New TV on DVD: Partridge Family, Columbo, Night Court, Mystery Science Theater

For me, the big release of the week is The Partridge Family: The Complete Fourth Season ($29.95). Poor David Cassidy lost his Partridge Family lunchbox and other memorabilia in a California earthquake, but thank God we've still got his last PF performances on DVD! OK, PF was pathetic compared to the Monkees, the Osmonds, the Jacksons, the Archies, and the Cowsills -- the family band whose eight shimmering top-100 hits inspired the show -- but they were better than their rival Bobby Sherman of Here Come the Brides and their devolutionary successors the Brady Bunch.

Their fourth, last season proves the old metaphor of jumping the shark isn't accurate. Only Happy Days literally included a jump-the-shark-while-waterskiing episode that signified complete creative bankruptcy and the series' end at hand. More commonly, what signifies imminent disaster is not a shark, but a minnow: the addition of a cute new kid to the show's brood. New blood didn't help the PF. Even so, a PF season is never less than tuneful, and it gives me a chance to relate some of the remarkable backstage confessions found in David's memoir. He was the genuine pop article: he broke one of the Stones' records for consecutive concerts, and had a Number One debut single, "I Think I Love You." It was ridiculous -- engineers had to edit out Larry Knechtel's laughter while tinkling out the harpsichord solo -- but it embodied the wisdom of the early Beatles, who included the word "you" as often as possible, so each teenage girl could imagine the tune was addressed to her personally. David used to point at the crowd when he sang "I woke up with YOU on my mind."

It worked. Soon he was having sex with fans through the bars of his mansion gate, and also with costar Susan Dey, whom he dumped ("Susan lacked the slutty aspect of a female that I always found so attractive"). Gina Lollobrigida photographed him in the rude with grapes draped on his groin.

Anyhow, the DVD is fine family entertainment. Also new this week: a Harry Anderson double bill, the flavorful, gracefully aging Night Court: The Complete Second Season ($29.98) and Dave's World: The Second Season ($39.98), which is to the real life of humor columnist Dave Barry what the Partridge Family is to the Cowsills. Both Dave Barry and the Cowsills are better than their fictional counterparts, but still Anderson is winsome and the show slightly underrated.

Also beware of Bewitched: The Complete Seventh Season ($59.99), way better than the recent movie yet still bad, and the so-bad-it's-good Mystery Science Theatre: Volume XIV ($59.99), wherein Tom Servo the robot romances a blender, and Columbo: The Mystery Movie Collection 1990 ($26.98), with an episode by Steven Bochco.

This week's preorder winners are Weeds: Season 4 ($29.98), even though God and HBO alone know when it will be released, High School Musical 3: Senior Year ($29.99, Feb. 17), and the manufactured-on-demand The Inauguration of Barack Obama ($14.95), the CNN version. But HBO will let you buy the partly Obama-themed standup comedy special Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger ($29.98) right now. I'm betting it outsells the CNN DVD, but CNN bets people will be buying its Obama DVD forever. Hope!

My vote for lost gem of the week is the forgotten but memorable Blossom: Seasons 1 and 2 ($49.99), with the winsome, vanished teen actor Mayim Bialik as a divorcee's daughter, the marvelously named Jenna von Oy as her pal, and Joey Lawrence as a boy who says, not "Oy!" but "Whoa!" a lot. It's more like a real family than the Partridge Family, or even the Cowsills, probably.

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