TVonDVD: Bones – Season One; Masters of Horror: Haeckel’s Tale; NCIS – The Complete Second Season; Edward R. Murrow: The Best of

Season One Box ArtThe chemistry between Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz gives FOX procedural, BonesSeason One a different kind of edge; Clive Barker's Haeckel's Tale makes for a truly different episode of Masters of Horror; humor helps set NCIS – The Second Complete Season apart, and Edward R. Murrow: The Best of Person to Person is a veritable clinic in how to interview the famous and powerful…

Season One box Art

Bones – Season One

Bones is based on the books [and life] of forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs. Emily Deschanel plays Dr. Temperance Brennan who works for the Smithsonian Institute. She is dragged into an FBI investigation – much against her will – headed by Special Agent Seeley Booth [David Boreanaz] and a team is created that puts the fun back into procedural drama.

Tempe [as her few friends call her] is wholly focused on her job. Her team at the Smithsonian is kind of like a forensic version of Doc Savage's band of adventurers: Zach Addy [Eric Milligan] is a grad student working under Brennan's tutelage and specializes in skeletal reconstruction and identifying causes of damage; Jack Hodgins [T.J. Thyne] is the "bugs and dirt guy," and Angela Montenegro [Michaela Conlin] is the artist whose holographic invention, referred to an the Angelator, creates 3D imaging that allows her to approximate what her long dead subjects might look like [she is also Tempe's best friend].

Booth is a mostly by-the-book FBI agent who usually limits his rebelliousness to chunky belt buckles and a variety of very odd ties. He's the one who understands people, has hunches, and is not comfortable around the remains that form the bases for most of their investigations. He's not comfortable with Brennan's team, either – and refers to them as squints – a term brought to the series by a technical advisor to refer to the close-up work required [as in squinting] in Brennan's team's line of work. Both also refers to Brennan as Bones – hence the title of the series…

Over the course of the first season, Brennan and Booth develop from a partly adversarial relationship to one of trust and increasing affection. Part of that growth of affection can attributed to their backgrounds [Booth as an armed forces sniper; Brennan as a product of the foster care system]. Together, they form a terrific team – a team that has determined if the victim of a car bomb was really a victim, or a terrorist whose timing was off; raced to determine whether a convict about to be executed was actually guilty of the murder; and investigated whether a skull in the desert belonged to someone close to Angela.

Bones proved to be a success – mostly on the strength of the chemistry between Deschanel and Boreanaz – right from its premiere and it's easy to see the show get better and better from episode to episode. By the first season finale, with its personal impact for Tempe, the show had become appointment viewing.

Features include: two commentaries [Pilot, by series creator Hart Hanson and co-executive producer Barry Josephson; and Two bodies In The Lab, by Deschanel and Boreanaz – the latter is fun but not really informative; the former is both]; Squints – the cast members talk about their preparation to play forensic scientists; The Real Definition – a quick guide to the squints' terminology; Bones: Inspired By The Life of Forensic Anthropologist and Author Kathy Reichs – Reichs and the cast and creators of Bones talk about the show and how it's inspired by the very real work of Ms Reichs.

Bones: Season One – Grade: B

Features – Grade: B

Final Grade: B

Haeckel's Tale box Art

Masters of Horror: Clive Barker's Haeckel's Tale

Clive Barker's Haeckel's Tale is John Mc Naughton's [Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Wild Things] entry in Mick Garris' hit Masters of Horror series. It's a tale of strange love, necromancy and frustrated dreams. When a shattered young man seeks out an alleged necromancer to bring his wife back from the dead, she tells him the cautionary tale of Ernst Haeckel [Derek Cecil] – a young medical student who intends to learn the secret of life.

Learning that his father is near death, young Haeckel sets out to see him for the last time, but is waylaid by a sudden storm and, at the behest of an older man he meets on the road, is persuaded to take shelter with a very odd couple – the older man [Tom McBeath] and his lovely, but faraway wife [Leela Savasta]. He immediately finds the wife far too compelling, but her husband warns him that she cannot be satisfied by mortal means.

Haeckel's Tale tackles a lot of taboos and former taboos: the much older man/much younger wife; adultery; raising the dead – even necrophilia [sort of]. It's a lurid, but very smart, little film. As Haeckel becomes more and more fascinated with Elise, he finds himself following her out into the nearby graveyard – where all Hell literally breaks loose!

McNaughton directs Mick Garris' screenplay with an elegance that captures the Mary Shelley meets Night of the Living Dead ghoulish period weirdness of Barker's original story. The effects are spectacular and grotesque, and when the story finally reaches its moments of goriness, it comes with a suddenness that is almost devastating.

