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Monday, July 28, 2014



2012 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part II

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, there are still plenty of shopping days from now till Christmas. Like every year, we have a Holiday Gift Guide, starting with Part I, which focused on first run releases and franchise box sets. Part II focuses on TV on DVD releases. Like years past, we will be focusing on TV on DVD releases for shows making their debut on the home market, or for full season sets. That's not to say those are the only shows worth buying as gifts, but if you know someone who loved Futurama, then you don't need me to tell you Volume 7 would make a good gift or not. The number of really good TV series that made their debut this year is bigger than last year, including some that were so good they dominated Awards Season. The best of these was...

For those who want security while at home...
Homeland: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Damian Lewis stars as a POW rescued from Afghanistan. He's treated as a hero when he returns home. Claire Danes stars as a CIA analyst who suspects he's been turned by the enemy and his rescue was staged so he could be in close proximity to a high priority target.
Pros: I reviewed a large number of TV shows making their DVD debuts this year, and this one was the best. Every aspect of the show was incredible, from the writing to the acting to the directing, everything.
Cons: I was a little disappointed with the extras. It's not a bad set, but it's not fully loaded either.

For those who want to watch a show about being watched...
Person of Interest: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Michael Emerson plays a man who has developed a surveillance / intelligence system that not only monitors everything, but can also predict when someone will be involved in a crime. It can't predict if they will be the victim or the perpetrator, on the other hand.
Pros: This show earned the People's Choice Award for Best New Drama and the word of mouth is obviously amazing, as its reviews have improved quite a bit during season two. Also, it came out on a Blu-ray Combo Pack, which is rare for TV on DVD releases.
Cons: The extras were weak with just the extended pilot, audio commentary track on the pilot, and a featurette.

For those who want more fantasy and less sci-fi in their shows...
Once Upon a Time - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Imagine if the fairytale world was transported to the real world by a spell cast by an evil witch. However, none of the residents remember they were ever part of the fairytale world, except the evil witch and one little boy.
Pros: One of the best new dramas of the season; in fact, I thought it should have won the People's Choice Award. (Homeland was eligible because of its start date.) The DVD and the Blu-ray have plenty of extras that add to the overall value.
Cons: Like I said in my review, it does enter Soap Opera territory occasionally.

For those who want horror instead...
American Horror Story: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Technically this is a mini-series, but since there's a season two, I think it is safe to call it a TV series. The show is about a family going through troubles who move into a new house for a fresh start, but they move into a haunted house. At first there's just little weird things that happen, but soon it's a full-fledged nightmare.
Pros: The first season earned 17 Emmy nominations, which tied it for first place in that regard. It does have an incredible mythology and a lot of strong performances and excellent mood.
Cons: There are a few too many horror clichés thrown in the mix and the extras are only good, but not great. My opinion of the show has fallen a bit since I reviewed it.

For those who want revenge for Christmas...
Revenge: Season One - Buy from Amazon
Description: Emily VanCamp stars as Emily Thorne / Amanda Clarke. When she was a kid, her father was a hedge fund manager who was falsely convicted of funneling money to a terrorist group. When she grows up, she gets a windfall. Someone her father helped get started gives her his share of the return on an investment. Instead of taking the millions of dollars and living a life of comfort, she decides to get revenge on the family that ruined her father's life.
Pros: This is a good show with a lot of strengths, including Emily VanCamp, who is great as the lead... for the most part. It is a complicated story that keeps you engaged week-after-week. The extras are also solid on the DVD.
Cons: Like I said in my original review, it can get a little soap operish at times.

For those who like the Season Ones older than one year...
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon: Season One and Season Two
Description: The voyages of the Starship Enterprise, as it explores new worlds, seeks out new life and new civilizations, and boldly goes where no one has gone before.
Pros: For much of its run, Star Trek: The Next Generation was the best sci-fi show on TV and the high definition run has looked and sounded amazing so far. Plus, there are more extras than the previous DVD releases.
Cons: While the show was great for most of its seven-year run, the first two seasons were more mixed. Plus, it is expensive compared to other releases on this list.

