DVD Review: The Bold Ones: The Senator (The Complete Series)

The Merry Go Round format was popular in the early decades of TV. By having three or four different TV shows rotating out of the same timeslot, producers had a chance to elevate their shows. They don’t have to force the writers to wring out 24 scripts. They hired movie actors since the time commitment to the series was the same as a feature film shoot. The Bold Ones was such an alternating anthology series. The first season featured Burl Ives in The Lawyers, John Saxon in The New Doctors and Leslie Nielsen in The Protectors in 1969. The second season brought on Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild) as The Senator. The Bold Ones: The Senator – The Complete Series contains the original TV movie and the 8 episodes.

“A Clear and Present Danger” is extraordinary for a TV movie since it has the feeling of a D.A. Pennebaker documentary. Nothing is forced on the screen. There is the feeling that cameraman was merely tagging along. This is the masterful work of director of photography Bill Butler (Jaws). This sets the tone to make the show seem a bit honest when dealing in the world of dirty politics. Hays Stowe (Holbrook) is the son of a senator who finds himself running for the seat when his dad retires from the political game. But he’s not just doing as daddy tells him. He has a mission after a dear friend dies of emphysema. He wants to fight back against air pollution by going to Washington D.C. His election isn’t easy. Although it’s strange to see a political drama that doesn’t worry about SuperPACs and crooked bloggers. Not to spoil the ending, but he does get sworn in since there’s more episodes.

“To Taste of Death But Once” put Sen. Stowe in jeopardy when he must decide to speak at a college even with a death threat over him. “The Day the Lion Died” makes him question a mentor’s grip with reality. This was before C-Span 2 so flaky senators weren’t as entertaining. “Power Play” reveals the complicated concessions a senator must make to get prized legislation passed. “A Continual Roar of Musketry” is a fictionalized version of Kent State. “Some Day, They’ll Elect a President” has the common problem of the senator’s office doing a favor for someone who might have mobster ties. This was before 24 Hour News so such a scandal only got play on the occasional newscast and the daily paper. “George Washington Told a Lie” deals with an Indian treaty signed by the first president. “A Single Blow of a Sword” lands on an inner city anti-poverty project that might be getting its head rich. Can Stowe get to the bottom of the scandal?

This is a great short series that might make viewers nostalgic for that time when politicians weren’t spending 80 percent of their time fundraising and groveling to billionaires. It’s hard to figure out why there was only one season of The Senator since it won five Emmys including Best Drama and Best Actor for Holbrook. This was a quality show that should have stuck around for two more seasons. Senator Stowe was truly a Bold One for his time.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the gritty documentary feel to a majority of the footage. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. There’s no real score so it’s a raw dialogue track most of the time.

Interview with Hal Holbrook (33:40) lets him explain that he did the series because it was about something and what was happening to democracy. He suggests that political motives got the show canceled. He blames it mostly on a lack of balls.

Hal Holbrook on the Dick Cavett Show (2:48) is from December 19, 1971. The interview focuses on the show getting yanked.

Hal Holbrook Anti-Drug PSA (1:01) is about telling kids to not do drugs in foreign countries. This advice was not headed by the guy in Midnight Express.

The Bold Ones: The Senator – The Complete Series is perfect for those who crave a vintage look back at old school politics. Holbrook reminds us of a time when people could run for the senate without resorting to begging for cash every five minutes. The documentary feel makes his character’s sincerity shine. An obscure gem that gains luster on DVD.

Timeless Media Group presents The Bold Ones: The Senator – The Complete Series. Starring: Hal Holbrook, Sharon Acker, Cindy Eilbacher and Michael Tolan. Boxset Contents: 9 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: June 16, 2015.

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