This week, we're looking at DVD box sets about a path-breaking TV producer and a memorable rock festival.
The Norman Lear Collection (19 discs, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $159.95, not rated): This outstanding box set shows how producer Norman Lear helped change the face — and content — of TV, beginning in the 1970s. Included are the first seasons of seven shows he produced: All in the Family; Sanford & Son; Maude; Good Times; The Jeffersons; One Day at a Time; and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
With humor and heart, these shows took on the controversial issues of the times. They presented American TV audiences with families whose variety and diversity provided a marked contrast with the small-town, middle-class, white image of American life presented by hit sitcoms of the 1950s and '60s, including Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver.
What's new is six hours of short features and recent interviews and reminiscences with Lear and many of his stars. The set also includes the never-before-released pilot episode of All in the Family — then called Those Were the Days — and the pilot for Lear's short-lived series And Justice for All.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music — The Director's Cut 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (3 discs, Warner Home Video, $59.98, rated R): The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan weren't there. But the happening forever known as Woodstock did just fine without the Big Three, attracting more than 500,000 fans to witness the Who; the Jimi Hendrix Experience; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Janis Joplin; Country Joe & the Fish; the Jefferson Airplane and a bunch of other big-name performers while taking part in a remarkable three-day experiment in peaceful counter-cultural living. The three-hour film version, released in 1970, took in more $50 million at the U.S. box office and won an Oscar for best documentary.
In 1994, an expanded director's cut was released, and that nearly four-hour version is included in this 40th anniversary set. New is an additional disc with two more hours of performances. There's also a collection of recent interviews with director Michael Wadleigh, members of his crew (including Martin Scorsese), and some of the performers. This Ultimate Collector's Edition also comes with festival memorabilia and a reprint of Life Magazine's commemorative issue. (A Blu-ray edition with more bonus features is $69.99; a more limited, two-disc special edition DVD is $24.98.)