- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

Season One (Universal, $29.98) - Perhaps the anticipation surrounding the new “Sex and the City” movie, which opens in theaters today, will give a new lease on life to this series based on another best-selling book by “Sex and the City” author Candace Bushnell. The NBC show usually ranked only third in its time slot, although it was tops among 18- to 49-year-old women. Still, it managed to get a renewal and a DVD release, while ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia,” another “Sex”-like series this season about ambitious women in New York City, didn’t finish with either.

The women of “Lipstick Jungle” are older, but not always wiser, than the “Sex” girls were when that show premiered. They’re also a little more high-powered. Brooke Shields stars as Wendy, a movie executive juggling a family; Kim Raver is Nico, a fashion magazine editor who covets the CEO spot; and Lindsay Price plays single fashion designer Victory. The men in their lives include such familiar, dishy faces as Julian Sands and Andrew McCarthy.

“Lipstick Jungle” didn’t catch the popular imagination like “Sex” did. Maybe it’s that the two shows didn’t share a writing staff - you won’t find as many pithy one-liners here. Or maybe it’s that, despite the designer clothes, bags and shoes, women were able to relate to the struggling “Sex” girls a little more easily. Still, the writers strike meant the first season only had seven episodes. NBC is willing to give the show a second chance; women craving a female-centered show might, too.

Mannix: The First Season (Paramount, $49.99) - This detective series that aired on CBS isn’t as well-known as executive producer Bruce Geller’s other creation - “Mission: Impossible” - but it has its fans. Its ratings often put the show in the top 10 during its 1967 to 1975 run, after all, and it won four Golden Globes, including best show. Mike Connors played the title character, a Korean War veteran who seemed to have more lives than Rasputin. The archetypical sleuth repeatedly ignored the high-tech computers his agency used and struck out on his own. The six-disc set includes all 24 episodes from the first season and a number of extras, including a new interview with and some audio commentaries by Mr. Connors and co-star Joseph Campanella. There’s also a clip from the 1997 episode of “Diagnosis: Murder” that was actually a sequel to a 1973 “Mannix” episode.

Holocaust (Paramount, $39.99) - This 1978 miniseries won eight Emmy and two Golden Globe awards, but wasn’t without controversy. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel called it “untrue, offensive, cheap,” while many critics felt the commercial interruptions were unseemly. Thirty years later, though, those who remember watching the series are heralding its arrival on DVD. The three-disc set includes the entire eight-hour miniseries, which told the story of Nazi Germany through two families, the Jewish Weisses and the German Dorfs. Actors portraying the former include Meryl Streep, Rosemary Harris and James Woods, while Michael Moriarty played the patriarch of the Dorf family, who becomes an SS officer.

Grace Is Gone (Genius Products/Weinstein, $28.95) - Despite winning two awards at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and garnering two Golden Globe nominations, this film about a father of two who loses his wife in the Iraq war never saw a wide release. Perhaps it’s because the director, first-timer James C. Strouse, was paying attention when so many other war-related films crashed and burned at the box office last year, and he decided the safer, more dignified move was to steer his project to DVD as soon as possible.

Months after it was supposed to hit screens nationwide, “Grace Is Gone” is finally available, with just a few extras. Those willing to take a chance on “yet another Iraq war film” will find one that deals little with the politics or actual conflict and instead focuses on the emotional repercussions.

John Cusack melts into his role as a stocky, four-eyed ex-military man who takes his two daughters on a road trip to an amusement park rather than telling them that their mother has died fighting in Iraq. Some of the exchanges feel a bit forced, and the plot wears a bit thin by the end, building to the inevitable four-hankie family breakdown, but “Grace” does have some lovely attributes.

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