By G. Michael Dobbs
Two iconic television series are featured in this edition of the DVD review column.
Rich Man, Poor Man Books One and Two
The 1970s were actually a great period for experimentation for television. It was the time the three commercial networks started picking up on the concept of the mini-series, a format popular in Great Britain.
This country traditionally presented series that were opened-ended. The BBC was presenting those shows, but also series that told a complete story.
I'm sure the success that PBS had with its imported miniseries, "The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth" and "Elizabeth R," did not go unnoticed.
When ABC decided to launch its first mini-series in 1976, it chose to adopt the Irwin Shaw bestseller, "Rich Man, Poor Man," and it gave the sprawling novel an appropriate treatment. It produced 12 one-hour installments to tell the story of the Jordache family from 1945 to 1965.
The show was a ratings hit and helped make the leads, Peter Strauss, Susan Blakely and Nick Nolte, into stars.
The story revolved around the two Jordache brothers. Born into a working class family, Rudy (Strauss) is an ambitious young man who won't let anything stand in his way of bettering himself. Tom (Nolte) is a rebel who can't seem to catch a break in his life.
The story is not only a classic soap opera but also a chronicle of the changes in the country over that period of time.
The mini-series was such a success that it was followed by "Rich Man, Poor Man Book Two" later that year.
The show had a near feature-film quality look to its production and featured many well-known performers from both movies and television, including Gloria Grahame, Van Johnson, Ray Milland, Robert Reed, Kim Darby and Bill Bixby.
Although I found the pace a bit slow, I was impressed by the performances. The story starts when the main characters are in high school and both of them are credible despite the fact two of them were in their late twenties and Nolte was 35!
The massive DVD package comes with no extras aside from an audio commentary on several episodes.
For a classic soap opera drama, re-discover "Rich Man, Poor Man."
The Six Million Man: The Complete Collection
No hyperbole here this is literally everything in the canon of the highly popular science fiction television series from the 1970s.
The boxed set, which retails at over $239.95 at www.6mdm.com , has 40 DVDs.
Lee Majors was one of the most popular performers on dramatic television when he landed the role of Steve Austin, a NASA astronaut who was "re-built" with robotic components in a near fatal accident. Majors had been a cast member on "the Big Valley," and "Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law," and his casting in a made-for-television movie landed him his most memorable role.
The success of the 1973 movie convinced ABC programmers to adapt it into a weekly show. "The Six Million Dollar Man" in turn had a successful spin-off, "The Bionic Woman."
What's in this box set -- which has a recording of the show's opening narration that plays when you open it -- is all of the episodes of the show, the pilot films, the cross-over episodes of "The Bionic Woman" and the reunion shows.
It also has hours and hours of interviews and making-of features.
There's a charm about this series that might be colored a little by nostalgia. Modern audiences who are used to CGI special effects and 3-D in their science fiction might wince a little. It's still solid entertainment, especially if you put yourself in the less-demanding frame of mind that audiences of the 1970s had.
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