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Your host: Billy Ingram

WHAT I'M WATCHING
Here are some TV shows I'm watching thanks to Netflix and Blockbuster.com.
Homicide: Life on the Street - Season 6: I'd never seen this series before but I'm crazy about The Wire so I decided to check out other works by Wire producer David Simon. It took me a while to get into Homicide, I almost gave up after the first couple of eps but boy, am I glad I hung in. Compelling characters plus mind-blowing situations means I could watch this all day. As long as there are no commercials.

Extras - Seasons 1 & 2: "Are you havin' a laugh?" You darn sure will be when you pop this 2 disc set into the player. In this acclaimed HBO series, Ricky Gervais stars as struggling working actor Andy Millman who can't seem to catch a break from the series of mishaps instigated by the incompetent, mendacious people he's surrounded by. This show is Gervais' follow-up to one of my all time favorite comedies The Office - the original British version, not the lame American knockoff. Extras works on every level. This is absolutely one of the funniest sitcoms of all time, funnier than The Office in many ways. It's certainly more accessible thanks to the many superstars that appear in roles spoofing themselves, including David Bowie (in an especially funny episode), Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Coldplay's Chris Martin, and a host of old-school British comics And wait until you see Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter himself) come on to Diana Rigg. Priceless.

Weeds - Seasons 1 & 2: This Showtime dramedy is really something else, about a suburban housewife who starts selling pot and the unwieldy events that unfold. Weeds sports a superior cast and some of the best scripts you'll find anywhere and it's all staged with wit and verve. Even the kid actors are good. And, surprisingly, season 2 is even better than season 1. And what a cliffhanger at the end. You can catch season 3 on Showtime but I suggest if you haven't seen the show to start at the beginning. It's too good to miss with twisty plot turns that come out of nowhere. And the DVDs have loads of bonus features and episode commentaries that are a joy to listen to.

Ugly Betty: This 2006 ABC dramedy is the story of a plain Jane young lady from Queens who lands a job at a Vogue-like magazine where everyone's drop dead gorgeous and imminently cutthroat. Alternately heartbreaking and charming, Ugly Betty is a smart spoof of the fashion and publishing industries. I'm not very far into this one but it's completely original and features the wonderful Scottish actress Ashley Jensen that plays Ricky Gervais' misanthropic foil on Extras. If you've worked in publication or fashion you'll especially love this off kilter program, it's loaded with intrigue - new to DVD this week.

We really are living in a new golden age of television.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - 12:45pm
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THE ROAD TO DVD
Route 66 season 1 on DVDBob Huggins writes about the growing mystery behind Route 66 on DVD: "Here’s my take on why the "Best of Route 66" is no longer available at Amazon. One of your previous blogs indicated that Sony has relinquished the rights to someone. That someone turned out to be Roxbury Entertainment, which was seeking the rights to the series in order to produce a feature film. Now this is speculation on my part, but I believe the owners of Roxbury released the “Best of Route 66” 2-DVD set to test the waters for a wider DVD release, as well as perhaps gauging interest in a “Route 66” film. As far as I can tell, the “Best of Route 66” was only offered at Amazon.com; other sites had it listed, but all of the links would eventually lead back to Amazon, the sole seller. The set was released under the Roxbury Entertainment banner and the packaging had a semi-professional look to it; certainly above the quality found on most bootlegs, but not quite what you would expect from one of the major studios or independents. When the news that season 1, volume 1 would be released in October, the question remained as to who would be releasing it. As it turns out Roxbury is using the Infinity Entertainment Group for its distribution. Infinity, in turn, is part of a larger company known as Infinity Resources, which owns several direct mail (Critics Choice Video) and online (Deep Discount.com) stores and, for a time, had released a number of both licensed (“Dangerous Assignment,” “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” “Hopalong Cassidy”) and public domain DVD classic TV releases under the Critics Choice Video line. The Infinity Entertainment Group is really an extension of the old Critics Choice Video line, and has recently released season 1 of “The Real McCoys” and the old, live dramatic series “Suspense.” I strongly suspect that Roxbury really needed the well established distribution chain that Infinity has, as well as Infinity’s ability to give the “Route 66” release a more professional packaging and higher profile look. With the upcoming release, the first of which will be, hopefully, the entire release of the series, Roxbury either decided to pull the “Best of” collection from the market or, perhaps, sold out their entire production run. In any event, those who were able to get the “Best of” collection (and I’m not one of them) have a nifty “Route 66” collector’s item which I doubt will be reissued, given the upcoming season sets.

