Over the next 3 1/2 weeks I will be reviewing, previewing and spotlighting items that you might buy for friends and loved ones this holiday season. It’ll be mostly DVDs with some books and other assorted goodies thrown in. No, this ain’t just for Christmas and if you want to hint to Bubbe what might make your shayne punim light up with joy, slip her my URL, and say goodbye forever to tube sock and gelt!
First up are two DVDs that really couldn’t be more different. The first, the recently released Office Space Special Edition With Flair! (20th Century Fox, $19.98 list) is one of the better comedies made in the past 10 years and while a failure at the box office, the film developed a cult following on video and rightly so. The second is Murder One: The Complete Second Season (20th Century Fox, $59.98 list), the sophomore and final season of the taught and original crime drama created by Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues).
Thankfully, I’ve never had an office job remotely like the ones in Office Space, but that’s not necessary in order to laugh your ass off. If you’re not familiar with this film, don’t make the mistake of imagining a live-action Beavis and Butt-Head. The humor is far more advanced and subtle (not to knock Cornholio, mind you!) that the MTV cartoon ever was and the cast are a gifted group of comic actors.
As far as extras go, they are pretty light. 8 deleted scenes and a 20-minute “retrospective” with interviews with Mike Judge and cast members. True, Scrubs fans will need to see John C. McGinley as one of two efficiency “experts” named Bob (his deleted riffs on how much he loves Michael Bolton are not to be missed) and a little info about the genesis of the characters is imparted by Judge in the “featurette,” but the lack of full commentaries is especially glaring. For example, what might Beavis have thought about Lumberg? I’m sure Butt-head would have had some choice words about Jennifer Aniston, too.
Still, on its own Office Space is worth the fifteen bucks. For less than say, two tickets to The Island, you’ve got multiple nights of viewing hilarity. Watch it once sober and once stoned and you’ve got your money’s worth!
As for Murder One: The Complete Second Season, this one’s a bit of a mixed bag and to be honest, I wish I was reviewing the first season. I think I’ll have to go out and *gasp* buy a copy. While season one did well enough to get renewed, season two aired opposite Friends and really never had much of a chance and after 12 episodes it went on hiatus with the final six episodes set to air after the end of May sweeps. Ironically, those final episodes, presented as three 2-hour movies were 6 of the most riveting hours of TV you’re likely to see and earned guest star Pruitt Taylor Vince an Emmy award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Anyone who’s seen him as Gub in Nobody’s Fool or as Victor in Heavy knows how good Vince can be.
While a ratings failure, Murder One was truly ground-breaking television. The idea was that the legal drama would focus on one case for an entire season (with glimpses of the firm’s other cases), giving the creative team much more time to focus on detail and to develop characters. I and many of my friends found it riveting. You like 24? Prison Break? Alias? They all owe at least a portion of their success to Bochco and the rest of the folks behind Murder One. Before this show, story arcs like this were rare.
Also, much like Wiseguy did with Kevin Spacey, Murder One‘s debut season showcased the talents of Stanley Tucci who, as Roger Cross, was one of the most deliciously Machiavellian villains ever to grace the boob tube and did the same with Vince in season two.
Alas, in the pre-24 era of 1995-7, the audience wasn’t having it. While the show was renewed for a second season, it lost it’s lead actor, the brilliant Daniel Benzali as firm boss Teddy Hoffman and format, with the second season showcasing 4 cases instead of the one.
While Benzali is gone for this collection, his place is taken by the equally accomplished Anthony LaPaglia http://imdb.com/name/nm0001439/ (TV’s Without a Trace, Emmy® winner for Frasier) as James “Jimmy” Wyler, an assistant DA turned defense attorney who makes a name for himself right off the bat by poaching the accused murderer of the governor of California from under an eager public defender’s nose and then hiring the same PD (Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s D.B. Woodside) at his firm.
Anyone familiar with the hugely successful Without a Trace or his film work (Lantana, So I Married An Axe Murderer) knows what a joy it is to watch LaPaglia work and the rest of the cast here (including The West Wing‘s resident Hottie McHotentot, Mary McCormack) are all joys to watch. Special kudos are owed to both Ralph Waite and Eileen Heckart.
You’ll all know Waite as Papa John Walton and here he couldn’t play a more different role in the scheming, malevolent and thoroughly immoral Malcolm Dietrich. You might call him the anti-Walton and had he been around, he would have foreclosed on Walton Mountain just as soon as spit on it.
The Academy Award®-winning Heckart (Butterflies Are Free) is brilliant as Jimmy Wyler’s mother Frances, who blames Dietrich for the death of her husband, years earlier. She has an acid tongue which itself has a taste for scotch which gets her into trouble from time to time. One scene particularly sums her up: She and Jimmy are having one of their frequent dinners when LA district attorney (and candidate for governor) Roger Garfield (Gregory Itzin – vice president/president Logan, from 24) comes to the table with a cake for Frances’s birthday.
Jimmy: Mom, you remember Roger Garfield.
Frances (without looking up): And Pearl Harbor.
While season 2 pales in some respects to season 1, it does stand on its own as a quality dramatic series. Certainly one that deserved better treatment and one that’s well worth owning, along with Season One.
As far as extras go, Fox has seriously skimped on this set. I know I said buy it anyway, and it is a great show, but on season one, at least they included 2 commentary tracks. All that’s included on this one is a sort of documentary look back at season 2. While it’s fun to see Buffy-era Woodside and it’s fun to wonder what McCormack was thinking with that haircut, there’s NO LaPaglia and that’s just lame. A commentary or two might have been nice, too.
Coming up between now and the end of the month, Edward Scissorhands Anniversary Edition, Sin City: Recut and Extended, Chicago: The Razzle Dazzle Edition, Rock n’ Roll High School: Rock On Edition, Family Guy season 4, Fantastic 4, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Puddle Cruiser, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series and much, much more!
More Holiday Gift Guide Entries:
All I Want For Christmas Is The Buffy Set – The Rabbi’s Holiday Gift List Continues
The Rabbi’s Holiday Gift List – Edward Scissorhands: 15th Anniversary Edition
Why not support The Rabbi Report buy buying from my affiliates,
Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.co.uk?
Links to buy the DVD’s reviewed above:
Region 1: Office Space
Region 2 (NOT the special edition):
Region 1: Murder One – Season 2
Region 1: Murder One – Season 1
All Photos © 20th Century Fox