- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2008

The Cosby Show: The 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition (First Look, $139.98) — “The Cosby Show” revolutionized television in many ways. It was one of the first series based on a stand-up comic’s act, blazing the way for everything from “Roseanne” to “The Drew Carey Show” to “Seinfeld.” TV Guide said it “almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre.” Most telling, especially during this historic week, Entertainment Weekly called it the show “that changed forever the way black families are portrayed on television.”

The entire eight-year run of the series, which aired from 1984 to 1992, is available in a 26-disc box set celebrating the show’s upcoming 25th anniversary. Bill Cosby played the inimitable Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, while Phylicia Rashad was his charming lawyer wife, Clair. Lisa Bonet, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Tempestt Bledsoe and Keshia Knight Pulliam were just some of the kids who completed the loving upper-middle-class clan.

The set includes a hardcover book, a new interview with and a personal letter from the outspoken Mr. Cosby, a blooper reel and a special look back on the show.

The Mickey Mouse Club Presents: Annette, The Chronological Donald, Vol. Four and Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (Disney, $32.99 each) — Just in time for holiday gift-giving, Disney is releasing three more titles in its “Walt Disney Treasures” series of limited-edition, two-disc DVDs packaged in those recognizable tins.

Annette Funicello was the star of a serial that ran on “The Mickey Mouse Club” during the show’s third season in 1957 and ‘58. She played a high school orphan who has to adapt to sophisticated city life when she’s sent from the country to live with better-off relatives. Extras on this 50th-anniversary edition include a new tribute, a minidoc on Miss Funicello’s musical career and the first and last episodes of “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

This set of Donald Duck shorts will be the last. It features 31 films from 1951 to 1961 featuring that irascible bird, plus extras such as a look at Donald in comic books and audio commentary by film historian Leonard Maltin and animation historian Jerry Beck.

“Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” is based on a series of adventure books first published in 1915. The three-part live-action miniseries, starring Patrick McGoohan (“The Prisoner”) as the title parson-by-day, Scarecrow-by-night, was made in 1963. Extras include a look at how Dr. Syn, an anonymous fighter for the oppressed, went from book to movie as well as the theatrical film version of the series, which was released only in Great Britain.

I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete Series (Sony, $174.95) — Sidney Sheldon, who died last year at 89, was known in particular as a best-selling suspense novelist. It wasn’t until the last year of his series “I Dream of Jeannie” that he started working in the genre, though. Besides creating and writing television series including “The Patty Duke Show” and “Hart to Hart,” he worked in Broadway and the movies, winning Tony Awards and an Oscar.

This 20-disc set includes all 139 episodes from the five seasons of the series, which ran from 1965 to ‘70. Larry Hagman (now better known for “Dallas”) plays an astronaut who lands on a desert island and finds a bottle with the 2,000-year-old genie/Jeannie. He takes her back home with him, and slapstick and sexual tension ensue.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army ($29.98 for single DVD, $34.98 for 3-disc DVD, $39.98 for Blu-ray) and Night Gallery: Season Two (Universal, $59.98) — Next week is a good one for fans of Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. His last film, the comic-book adaptation “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” comes out on DVD. The sequel follows Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his gang (including his girlfriend, played by Selma Blair) as they battle to defeat an evil elf who is trying to destroy humanity. The director is also on hand to provide commentary tracks for three episodes of “Night Gallery,” Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” follow-up with macabre tales that aired from 1970 to ‘73.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Home Video, $35.99) — George Lucas’ Skywalker saga returned to an animated format this year with a full-length adventure for the big screen and a subsequent weekly series on the Cartoon Network.

The theatrical release arrives in the Blu-ray format, but a high-resolution picture is not enough to save its uninspired plot and wooden character style.

Older Star Wars devotees will watch. Unfortunately, they will pine for the days when Genndy Tartakovsky’s episodic Clone Wars cartoon (from 2003 and 2005) breathed new life into that galaxy far, far, away.

However, Lord of the Sell, Darth Lucas, is no foolish Nerf herder.

The movie’s explosive battle scenes; colorful cast of droids; and stars Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Asajj Ventress and newcomer Ahsoka Tano will catch the eye of the younger home-entertainment viewer in the family.

The only interactive extra on the disc, the Holocron Jedi Memory Challenge, skews toward the same tween demographic.

This brain-busting Concentration matching game is hosted by sluggish crime lord Jabba the Hutt. A player conquers three game boards by finding pairs of character icons in each. Success leads to watching clips promoting — surprise — an episode of the new television show.

Ah, young Skywalker, it appears a new Force of Star Wars fans is in training.

Joseph Szadkowski

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