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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

DVD Reviews
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

The Thanksgiving episode of Smallville, along with Dr. Who's reunion with Mary Jane, are the two best television shows I have seen so far in 2006. Most media superheroes replay the best moments from almost a century of comics. Smallville is breaking new ground. In the comic books, the most memorable event of Clark's college days was falling in love with Lori Lemuris. I don't think a mermaid would really swim on television. Instead, Smallville is giving us major additions to the Superman legend, consistent with the existing mythos, but breaking major new ground. We had one revelation last Thursday; this coming Thursday promises another.

DVD Reviews
Earth: Final Conflict (**)
Earth: Final Conflict Between Star Trek and Star Trek The Next Generation, Gene Roddenberry pitched a number of TV shows to the networks. The most successful pitch was Genesis II. Five episodes were aired, then packaged for home video as three VHS TV movies. The hero was named Dylan Hunt. Two other proposed series, the excellent The Questor Tapes and the mediocre Spectre, only made it as far as TV movies. Some scripts were written, but no episodes were filmed. Other Roddenberry scripts for TV shows, most notably Tarzan, never made it out of the starting gate.

After Gene died, two of his scripts were turned into TV shows, Andromeda, with another Dylan Hunt as hero, and Earth: Final Conflict.

Earth: Final Conflict lasted five seasons, but only the last three are out on DVD. My own interest in the later seasons was sparked by the fact that comic book anarchist Howard Chaykin wrote some episodes in season three. Recently, I watched the first half dozen episodes from season one plus scattered episodes from seasons three and four. (Everybody agrees that season five was a stinker.)

I regret to report that not even Howie Chaykin could breathe life into this series, which changed stars and directions as often as the currents in a wave pool. The first episode, written by Roddenberry, is excellent. I loved the fact that the assassin not only took into account the wind velocity, but also the swaying of the tall building from which he shot. The idea of having women play the part of the sexless but vaguely male aliens was a good one.

Sadly, Roddenberry's intriguing setup, in which the aliens are neither angels nor devils, but merely different, was quickly abandoned for a good aliens vs. bad aliens plot. If the pilot ever comes out on DVD, buy it. Give the rest of the series a pass.

Looney Tunes, Golden Collection, Volume 4 (****)
Looney Tunes, Golden Collection, Volume 4 Way too much Speedy Gonzales and not nearly enough Chuck Jones, and it still gets four stars. How could it not, with 14 Chuck Jones classics (not counting the Pvt. Snafu cartoons, "from the vault", because they really aren't worth counting). Almost everyone agrees that Chuck Jones was the greatest cartoon director of all time.

Here are the Chuck Jones cartoons in volume 4: Operation: Rabbit, To Hare is Human, 8 Ball Bunny, The Aristo-Cat, Rabbit Hood, Kiss Me Cat, Cat Feud, Mississippi Hare, Knight-Mare Hare, Barbary-Coast Bunny (featuring Nasty Canasta), Forward March Hare, The Night Watchman (notable only because it is Chuck Jones's first cartoon), Conrad the Sailor (very early Jones, what fans call "slow Chuck", as contrasted with "fast Chuck" of the great years), and Go Fly a Kit.

Biggest omission this time out: no Pepe Le Pew. I hope that means they are saving Pepe to be featured on volume 5.

Chuck Jones Signature Editions (****)
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi After Chuck Jones left Warner Brothers, he worked for a while on Tom and Jerry cartoons, and then began to produce TV specials, including the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Six of these are now out, on three DVDs, each featuring a Jones adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling story with a second cartoon about the Cricket in Times Square. The best of these is Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, with Yankee Doodle Cricket (Cricket 3) as backup. Then comes Mowgli's Brothers, with A Very Merry Cricket (Cricket 2). The least of the Kipling adaptations is The White Seal, but the backup is the first and best of the Cricket cartoons, A Cricket in Times Square. All well worth watching, and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi a cartoon you really shouldn't miss.

Copyright © 2006 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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