Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year for television fans...or, at least, it has the potential to be. It isn't as though the studios sit around twiddling their thumbs for the other 11 months, but when the gift-giving starts to get good, so too does the list of new items emerging from the vaults. Granted, some of the things that emerge may be less than exhilarating for you personally but, c'mon, you know your mom would go crazy for a "Golden Girls" complete-series set that comes packaged in a replica of Sophia Petrillo's purse.
As usual, there are quite a few of these uniquely-repackaged collections hitting stores this year, plus several more shows getting the complete-series treatment that have never been made available before, one of them ostensibly valued at six million dollars... sort of. This is also the perfect time to go back through the shows you've watched and wanted to own, or wanted to watch but never had the chance, and tell your friends and family, "If you loved me, you'd buy me this." Mind you, this is also right about when people start putting a pricetag on their feelings, so choose your gifts wisely. Here are some of our personal picks for TV-DVDs...and, frankly, we think you're worth as much as any item on here. (And we're not just saying that.)
|TV BOX SETS
What's left to be said that we haven't already said on the Bullz-Eye pages, either within our episode blog
, our Lost Fan Hub
, any number of our TV Power Rankings
, the full review of this Complete Collection set
, or any of the other season sets we reviewed throughout the show's six-year run? "Lost" immediately hijacked the imaginations of everyone who tuned in for its debut season in 2004, and while it no doubt infuriated some of those very same fans as it wound its way to last April's finale, its place in the upper crust of TV history is secure. Of course, the decision to purchase "Lost: The Complete Collection" is another matter entirely. This is no drop in the bucket, after all, but for any fan of the show who doesn't already own the single season releases – or for someone who missed out on the show the first time around – this monstrous set is a no-brainer. Aside from the 117 episodes and all the bonus features found on the original releases, there also are more than three hours of exclusive bonus features, including: "Letting Go: Reflections of a Six-Year Journey" where the cast and crew recount their time on the set in Oahu; "Planet Lost," which delves into the show's worldwide popularity; "The Lost Slapdowns," where celebrity fans of the show grill executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse about the final season; and more. There's also a collectible Senet board game, a black light torch and a slick episode guide, all housed in a pyramid-style box. In other words, this thing is loaded, and while it may set you back a few bucks, the "Lost" fan on your list will no doubt appreciate your generosity as they relive the series all over again.
Jack Bauer may have seen some highs and lows during the course of the eight seasons "24
" spent on the Fox line-up, but if you've been there since Day 1, there's still more than enough action to make this complete-set a worthwhile investment. Before you ask, yes, the one-off TV movie, "24: Redemption," is included in the set (though that was probably a given, what with the word "Complete" right there in the title), but they've also thrown an exclusive bonus disc into the mix that's filled with a fair amount of farewell-centric material which covers the entire run of the series. First, there's the Season 8 stuff, including the show's 2009 Comic-Con panel and the Season 8 wrap party reel. Beyond that, though, you've got a four-segment featurette on the history of the show ("Eight Days"), a look into Kiefer Sutherland's iconic super-spy ("Jack Bauer: Evolution of a Hero"), a pair of explorations into series highlights ("Presidents, Friends, and Villains" and "Memories and Moments"), and the appropriately-titled "Goodbye." Well, it's appropriate until the inevitable "24" movie, anyway.
It only lasted for three seasons, but David Milch's semi-historical Western still ranks as one of the best dramas HBO ever produced. As our own John Paulsen wrote, "everything about the show – the language, the acting, the story, the sets and the costumes – is colorful," but the one thing he forgot to include was the characters. Al Swearengen is one of the best TV villains in recent memory, and Sheriff Seth Bullock proved to be a more-than-worthy adversary. Where the show really thrived, however, was in its supporting cast, from Paula Malcomson's hooker-with-a-heart-of gold, Trixie, to William Sanderson's weasely hotelier, E. B. Farnum. The 13-disc Blu-ray collection is an exact replica of the DVD edition that was released two Christmases ago (save for a few less discs and a color change in the disc art), but if you know someone who still hasn't gotten around to checking out this brilliant series, then the added benefit of watching it in glorious HD should give you plenty of reason to amend that problem.
