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Picking DVDs

By RD Heldenfels Published: September 14, 2005

I've been writing regularly about TV shows on DVD for almost three years now, and I've had to change my approach in that time. In the beginning, I tried to review every DVD set of a TV show that crossed my desk. But, as you all know, the number of shows on DVD has increased exponentially, and it became impossible to watch at least some of everything while still doing the other parts of my job. So I have had to hope that the weekly list accompanying my column gives a thorough idea of what's out there, while the column itself could be more selective.

As part of that selection, I decided to choose a DVD ''pick of the week'' to lead the column. It's always a title I think merits special attention, and usually a show I like. (It was largely personal preference that made ''Adam-12'' a pick of the week over ''The O.C.'' Although it was a bad season of ''The O.C.'' )

Probably the closest I came to a pick that I wasn't crazy about was ''Lost,'' a show that did not make me set the DVR every week. But I appreciated what it was doing, often checked on it during the season and looked closely at the DVD.

Now I'm hung up over ''Desperate Housewives.''

The DVD of the first season is due in stores Sept. 20. It would make a logical pick of the week. The show is hugely popular, after all. When an episode was delayed because of a Browns telecast, my phone line and e-mail became heavily populated with desperate viewers who missed the late-night replay. (I ended up having a well attended screening of the episode at the Beacon Journal.) It's nominated for Emmys. Many of my colleagues adore it. And I really like Felicity Huffman, both as an actress and as a person.

But I'm still tepid about the show. In fact, I think it began to run out of tricks long before the first season was over, and rechecking it on DVD just makes me feel that more strongly. For example, one of my favorite moments early in the season was the Lynette (Felicity Huffman) offering to thrown down on Maisy (Sharon Lawrence). It was a great moment, and Maisy was a very recognizable character to anyone who has had to attend a school parents' meeting or two. So why push the farce by later making Maisy a hooker/dominatrix?

Meanwhile, the core characters became softer as the season went on. (Oh sobbing Bree, we don't even know you.) You can call it rounding them out -- giving a complex, sympathetic side to villainous souls. I call it smoothing out the rough edges.

Anyway, you see my problem. Even if the DVD is very well packaged -- and it is -- the show inside has some flaws I have a tough time forgiving. And I am definitely more impressed by some other DVD this week -- ''No Direction Home,'' ''Ring of Fire,'' even ''Crime Story.'' So I'm having a hard time conceding the pick to ''Desperate Housewives.'' I'll probably toss and turn over it before finally making a decision in the morning.

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