Haeckel's Tale is as much pure fun as the best horror movies, and manages to say something [though not as subtly as it might've]. Just attempting to adapt a Clive Barker tale in such a manner has to be considered an accomplishment, but getting the job done so well… that's impressive!

Features include: Commentary by McNaughton; Breaking Taboos: An Interview With John McNaughton; Working With a Master: John McNaughton; On Set: An Interview With Leela Savasta; On Set: an Interview Derek Cecil; On Set: An Interview with Jon Polito; Script to Screen: Haeckel's Tale; Behind the Scenes: The Making of Haeckel's Tale; Stills Gallery; Storyboard Gallery; John McNaughton Bio; DVD-ROM Screenplay, and DVD-ROM Screensaver. The set also includes an insert and a John McNaughton trading card.

Masters of Horror: Haeckel's Tale – Grade: B+

Features – Grade: A+

Final Grade: A-

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NCIS – The Complete Second Season

NCIS is an oddity among procedural series. It relies heavily on the judicious use of humor; frequently switches from humor to drama in the middle of a scene; and virtually all its cases are based [however loosely] on actual NCIS cases. Considering that many critics call it the worst written hit on television, it's interesting that it's the show's writing that draws guests like the legendary Charles Durning, David Keith, Joe Spano, Elizabeth Pena, Frank Whaley, Nina Foch, Danica McKellar, Mariette Har
tley and Rudolph Martin.

The series is also blessed with a very solid ensemble: Mark Harmon [Special Agent Jethro Gibbs], David McCallum [Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard], Michael Weatherly [Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo], Sean Murray [Special Agent Timothy McGee], Sasha Alexander [Special Agent Caitlin Todd], and Pauley Perrette [Forensics Specialist Abby Sciuto]. It's a good mix of veterans and relative newcomers and a source of an undeniable – if odd – energy.

The second season found NCIS changing its look a bit. The show spent a great deal more time on the NCIS office set [which they didn't have in season one], and the overall tone of the series brightened – both in terms of lighting and the use of humor. It also became more focused, giving us more of a look at the lives of its characters.

The best episodes of the season included: The Bone Yard [a Marine bombing range turns out to be a Mafia dumping ground – and the body of an undercover FBI agent is found there]; Call of Silence [Charles Durning plays a veteran of Iwo Jima who claims to have murdered his best friend a battle on the island]; Doppelganger [a hoax takes a nasty turn when a petty officer actually turns up dead]; SWAK [DiNozzo opens the wrong envelope and contracts The Plague – this was a bottle show and a highlight for Weatherly and Alexander], and Twilight [a game of cat and mouse with a terrorist; the death of a member of the team – and the best kept character-death ep of the season].

Features include: two commentaries [The Bone Yard, by Chas. Floyd Johnson; Twilight, by John C. Kelley, Pauly Perrette and Michael Weatherly – neither is particularly good, though Johnson's is certainly more informative]; Investigating Season 2 – an overview of the season; The Real N.C.I.S. – a brief, reasonably satisfying look at the real investigative unit [and an agent suggests that Mark Harmon might have made a good N.C.I.S. agent]; What's New In Season 2 – how the series changed and evolved from season one; Lab tour With Pauly Perrette – a look at Abby's lab [some of the equipment is real!].

N.C.I.S.: The Complete Second Season – Grade: B

Features: C+

Final Grade: B-

Best of Person to Person Box Art

Edward R. Murrow – The Best of Person to Person

Edward R. Murrow is one of the all-time great television interviewers. Person to Person, was nothing more than a series of remote interviews done from a simple set [chair, microphone, chair, ashtray, picture window] but Murrow's casual attention to detail allowed viewers to see sides of the rich, famous and powerful that they would otherwise never have known.

The Best of Person to Person is a three-disc collection of thirty-five twelve-minute interviews, divided into three categories: American Icons, Hollywood Legends and Legendary Entertainers. The format is as simple as Murrow's set: he sits in the chair and asks questions of subjects whose current location [usually their homes] is shown in the picture window. It's the kind of long-distance conversation that is commonplace now, but was unheard of before Murrow's series.

Some of the best interviews are with a younger Andy Griffith [after "No Time For Sergeants, but prior to The Andy Griffith Show], Senator John F. Kennedy [from his former bachelor pad a few weeks after his marriage] and Frank Sinatra. Murrow manages to put his subjects at ease with little effort, and they tell him [and therefore us] things that they might not otherwise say.

From these twelve-minute interviews, we learn how luck helped make Griffith a star – and what wedding present was JFK's favorite. Little details like these help make all Murrow's subjects more relatable and it's quite amazing to watch him draw these things out in his interviews. There are no special features here, but then, you might say that the entire set is a series of special features.

Edward R. Murrow: The Best of Person to Person – Grade: A


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