Considering its track record with miniseries – a remarkable list that includes "John Adams," "Generation Kill" and "Band of Brothers" – it should surprise no one that "The Pacific" stands as yet another feather in HBO's impressive cap. Led by inspired performances from James Badge Dale (as Robert Leckie), Joe Mazzello (as Eugene Sledge) and Jon Seda (as John Basilone)
, "The Pacific" is a gripping look back at the horrors and triumphs from World War II as the Marines journeyed across the Pacific theater, from intense battles on Guadalcanal to Peleliu and Iwo Jima. Based in part on books written by the real-life Leckie, Sledge and Basilone, this collection includes the original 10 parts of the series, along with fascinating profiles of the real Marines who are depicted in "The Pacific" and how the war affected their lives and their families, both while they were gone and once they returned after V-J Day. There's also a fabulous "Making The Pacific" featurette along with the historical documentary, "The Anatomy of The Pacific War," all encased in an eye-catching tin box. This is an easy choice for any war buff on your list.
Ryan Murphy's stock has skyrocketed due to the massive success of "Glee," so naturally, interest in some of his past projects has heated up as well. But while the high school drama "Popular" is probably better suited for a lot of Gleeks, those looking for something a little darker, weirder and more adult should give "Nip/Tuck" a whirl. Though the series received its fair share of criticism for being a little too
dark and weird at times (especially in its last two seasons), the self-proclaimed "disturbingly perfect drama" is yet another example of why FX is one of the best networks on television, with some of the most groundbreaking shows on the air. The 35-disc set doesn't included anything new that doesn't already appear on the separate season sets, but for anyone that hasn't had the pleasure of diving into the plastic world of McNamara/Troy, this is the perfect time to jump in head first.
Okay, so things didn't end so well for "Scrubs." After the series had been so neatly and satisfyingly wrapped up in the Season 8
finale, many fans were unsure what to think when the show returned for what ended up being an odd ninth season
. Some of our favorite characters were still there – most notably Drs. Cox and Turk – while others like J.D., Elliot and Dr. Kelso popped in and out of the story, but that story now revolved around a host of med school students who, as J.D., Turk and Elliot had before them, were struggling to find their way as doctors. Then, to top it off, the disjointed ninth season came to an abrupt end after just 13 episodes. Not exactly the exclamation point that a show as uniquely quirky as "Scrubs" deserved after all of those years, but it's not enough to color our opinion of those first eight seasons. And now, for fans who held off on buying the single-season sets, here's your chance to load up all at once, with a 26-disc set that features all 182 episodes (including those 13 from Season 9) as well as the original bonus features from those seasons. The bad news is there's very little exclusive bonus material here to speak of, save for "The Todd's High Five Trivia Challenge," and the set itself is cased in an awkward series of bound cardboard folders. We also are puzzled by the lack of any sort of episode listing with the set, but if "Scrubs" has long been missing from your DVD collection, this release will do the trick. Just don't expect any bells and whistles.
Period pieces used to be kind of a dicey proposition outside of "Masterpiece Theater" or the BBC, but once HBO dared to venture back to ancient Rome, it was as though a creative dam had been broken. Not wanting to feel left out, Showtime quickly came through with a historical drama of their own, exploring a key period in the reign of Henry VIII, played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Henry, of course, was a monarch unafraid to keep practicing the art of marriage until he got it right, resulting in six wives (two of which he had beheaded) and a couple of mistresses, too. "The Tudors" is a series which manages to make history way sexier than it probably was at the time, but it looks so good and is acted so well that you're willing to forgive it a bit of leeway. And, besides, like it's so hard to forgive a few incredibly hot sex scenes? The cast is decidedly impressive, with Maria Doyle Kennedy as Katherine of Aragon, Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, James Frain as Thomas Cromwell, Sam Neill as Cardinal Wolsey, Jeremy Northam as Thomas More, and, perhaps most impressively, the old-school double team of Peter O'Toole and Max von Sydow as Pope Paul III and Otto Tuchsess von Waldburg. There's a great deal of bonus material included within the set, including multiple featurettes, a trio of which are dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the real
Tudors. If you're an HBO subscriber who's never made the jump to Showtime, this is one of the network's signature series, and it'll confirm what you've always secretly suspected: you've really been missing out on some good TV.