I'll just add that Route 66 is one of the best TV shows eeeeeeever and this new DVD release is a welcome sight.

Monday, August 20, 2007 - 10:32am
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TV STUFF
Here's a nice interview with Mary Louise-Parker, the star of one of my favorite new shows Weeds. This Showtime dramedy is really something else, about a recently widowed suburban housewife who starts selling pot to make ends meets and the devastating events that cascade around her because of the decisions she's forced to make.

I love it when classic TV stars are cast in modern series. Check it out - both Nichelle Nichols and George Takei (Star Trek) will play recurring character son NBC's Heroes this season.

10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Merv Griffin. Besides the fact that he was gay, which I thought was common knowledge.

TBS is giving Ellen DeGeneres a two-hour variety special called Ellen's Really Big Show airing in November.

Game shows continue to thrive in prime time so Fox has announced Nothing But the Truth, in which contestants are hooked up to a lie detector and must answer 21 questions honestly to win $500,000.

Friday, August 17, 2007 - 10:16am
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NEW SHOW ON FOX THIS FALL
I know, everyone says there are too many reality shows but they're cheap to produce so we'll be seeing a lot more from the networks. But can they keep coming up with fascinating ideas?

Anchorwoman TV Show

The demented new FOX reality show Anchorwoman looks like it was budgeted at $1.98 but it's the series' tackiness that makes it watchable. The premise gets points for originality - take former Barker's Beauty / WWE diva Lauren Jones from Los Angeles and give her a job in Tyler Texas as a news anchor. Not a feature reporter but actually anchoring the entire newscast.

Talk about whoring for ratings. Little miss perfect has absolutely no experience in any aspect of the job but she does have an amazing rack. If tits were brains she'd be Walter fucking Cronkite but as it is Lauren can barely read the teleprompter. When asked if she was left handed her reply was, "I don't know." And wait until you see what this bimbo wears on her first day at work, you'd think she was showing up to ride a pole.

The best part of the show are the looks on her co-worker's faces, especially the female co-anchors, as they get to know the 'new gal.' Seems they have a problem with a painted up tart laboring in what they believe to be a noble profession. It's a cold slap in the face to find out you can be replaced by Little Annie Fanny.

Anchorwoman is amusing and compelling in that train wreck sort of way. As you would expect, the production goes out of it's way to make everyone look foolish but that doesn't take much effort given the typically clueless TV management types on display and the inherent tension in the situation. Anyone who's ever worked with TV and radio management folks will recognize the type, they're generally feckless individuals.

At the end of the first show, after a few days of rehearsal, management throws this nubile newbie on the air to anchor the 5:00 news for the first time. Will she make it? You'll have to wait for episode 2 to find out.

Anchorwoman could be a hell of a show but I don't see where it can go after 4 episodes or so unless they make Lauren a feature reporter, get her out into the community. Or will they instead plant more dippy blondes at other stations and before we know it we'll all be tuning in to the Hooters girls for our news. Would we even know the difference?

Anchorwoman debuts August 22nd, Wednesday night at 8:00pm on FOX. I enjoyed it.

Here's a segment about Anchorwoman from Good Morning America:

Thursday, August 16, 2007 - 3:06pm
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THIS 'N THAT
Phil Holt writes and asks a question you might know the answer to. I don't:"I have these silver bars with bozo the clown on them, do you know anything about these or anyone who does? I'm not trying to sell them i just can't find any info on them. I see all kinds of stuff about the show but nothing about these, I could really use the help. thank you for any help you can provide." Any ideas?

