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2008 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part II

December 11th, 2008

This week on our annual Holiday Gift Guide we look at TV on DVD releases. But not every TV on DVD release, as we will be focusing on either Full Series releases and First Season releases. If a show is on season four of a seven season run, it's unlikely that you will need me to tell you if it will make a good gift or not. After all, you know the recipient better than I do and either they are collecting the show or they are not. However, those that are making their DVD debut, or are ending it with a Full Series Megaset, can make great gifts for people who would otherwise not have seen the show.

And now we move onto the TV shows being released...

For those who have a sensation of Déjà vu...
Firefly - The Complete Series - Blu-ray
Description: When this show first aired, Joss Whedon had three shows on TV. Less than two years later, he had none. This Sci-Fi Western had the shortest run at only half a season (and several episodes were not even aired during its initial run). However, it developed a rabid following during that time. Pros: While it was canceled first, I consider it the best Joss Whedon out there, and not just for the Canadian content, although that helps. Also, the Blu-ray edition of the TV series has an additional audio commentary track, as well as a 28-minute long reunion among some of the cast. And if you are grabbing this, grab Serenity on Blu-ray.
Cons: When the show was originally made, the special effects were made in Standard Definition, and at times you can really tell. However, it still looks as good as you can expect given the source material.
Notes: Yes, this is a cut and paste from last week. And if I can think of a way how, I might include it on next week's list, which will be filled with independent films, imports, and Canadian releases, if I can figure a way to do that.

For those who think secret identities are not just for Super Heroes...
Hannah Montana - Season One
Description: Miley Cyrus stars as Hannah Montana, a teenage pop star with a secret identity. When she's not rocking out the show, she's just plain Miley Stewart, who has to deal with the normal life of the average high school student.
Pros: As far as kids shows go, this one is not bad; it's certainly better than Suite Life. Also, buying this might convince Disney that they should put out more of their TV shows on Full Season DVD and not single disc releases.
Cons: Quite a few of the episodes were released on the single-disc DVDs, but not so many that this DVD isn't still a good value.
Notes: Another kids show that came out on a full season set, or a sort of full season set, was iCarly, and it's another show that should please its target audience. (Kids shows tend to only last 65 episodes, because that is how many you need to go into syndication. So it makes sense to release the show as five volumes instead of two seasons and one half season.)

What the hell are you staring at?
Duckman - Season One & Two and Season Three & Four, or Complete Series
Description: An adult cartoon starring Jason Alexander as the titular Duckman, a foulmouthed, womanizing, man... I mean duck, whose life is filled with vice. He works as a Private Eye with his partner, Cornfed, and lives with his two or three sons (it's complicated) and his sister-in-law. Not to mention his mother-in-law, who communicates entirely in flatulence. It's not your typical family sitcom.
Pros: Great show, assuming you have a twisted sense of humor and don't minds jokes that are equal parts humorous and offensive.
Cons: Not a whole lot of extras on the first DVD release, while the second, and the full series set, doesn't come out till January the 6th.

For those who think blood splatter can be an art form...
Dexter - Season One and Season Two
Description: Michael C. Hall stars as Dexter Morgan, who is a blood expert with the cops who helps track down killers. There are a lot of police procedural shows on TV at the moment, but this one has a twist: Dexter Morgan is a serial killer.
Pros: I know, I'm breaking my rule about only have first season releases and full season releases. However, there's two reasons for this. Firstly, this is one amazing show. Secondly, Season One is coming out on Blu-ray, and that's a perfect fit for this list.
Cons: Of course, it's not coming out on Blu-ray till January 6th, which is a problem for most.

For those still mourning the loss of this show a decade later...
Sports Night - The Complete Series 10th - Anniversary Edition
Description: A behind-the-scenes look at a TV sports news program and the personalities that work there.
Pros: I remember in 2000 watching the TV Guide Awards when this show won for Best Show You're Not Watching. Part of actor Peter Krause's speech including him saying, "Hopefully we won't win this award next year." The show was canceled shortly afterward. An excellent show that deserved to be seen by more people, but at least it can be now.
Cons: This is not the first time its been released on a Full Series Megaset. It is the best collection, but not the first.

For those who expect to be still mourning the loss of this show in ten years...
Pushing Daisies - Season One - DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A very quirky show about a pie-maker who has the ability to return a person from the dead, but only for 2 minutes. If he keeps them alive for longer than 2 minutes, someone else must die in their place. And if he ever touches that person again, they die.
Pros: It's a strange premise, but it works. The show was made by the same creator as Dead Like Me and shares some of the same touches that made the previous show so intriguing. In fact, this show was originally planned as a spin-off of that show.
Cons: Also like Dead Like Me, this show was also canceled too soon and many people might not want to get hooked to a show knowing that it doesn't last long enough for a satisfactory conclusion.
Notes: Another quirky show, Eli Stone, could be in the same situation by the end of the season. Grabbing it on DVD could help save the show.

