New TV on DVD: X-Files, Perry Mason, Law and Order, SNL, MythBusters

The probable chart-topper this week is a blast from the past to give you goose bumps: The X-Files: I Want to Believe (3-Disc Special Edition) ($38.99), or the single-disc edition for $29.99. It's a movie that peeved many fans because it isn't part of the TV show's baroquely detailed ongoing paranoid storyline, it doesn't feature the vast cast (except Mulder and Scully), and it's not what you'd call a classic episode. But it reminds me of the earliest episodes, when it was just an unassuming, interestingly odd, plain old TV show. When I visited the set in the first season, no other national journalists were interested, and the producer told me he was hoping against hope to equal the ratings of Unsolved Mysteries. He wanted to believe!

I'm pleased to see that legal scholars and The New York Times law column have cited my California Lawyer article on Perry Mason, my pick for "the most influential figure on the public view of lawyers since Abe Lincoln, as incorruptible as Lincoln and more nearly infallible." See Raymond Burr's crusading attorney pound the prosecutor's arguments to hamburger in Perry Mason (Season 3, Volume 2) ($50.99). Reviewer Stuart Galbraith IV says that this season re-uses music from that other turn-of-the-'60s hit The Twilight Zone, and both achieved a similar crisp, legendary look.

Make Perry a double bill with the comparable show of our time, Law and Order: The Sixth Year ($59.98). The 1995-96 season was the one after Chris Noth (Carrie Bradshaw's future Mr. Big) got the boot and before Sam Waterston's gravelly gargle got entirely alarming. Jerry Orbach was still alive to cast his ancient, wise bedroom eyes on the sleuthing in progress; the show lost its soul when his kind, sardonic commentary went silent. I always wished they'd let him break into "Try to Remember" from The Fantasticks, the song he introduced in 1960, when Perry Mason was asking the same question of people in the witness box, causing them to collapse into blubbering confessions of guilt.

In honor of James Bond, detonate MythBusters: Big Blasts Collection ($29.98) on that widescreen TV somebody will probably buy for you this season for what toasters used to cost. In ten episodes, the science truth-squad duo re-enact 007 escapades (speedboats, Oddjob's decapitating hat, bullet-bouncing watches, explosive pens), and there's 441 other minutes' worth of exploding water heaters, cement trucks, and port-a-potties. This DVD blows up good.

I know there are way too many Saturday Night Live DVDs floating around, but you can't go wrong with SNL: The Complete Fourth Season ($69.98). It's got Gilda and Bill Murray recapitulating the ups and downs of their offscreen romance in the Nerds sketches; Steve Martin's medieval sage Theodoric of York; Aykroyd's Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute; an incredible bleeding Julia Child; the Blues Brothers, and multiple musical guests -- my favorite being Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow dueting on the best version of "It's In His Kiss" ever captured live.