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Brokenwood, Cavetts Vietnam lead this weeks TV on DVD
Neill Rea and Fern Sutherland star as mismatched detectives in the New Zealand comedy-drama series "The Brokenwood Mysteries," now on Blu-ray and DVD. - photo by Chris Hicks
A new police procedural from New Zealand and Dick Cavetts PBS documentary about Vietnam are on DVD this week, along with a number of other TV programs both old and new.

The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 1 (Acorn/Blu-ray/DVD, 2015, two/four discs, four episodes, featurettes). Extremely enjoyable police procedural that follows a familiar British-mystery formula (although this one is in New Zealand) a city cop is assigned to solve a murder in a small rural village (although hes really there for other reasons) and decides to stay.

The cop in question is Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea), a slovenly, overweight, unshaven and (at least) thrice-divorced detective inspector who talks to homicide victims before proceeding to investigate their murders. He also drives an old clunker and plays country music on cassette tapes, which doesnt help his initially rocky relationship with detective constable Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland). But, of course, Mike is a crack detective and a grudging respect between them develops over the course of these four feature-length episodes.

Rea and Sutherland demonstrate terrific chemistry, and the show is funny and sharp with more than its share of eccentric characters in support. My favorites are the no-nonsense Russian medical examiner (Christina Ionda) and an affable kiwi farmer (Pana Hema Taylor) with criminal connections. (Note that some of the dialogue is lost in thick accents so you may want to turn on the subtitles; it helps.)

Dick Cavetts Vietnam (PBS/DVD, 2015). This solid documentary overview of the Vietnam War uses vintage interviews Cavett conducted on his 1970s talk shows, along with archival and news footage, and new interviews with Cavett and others as its focal point. The material here is especially valuable for young people whose knowledge of the war may be, at best, peripheral.

Barney Miller: The Final Season (Shout!/DVD, 1981-82, three discs, 22 episodes, featurettes, pilot episode). This is the eighth season of this hilarious sitcom with Hal Linden as the title character, captain of a New York police precinct populated by an array of eccentric cops and crooks. This final season is notable for the three-episode finale that sends the show off in style. Also here is the original pilot, The Life and times of Barney Miller, with many different cast members.

Touched By an Angel: Amazing Grace (CBS/Paramount/DVD, 1997). Amazing Grace is a double-episode from Season 3 with angel Monica (Roma Downey) afflicted with temporary blindness, which she uses to recruit teenage Josh (Austin OBrien) to help her touch lives in a Colorado community. Guests include Louis Gossett Jr., Loretta Devine, Esther Rolle, Lynn Whitfield and Gerald McRaney. Della Reese co-stars.

Playing House: Season 1 (Universal/USA/DVD, 2014, 10 episodes). Offbeat USA cable-channel sitcom created by Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, who also star, respectively, as a pregnant woman who has just kicked out her cheating husband and her best friend who gives up an online business to help raise the baby. (Season 2 begins next month.)

House of Cards: The Complete Third Season (Sony/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2015, four discs, 13 episodes, featurettes). After finagling his way into assuming the presidency, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) begins an ambitious climb to win the 2016 election. But, of course, there will be betrayals. Robin Wright co-stars as the first lady in this Netflix remake of a British series. (With HBO-style R-rated content.)

Bitten: The Complete Second Season (eOne/DVD, 2015, three discs, 10 episodes, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, bloopers). Werewolves (and other fantasy creatures) attempt to live in the human world in this series, based on Kelly Armstrongs Women of the Otherworld books. This season, Elena (Laura Vandervoort) and her pack search for the mastermind of the Mutt uprising.

Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights (Universal/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2013, new movie, two episodes of Ever After High). There are more adventures with young girl monsters in high school and lots of bad puns in this animated special as the fashion-conscious teens got to Scaris, France.

Nickelodeon Bunch of Play Dates (Nickelodeon/Paramount/DVD, 2002-12, three discs, 19 episodes, music videos). Included here are episodes from previously issued collections Dance to the Music, Rootin Tootin Wild West and Once Upon a Rhyme, with Dora the Explorer, Bubble Guppies, Wonder Pets, etc.

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Season 2 (Cinedigm/DVD, 2006-07, six discs, 52 episodes). It's the second year at Duel Academy and Jaden and friends continue training, with the introduction of several new characters, beginning with dinosaur-obsessed drill sergeant Tyranno Hassleberry and pro duelist Aster Phoenix.
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