For those who have been mourning even longer...
Quark - The Complete Series
Description: A parody of Sci-Fi TV shows that focuses on Captain Quark, a man who thinks he should be a captain of a starship having great adventures, but he is stuck leading a small crew aboard a garbage scow.
Pros: A fun show from the 1970s that only lasted half a season, but miraculously earned a DVD release. For anyone who remembers this show, this DVD is great fun. Even if you have never heard of the show, but like Star Trek: The Original Series, which it spoofed a number of times, or Get Smart, which was also created by Buck Henry, it is worth checking out. (But more on those two shows shortly.)
Cons: Most people will never have heard of it, and there are no extras on the DVD.

For those who like to be milked...
Star Trek: The Original Series - Remastered - Season One, Season Two, and Season Three
Description: Star Trek is Paramount's ultimate cash cow, and they will milk it again and again and the Remastered edition of this series is the latest attempt.
Pros: There's a reason this keeps happening. Star Trek: The Original Series is one of the best and most enduring Sci-Fi TV shows ever made.
Cons: It is expensive, and I can almost guarantee the Blu-ray edition is not far away.

For those looking for the second biggest DVD release I've ever seen...
Get Smart - Complete Series Gift Set
Description: A 1960s spoof of secret agent TV shows, which were very popular at the time. Here Don Adams plays Maxwell Smart, the less than capable go to man at CONTROL, who is assisted by the more than capable, not to mention beautiful, Agent 99 played by Barbara Feldon. They battle the elements of KAOS, who are determined to defeat CONTROL and rule the world.
Pros: Classic. Simply a classic of the genre. Don Adams' comic timing is impeccable here, and his chemistry with Barbara Feldon added a whole extra layer to the show. Add in a 25-disc set that is loaded with extras, and this is an amazing gift for fans of the show.
Cons: This was released last year, but you had to buy it direct from the distributor, and it cost a lot more than it did now. However, more hardcore fans might already have it.

For those who love all things Henson...
Fraggle Rock - The Complete Series
Description: Jim Henson created this show about a world beyond a hole in an inventor's house. There live the Fraggles, the Dozers, and the Gorgs, who have to learn live in harmony with each other.
Pros: An excellent show, which is no surprise since it was made by Jim Henson, but it also has a lot of nostalgic value, especially for kids of the 1980s like myself.
Cons: The only way to get seasons four and five is through this Megaset. This means if you bought seasons one through three, you are forced to double-dip, which is a bit of a dick move on the studio's part.

For those who didn't fit in during high school... which is everyone...
Freaks & Geeks - Yearbook Edition
Description: One of Judd Apatow's earlier projects, and arguably the one where he found his voice. It focuses on two different groups in a 1980s: the nerds and the stoners. The nerds include Sam Weir, while his sister, Lindsay was part of the stoners, which caused the clique conflict from school to spillover into the home.
Pros: One of those amazing shows that never really found an audience and was in danger of being canceled throughout its first, and only season. While it only ran for one season, it certainly impressed its loyal fans.
Cons: The show has been released on this Yearbook Edition DVD in the past, but was a limited edition at a premium price. Now that it is not a limited edition, the price is still practically the same.

Speaking of buying direct...
The Real Ghostbusters - The Complete Series - Buy Direct
Description: The Saturday morning cartoon that was based on the hilarious box office hit, Ghostbusters.
Pros: Even adult fans of the movie will get a kick out of this TV series, which features some great writing, including some references to Lovecraft. Additionally, the voice talent was equal to the writing with people like Lorenzo Music, Maurice LaMarche, and others. Finally, the extras on this 25-disc set should satisfy all fans of the show.
Cons: It is rather expensive, and this time next year it should be on store shelves at a rather steep discount. But I don't know if hardcore fans will want to wait.

For those who waited, and waited, and waited...
30 Days - Season Two
Description: A documentary series created by Morgan Spulock, who shot to fame with Super Size Me. In this show, he takes someone outside of their comfort zone and forces them to live 30 days in another person's shoes. This was supposed to come out last year at this time, but the writers' strike pushed it back for months.
Pros: This season had some great episodes, especially the season finale where Morgan Spurlock himself had to spend 30 days in jail. (Or to be more accurate, 30 days minus a few for good behavior.)
Cons: At times it can go from really good TV to Reality TV.

For those who have hope that their favorite short-lived TV show can be reborn...
Futurama - Bender's Big Score, The Beast With a Billion Backs, and Bender's Game (DVD) or Bender's Game (Blu-ray)
Description: The first three of four planned direct-to-DVD movies based on the Futurama TV series have already been released, with just one more to go. The three films so far have dealt with time travel, inter-dimensional relationships, and scariest of all, Dungeons & Dragons.
Pros: Great movies, fantastic DVDs, and gives hope to all fans of short-lived TV shows. What more could you want?
Cons: Bender's Big Score starts of a little slow, The Beast with a Billion Backs slumps in the end, while only Bender's Game has come out on High Definition so far, so you can expect double-dips from the other two.

