Bob Hope Christmas specials presented on DVD for the first time
Posted May 4
Six Bob Hope Christmas specials entertaining U.S. troops overseas are on DVD for the first time.
“Bob Hope Salutes the Troops” (Time Life, 1963-91, three discs, six episodes, bonus special with clips of Hope’s many USO shows, eight-page booklet). The six Bob Hope Christmas specials collected here were recorded in war zones and other remote areas where the U.S. military was stationed. Hope and his singing, dancing, joke-telling guest stars entertain eager American troops with material that, in some cases, probably feels stale and silly and chauvinistic.
But there’s also some wonderfully amusing stuff here, along with a sense of what life was like in another time and place, when military service was not just a privilege but a requirement. Guests include Utah’s own Marie Osmond, Ann-Margret, Lana Turner, Jill St. John, Jerry Colonna, Lola Falana, Redd Foxx, astronaut Alan Shepard and football players Rosey Grier and Roman Gabriel. (This is exclusively at Wal-Mart for the first few weeks.)
“The 4400: The Complete Series” (CBS/Paramount, 2004-07, 14 discs, 42 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, director’s cut of the final episode, featurettes, bloopers). A comet is headed for Earth and the world braces itself for massive destruction, but then it seems to change course and suddenly drops 4,400 missing people — whose disappearances date back to the 1940s — in the foothills of Mount Rainier in Washington State. Naturally, the government is suspicious and wants answers. So do the 4,400. This USA cable channel sci-fi series stars Mahershala Ali (this year’s best supporting actor Oscar winner, for “Moonlight”), Peter Coyote and Billy Campbell.
“The Last Ship: The Complete Third Season” (TNT/Warner, 2016, two discs, 13 episodes, featurettes). In the aftermath of a global pandemic that has decimated humanity, the crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James, which, because of its location, was unaffected, has developed and been distributing a cure. This season there’s trouble in Southeast Asia as the crew tries to find and free some missing fellow crew members. (The fourth season will air later this year on TNT.)
“Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution” (Acorn, 2016, featurettes). Despite Christie’s name in the title, this cynical two-hour TV movie of her famous twist-filled courtroom thriller adds a lot of unnecessary soap opera filler, has no remotely likable characters and takes a surprisingly dour and humorless approach (complete with R-rated language and sex). It is based on the original 1925 short story instead of Christie’s preferred version, the play she rewrote in 1953 with an extra kick at the end. And it can’t hold a candle to Billy Wilder’s riveting 1957 film, which is based on the play and liberally laced with witty dialogue.
“Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season” (Warner, 2026, two-disc Blu-ray, three-disc DVD, 10 episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes). When his mother dies, a 17-year-old boy (Finn Cole) moves into the upscale Southern California beachside home of his grandmother (Ellen Barkin), little realizing that she and her sons are hardened criminals. Naturally, the boy is quickly recruited for a robbery. (The second season begins May 30 on TNT.)
“Nature: Yosemite” (PBS, 2017). Kevin Kline narrates this “Nature” episode with scientists and explorers discussing the precious water resources that have shaped the “stone wilderness” of the title, which includes the world’s largest living trees, as well as wildlife, and how it all is being affected by climate change.
“Frontline: Battle for Iraq” (PBS, 2017). This is a one-hour, two-part report from PBS’s “Frontline” documentary series. Part one is “Battle for Iraq,” which takes viewers into Mosul where ISIS employs suicide bombings and other terror tactics. Part two is “Hunting ISIS,” as the First Battalion tries to clear the terrorists from the city, a task that is anything but clear cut.
“Wild Weather” (PBS, 2015). This hourlong documentary reveals how little we actually understand about how weather works, and how that may change with the work of maverick experts and renowned specialists worldwide who have been performing experiments to learn the science behind sandstorms, water force, wind movement, etc.
“Craft in America: Nature” (PBS, 2017). Various forms of art that embrace the beauty and inspiration of the American landscape are highlighted in this hourlong episode, with sculptor Patrick Dougherty in North Carolina, wood carver Michelle Holzapfel in Vermont, fiber artist Mary Merkel-Hess in Iowa, Native American glass artist Preston Singletary in San Francisco, and paper sculptor Catherine Alice Michaelis in Washington state.
“Peanuts: Go Team Go!” (Warner, 2016, two discs, 19 episodes). Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang put their hapless efforts toward playing baseball, football, tennis and even ice skating for two hours of sports-themed episodes from the “Peanuts” cartoon TV series on Boomerang and Cartoon Network.
“Rugrats: Season 1” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 1991-92, two discs, 25 episodes).
“Rugrats: Season 2” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 1992-93, four discs, 51 episodes). The clever and funny 1990s animated series “Rugrats” was about a group of toddlers — chiefly Tommy, Chuckie, twins Phil and Lil, and Tommy’s mean cousin Angelica — that tried to make sense of the world around them by letting their imaginations run wild. These first two seasons are considered by fans of the show to be the best.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.