Each year, as the sound of Mellowmas makes your ears bleed, I try to offer a kinder, gentler alternative to that ringing noise you’re hearing. And so I give you my annual TV on DVD Holiday Gift Guide. I do my best to suggest titles you’ve heard of, along with some that are off the beaten path, but worthy of your attention. All of the TV on DVD collections listed below are my recent favorites. If you’re in need of something to appease that TV junkie in your family, consider these shows. Most of them also come on Blu-ray, but TV on DVD flows better off the tongue.
Happy Holidays and thanks for reading Popdose.
Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons) developed this satire of soap operas that was as much a commentary of the effect of media on everyday life as it was a comedic look at the lives of suburban families in Fernwood, Ohio. Premiering in January of 1976, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman starred Louise Lasser and aired every weeknight, just like your typical daytime drama. It only ran for a year and a half, but the show produced 325 episodes before Lasser walked away from the show, essentially ending it. Fans of The Simpsons, Arrested Development, and Adult Swim should consider this groundbreaking series. For the first time every single episode is collected together, along with bonus episodes of the spin-off series, Fernwood 2-Night (starring Fred Willard and Martin Mull), and hours of bonus features. (Available through Amazon)
For those of you without Netflix, find out what the buzz is about for this sensational political series. Kevin Spacey stars as a despicable, yet charming senator who has most of Washington wrapped around his finger. Robin Wright is superb as his wife, and Kate Mara shines as a career driven reporter who strikes a deal with Spacey’s. Produced by David Fincher and featuring impeccable writing and production values, there’s no question that Netflix is a major player in original content after the success of House of Cards. For those of you who do have Netflix, the Blu-ray offers crisper picture and bonus features you don’t get with the streaming service. (Available through Amazon)
For some reason, The Newsroom gets a lot of hate. To me it’s just another Aaron Sorkin show. In other words, a thoughtful, provocative series with great writing and superb acting. Emmy Award winner Jeff Daniels leads an exceptional cast through some challenging, newsworthy moments and backstage drama. Love it or hate it, The Newsroom is intriguing and well-made television. (Available through Amazon)
Inspired by his childhood memories growing up in North Philadelphia, Bill Cosby created the stories surrounding the lovable Albert Jackson and his signature salutation “Hey! Hey! Hey!” For Fat Albert and his friends, each day is an adventure as they face the exciting, and sometimes challenging, experiences of growing up in 1970s urban America. They are a group of boys who, in spite of their shortcomings—whether it be an awkward growth spurt or a lack of athletic ability— always stick by each other. This 15-DVD box set includes all 110 episodes of the classic television series created, produced and hosted by legendary comedian Cosby (Available through Amazon)
Tired of anti-heroes or characters that just make stupid mistakes? Have no fear, Foyle’s War, one of the best mystery series on TV, has a hero who is just and honest. Michael Kitchen continues to star as DCS Christopher Foyle in three new mysteries that take place post World War II. As the Cold War begins to take hold in London, Foyle joins the ranks of British secret intelligence to help investigate Russians and ex-Nazis. This 7th season is perfect for snuggling on the couch on a Saturday night with a fire crackling and hot cocoa at your disposal. The set includes two hours of bonus material, including recaps of the first six series. (Available through Amazon)
Parks and Recreation remains the most underrated and undervalued comedy on television. When it began, the show seemed like just another Office clone, but Amy Poehler and her brilliant co-stars quickly found their own voice and became the best family comedy series on any network. That’s right, this is a family show. The best workplace sitcoms always come down to family and Parks and Rec has more love, affection and gut busting laughs than any show on TV. Season five follows Leslie (Poehler) achieving her lifelong dream of becoming City Councilwoman of Pawnee, IN and getting rejected by the people she serves. Ann (Rashida Jones) makes a life decision with Chris (Rob Lowe); and Ron Swanson (the incomparable Nick Offerman) falls for a new lady. This Christmas, as you’re settling in with the in-laws and that weird guy your daughter brought home from college, consider Parks and Recreation to give you a much needed laugh and a heartwarming feeling. (Available through Amazon)
In 1973, Dean Martin’s long time variety show began a segment that featured a celebrity roast each week. The following year, NBC decided to make the roasts a weekly series and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts were born. For the next eleven years, viewers were invited to sit around with Dino and his Hollywood pals as they made fun of each other. This massive collection contains all 54 celebrity roasts on 23 DVDs, plus seven episodes of the Dean Martin Variety Show and 15 hours of bonus material. This collection is for fans of old Hollywood, old television, and good old fashioned, politically incorrect humor. (Available through Deanroasts.com)
Just in time to make your holidays as bleak as possible, AMC’s Emmy Award winning series, which ended this past fall, is collected in the most unusual carrying case: a replica of an industrial chemical drum. Fans of the show know the significance. Every episode of Walter White’s descent from Mr. Chips to Scarface in contained within this release. Additionally, there are hours of supplemental material, including many revealing interviews with stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, as well as mastermind /show creator Vince Gilligan. If there is one show that helped define the age of binge watching, it’s Breaking Bad, and now you can own every episode. (Available through Amazon)
Fans of early TV animation should consider these two box-sets. Total Television (TTV) productions premiered Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales in 1963. While the animation was slightly low budget, the writing and fine acting were not. One year later, TTV’s most popular cartoon, The Underdog Show, made its debut. Both animated series were wildly popular and contained kid-friendly material that could be enjoyed by the grown-ups. Neither Tennessee Tuxedo nor Underdog get any love on the cable /satellite television landscape. I don’t think I’ve seen either show on TV in nearly twenty years. Thankfully, Shout! Factory has collected every episode from both series and released them in these two special releases. (Available through Amazon here and here)
Martin Clunes returns as the surly, self-centered Dr. Martin Ellingham, a former vascular surgeon whose sudden fear of blood has driven him away from the city and to a job in a sleepy Cornish village where he becomes the general practitioner. In the sixth series, the doctor tackles fatherhood, his complicated relationship with local teacher Louisa (Caroline Catz) and the return of his mother (Claire Bloom). In the U.K., Doc Martin is ITV’s highest-rated drama series with more than 10 million viewers, and it lights up public television every time a new series begins. Series 6 is a 2-disc set that includes eight episodes, plus 64-minutes of behind-the-scenes segments. Series 6 won’t begin airing on public television in February 2014. (Available through Amazon)