The Hannah Montana movie is chomping at the bit, and the soundtrack romps at the top of the charts weeks ahead of its April 10 release. Face it, it's Miley Cyrus's world; we just live in it, deafened by shrieking nine-year-olds. So give in and get Hannah Montana: Keeping It Real ($19.99), six episodes from the show, plus a Miley makeover. If even Miley needs a makeover, what hope is there for real girls?
The gags are nothing to write home about, but there's still some highly watchable good stuff in Hope& Faith: Season 1 ($39.98). Murphy Brown survivor Faith Ford plays an attractively unglamorous Midwest muddlecrass hausfrau whose uptight household is invaded by her appallingly post-glamorous but still-microskirted sister Kelly Ripa, whose twin characters on a famous soap opera just got killed after 10 years, along with her career. Confusingly, Ripa's soap diva is named Faith, while Faith Ford is the other sister, named Hope. Hardy TV perennial Ted McGinley plays Hope's hubby, comfy as an old shoe. Ripa and Ford play well together -- they're smart about how to do the dumb joke. But their oversized acting style reminds me of the reaction to Laverne & Shirley in Thailand. Bewildered by the girls' utterly un-Thai lack of quiet decorum, TV execs preceded each episode with a brief explanation: "These women are escapees from a lunatic asylum."
Emitted with groaning relief from the constipated imagination of the creators of Saved By the Bell, California Dreams: Seasons 1 and 2 ($44.99) is one of the dullest shows in TV history. Ah, but there are those who love it, or rather their early-'90s memories of Saturday-morning TV. It started out as a degraded Partridge Family-ish ripoff, then morphed into a show about So Cal high schoolers with a band, time on their hands, and Santa Ana winds blowing through their ears.
In Plain Sight: Season 1 ($59.98) is the USA Network's answer to The Closer and Saving Grace. As a hard-chick Albuquerque marshall shepherding folks in the Federal Witness Protection Program, snubnosed Mary McCormack of The West Wing won't take any crap from anybody -- except her drinksy mom Jinx (Lesley Ann Warren) and druggy sister (Nichole Hiltz). You'll be unsurprised to learn that her love life isn't brilliant, and she has a few personal issues. McCormack's not quite on a par with Kyra Sedgwick and Holly Hunter, but she'll do nicely, and the writing isn't bad, in an obvious way. USA Network is blowing it, though. Teri Garr used to bitterly refer to her handlers as the Federal Actress Protection Program, skillfully hiding her from American viewers, and that's pretty much what USA Network is. They're too obscure to play it so safe. What they should do is start making shows that boldly break the mold, smart, startlingly different shows that demand more of the audience.
How about something like The IT Crowd: The Complete Season One ($24.98)? Britain's dead-on satire of the tech-support purgatory deep within a megacorporation is deeply knowing about tech types and the tech-ignorati who supervise them, and it's a good old-fashioned comedy to boot, with more of the spirit of Taxi than The Office (or sort of a combination of both). Also looming on the comedy horizon: Dennis Miller: The HBO Comedy Specials ($29.99), all seven shows by the interestingly right-wing-inclining ex-SNL funnyman, and Ricky Gervais: Out of England (The Stand-Up Special) ($19.98).
On the retro-TV beat, don't miss Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: Season 4, Vol. 1 ($39.98), from the final 1967-68 season, when the submarine show really started jumping the shark -- but that's not all bad, when Vincent Price brings his horrorific style to an episode about an alien puppeteer, and The Fugitive: Season 2, Vol. 2 ($39.98), with the wrongly accused doc on the run from the law and running into Tom Skerritt, Ed Asner, Harry Dean Stanton, Robert Duvall, Angie Dickinson, Jack Klugman, and other ace guest stars.