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2013 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part II

December 7th, 2013

The first full weekend of December and less than three weeks till Christmas. The second installment of our Holiday Gift Guide is where we talks about TV on DVD releases. We limit ourselves to the first season of new shows or the Megasets for complete shows. We do this, because generally speaking, you don't need our advice whether or not to give someone the sixth season of Murdoch Mysteries as a gift. Did they buy and enjoy the first five? Then yes, but the sixth season as a gift. If not, I wouldn't bother. Like with Part I, this year's selection doesn't seem very strong. There were very few new shows that were truly great. According to Metacritic, the best new show of the season was Nashville, which is a bit of a surprise. The second best show was Call the Midwife, but season two has already come out on DVD and Blu-ray, so it is not really a new show. Meanwhile, the third best show was canceled before its first season was completed. It wasn't a good year for high quality TV. There are also not a lot of Megasets for shows that recently ended that are obviously worth picking up, but the best of the group is...

For those who like their meth blue...
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series Blu-ray box set - Buy from Amazon
Description: Bryan Cranston stars as Walter White, who at the beginning of the series learns he has cancer. He's worried that he won't be able to provide for his family, so he uses his knowledge of Chemistry to produce the purest meth. This turns out to be a more complicated situation that he first imagined.
Pros: Throughout the show's five years of runs, Breaking Bad was constantly one of the best shows on TV. Additionally, unlike some shows that ended this year, its finale was amazing. The Megaset comes with additional extras and a lot of fun physical extras.
Cons: It's no longer available directly from Amazon and the third-party sellers are charging an outrageous amount. Saw it at Costco the other day for $170 Canadian, so there are better options out there.

For those who don't mind the weak ending...
Dexter: The Complete Series: DVD, Blu-ray, or Blu-ray Gift Set
Description: The show follows Dexter Morgan, a blood-splatter expert who works for the Miami Police department. He is also a serial killer who targets those who escaped the law.
Pros: For most of the show's run, it was one of the best shows on TV. Personally, I thought the show was amazing right up to, and including, Season Five. The DVD and Blu-ray releases never had a lot of extras, but the Megaset included a bonus disc of extras.
Cons: Season six was a bust, season seven was weaker than seasons one through five, while the final season was a big let down. Plus, almost none of the releases have good extras.
Note: I heard a rumor that the network told the writers that they were not allowed to kill Dexter during the final season. If so, you can blame network interference for such a bad ending.

For those who like their shows with a little more cult than mainstream appeal...
Fringe: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Fringe focuses on an FBI division that looks into "fringe" cases, cases that deal with strange science, paranormal events, etc. It's like X-Files, Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Haven, etc.
Pros: While there are a lot of shows like this, this one was really well done with a strong mythos, as well as good "freak of the week" episodes. However, it failed to find an audience and really struggled to last five seasons. This does mean if you know someone who likes this genre, they might not have seen it.
Cons: On the other hand, it is a crowded genre and there might be a reason they passed over this one.

For those who want an older series, or at the very least, a series starring someone pretending to be older...
Mama's Family: The Complete Series - Buy from Time Life
Description: What started out as a sketch on The Carol Burnett Show about the matriarch of a dysfunctional family turned into an Emmy-winning series that lasted six seasons.
Pros: Vicki Lawrence starred as the titular Mama, while the show had a lot of amazingly funny actors who had regular guest appearances. The number of extras on the have a total running time of 12 hours! And if the Megaset is too much, you can buy seasons one and two separately.
Cons: It's a Time Life exclusive, so it costs $200 for the regular edition and $300 for the special collector's tin edition. It is worth owning, but it will be cheaper when it is no longer a collection's edition.

For those who are Whovians...
Doctor Who - Buy from Amazon: The Doctors Revisited 9-11, The Day of the Doctor: DVD or Blu-ray, and Series 1-7 Limited Edition Blu-ray Giftset
Description: The longest running Sci-fi show of all time. There are numerous releases every year, but with the 50th Anniversary of the show, there were some special releases this year.
Pros: It's a great show and there are tons of extras on their DVD / Blu-ray releases.
Cons: There are so many releases that it is hard to keep track of which ones a potential recipient has. Also, they release a Megaset pretty much every year.

Now onto the new...

For those who like their country a little soapy...
Nashville: Season One - Buy from Amazon
Description: The show focuses on Rayna Jaymes, who is one of the biggest stars in country music. However, when she tries to get back into touring, she has to deal with changing musical tastes, a rival, and problems at home.
Pros: According to Metacritic, this was the best new TV series from last year. Admittedly, according to Metacritic, it is the weakest best new TV series since Life on Mars debuted in 2008. I do think it is a great show and I got sucked in more than I thought I would.
Cons: It is soapy and it does focus on the country music industry, so there are a lot of songs in the series. If you are not a fan of soap operas or country music, it likely won't matter how good the writing and the acting are. Also, there's not a lot of extas.