For those who are interested in new way to get TV on DVD...
Zoey 101 - Season Two
Description: Jamie Lynn Spears stars as Zoey Brooks, a new student at P.C.A., a previously all-boy boarding school. There she has to deal with roommates, guys, and occasionally, school.
Pros: This is a fun show, especially compared to most aimed at the same young target audience. Also, this is one of the first shows offered from Amazon's CreatSpace program where they burn the DVDs when they are ordered, which means there is less to be shipped, which is more efficient. (They don't need to ship the DVDs, cases, etc. first to Amazon and then to you.) Other shows that use this program include Ned's Declassified Best of Season One and Two, South of Nowhere - Season One and Two.
Cons: This is as bare bones of a DVD release as you can get. It has no extras, no subtitles, and each episode is just one chapter. Even so, I like this program and I hope it is expanded.

For those who wanted to see what Ira Glass looks like...
The American Life - Season One
Description: For the past decade, Ira Glass has hosted a radio show called This American Life, where he introduces the lives of individuals around the country. And recently it has become a TV show.
Pros: It's a great show that I reviewed when it was first released as a Borders exclusive.
Cons: There are no extras on the DVD.
Notes: Season Two comes out in January.

For those who think diets suck...
Two Fat Ladies - Complete Collection
Description: Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson host a British cooking show back in the late 1990s.
Pros: The word diet is not in these ladies' vocabulary. Fat, sugar, butter... lots of butter. And don't get them started on vegetarians.
Cons: I'm on a diet, so I can't eat any of the food they cook.
Notes: Diets suck.

For those who like to mock bad movies...
Mystery Science Theater 3000 - 20th Anniversary - DVD or Limited Edition Tin Box
Description: Joel Hodgson or Mike Nelson are stuck in a satellite, or are being chased through space, and are forced to watch bad movies with robots to see when they will snap. Or not. The setup changed throughout the run, but the basics stayed the same: we watch in on the host and his two robot friends watch bad movies and make fun of them.
Pros: I finally got a chance to review this show, and while most come from the latter seasons, which are not as strong are earlier seasons, it is still great fun.
Cons: I want full season sets. Due to legal issues, and lost episodes, there's almost no chance that is going to happen.

Hey, it wasn't canceled...
Reaper - Season One
Description: Bret Harrison stars as Sam Oliver, a young slacker who learns his parents sold him to the devil in exchange for curing his father's illness. Now he has to work for Satan retrieving souls that have escaped from hell.
Pros: A fun show that was quirky enough to stand out, but I was worried that it was too quirky to last on TV. (Like Pushing Daisies and perhaps Eli Stone.) I honestly believed that it would be canceled quickly because of its nature. Also, it stars Tyler Labine of Dead Last and Invasion, both of which were canceled fast.
Cons: There's not a huge amount of extras on the 5-disc set.

For those looking for something different...
Monty Python's Flying Circus - 21-disc Megaset
Description: All the releases from the TV series, the Personal Best Of... releases and more.
Pros: It's everything TV show related in one box.
Cons: It's not the first Megaset, and it likely won't be the last.

Finally...
Exes & Ohs - Season One
Description: A sitcom that airs on the LOGO channel about the lives and loves of a group of lesbians who are at various points in their relationships (longterm, just broken up, looking for love, etc.)
Pros: I reviewed the show back in May and was pleasantly surprised and I have been awaiting the second season ever since.
Cons: The extras are only average.
Notes: Season two was finally announced. I hope they have T-shirts from Beever Café, and perhaps even little stuffed beaver toys wearing little Beever Café T-shirts like they have in the show. That would be awesome.

For those who expected the show to be back...
Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season One - DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A TV series based on the popular Terminator franchise starring Summer Glau as the ass-kicking, time traveling android.
Pros: When this series was first announced, I was worried that it just wouldn't work. When Summer Glau was cast, a lot of my worries went away. Additionally, while the TV show is great, the DVD and Blu-ray releases are even better and are loaded with extras.
Cons: The ratings are not great, and it might not last through the full season. This is not a knock against the show or the DVD, but a warning that getting hooked now may lead to heartbreak later.

For those who have triskadecaphobia...
Friday the 13th - The Series - Season One - Seaon One
Description: An anthology series where two cousins (played by Louise Robey and John D. LeMay) inherit a store that used to sell cursed antiques and now must retrieve every item that was sold.
Pros: As I said in my review, this is not the best season in the show's run, but there are enough top-notch episodes that it is worth picking up. Also, Robey's hot, even with that big 80s hair.
Cons: Nostalgia might be clouding my view of the show. Also, there are no real extras on the DVD.

For those who want to laugh through the tears...
NewsRadio - The Complete Series
Description: Dave Foley runs WNYX, the number two news radio station in New York City. He has to deal with his less than effective workers, cantankerous on air talent, and a boss that is more trouble than the rest combined.
Pros: I dare you to watch Jimmy James read from Macho Business Donkey Wrestler and not laugh.
Cons: I still have trouble watching season five, especially the opener where they deal with Bill McNeal's death. Also, there's no extras on the DVD.

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Filed under: Serenity, Futurama - The Beast with a Billion Backs, Futurama - Bender's Game, Futurama - Bender's Big Score