A popular New Zealand mystery show and a Hallmark Channel favorite make their way to Blu-ray and DVD this week.
(Acorn, 2016, four discs, four episodes, featurette, photo gallery). The cases included in this set are the bizarre death of a Brokenwood guide for a "Lord of the Ringz" location tour (spelled with a "z" since the movie wasn't actually filmed anywhere near Brokenwood), the killing of a newcomer to an elaborate game of "Clue" and a Christmas episode that has the mayor murdered in his Santa costume.
This is a cleverly plotted and often very funny New Zealand police procedural — sort of "Midsomer Murders" meets "Columbo" — relying heavily on the chemistry between the quirky characters: slovenly but wily police detective Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea), his younger partner (Fern Sutherland), their phobic colleague (Nic Sampson), young Maori handyman (Pana Hema Taylor) and the eccentric Russian medical examiner (Cristina Ionda), who has a crush on the oblivious Shepherd. (You may need the English subtitles as the accents are pretty thick. The series has been renewed for a fourth season.)
(Shout!, 2016). Rosemary (Pascale Hutton) and Lee (Kavan Smith) return from their honeymoon and find Elizabeth (Erin Krakow) busy helping her students mount a nativity play while Jack (Daniel Lissing) mistakes a traveling peddler for a thief. This 84-minute TV movie was a Christmas special between the third and fourth season of the Hallmark Channel series.
(HBO, 2016, eight episodes, featurettes). Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji star as friends who are, respectively, a middle school teacher and a corporate attorney, in this sitcom that explores their up-and-down relationship as well as social and racial issues. The appealing Rae co-created this series with Larry Wilmore after finding success with her "Awkward Black Girl" web series. It is amusing and smart but laced with the profane language that is by now an HBO cliché.
(Lionsgate, 2016, two discs, six episodes, featurettes). A spinoff of the Australian "Wolf Creek" horror movies, this series follows 19-year-old American tourist Eve Thorogood (Lucy Fry), who manages to survive as her family is slaughtered by serial killer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt, reprising his role from the movies). After recovering, Eve heads for the Outback on a mission of revenge. (The second season is now in production.)
(PBS, 2017). Since 2011, millions of Syrians and other refugees have fled the violence in their home countries, leading to the largest European migration since World War II and creating a global crisis. This two-hour documentary special is filled with harrowing images captured on cameras and smartphones by refugees who are thwarted by everything from amateurish watercrafts sinking in the Mediterranean Sea to human traffickers seeking to exploit them.
(PBS, 2016). ABC newsman Bob Woodruff was critically injured while covering the Iraq War in 2006, and his story informs this documentary's look at wounded military personnel and civilians, and the doctors and scientists working to improve their lives.
(PBS, 2016, three episodes). Historian Lucy Worsley's latest BBC series (titled on television "Six Wives with Lucy Worsley") has her introducing and offering historical commentary on re-creations of the most dramatic moments among the lives of Henry VIII's six wives.
(Smithsonian, 2014-15, two discs, seven episodes). Actress Elizabeth McGovern looks at some of the real-life stories of American women who married into European aristocracy in the late 1800s and early 1900s, providing inspiration for "Downton Abbey."
(PBS, 2016). This documentary has Bernadette Murphy revealing the true story of what happened on the night in 1888 in the French town of Arles when Vincent van Gogh severed his own ear. This is an hourlong episode of "Secrets of the Dead."
(Smithsonian, 2015, two discs, six episodes). In Churchill, Manitoba, the locals share their town with 1,000 polar bears that migrate through town on their way to Hudson Bay. Also here are episodes about Churchill's "Polar Bear Jail" and the story of a young trick-or-treater who was attacked by a bear on Halloween.
(PBS, 2017). This hourlong episode of "Nature" follows wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan as he captures on film some of the world's most iconic snow animals, from penguins to bison to wolves.
(Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2016-17, two discs, 11 episodes). The TMNT gang of four takes on deadly Super Shredder in this collection of episodes from the third animated series about the Heroes in a Half-Shell. It includes the last seven episodes of the fourth season and the first four episodes of the fifth season.
(PBS, 2014, three episodes). This is a Canadian-British animated series about 5-year-old Kate and her plush bunny Mim-Mim, here on a search for music to replace a recording that Mim-Mim has accidentally broken.
(Sony, 2017, three extended music videos, trailer). The five teenage intergalactic princesses of the "SpacePOP" band, having gained a certain fame with a web series, now get their own feature-length cartoon as they fight to save the universe from evil Empress Geela.