For those who want the best new comedy...
The Mindy Project: Season One - Buy from Amazon
Description: Mindy Kaling stars as a woman trying to balance her hectic work life with a dating life that is not as active as she would like.
Pros: It earned the best reviews out of any new sitcom that debuted last year and Mindy Kaling is especially good.
Cons: While it earned the best reviews out of any new sitcom, they are only good and not fantastic. Additionally, the DVD only has some deleted scenes in terms of extras. Finally, the ratings are suffering, so season two will likely be the last season.

For those who want their TV a little harsher...
Vikings: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The show focuses on a Viking played by Travis Fimmel, Ragnar. He wishes to do great things, including sail across the open sea to the west. This puts him in conflict with his chieftain, Earl Haraldson.
Pros: An excellent adventure series that is not as good as Game of Thrones, but close enough that if you like one, you will probably enjoy the other. The series is rumored to have cost $40 million for nine episodes, and you can really see the quality on the screen. (It looks especially gorgeous on high definition.) The actions scenes are great and it is always fun to see Katheryn Winnick kick some ass (although I'd like to see more of that in the series). There are plenty of extras on the DVD, while there are even some exclusive extras on the Blu-ray.
Cons: It's not as good as Game of Thrones, although that is hardly a substantial complaint.

For those who not only want a new show, but a new delivery method...
House of Cards: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Kevin Spacey stars as Frank Underwood, an amoral politician who cares about nothing more than his personal power. In other words, he's a politician. After getting passed over for a promotion he was promised, he does everything to get his revenge on those who wronged him.
Pros: The show earned great reviews and it became the first online show nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. (To be precise, three shows on Netflix earning Emmy nominations, but House of Cards led the way with nine nominations.) Kevin Spacey in particular is amazing and if you like the underhanded side of politics, it is worth checking out.
Cons: There are no extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray so perhaps watching it on Netflix is enough. Also, you might want to get the U.K. original instead.

Let's get animated...

For those who want ignore the movie...
The Legend of Korra - Book One: Air - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Years after Ang was the Avatar, there is a new bender taking his place, Korra. Korra travels to Republic City to train with the last Airbender master, Tenzin. However, she has to deal with a lot of problems, including a growing anti-bender movement, lead by the mysterious Amon.
Pros: I'm not going to go so far as to say The Legend of Korra is as good as The Last Airbender, but it is close. The writing and the voice acting are fantastic, as is the animation. Hopefully the show will continue to get better like its predecessor did. While the DVD is nearly featureless, the Blu-ray has audio commentary tracks on all 12 episodes, plus nearly an hour of animatics.
Cons: There are not a lot of extras on the DVD, although the Puppetbending featurette is fun to watch.

For those who want to combine European fairytales and Anime tropes...
RWBY: Volume One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The show focuses on a group of four girls who are at a school for the gifted (Beacon Academy) helping them train their powers, powers they use to fight the forces of darkness. The four girls are Ruby Rose (Little Red Riding Hood); Weiss Schnee (Snow White); Blake Belladonna (Belle from Beauty and the Beast); and Yang Xiao Long (Goldilocks).
Pros: The first original animated series by Roster Teeth, the makers of Red vs. Blue. The writing is good, as is the voice acting, plus there's lots and lots of action. You can watch volume one in episodic form, or as a movie I think it flows better as a movie. There are lots of extras, including two audio commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes featurette, a featurette on Cosplay, and more.
Cons: The animation is a little too stylized and I would have liked more details / smoother movement. Then again, it's a webseries, so I'm sure the budget / time schedule was tight. Also, there are no subtitles.
Note: Speaking of Red vs. Blue: Volume 11 came out on DVD and Blu-ray at the same time. If you are a fan of the franchise, it is worth picking up.

For those who want to combine Anime tropes and ... Pizza? ...
Samurai Pizza Cats: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Kyatto-Ninden Teyandee: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Description: Oh boy, this is hard to describe. Kyatto-Ninden Teyandee (Cat Ninja Legend Teyandee) is a Japanese series that debuted in 1990. It was popular enough that Saban, the force behind the Power Rangers and other shows, decided to import it. However, there were no high quality English translations to work with, so they just made it up. They took the original animation and dubbed over a whole new story. Obviously the two stories are really close. They both take place in a large city where the mayor is just a puppet and the real power is in the hands of his daughter while the prime minister has plans to take over. Since the evil prime minister is good at covering his tracks, its up to our three heroes to save the day.
Pros: It shouldn't work, but it does. Both versions are fun to watch, but the Samurai Pizza Cats version is much more out there in terms of humor and have a major cult following.
Cons: There are not really any extras on either DVD or Blu-ray and the price is a little high compared to most TV on DVD releases. Then again it is an import, so that explains that.
Note: I'm trying to figure out what Teyandee means in English, but apparently there is no real translation. It is from the phrase, "nani itte yandee?", which means, "What are you saying?", but it is an impolite way of saying that. I have no real point here. The more you know...

I think that's enough TV on DVD releases for this part of the Holiday Gift Guide. Next week we will deal with limited releases, classics, foreign films, etc.


Filed under: X-Files, Kevin Spacey, Connie Britton, Gabriel Byrne, Bryan Cranston, Michael C. Hall, Hayden Panettiere, J.K. Simmons, Katheryn Winnick, Mindy Kaling, Janet Varney