For those want a little more humor for Christmas...
2 Broke Girls: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The show focuses on two women, Max, who grew up poor, and Caroline, who used to be rich till her dad was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme. Now the pair are working together in a Williamsburg diner while trying to get enough money to start a Cupcake store.
Pros: This TV show earned some of the best pre-season buzz last year and it won the People's Choice Award for Best New Sitcom at the end of the year. The two leads have awesome chemistry together and the addition of Jennifer Coolidge helped in that department as well.
Cons: It is a crass show, which has turned off some viewers. Also, and I hate to repeat myself so much, I was disappointed with the extras.

For those who like their new shows New...
The New Girl: Season One - Buy from Amazon
Description: Zooey Deschanel stars in her first TV series. (She's had guest appearances before, but this is her first show where she was a regular.) She is a 30-year old elementary school teacher who finds herself without a place to live after a break-up. She reads a Craigslist ad and moves in with three guys.
Pros: Like the previous sitcom, this show earned a lot of pre-season buzz and it earned it, for the most part. Zooey Deschanel is a great actress, but she's perhaps played roles like this too much. The extras on the DVD are better than most with audio commentary tracks on a few episodes, deleted scenes, featurettes, etc.
Cons: Had a tendency to slip into typical unchallenging sitcom mood, especially early in the year, and yes, Zooey is playing a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, again.

For kids, or those who are still kids at heart...
Adventure Time: Season One - Buy from Amazon
Description: This one is a little hard to explain. At its heart, it is the adventures of a boy, Finn, and his talking dog, Jake, as they travel around the Land of Ooo.
Pros: It's a highly imaginative cartoon that appeals to kids as well as adults. There's excellent music and a much deeper storyline than it appears at first. There is a huge amount of talented voice actors, including but not limited to Tom Kenny, John DiMaggio, Maria Bamford, Olivia Olson, etc. Finally, the extras are better than a lot of live action shows on this list.
Cons: The show has been released on a lot of mixed DVDs first, so there are some double-dips here.

For those who like a good show, no matter how far outside the target demographic they might land...
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Season One - Buy from Amazon
Description: This franchise has been around since the 1980s. It is about the world of Equestria where several ponies Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, live and have adventures.
Pros: It's a really good cartoon with a great cast and lots of very good music. It does have a real appeal beyond its target demographic.
Cons: It has been released on mixed DVDs, so there are double-dips to deal with. Also, this is a MOD title, so I won't get a screener and I'm pretty sure there are no extras.

For those who miss 24...
Touch: Season One - Buy from Amazon
Description: Keifer Sutherland stars as a single dad struggling to raise an emotionally troubled son, played by David Mazouz. His son is 11 years old, but has never said a word, but keeps a journal full of numbers. In the first episode, he and his social worker, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, realize his son can see the connections between people and events and in a way, predict the future.
Pros: It was a mid-season replacement, but it did well enough to earn a couple of Emmy nominations. It certainly has a strong premise and equally strong execution during its shortened first season.
Cons: The second season has been pushed back, so I'm not sure the network has a lot of faith in the series. That doesn't affect the quality, but I hate getting sucked into a show only to have it canceled so soon. Also, there are not a huge number of extras on the three-disc set.

For those who like their Full Series Megaset really, really MEGA...
Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series (Deluxe Edition) - Buy from Amazon
Description: Dark Shadows was a Gothic horror daytime soap opera that ran for five seasons starting in 1966. It focused on the lives of the Collins family, who are tied up with vampires, ghosts, and other supernatural events.
Pros: Five years might not seem like a lot for a TV on DVD release, but it was a daytime soap, so it played every day, not just once a week. There are 1,225 epidsodes spread across 131 discs. The total running time is nearly 20 days. DAYS! Plus there's lots of extras added in.
Cons: It is expensive at $333 on Amazon.com, but it is incredibly cheap on a price-per-minute basis.

