The long-awaited release of an almost twenty year old classic sitcom, plus the latest works from a pair of relative newcomers who seem poised for strong second acts, highlight the coming week. Let’s dive right in:

Two years ago, a percussive thriller called Boys and Girls in America — a wild blast that whipped hints of country, rock, blues, and straight-up punk into one frothy hell of a fucked-up fromage — punched The Hold Steady‘s ticket to the big time. Looking to build on that buzz, the group — led by the gruff Craig Finn (and don’t ask me why the stark contrast between dark voice and light lyric works this well) — is up this week with its fourth album, Stay Positive.

A star in her native Australia, Delta Goodrem has had a couple of near-misses in her pursuit of stateside success. Probably best known here for her appearance on Olivia Newton-John’s star-studded musical reimagining of Maya Angelou’s classic poem “Phenomenal Woman” a few years back, Goodrem is back this week with her second full-length project, Delta, and she’s ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille. Gathering steam at radio this summer is Delta‘s driving first single “In This Life” (not to be confused with Chantal Kreviazuk’s identically-titled 2003 stunner), and don’t be at all surprised if it ends up making this girl one of this season’s breakout stars.

So, it seems as though Starbucks’ gate-crashing upstart label Hear Music is now the hangout of choice for the legendary singer-songwriters of yesteryear whose work — much of it as ringing and relevant now as it ever was (witness, if you will, the latest albums from Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Carly Simon, all four of which are from under Hear’s shingle, and no fewer than two of which rank among their respective artists’ strongest offerings) — is now seen as gauche by many of the crumbling majors. Maverick rocker John Mellencamp will almost certainly fit right in with these guys, and coming off of last year’s Freedom’s Road — his highest charting album in a decade, thanks in no small part to its unavoidable smash single “Our Country” — Mellencamp is riding some palpable momentum as he prepares to release Life Death Love and Freedom, his twentieth studio album. Produced by the red-hot T-Bone Burnett, Life is said to be a bit darker and more politically charged — right in time for our quadriannual mud-hurling fest conducted by two men who are fighting like feral, rabid dogs to be elected leader of the free world — than any of Mellencamp’s previous works. I say sign me up: any exposure to ol’ Johnny, one of his generation’s most undervalued lyricists, is time well spent.

Boasting one of the strongest, most eclectic acting companies ever assembled for a mere situation comedy, a fondly-recalled (by me, at any rate) televison classic at long last makes it way to DVD this week.

Back in 1990, at the dizzying height of their spectacular success with “Designing Women” — another trailblazing triumph that, save for a paltry five-episode “best-of” set, is nowhere to be found on DVD — CBS handed that series’ married co-creators Harry and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason carte blanche to craft the network another buzzworthy smash. What the Thomasons brought them, instead, was “Evening Shade,” a subtle, simple mix of asinine antics and homespun hilarity which emanated from a cast of crazies led by Burt Reynolds (whose dry, collected wit meshed beautifully with the broader humor that often encircled him) as a high school football coach in small-town Arkansas, and featuring a dream team of supporting players including Marilu Henner (as Reynolds’ wife), Charles Durning, Ossie Davis, Hal Holbrook, Michael Jeter (an Emmy winner for his role as Herman, Reynolds’ bumbling assistant coach), and the peerless Elizabeth Ashley (who hilariously called this cast “a bunch of old stage whores” — “We didn’t care what color the rug in the dressing room was!” — in an interview with PBS’ Ernie Manouse a couple of years ago).

The entire antithesis of “Designing Women” in every way that mattered — commercially, it was never the ratings behemoth that “Women” was at its peak, even though it ran for four seasons (kicking off CBS’ vaunted Monday night comedy lineup during the heady heyday of “Murphy Brown”); and creatively, it was wacky where “Women” was topical, and quiet where “Women” was brash — “Shade” at its best was a brilliant farce, anchored always by the invaluable Reynolds and his easygoing charm. (One of the funniest pieces of television I’ve ever witnessed was a second season episode in which Herman thinks he has a secret admirer and jots down a list of possible suspects to help him better identify the culprit; the mere look of stupefied disbelief on Elizabeth Ashley’s miraculously expressive face as she stared slack-jawed at Jeter — before asking, in that inimitably husky drawl that has always been her trademark, “Herman… what the hell’s my name doin’ on this list?” — is so falling-down funny you’ll wish you were wearing a bladder pad.)

Evening Shade: Season One arrives on DVD this week, and if you’re up for a total laugh riot, you’ll absolutely find it here.

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