, CBS Home Video/Paramount Home Video) Being the adventures of the Walsh siblings (Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty), Midwesterners who relocate with their parents to Beverly Hills, California (played, at various times, by Van Nuys, Altadena, Santa Monica, Eagle Rock, and Torrance), and become enmeshed with its complicated teenage flora and fauna. Juggernaut youthquake series from Darren Star (“Sex and the City”) and Aaron Spelling, which dominated the attention of teen audiences and their media observers throughout the 1990s, and spawned a flurry of programming that drew on the primetime soap paradigm (“Melrose Place,” etc.). No effort will be spent to defend or defame “90210” – the show’s popcorn qualities remain intact, as do its hopelessly overwrought plotlines (echoed at times by the cast’s own lives), and it’s likely that if you enjoyed the show during its original network run, you’ll regard this massive box set in the same way as you might a long-forgotten denim jacket or concert t-shirt, bought in a flurry of high school impulse, found at the back of your closet. If the show did nothing for you in the ’90s, it’s unlikely to turn your head now, and if it’s your first dance with the program, you’ll find much to amuse you (good grief, the clothes and hair) as it tempts you with its high-wattage, high-camp drama. Oh, and the Cramps and Flaming Lips both perform in individual episodes. The Ultimate Collection bundles the entire original series and the six-episode meta-show “BH90210” in a staggering 74-disc (!) set, and adds a mountain of extras, including commentary by Star and writers Charles and Karen Rosin (on two episodes), multiple making-of featurettes, reunion segments, gag reels, season recaps, and interviews.
“Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1” (2021, Paramount Home Video) Animated “Star Trek” spin-off from CBS All Access, focusing on the lives of Starfleet staffers aboard the “Cerritos.” As the title suggests, the characters here are on par with Redshirts, who in “Trek” lore, are minor figures in the Original Series who frequently die after being introduced in episodes. No one here meets a terrible end at the hands of aliens, but instead struggle under the weight of insignificance, incompetence, and ill-considered self-promotion schemes; in short, it’s a workplace comedy in space, and a fairly amusing one, thanks to a voice-over cast led by Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid, and Noel Wells, as well as cameos by “Trek” vets Jonathan Frakes, John De Lancie and Marina Sirtis. Creator Mike McMahan (a “Rick and Morty” vet) works overtime to satisfy “Trek” devotees and animation fans, and while the former will be pleased – “Lower Decks’ is loaded with references to all iterations of “Trek” – the latter may appreciate the show’s frantic energy but wonder when the series will find its footing in regard to consistency of story beyond “the gang goofs up again.” Season 2’s slated for this August and Season 3 is already on deck, so hopefully, they’ve figured it out by then. Paramount’s DVD includes production featurettes for all 10 episodes, as well as cast and crew interviews and a reference guide of sorts to various “Trek” Easter eggs in the show.
“Austin City Limits Country” (Time Life, 1974-2018) Another massive DVD box set (back-to-back viewing sessions of this and “90210” could cost you a week of your life), this time devoted to C&W performers on the venerable PBS live-music program. An appearance on “Austin City Limits” was and remains a solid bellwether of a musician’s legendary or up-and-coming status, and both are well-represented by the 146 selections represented here (no full shows save for the 1974 debut program, featuring Willie Nelson). Your personal mileage regarding high (or low) lights may vary, but for me, standouts include a reconstituted Texas Playboys on “San Antonio Rose” from 1977, the late Charley Pride on Doug Sahm‘s “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” (1981), back-to-back turns by Don Williams, Roger Miller, and Loretta Lynn (1983), a foursome by Johnny Cash from 1987, and “Streets of Bakersfield” featuring Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens. Lots of Big Hats (Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley) are also on hand, as are various patron saints (Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Carl Perkins, and Helen and Anita Carter). Bonus features include a wealth of interviews with former guests and behind-the-scenes talent.
“Drunk History: The Complete Series” (2013-2019, Paramount Home Video) Deceptively funny and frequently inventive comedy series from Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and host Derek Waters, which operates on what seems like a ridiculous premise: a host of comics and actors are plied with alcohol and then asked to recall events from history, which are then acted out, complete with woozy dialogue and hazy timelines, by an array of actors. My favorite of these best exemplifies the show’s tone and approach: the intense rivalry between inventors Thomas Edison (Crispin Glover) and Nikola Tesla (John C. Reilly, game as ever), depicted with impressive period aesthetics, is boiled down to a single, snarky utterance (“Fuck. THAT.”) that, as we are led to understand by narrator Duncan Trussell, decides the path of progress, American industry, and Edison’s place in history. The casting does much of the heavy work – Kristen Wiig as Patty Hearst, Ferrell as the Frankenstein Monster, “Weird” Al Yankovic as Hitler, and many, many inspired turns by Tony Hale – but the depictions, which have the frantic, keep-moving energy of a Warner Bros. cartoon, are inspired and entertainment. The 11-disc set from Paramount includes all 72 episodes and marks the debut of Seasons 5 and 6 on DVD; extras included extended drunk narrator ramblings, outtakes (sober and otherwise), and deleted scenes.