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''Actors Studio'' on DVD

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 25, 2006

Let us turn now to a television landmark. A series that through its dealing with social issues in the framework of an absurdist, island-bound comedy was able to make us confront our own sense of how we should get along with our fellow man -- and woman. Let me further say that your work on this show was not only the fulcrum on top of which the more extreme characters teetered, but a window for America into this experiment in civilization. I am speaking, of course, of ''Gilligan's Island.'' And I thank you, Dawn Wells, for your contribution to it.

I know, it's too easy to parody James Lipton on ''Inside the Actors Studio.'' And Will Ferrell did it better than I do. But the parodies may get a little muted later this year, judging from this announcement today:

Bravo’s longest-running television series debuts on DVD as Shout! Factory and partners NBC Universal Television Distribution and Actors Studio Inc. launch a new home video collection of the 12-time Emmy®-nominated Inside The Actor’s Studio series, beginning on November 7 with two titles – a single disc release of the Dave Chappelle episode, and a three-disc release with four episodes featuring film Icons Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Barbra Streisand and Clint Eastwood.  Each release in the series will include new introductions with executive producer and host, James Lipton, as well as important scenes that didn't make the cut until now.

Inside The Actors Studio: Dave Chappelle features the famed comic’s appearance on the show after his dramatic exit from Chappelle’s Show and pilgrimage to Africa.  Chappelle chose the freedom of Inside The Actors Studio to reveal why he was compelled to walk away from TV riches in a hilarious and intriguing, Emmy-nominated episode.  The single disc DVD also includes a new introduction by Lipton, as well as never-before-seen segments from the episode.  The Inside The Actors Studio: Dave Chappelle DVD will be available for the suggested list price of $14.98.

Inside The Actors Studio: Icons is presented as a three-disc set and includes episodes featuring four of Hollywood’s foremost legends: Paul Newman (who appeared on the series’ 1994 premiere), Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood, and Barbra Streisand (whose appearance in 2003 broke records for the series, drawing 1.14 million viewers). Icon’s special features include new introductions by Lipton and previously unseen portions of the original interviews. The Inside The Actors Studio: Icons three-disc DVD set will be available for the suggested list price of $39.98. (end announcement excerpt)

The reason I think this will benefit the show's reputation is that back when it started, and when it was interviewing people like Paul Newman, Lipton's probing-plus-flattery approach made sense. I mean, he was interviewing Paul Newman! (And I still remember a bit where Newman talked about how to deliver a line.) Or Shelley Winters, who broke away from years of bad roles and self-parody to show viewers why she had Oscars. (Yeah, more than one.) It was only when Lipton began to apply his technique to people who seemed too new, or too undeserving, that he set himself up for Will Ferrell.

So I'm at least looking forward to the Icons set.

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