This from TV Guide: "Today, TVGuide.com's Michael Ausiello received exclusive confirmation from his moles at Criminal Minds that disgraced cranky-pants Mandy Patinkin will be returning to the show this fall after all, but only for one episode (airing October 3), so as to provide some closure for his Gideon character. Patinkin's reprisal of Gideon, reports Ausiello, will be brief and lonely—he'll only be in one scene and he'll be essentially be the only one in it."

I love zombie movies so this is good news. From the press release: "Two iconic splatter classics that were pioneers in the horror genre make their way to DVD when From Beyond Unrated and The Return Of The Living Dead Collector's Edition arrive on September 11 from MGM Home Entertainment.  Just in time for Halloween, these 80s cult classics represent some of the most dark and original content created and started a new trend in black comedy.  Based on the short story of the same name by legendary writer H.P. Lovecraft, comes a science-fiction experiment gone horribly wrong in From Beyond.  Starring horror legend Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, The Frighteners) and shot by cult director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dolls), From Beyond Unrated is available for the first time on DVD and includes all new featurettes, a photomontage and the original Director's Unrated Cut. 
"Writer/director Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Lifeforce) puts a hilarious spin on the zombie movie with The Return Of The Living Dead.  Considered one of the most bizarre yet incredibly funny horror films in its time, The Return Of The Living Dead helped launch the career of scream queen Linnea Quigley (Sorority Babes In The Slime Ball Bowl-O-Rama, Vice Academy) and is a true punk rock zombie comedy.  The Collector's Edition DVD comes in collectible glow in the dark packaging and features audio commentary from cast, crew and the undead, behind-the-scenes featurettes, an 80s horror film retrospective hosted by the mistress of the night herself, Elvira and of course, zombie subtitles. 

Route 66 on DVDA while back there was discussion on this Blog about the Best of Route 66 DVD release that came out of nowhere. We wondered if it was a bootleg, figured it probably wasn't but soon after Route 66 Season One Volume One was announced for October. Now the 'Best of' DVD set is AWOL, it's no longer offered for sale through Amazon. As to why, you're guess would be as good as mine.

This too bizarre - how did I miss seeing this? It's a commercial for the Karma Chameleon telephone. Fortunately, I never knew anyone who owned this grotesque contrivance.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - 3:12pm
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WEIRD
Jay Blotcher sent this item found posted on cynopsis: A few interesting parallels between Merv Griffin and talk show rival Mike Douglas provided by a Cynopsis subscriber. The two were often confused with each other and even their guests would refer to the other which would drive them both crazy. However, both gentlemen shared some amazing similarities. For example, both were born during the summer of 1925, five weeks apart and both were Irish-American. Both started out as big band singers in the 1940s. In the same year, each hosted a successful talk show, syndicated by Group W. And the two gentlemen died a year and a day apart from each other - Mike on August 11, 2006 and Merv on August 12, 2007.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - 11:38am
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48 HOUR FILM FEST
You may have heard of the 48 Hour Film Festival, it was held all around the country. Teams of filmmakers, amateur and professional, gathered on a Friday night and were given a theme (sci-fi, comedy, musical, silent, super hero, Buddy Film, etc) and elements that must be included in each film - in this case a character named Joe or Joanne Taylor that works the night shift, a magnifying glass and the line, "Hold me close and call me sugar." The filmmakers then had 48 hours to write, shoot and edit the under 7 minute shorts. A week later (this last weekend) the films were screened and winners were chosen to go on to the national competition.

As a sometimes actor, I played a small part in one of the films called 'Waking Tim.' You can see it here. The theme was 'holiday.' No, I'm not the hot young lead character, I play the cranky cabbie that appears for a moment at the end.

Monday, August 13, 2007 - 12:44pm
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MERV GRIFFIN & LOCAL KIDDIE SHOWS
Kevin S. Butler writes: I've just heard about the loss of poor Mr. Merv Griffin. What a sad loss! I grew up watching him on the TV game show Word For Word weekday mornings on NBC network the early 1960's. Later on I watched his talk/variety show on WNEW TV 5 and later on WOR 9 in NYC from the late 1960s to the late 1980s.

