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KOLCHAK ARRIVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Herc

I am – Hercules!!

Even if you don’t care for ABC’s new “Night Stalker” series, you can be grateful for the fact that its arrival last week precipitated today, at long last, the DVD issue of Kolchak: The Night Stalker – The Complete Series, the enterprise that kept me glued to WFAA-TV’s broadcast signal every Friday night, and would inform and inspire subsequent genre television efforts for decades.

Based on two highly rated TV-movies scripted by revered “Twilight Zone” vet Richard Matheson, the series dealt with a wire-service reporter with a strange faculty for uncovering stories about murderous robots, extraterrestrials, vampires, werewolves, zombies and their uncanny ilk. It kicked off Sept. 13, 1974. (That same night saw the premiere of NBC’s “The Rockford Files,” another Universal Studios property long-coveted by DVD collectors. “Rockford” lasted six seasons; “Kolchak” barely limped through one.)

Primitive and pitifully underbudgeted, the 1974 “Kolchak” had at least three things going for it: 1) It was the first regular TV gig for “Sopranos” mastermind David Chase, who served as “Kolchak’s” story editor and authored eight of its 20 teleplays. 2) It featured that creepy, stringy and unforgettable bass-fiddle theme music. 3) It offered a career-defining performance by Darren McGavin, who knew how to sell and showcase Kolchak’s indignant, authority-defying dialogue.

“Kolchak” also gave us “Chopper,” the only produced TV episode authored by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the team that would go on to script Spielberg’s “1941,” as well as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Used Cars” and a little sci-fi comedy titled “Back to the Future.”

Also out today? Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Complete First Season. The documentary included in the set provides some much-needed context with regard to just how involved Hitchcock was in this black-and-white TV show, which came on the heels of color movies like “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief” and “The Trouble With Harry,” continued through “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “The Wrong Man,” “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest” and “Psycho,” then ended before “The Birds.” Hitch only directed 17 of 266 episodes, but filmed about 10 intros and 10 outros a day. Though star writers like Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Charles Beaumont, Roald Dahl, George Clayton Johnson, Ira Levin (!), Richard Levinson & William Link, Philip Roth, Stirling Silliphant and Alexander Woolcott contributed stories and teleplays over the series’ run, the real hero of the franchise was apparently a witty fellow named James Allardice, who scripted all those intros and outros (and went on to script that famous trailer Hitchcock made for “Psycho”).

Also also out today? The Bob Newhart Show 2.x, funnier than any live-action sitcom being produced today except possibly “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” You’ll come to stare at Emily Hartley’s nummy hinder - and stay to laugh at at the profoundly troubled mental patient Elliott Carlin. Season two sees Bob guilted into putting his therapy group on TV, Bob getting propositioned by Jerry’s pretty friend in Peoria, Bob enduring Emily as his receptionist, Bob refereeing when Howard and Jerry fall for the same girl, and Bob learning that Emily has the higher IQ. Do NOT play the “Bob” drinking game while watching more than two episodes on this DVD or you will die.

TV on DVD!

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Chico and the Man: TV Favorites
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Gilmore Girls 4.x
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Maverick: TV Favorites
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SpongeBob SquarePants 3.x
Star Trek: Enterprise 3.x
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The Vicar of Dibley: 10th Anniversary Specials
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October 4
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The Bob Newhart Show 2.x
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Farscape: Starburst Edition 2.3
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October 11
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Veronica Mars 1.x

October 18
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October 25
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The Ambassador <--- NEW!!
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November 8

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November 15
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