- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

One of the funniest vintage TV series returns in the three-disc SCTV: Best of the Early Years, new from Shout! Factory ($39.98). It’s our …

DVD pick of the week

The set collects 15 half-hour episodes from that brilliant, oft-surreal sketch series’ second and third seasons (1978-1981), sans the versatile Martin Short but with capable cast members Tony Rosato and Robin Duke (both later to depart the show).

Many of “SCTV“‘s now-iconic characters are likewise represented, from Eugene Levy’s lachrymose talk-show host Sammy Maudlin to Catherine O’Hara’s overkill chanteuse Lola Heatherton, Joe Flaherty’s Count Floyd (hosting his “Monster Chiller Horror Theater”), Andrea Martin’s aggressive station manager Edith Prickley and Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis’ ever-inebriated McKenzie Brothers.

Our fave among the assembled episodes is “Midnight Express Special,” which inserts Abbott and Costello (Messrs. Levy and Rosato, both pitch-perfect here) into parodies of the drug-smuggling thriller “Midnight Express” and the Wolfman Jack rock show “Midnight Special,” forming one seamless (and singularly hilarious) extended skit.

Extras include a retrospective interview with Miss Martin, select cast and producer commentary tracks, a featurette on Canada’s McKenzie Brothers craze and more. Withal, “SCTV: Best of the Early Years” represents an essential addition to any cathode comedy fan’s digital library.

An equally recommended show, from across the pond, also hits our shores and shelves this week. Creature Comforts: The Complete Second Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, two-disc, $24.96), created by “Wallace and Gromit” mastermind Nick Park, introduces 13 new claymation episodes plus a quartet of fun featurettes.

Tele-video

Elsewhere on the busy TV-on-DVD slate, a trio of supernatural series arrives this week. Jennifer Love Hewitt takes the titular role as a spiritual liaison in Paramount Home Entertainment’s The Ghost Whisperer: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $54.99), while HBO Video issues the terror anthology The Hitchhiker: Volume 3 (two-disc, $34.98) and Warner Home Video packages a fresh batch of sinister stories in Tales From the Crypt: The Complete Fifth Season (three-disc, $39.98).

Crime serves as the center of attention in a brace of divergent entries, CSI: Miami: The Complete Fourth Season (Paramount, seven-disc, $64.99), starring David Caruso, and the British import A Touch of Frost: Seasons 11 & 12 (MPI Home Video, two-disc, $39.98), with David Jason as intrepid Detective Inspector Jack Frost.

For younger viewers, Entertainment Rights debuts the 1970s Saturday morning cartoon series Groovie Goolies (three-disc, $29.98), Shout! Factory focuses on the animated adventures of video-game siblings The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! Volume 2 (four-disc, $29.98), and Walt Disney Home Entertainment contributes Hannah Montana: Livin’ the Rock Star Life and Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior ($19.99 each).

“Kids” geared for adult tastes surface in A&E Home Video’s Kids in the Hall: Complete Season 5 (four-disc, $34.98), while a wide assortment of comic legends, from Bob Hope to Billy Crystal, guest-star in SRO Entertainment’s George Burns: The TV Specials Collection (four-disc, $39.99).

In the animated superhero arena, Warner Home Video unveils the four-disc sets Batman Beyond: Season Two and Justice League Unlimited: Season One ($44.98 each), while Lionsgate offers Speed Racer: Volume 5 ($19.99).

Collectors’ corner

Dance fans will want to check out Warner Home Video’s six-disc The Astaire & Rogers Collection Volume 2 ($59.92). The set furnishes five 1930s terpsichorean classics starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers — Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Carefree (1938) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) — supplemented by vintage musical and comedy shorts, cartoons, trailers and more.

Beavis and Butt-head buffs, meanwhile, can keep busy with the gala Beavis and Butt-head: The Mike Judge Collection (10-disc, $129.99). The mega-set gathers Volumes 1-3 of the original TV shows, along with the feature film Beavis and Butt-head Do America and bonus material galore.

The ‘A’ list

The Tom Cruise showcase Mission: Impossible III (Paramount, $24.99) tops a thin week for recent theatrical features; the double-disc edition includes a star-and-director audio commentary, eight featurettes, deleted scenes and more.

Miramax Home Entertainment counter-programs with the social comedy Keeping Up With the Steins ($29.99), while Sony Pictures proffers the made-for-cable thriller Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America ($24.96), headlining Joely Richardson.

Video verite

In the documentary department, Kino Video contributes the 10-part series Off to War: From Rural Arkansas to Iraq (four-disc, $49.95), while WGBH Boston Video issues World War I: The Killing Fields and World War II: The Home Front (two-disc, $29.98 each).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Do you know if there are any plans to release the uncut Witchfinder General, aka “The Conqueror Worm”?

Tony Albensi, via e-mail

No word so far re that chilling 1968 Vincent Price vehicle’s joining the digital ranks; rare VHS copies can still be purchased via moviesunlimited.com.

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or e-mail us at [email protected]aol.com. Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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