Griffin had many well known kid show performers and personalities on his show including the late Don Herbert (NBC/Nickelodeon's Mr. Wizard), Dom Deluise (WABC 7's Tinker the Toymaker on Tinker's Workshop), Soupy Sales and Chuck McCann.

Griffin also hosted a local Miami, Florida kid's TV show in the early 1950's and was the second and last host/performer of the Lucky Duck Show. That series was an unsuccessful attempt to copy Howdy Doody with a duck puppet in place of Howdy.

According to my correspondence with the late 'Skipper Chuck' Zink, "Griffin didn't care too much for working with the kids. He preferred to sit at a baby grand piano and sing songs and play some music." Chuck Zink was brought in to serve as Griffin's comedy assistant and announcer; Chuck had a better rapport with the kids than Griffin did. (These are Chuck Zink's recollections, not mine.) Griffin left the show for other ventures and Chuck Zink went onto become the sea captain host/performer of The Popeye Playhouse / Skipper Chuck Show.

Mr. Griffin would try to make a comeback in kid's TV during the summer of 1955. The CBS network was auditioning performers for a weekday morning children's program for the fall 1955 schedule. Griffin, folk singer and musician Frank Luther, and comic/character actor and musical entertainer Jerry Colonna all tried out for the show.They lost out to a heavy-set but knowledgeable fellow named Bob Keeshan who went to star as Captain Kangaroo on CBS weekdays and Saturday and/or Sunday mornings for the next 29 years.

Mr. Griffin's last TV appearances were on TV Land's documentary on television producers TV Land Moguls and on Alf's Hit Talk Show where he was briefly reunited with his fellow musician and comedy sidekick Jack Sheldon. (Sadly, I was not able to meet with this gentleman when he taped Alf's Hit Talk Show.) He was also interviewed on CBS's Sunday Morning show from his home in upstate California and was also the subject for a Biography tribute years ago.

I Hope that Mr. Griffin and his former announcer and sidekick from his talk show days Arthur Treacher know that I am still one of their most devoted fans!

For more on Merv jump over to Our Word & Welcome To it.

Huffington Post has another very fine article about Merv's impact on American culture. Here's a sample:
* When CBS put him up against Johnny Carson in 1969, Merv's instinctual resistance to petty authority (he was always happiest when he was his own boss) was tested constantly. He bristled when CBS censors put a black box over Abbie Hoffman's red, white & blue shirt during their entire 35 minute interview and, a week later, he tweaked the network by putting a similar black box over his own monologue as he said, "It has just been agreed that I am to be the sole judge of censorship problems on my show, if they should occur in the future." As he kept talking, the box kept expanding, until Merv, now on his hands and knees peering out from under it said, "I think I have some power to regulate and control what is to be shown and what isn't." On the word "power," Merv's crew made the whole screen go black and all that could be heard was his disembodied voice saying, "That's all I have to say. May I have the network back please?" As he did throughout his life, Merv used his Irish humor like a surgeon's scalpel, deftly and with a minimum of blood.

Monday, August 13, 2007 - 8:59am
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SAD NEWS
News has come that television talk show legend Merv Griffin has died. We've lost another titanic talent and one of the best interviewers around. He also famously created and produced Jeopardy in the 1960s and Wheel of Fortune in the 1970s along with other less popular game shows. My condolences go out to anyone associated with this great man.

Here's a hilarious clip from You Tube from The Merv Griffin Show that never aired with cutting edge comic Pat Paulsen from 1974. I think you'll see and hear pretty quickly why it was censored.

Here Merv introduces Ethel Merman - note Truman Capote in the guest chair.

Howard Keel (Dallas) appeared on the Griffin show singing and telling Show Biz stories.

Sunday, August 12, 2007 - 12:32pm
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SUNDAY YOU TUBING
One of my favorite TV comics was Redd Foxx, raunchy nightclub comic and star of Sanford and Son. Here he is from a Dean Martin Roast of Frank Sinatra.

As you may know, Redd passed way on the set of his comeback sitcom, The Royal Family. Here's footage shot moments before his tragic death in 1991.

Sunday, August 12, 2007 - 10:04am
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NEW
Two cable dramas have been picked-up for a second season - USA's Burn Notice for an additional 13 episodes and TNT's Saving Grace with Holly Hunter for 15 new episodes.

