Spring break is seen as an escape to Cancun or some other place where it isn’t safe to drink the water. For those students who don’t want to force themselves into debt for a week-long vacation, here’s a chance to catch up on TV shows you might have missed while you were busy studying or simply weren’t born in time to enjoy.
Playmakers: Complete Series
Buena Vista Home Video
A gritty male drama following one season of an imaginary pro-football team in an imaginary league. The show covers drug testing, homosexuality, doublespeak from management and many more hot-button issues. The series was so intense and realistic that it only lasted one season until the NFL demanded ESPN pull the plug.
Extras: Commentary by show creator on first episode and a 12-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary.
Inane Fact: This show was turned down by FX and sat in a desk for more than a year and a half until ESPN picked it up.
The Greatest American Hero: Season One
Anchor Bay Entertainment
“Look what’s happened to me. I can’t believe it myself. Suddenly I’m on top of the world. It should’ve been somebody else.” A high school teacher takes a field trip into the desert and is given a suit with Superman-like powers. Unfortunately he lost the instruction book.
Extras: Interviews with the cast and show creator. Watch for the editing gaffes along the way (especially the obituary page in “The Desk Job”). No closed captioning.
Inane Fact: The main character’s last name was changed from Hinkley to Hanley, because of John Hinckley Jr.’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
Night Court: The Complete First Season
Warner Home Video
A well-written comedy about a young judge appointed to New York arraignment court on the last day of a mayor’s term. The episodes are well written and hit the issues of the time, but the comedic timing is a little awkward.
Extras: Just episode commentary and a “Making of … ” documentary. Insightful, but inadequate.
Inane Fact: Three female baliffs were used over the course of the series because the first two died.
Sealab 2021 Seasons 1 & 2
Warner Home Video
This spoof of a short-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon follows the activities of the crew in an underwater laboratory (hence the name Sealab). There are plenty of farcical situations to keep you from thinking too hard. The show is great, but slightly repetitive at times.
Extras: Commentary from the creators and crew on most episodes of Season One and all of Season Two. Alternate endings and the original episode pitched to Cartoon Network is also included. Anyone who does commentary at a shooting range deserves bonus points.
Inane Fact: When the voice of Captain Murphy, Harry Goz, died, the show introduced a new character named Tornado Shanks who was voiced by Harry’s son Michael.
SpongeBob SquarePants Season 2
Paramount Home Video
The second season of the sponge with the square pants that lives in a pineapple under the sea. Follow SpongeBob’s nonsense whether he’s frying burgers at the Krusty Krab or spending time with his starfish friend, Patrick, who literally lives under a rock. It’s smartly written, but wears thin after a few episodes.
Extras: Commentary on several episodes, storyboard layouts of two episodes.
Inane Fact: Season Two marked the switch from cell shading to computer animation.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 3
Warner Home Video
Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad, a pseudo-Happy Meal, deal with life in suburbia as they enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, go to hell and even change the birthday song to “Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary.” Every episode is a smartly written and utterly ridiculous 10-minute ride.
Extras: No commentary, but still really good with answering machine messages, TV promos, deleted scenes and karaoke.
Inane Fact: When the Latino janitor tries to pocket Dr. Weird’s chain, Weird shoots actual tacos out of his mouth.
Family Guy Volume 2
Twentieth Century FOX Home Video
This offbeat and irreverent comedy follows Peter Griffin and his family complete with caring wife, stupid son, conflicted daughter, homicidal baby and talking dog. It was pulled from FOX, sent to Cartoon Network and will soon be revived on FOX.
Extras: Great commentary tracks on certain episodes (two or three per disc), one unaired episode, and deleted scenes.
Inane Fact: Unaired episode made FOX worry about anti-Semitism, even though most of it came from Peter’s mouth in an Archie Bunker fashion.
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Season 2
Famed magicians tackle their greatest trick – life. Targets include profanity, PETA, hypnosis and the Bible. The show is very well edited and pulls no punches. It’s the antidote to the Federal Communications Commission.
Extras: Photo gallery, filmographies of both Penn and Teller and trailers to other shows coming to Showtime. No commentary, no subtitles, a couple of trailers and pictures.
Inane Fact: One episode explains how recycling costs more than creating stuff from scratch.
The Best of SNL: Christopher Walken
LionsGate Home Video
There are about a million and one “SNL” DVDs, but this is the only one dedicated entirely to a host. See Walken as the man behind the cowbell in “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” as the southern war hero “Colonel Angus” and the stalker next door in “The Continental.” Watch for the look in Walken’s eyes after he pranks his co-worker to death in the “Pranksters” sketch and you’ll know why he got his own DVD.
Extras: Two unaired skits and behind the scenes of “The Continental.” Could have used commentary, but the unaired scenes are good enough.
Inane Fact: Walken has hosted the show five times.
South Park: The Complete Fifth Season
Paramount Home Video
The foul-mouthed kids in Colorado finally make it to the fourth grade. The highlights of this season include “Cripple Fight,” the permanent death of Kenny (until they brought him back later in the season) and 162 instances of “shit” in one episode. The cheap vulgarity is some of the most thought-provoking social commentary available.
Extras: Mini-commentary by the show’s creators is fascinating, but doesn’t stand on its own. No subtitles.
Inane Fact: Kenny died for good because the writers were tired of coming up with ways for him to die.