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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Alias: The Complete Third Season (Buena Vista)
This is the season in which Sydney (Jennifer Garner) wakes up and finds that it's two years later. Film directors David Cronenberg and Quentin Tarantino appear in supporting roles (in episodes 9-10 and 11-12, respectively). I only wish that the show used a little more humor and played a little less like a soap opera, but its hardcore fans don't seem to mind a bit. Buena Vista's new DVD box set includes 22 hour-long episodes on 6 discs, plus extras, notably a new "Alias" animated cartoon.


CSI: The Complete Fourth Season (Paramount)
This strangely addictive detective probably draws people in with its gratuitous gross-out techniques, but it keeps them with its well-written -- exhaustively researched -- detective stories, its inventive camerawork and the clever way it uses Las Vegas as a backdrop (both glitzy and sleazy). Not to mention a terrific cast, headed by William Petersen ("To Live and Die in L.A." and "Manhunter"). Even my mom likes this show. Season Four contains perhaps the most famous and notorious episode yet, "Fur and Loathing," which involves a cult of people who dress up as animals and perform mating rituals. Paramount's Season Four box set collects 23 hour-long episodes on six discs, and seven episodes come with commentary tracks. The episodes are widescreen-enhanced for 16:9 television sets, and there is an optional Spanish language track. Extras include the featurette "Evolution of an Episode from Concept to Completion."


Taxi: The Complete First Season (Paramount)
Co-created by James L. Brooks, this 1978 sitcom attempted to capture some semblance of street life without sentimentality, and it worked -- sort of. A superb supporting cast ranging from Danny DeVito as a cynical, greedy dispatcher, Marilu Henner as a sexy broad, Tony Danza as a washed-up boxer and Andy Kaufman as a greasy immigrant, really kept the humor close to the ground. But at the center of it all is Judd Hirrsch's Alex character, a totally sweet and supremely perfect straight guy for all the comic madness. Hirsch lent the character a kind of loping, day-to-day realism, but Alex was just too darn nice to really fit in. Paramount's three-disc set comes with 22 half-hour episodes, including the holiday episode "A Full House for Christmas."


Too Close for Comfort: The Complete First Season (Rhino)
Did anyone really miss this terrible show, set in San Francisco but shot on sound stages? Cartoonist Henry (Ted Knight) lives with his wife Muriel (Nancy Dussault) and two grown daughters, smart Jackie (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) and sexy, big-breasted Sara (Lydia Cornell) and complains about the lack of space. When the daughters move into the empty apartment downstairs, he finds all new things to complain about. Filled with lame jokes and slapstick, this show actually has a kind of quaint badness to it. Today's bad shows are offensive and insulting; this one is merely inept, like Plan 9 from Outer Space. To top things off, the relentlessly untalented JM J. Bullock co-stars as a moron that hangs around. Rhino's three-disc set comes with 19 half-hour episodes. (Rhino has deliberately packaged the DVD sleeves backwards.)

September 16, 2004

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