You should shoot over to this page and read L. Wayne Hick's new interview with Pamelyn Ferdin. Don't know who she is? Sure you do, she was the voice of Lucy in the first, best Charlie Brown specials. She played the character even after the other voices were recast because the kids grew out of the roles. She also appeared on dozens of sitcoms and TV dramas during the 1960s and '70s.

You'll also enjoy his interview with one a TV legend, Steve Allen, it's one of the last interview's he gave before his death in 2000. What a massive talent Steve Allen was, I just watched his and his wife Jayne Meadows' 1998 appearance on Homecide: Life on the Street and they were both wonderful in their serio-comic roles.

One of my personal favorite TV stars Merv Griffin is said to be in grave condition suffering from cancer.

Friday, August 10, 2007 - 10:54am
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TOOL
Here's a funny bit from The Daily Show about that Florida legislator that was busted propositioning a cop for sex in a public bathroom. Too bad this clip doesn't have the portion where Jon Oliver offers the excuse that should have been offered to the cops, "I'm bulimic but I hate shoving my finger down my throat."

Thursday, August 9, 2007 - 12:34pm
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WHEEL
Since I'm probably the only person in the USA who didn't know Wheel of Fortune has a weekend edition (in all fairness I hate that program) Richard Tolleson clues me in: "Yes, there is a weekend Wheel of Fortune. It's reruns of the Monday-Friday version. It started years ago when first-run syndicated programming (think Star Trek Next Gen) was taking off. This locked up another half hour for the Wheel syndicator and made stations happy because there was a built-in audience for the show (i.e., it wasn't Small Wonder). There's also a weekend version of Jeopardy - same set-up. Hope this cleared that important matter up!"

Thursday, August 9, 2007 - 11:38pm
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RATINGS
Top 10 rated programs in syndication - week of July 23, 2007:
Wheel of Fortune: 6.4 rating
Jeopardy: 5.4
Judge Judy: 4.6
Entertainment Tonight & Oprah: 4.4
Everybody Loves Raymond: 4.1
CSI: Miami: 4.0 Seinfeld: 3.7
Dr. Phil: 3.6
Wheel of Fortune - Weekend: 3.3

There's a weekend version of Wheel of Fortune?!?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007 - 12:04pm
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IN THE NEWS
Scary - kids think food tastes better if it comes wrapped in a McDonalds wrapper. Advertising works!

For heaven's sake, how many times have we heard this story?!? Van Halen & David Lee Roth are reuniting. Not that I care...

Shout! Factory has announced a new CD is coming from Darlene Love this Christmas. This is great news, I love Darlene Love. In fact, I went to a taping of an hour-long intimate concert video shot in 1982 (or '83) and we talked about doing a project together. I assume you can see me in that video, at one of the front tables, but I never saw the finished product or know what happened to the fantastic footage. She was wonderful that night. And now she's currently starring in Hairspray on Broadway, what a great choice she is for the role made famous by Ruth Brown in the original movie!

Like Brown, Love's a titanic talent that never really got the recognition she deserved. When I met her she was singing backup for Dionne Warwick and anxious to move away from that long-standing but unsatisfying gig. You can hear her in the background of Warwick's brilliant out-of-print LP 'Live and More,' it's one of my favorite albums of all time. The CD is occasionally available for a king's ransom on Ebay.

She also was half of the backing duo for Sonny Bono when he went out on tour after his breakup with Cher, Bono and Love had worked together back in their Phil Spector days.

From the press release: On October 2nd Shout! Factory will release Darlene Love's first Christmas album, It's Christmas, Of Course, which is sure to start a holiday tradition of its own! For the album, Darlene gives us her take on 12 tastefully selected holiday neo-classics of the '70s and '80s from a diverse array of artists like The Pretenders, The Band, James Brown, Tom Petty, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and more.

On this album of modern day classics, the Wall of Sound that surrounded her voice on her Phil Spector-produced hits has been stripped away, leaving her beautiful voice front and center. "We had a rule on this album: no oldies. We wanted to leave the '50s and '60s behind," says Shawn Amos, Shout! Factory's Vice President of A & R.

