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V: The Complete Series

It's possible that a more boring television show than V was broadcast some time in the annals of commercial television, but you'd be hard pressed to come up with a title. Maybe there was a six-part Frontline documentary about a dairy crisis in Moldavia, or perhaps a Hallmark drama about generational clashes among the Amish, but even they, hitched to some form of reality, might have some interest. No, V is surely even more boring than that. Indeed, it is triumphantly boring, it is proudly boring, it makes tedium an art form, it presents boredom as a political or aesthetic statement against lively television. It makes being boring something reassuring and cozy for viewers too riled up by all that action over there on Adam 12. The show was also, curiously enough, wholly unnecessary. Originally a three-part miniseries aired in 1983 and produced by Kenneth Johnson ("The Incredible Hulk," "The Bionic Woman"), V was a more or less self-contained amalgam of previous TV speculations on alien invasions, such as "The Invaders" from 1967. In form, however, it anticipated "The X-Files," Independence Day (1996), and John Carpenter's 1988 They Live (where sunglasses are also less a fashion statement than an oppressor's badge of honor). Once the mini-series wrapped up, however, Johnson and NBC couldn't let it go, and V re-emerged as a weekly series in the 1984-85 season, only to be cancelled after 19 episodes. There are some shows that forever will be remembered for their signature, defining moments. Kramer sliding unannounced through the front door in "Seinfeld"; Lucy going "Waaaaaahhh"; Andy Sipowicz baring his ass. In V, though at the other end of the interest scale, the signature moment is someone on earth, usually rebel leader Mike Donovan (Marc Singer), having to sneak onto the evil Mother Ship. It seems that in every episode Donovan has to knock out a faux Imperial Stormtrooper, don his red jump suit, hide in a shuttle, land in the Mother Ship (where security is as lax as a pre-9/11 airport metal-detector), fetch something crucial to The Rebellion, and then escape back, with fighter spaceships futily in pursuit. At least one viewer of the entire 19 hours considered screaming madness as the only sane response if The Shuttle Option was used once again as a plot device.

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The premise of V: The Series was somewhat unclear. Having bested the so-called Visitors in the previous two mini-series, human beings and their quasi-fascist oppressors are once again in a state of open warfare. Industrialist Nathan Bates (Lane Smith), however, has negotiated Los Angeles into an open zone, à la Casablanca. Though on the surface seems to be Heinlein-style sci-war, V is really modeled on a soap opera, with coded but obviously gay characters in feathered '80s disco hair pretending to be in love with various bland women and the whole thing built around a battle royale between two strong willed divas, Diana (Jane Badler), whose hair looks like recently exploded roman candle, versus Lydia (June Chadwick), with her blonde tresses in a modified biker-chick 'do. Ostensibly on the same side, their operatic mutual loathing is in the "Dynasty"/"Dallas" stratosphere. In the series, their goal, as reptilian human-eaters in disguise, is to find the Star Child, a.k.a. Elizabeth Maxwell (Jennifer Cooke), the progeny of human and visitor congress. The soap opera part comes in when Kyle (Jeff Yagher), the son of industrialist Nathan Bates, is in love with the Star Child, while the Star Child's mother, Robin (Blair Tefkin), is in love with Kyle. Donovan also was supposed to be in love with humanity-saving scientist Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant), but the writers forgot about all that as the episodes droned on. It's impossible to say that Warner Home Video has been desultory in its commitment to V. The original mini-series was released in 2001, and V: The Final Battle in 2002. Now, all 19 episodes of the series (restored to the order in which they were supposed to be aired) has arrived on three double-sided discs, if for nothing else than to whet viewers' appetites for V: The Second Generation, a mini-series due on NBC sometime which has reunited (according to the IMDb) numerous cast members, including the luscious Badler, the prim Parrish, the stolid Singer, and Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund. The full-frame transfers (1.33:1) are fine, but will still look like TV to most viewers (the whole show seems to have been photographed in the same meager sun-beaten square footage of Malibu hillside, with occasional forays to a community college somewhere). The audio is an adequate mono, with closed captioning and English, French, and Spanish subtitles. There are no extras. The platters come in a fold-out triple-DVD digipak placed in a slipcase.
—D. K. Holm

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