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1977 newspaper drama 'Lou Grant' makes its DVD debut this week

Posted May 28

The 1977 newspaper drama “Lou Grant” has finally made it to DVD this week, and it’s so good it may surprise you.

“Lou Grant: Season One” (Shout!, 1977-78, five discs, 22 episodes, featurette). After playing gruff TV news editor Lou Grant for laughs during seven seasons of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” a half-hour sitcom set in Minneapolis, Grant relocated to Los Angeles for this hourlong drama (albeit with liberal doses of humor) that returned him to the world of newspapers (his ink-stained history was often referred to on Moore’s show).

Despite the switch in tone, the role still fits Edward Asner like a glove (he won three Emmys for the character on Moore’s show and twice for this series). The pilot kicks off by setting up Grant’s status as the new city editor for a fictional L.A. daily.

The focus is on his interactions with reporters, in particular his mentoring of a cocky hotshot (Robert Walden), a young rookie (Linda Kelsey, beginning in the fourth episode), a talented-but-independent photographer called “Animal” (Daryl Anderson), and with the paper’s nervous managing editor (Mason Adams), the button-down assistant city editor (Jack Bannon) and the demanding publisher (Nancy Marchand).

Episodes deal with quite a few hot-button social issues but also spend time on journalistic ethics, the difficulties of covering a story without getting personally involved or allowing prejudices to creep in, as well as conflicts with a publisher who is deeply involved in LA’s civic affairs.

To an old newshound like me, this show still feels right, holding up wonderfully despite the presence of manual typewriters and the absence of cellphones. The scripts are crisp, sharp and as good as anything on the air today. The program earned a total of 13 Emmys, as well as the prestigious Peabody Award. Guests this season include Brian Dennehy, Peter Coyote, Julie Kavner — and Gordon Jump in six episodes as an editor. (Here’s hoping we see subsequent seasons soon.)

“Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume Two” (Shout!, 1991-95, four discs, three episodes, seven shorts, two “MST” hour wraps). Here’s more snarky wiseguy fun as this reissued DVD set lampoons “Cave Dwellers” (1984, aka “The Blade Master”), “Pod People” (1983) and “Angels Revenge” (1979, aka “Angels Brigade”). The shorts include “Body Care & Grooming,” “Chicken of Tomorrow” and “A Date With Your Family.”

“The Wonder Years: Season Five” (Time Life, 1991-92, four discs, 24 episodes). This winning sitcom about growing up in suburban America in the 1960s begins its penultimate season with Kevin (Fred Savage) entering high school, going out for soccer, getting his driver’s license and suffering through plenty of girl troubles. A big selling point here is the use of pop songs true to the period, restored for this DVD release. Guests include Alicia Silverstone, Jim Caviezel and David Schwimmer.

“NOVA: Creatures of Light” (PBS, 2016). This hourlong “NOVA” episode tackles a fascinating subject: terrestrial and especially aquatic creatures that are able to provide their own internal sources of light, from courting fireflies to varieties of fish that glow to lure prey or dim to elude predators. The show also focuses on scientists’ efforts to harness such luminescence to benefit humanity.

“Major Crimes: The Complete Fourth Season” (TNT/Warner, 2015-16, five discs, 23 episodes, deleted scenes, bloopers). The fourth season of this TNT police procedural finds Capt. Raydor (Mary McDonnell) leading the Major Crimes Division as it investigates a wide range of Los Angeles murders, including one that is linked to a supposedly reformed cop killer. Jon Tenney has a recurring role, and Tom Berenger returns as Raydor’s ex-husband in one episode.

“Eleventh Hour” (Acorn/ITV, 2008, two discs, four episodes). Patrick Stewart stars in this British miniseries as a government scientific troubleshooter who investigates failed experiments in human cloning, an infectious hybrid virus, a breakthrough in the study of global warming and a spring with water that supposedly benefits the health of those who drink it but which may actually be doing the opposite. (Contains violence and foul language.)

“The Outsiders: Season One” (Sony, 2016, four discs, 13 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes). David Morse stars in this gritty series about a backwoods clan that has lived for generations in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. The family battles both internal contention upon the return of a cousin who has been living in the outside world for a decade, and a coal company’s threats to evict them from their mountain homes.

“The Irish Rebellion” (PBS, 2016, three episodes). This three-part, three-hour documentary miniseries, narrated by Liam Neeson, explains the history of the rebellion, the Easter Rising of 1916 and its influence on Ireland becoming an independent state, and the help for the cause offered by Irish-Americans.

“Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Sport-Y-Thon” (Disney Junior, 2015, six episodes). These episodes of the animated “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” program are all sports related, just in time for the Summer Games: “Mickey’s Mouseketball,” “Mickey’s Mousekedoer Adventure,” etc.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Beyond the Known Universe” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2015-16, two discs, 12 episodes, featurette). These are the first dozen episodes of the fourth season of the 2012 animated reboot that airs on Nickelodeon as the heroes in a half-shell battle alien creatures in outer space.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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