For those who want a Megaset that is not quite that mega...
Friends - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Description: A sitcom about six friends living in New York City that ran for ten seasons and was among the highest rated shows during that time.
Pros: It was also nominated for countless Emmys and other awards, winning more than a few of them along the way. The 21-disc set is loaded with extras.
Cons: The Blu-ray only looks and sounds relatively good and it isn't the best looking TV on Blu-ray release. Also, they used the broadcast versions of the episodes, while some of them were released as extended cuts on DVD.

For those who don't mind sending the wrong message with a gift...
Get A Life - Buy from Amazon
Description: Chris Elliott stars as 30-year old manchild who still lives with his disappointed parents.
Pros: While the show only lasted 35 episodes, it garnered a cult following and these fans will love to see the show again. The box set contains a ton of extras, including audio commentary tracks on every episode, retrospective, interviews, and more.
Cons: It only lasted 35 episodes for a reason. It is so weird that it has a limited target audience. Also, giving a gift that says, "Get a Life" on it might be taken the wrong way.

For those who want all of the turtle power...
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Buy from Amazon
Description: The first cartoon incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Pros: It is by far the best version of the TMNT, outside of the comics. The 23-disc set contains every season of the show plus some extras. It also comes in a really cool box shaped like the turtle van that even has wheels, which makes it perfect for fans that like the show and collect merchandise.
Cons: There's nothing here that you wouldn't have gotten if you had collected the individual DVDs, outside of the van.

For those who liked a different kids franchise...
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers - Buy from Amazon
Description: One of the most enduring TV franchises of all time. Each series follows a similar formula: some bad guy wants to take over the world using a wide variety of monsters and a group of diverse teenagers stop them with giant robots.
Pros: The show has lasted so long that it is possible kids who were on the older end of the target demographic when the show first came out are old enough to have kids on the young end of the target now. You can share your fandom with a new generation.
Cons: There's a lot of nostalgia involved in the appeal.

For those who like their kids shows a little more educational...
Magic School Bus - Buy from Amazon
Description: Each episode, Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a magic adventure where they learn about science from the reaches of outer space to the insides of the human body.
Pros: One of the best educational shows aimed at kids and even though I only got a few discs to review, I can say it is just as entertaining now as it was then.
Cons: I forgot how many puns there were on this show.

For those who don't mind if a Mega set isn't a complete collection...
The Best of the Carol Burnett Show - Buy from Time Life
Description: One of the most famous variety shows of all time. The show featured Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner, and countless guest stars performing an amazing number of skits featuring some very famous characters.
Pros: There are 40 hours of episodes on this 22-disc Megaset, which is also loaded with extras that would take too long to list here.
Cons: It's a Best Of set, not a Complete Series Megaset.
Side Note: There are a few smaller options if you don't want the full set.

For those not worried there might be a more Mega Megaset coming out later on...
Red vs. Blue: RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Groundbreaking machinima series that focuses on the life of a group of Halo soldiers trying to survive in a hostile world. A world made more hostile by their idiotic antics.
Pros: This show started out as a rather goofy series and while it maintained its humor, it grew as a story as the years went by. After ten years, there's roughly a day's worth of entertainment here. Audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, PSAs, and much more.
Cons: The webseries is ongoing, so this is merely 'complete' as of now. Also, a lot of the early shows were not made in high definition, so the audio and video of the Blu-ray is merely good for the first several seasons. Still, worth the price.

For those who need a drink, or several, during Christmas...
My Drunk Kitchen: Season One - Buy from DFTBA.com
Description: One day Hannah Hart decided to make a video for a friend of hers showing her cooking grilled cheese while drunk. It went viral. Now she is one of the most popular YouTube celebrities.
Pros: My collection of YouTube favorites is filled with her videos. Not only is she a very funny host, who has a talent for puns, but despite a very simple premise, the show has not gotten repetitive. The are not a lot of extras on the DVD, but they are still worth paying for what you can watch online for free.
Cons: I'm worried buying this will contribute to possible liver damage to Hannah Hart. ... I'm worried watching this will cause liver damage to myself.

I've gone overboard again and this week's list is even longer than last week's list was. Next week I have to trim the selections down in advance or start working on it sooner. Either way, stay tuned for the Independent / Foreign / Classics a week from now and the miscellaneous / panic list a week after that.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2012-12-06