Darlene Love is a woman of many talents. She's primarily recognized for her vocal contribution to some of Phil Spector's biggest hits like 'He's A Rebel' and 'He's Sure The Boy I'm Gonna Marry' (The Crystals), and her unmistakable backing vocals for such luminaries as Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, The Mamas and Papas, Dionne Warwick, The Beach Boys, and Cher. Love has recently been seen lighting up Broadway with her performances in Grease, the Tony-Award nominated 'Leader of the Pack', and her current 2-year run as Motormouth Maybelle in Tony-Award winning 'Hairspray'.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007 - 8:27am
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LINKS & LOVE
Want to read an amazing story? 'My Hellish Triangle with George and Eric' details the lady that inspired George Harrison's 'Something' and Eric Clapton's 'Layla' and the tumultuous events that followed:

'That whole period was insane. Friar Park was a madhouse. Our lives were fueled by alcohol and cocaine, and so it was with everyone who came into our sphere. We were all as drunk, stoned and single-minded as each other. Nobody seemed to have appointments, deadlines or anything pressing in their lives, no structure and no responsibilities.'

Thanks to Jay Blotcher for sending us this link - lunch boxes for adults.

There's a web site devoted to writer Thorne Smith, he created Topper.

Remember that jerk of a judge who sued a dry cleaning establishment for $54 million dollars for his lost pants? He even tried to squeeze this poor immigrant family for $15,000 to rent a car every weekend to drive to another dry cleaners! Looks like that bum is going to lose his job. Justice?

As our President constantly reminds us, this is a different kind of war we're fighting today. He's right. From the BBC:

The US military cannot account for 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to the Iraqi security forces, an official US report says.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the Pentagon cannot track about 30% of the weapons distributed in Iraq over the past three years.
We arm the enemy, we train the enemy, then we fight the enemy. Hell of a strategy - unless you want to win, of course.

What in the heck is this all about? This MSNBC reporter completely loses it on the air while talking about the market. Should I be worried that a bunch of idiots went out and bought houses with adjustable interest rate mortgages and the lenders are now going out of business?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007 - 8:29am
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Route 66 season 1 on DVDCOMING TO DVD
One of the greatest TV dramas of all time is coming to DVD finally in season sets. Route 66 Season 1 Volume 1 is now available for pre-order from Amazon and this one's going to be fantastic.

From the very first episode where Tod and Buz meet and almost get lynched in Mississippi the series consistently maintained a high level of quality. The scripts (mostly by Stirling Silliphant), the direction (by Arthur Hiller and others) and the acting are superior and lots of seminal guests stars turning up in the first half of season 1 - E. G. Marshall, Joey Heatherton, Inger Stevens, Edgar Buchanan, Anne Francis, Jack Lord, Barbara Bostock and Harold J. Stone are a few familiar faces discovered along the road.

This DVD collection will be a huge seller and, no doubt, one of the top releases of the year based purely on the strength of the show itself, whether or not there are any extras.

Prison Break season 2 on DVDAnother terrific series coming to DVD that changes locales almost as often as Route 66 is the second season of Prison Break.

Fox sent me a screener of the 6th disc in the DVD collection of this riveting drama, the season finale, which I hadn't seen yet. I've only seen a handful of episodes of season 2 but it's every bit as good as the freshman year. I can't wait to soak in the entire season, it's a show filled with surprises, with more shocking twists and turns than a mountain road.

Prison Break Season 2 arrives on September 4th - don't let it escape your clutches, pre-order now.

Monday, August 6, 2007 - 9:49am
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Alex Toth Book
TVparty's Billy Ingram and James Counts produced a new book that animation and comic book fans will want to own - 'Dear John: The Alex Toth Doodle Book.'

It's a bit different - a collection of correspondence and sketches from the reclusive master artist Alex Toth's last 25 years.

Click here for more info about the book. There are very few copies left and I haven't heard any serious talk of a second printing; it was released only through comic book stores in August of 2006.

 

Andy Griffith on DVD



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