American TV shows became grittier in the 1970s, when the social critique launched by activists and intellectuals in the 1960s had filtered its way through more established institutions, including TV and film studios.
Writers and directors were given the freedom to create more socially engaged cop shows such as S.W.A.T., Police Woman, and The Rookies. These shows tried to look at the roots of crime, while comedies such as All in the Family became sharper and more satirical.
Universal Studios made a contribution to this wave of new TV with a unique series of four dramas that aired on NBC under the collective title The Bold Ones.
Each program took a close look at the work of people responsible for public health and welfare - police officers, doctors, lawyers, and politicians. Each series opened with a feature-length pilot shot in widescreen that boasted high production values and a great cast.
Lost for decades, three of the four series are finally available on DVD in gorgeously restored editions.
The Bold Ones: The Lawyers aired for three seasons between 1968 and 1972 and featured Burl Ives as a respectable aging attorney who hires two young lawyers who happen to be brothers (Joseph Campanella and James Farentino) to help him with his case load. Stories engaged with such issues as premarital sex, campus protests, homelessness, mental illness, and the death penalty. (The eight-disc set is due Tuesday; $59.99)
The Bold Ones: The Protectors premiered in 1969 with a controversial, charged pilot film about the conflict between a predominantly white police force in an unnamed California city and its black citizens. It was canceled after seven terrific episodes.
Leslie Nielsen stars as an aggressive, no-nonsense top cop from the Midwest who is hired to bring down the city's crime rate. He is challenged at every turn by the district attorney (Hari Rhodes), a liberal African American politician who grew up in the inner city himself. The conflicts depicted here are as vital and relevant today s they were 40 years ago. (The two-disc set has a list price of $34.99)
The Bold Ones: The Senator. This 1970 series ran for nine installments. Hal Holbrook is brilliant as Hays Stowe, a lawyer whose father is a nationally renowned U.S. senator. When Stowe's father decides to retire, it's on the condition that his son run for his seat. Hays runs on a then-novel issue that his father's backers find shocking: environmentalism. (The three-disc set has a list price of $29.93)
For information about all three releases, visit www.shoutfactory.com.
Other titles of note
Meru. Documentary filmmakers Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for this stunning documentary that follows three climbers as they try to conquer one of the most hazardous mountains in the Himalayas. (www.musicboxfilms.com; $29.95 DVD; $34.95 Blu-ray; rated R)
Code Unknown. Oscar-winning Austrian auteur Michael Haneke tackles social, economic, and racial injustice in this singular French-language film from 2000. Starring Juliette Binoche, the movie is composed almost entirely of single-shot character vignettes. Haneke worked with the Criterion Collection to produce a high-def edition of the feature. (www.criterion.com; $29.95 DVD; $39.95 Blu-ray; not rated)
Camilla Läckberg's The Fjällbacka Murders: Set 1 and Set 2. This moody Swedish TV drama stars Claudia Galli as a famous mystery novelist and new mother who helps her police officer husband (Richard Ulfsäter) solve some of the most puzzling murders his bosses have run across.
The feature-length episodes were adapted from the novels by acclaimed author Camilla Läckberg. Each three-disc set contains three mysteries. (www.mhznetworks.org; $39.95 each; not rated)
Most titles also available on Video on Demand from cable providers and for digital download from major retailers. email@example.com