- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The wait for ZAZ Team fans is officially over with the release of the ahead-of-its-time Police Squad: The Complete Series ($19.99) by writers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker. It’s out this week via Paramount Home Entertainment and it’s our …

DVD pick of the week

The short-lived (six episodes) but influential 1982 show stars Leslie Nielsen as eternally clueless Detective Frank Drebin, who, with the dubious aid of his equally dim superior Capt. Ed Hocken (Alan North) and cohort Detective Norberg (Peter Lupus), investigates bizarre cases whose solutions are usually arrived at totally by accident.

In addition to sending up standard TV cop-show cliches, the frenetic and deadpan “Police Squad” established hilarious ground rules of its own — e.g., employing a perennially confused narrator, killing off promised “guest stars” like William Shatner and William Conrad in the episodes? opening moments, and ending each show with a painful live-action “freeze frame.”

All of the half-dozen episodes collected here stand the test of time, though director Joe Dante?s “Testimony of Evil,” wherein Drebin goes undercover as a stand-up comic, may be the most surreally inspired of the lot.

Extras, including select ZAZ Team commentary, featurettes, gag reel, casting auditions and an unusually enlightening interview with Mr. Nielsen — who discusses the show?s contemporaneous nose dive and enduring cult status — truly add to the fun.

Though the series? television tenure may have been brief, it did lead to three better-known “Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad” feature films. Now Paramount?s DVD fills in both fans and fresh converts from the beginning.

Tele-video

Paramount unveils no fewer than three additional series this week, albeit of a less slapstick bent: Beverly Hills 90210: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $59.99), JAG: The Complete Second Season (four-disc, $59.99) and Melrose Place: The Complete First Season (eight-disc, $61.99). All come equipped with generous extras, from commentaries to featurettes.

Elsewhere in the TV-on-DVD arena, HBO Video continues the intrigues of James Gandolfini?s Tony Soprano in the 12-episode The Sopranos: Season 6, Part I (four-disc, $99.99), supplemented by four new creator, writer and cast commentaries.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment wraps a popular show with MASH: Season Eleven Collector?s Edition (three-disc, $39.98), including the two-hour finale “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” while Warner Home Video extends the fictional White House dramatics with The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season (six-disc, $59.98).

Vintage talk shows are fast becoming something of a cathode-to-digital cottage industry, with a trio of three-disc sets arriving this week alone: The Best of Carson Volume 1 (R2 Entertainment, $39.99), the Edward R. Murrow-hosted The Best of Person to Person ($39.98) and James Lipton?s Inside the Actors Studio: Icons ($39.98).

Collectors’ corner

In vintage-film developments, Warner Home Video digs deep into its voluminous vault for no fewer than three new sets. The Marlon Brando Signature Collection (five-disc, $59.92) gathers Julius Caesar (1953), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) and The Formula (1980).

The Gary Cooper Signature Collection (five-disc, $49.92) assembles Sergeant York (1941), The Fountainhead (1949), Dallas (1950), Springfield Rifle (1952) and The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959). Both sets arrive with an impressive array of extras, including commentaries and featurettes.

Johnny Weissmuller has his day in the jungle sun in the Tarzan Collection, Volume 2 (three-disc, $39.92), encompassing seven 1940s adventures, including Tarzan Triumphs and Tarzan?s Desert Mystery (both 1943).

Paramount aims to please Dean & Jerry fans with the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection Volume One (four-disc, $49.99), unearthing eight vintage comedies, including My Friend Irma (1949), Jumping Jacks (1952) and our fave among the octet, 1953?s The Stooge.

The Weinstein Company/Miramax Home Entertainment extends considerable TLC to Giuseppe Tornatore?s 1988 Italian classic Cinema Paradiso via a double-disc Limited Collector?s Edition ($39.99) incorporating extras ranging from new documentaries to a filmmaker?s commentary, CD soundtrack, lobby card reproductions and more.

The ‘A’ list

Sony Pictures debuts three recent theatrical titles, the high-profile Wayans Brothers romp Little Man ($28.95), the French historical epic Battle of the Brave and the political drama The Road to Guantanamo ($24.96 each), co-directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Elsewhere, Walt Disney Entertainment welcomes the Pixar animated vehicle Cars ($29.99), available in separate widescreen and full-frame editions, while IFC Films delves into the world of puzzle master Will Shortz with the bonus-laden documentary Wordplay ($24.95).

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: I’d love to find the following TV shows on tape or DVD: “WKRP in Cincinnati,” “Crazy Like a Fox,” “Herman’s Head,” “Father Dowling Mysteries,” “Brothers” and “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.”

Jerry Mann, Alexandria

Unfortunately — and somewhat surprisingly — none of the above has yet to surface in either home video format.

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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