For eight seasons, Adrian Monk stalked the streets of San Francisco in the most fastidious manner conceivable, so it's no real surprise that this complete-series set should be subtitled "The Obsessively Complete Collection." As you work your way through Monk's many episodes, you'll see him shift from one assistant (Sharona Fleming, played by Bitty Schram) to another (Natalie Teeger, played by Traylor Howard), but the cops he works with remain the same throughout: Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) and Lieutenant Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Standford). It may have gotten a little bit boring when Tony Shaloub continued to win Emmy after Emmy for his work on "Monk," but although the awards may have gotten repetitive, it wasn't as though they weren't deserved. Over the course of the series, Shaloub created one of the most memorable sleuths in TV history. There isn't a whole lot to sell you on this set if you've already got the previous full-season volumes that have emerged over the years, but if you've never gotten around to picking any of them up (and given how often USA reruns them, we don't really blame you), this is certainly a convenient way to kill eight birds with one stone.
The biggest problem with television series about
television series is that they have a tendency to offer so many industry in-jokes that the mainstream viewership can't get behind them. It would be untrue to say that HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show" didn't indulge in some of those jokes, but there were enough hilarious shenanigans going on behind the scenes of Larry Sanders' late-night talk show that you didn't care
if you got all the jokes. This series was a major training ground for a lot of folks who ended up going on to bigger and better…or, at least, equally critically acclaimed…gigs, including Jeffrey Tambor ("Arrested Development"), Bob Odenkirk ("Breaking Bad"), Jeremy Piven ("Entourage"), Mary Lynn Rajskub ("24"), and Wallace Langham ("CSI"), Rip Torn ("Men in Black," "30 Rock"), and Sarah Silverman ("The Sarah Silverman Program"). Fans have been waiting for this set for ages, and given that it's a Shout Factory production, they'll be appropriately thrilled with the treatment it's been given. As with Garry Shandling's own show, the box is filled with deleted scenes, outtakes, a feature-length documentary on the making of the show, tons of interviews with the cast and guest stars, a 60-page collector's book, and, believe it or not, much more. Yes, there's some special-feature overlap between this set and Shandling's collection of favorite episodes from a few years ago, but now that we've gotten a complete-series set at long last, it's hard to imagine fans doing anything other than thanking Shout Factory for finally getting the job done.
There have been numerous collections of Johnny Carson material released on DVD over the years, but one of the big problems for collectors is that the same goods tended to be recycled over and over. Important though it may be, how many times does one need to own his farewell show? The good news for Carson enthusiasts is that this set delivers loads of previously unavailable fare. It kicks off with a black and white New Year's Eve show from 1965 featuring Woody Allen and the Muppets and ends with a show from 1990 with Jeff Dunham and B.B. King. The box offers up material from 56 different episodes spanning 35 years over 15 discs. Each decade has its own rewards, but the material from the '70s particularly stuns with its ability to capture the weirdness of those years. The list of talent on display runs the gamut from actors to singers to politicians. The only drawback is that the episodes are edited, and most run between 25 and 35 minutes. Initially this seems like a major misstep on the part of the DVD producers, but once you settle into the groove of what this set is doing, you'll see that just enough time is devoted to each episode to do it justice. Simply put, there is no better time capsule available on DVD this holiday season. And yes, it's crammed with Johnny's monologues.
"Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive." "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be
that man. Better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster." If you found your lips moving at any point during the previous sentences, then you're likely to shriek like a little girl when you see this set. Time-Life doesn't venture into the complete-series business very often, but whenever they do, boy, they even put Shout Factory to shame. You've seen it before, with their sets for "Get Smart," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," and "The Real Ghostbusters," and they've kept the bar just as high for "The Six Million Dollar Man." Housed in a box with a 3D lenticular picture of Steve in his red jogging suit and a sound chip which recites the show's intro whenever it's opened, this collection truly is complete, as it includes the three pilot movies which introduced us to Steve Austin, all of the episodes of his television series, and the three reunion movies which aired in the '80s and '90s. We can't even begin to tell you all of the special features and bonus material that's been included, except to say that there's over 17 hours of the stuff, featuring recollections from Lee Majors, Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson, Martin E. Brooks, and producers Harve Bennett and Kenneth Johnson. Is it pricey? Yes. Is it worth the price of admission? You bet your bionic ass it is.
Comedy teams were a staple of old Hollywood, from Laurel and Hardy to the Three Stooges to the Marx Brothers, but very few were able to make a successful transition from the big screen to the small screen. One that did, however, was the pairing of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, whose antics proved just as hilarious in both mediums. If you only know these two knuckleheads for their classic "Who's on First?" sketch, then you've got a seriously funny education ahead of you, courtesy of these 52 episodes. Not only did Time
name this one of the 100 best shows of all time, but Jerry Seinfeld has regularly stated that "The Abbott & Costello Show" was a direct inspiration for his own series. In addition to the episodes, "The Complete Series Collector's Edition" also includes some of Lou Costello's home movies, interviews with his children Chris and Paddy, a short film about Costello's charity work ("10,000 Kids and a Cop"), and a 1978 TV special entitled "Hey Abbott!" There's even a 44-page commemorative book and four collectible postcards. If you've got a soft spot for classic comedy of the 1950s, it doesn't get much funnier than this.
Ask most people who lived through the 1950s if life was as peaceful and idyllic as TV portrayed it at the time, and there's a very good chance they'll laugh in your face, but don't let their actual memories of the era get you down: just break out "Leave It to Beaver: The Complete Series" and bask in the black-and-white fictional family values espoused by Ward and June Cleaver. Thanks to having seen the opening credits a thousand times while you were growing up, you probably already know the names of the cast by heart: Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, and, of course, Jerry Mathers as "The Beaver." Yes, there's a very real possibility that kids today might stare blankly at the innocence of Wally and Beav and scoff at the advice doled out by Ward and June, but it's just as possible that they might be intrigued by how simple things seemed to be back then. This, too, is a Shout Factory release, and, once again, they maintain their reputation as the home of the best bonus material, offering up the series' original pilot episode, several featurettes, and interviews with the cast. The most depressing thing about this write-up for the gift guide is that we must acknowledge that Billingsley, one of the great TV moms of all time, has died since the release of this set, but you can take consolation in knowing that the presentation of "Leave it to Beaver: The Complete Series" makes it one of the best possible ways to remember her.
How much Benny Hill is too much? If there's an answer to that question, it can be found in this box set, which collects together the bawdy Brit's entire output from Thames TV. Boasting 58 hour-long episodes, and featuring 585 sketches on 18 DVDs, it's difficult to imagine anyone needing any more Benny Hill than what's offered up here. The set starts in 1969 and finishes up 20 years later in '89. There's a good chance your dad watched this religiously back in the day, and there's also a good chance there's some sketch he remembers vividly and would like to see again. If so, it's on here…somewhere. Good thing it includes an extensive guide which breaks down every installment, sketch by sketch. What's most striking about sifting through these episodes is the realization that a great deal of Hill's humor is much smarter than he's ever been given credit for. Now it's not Monty Python brilliant by any stretch, but to whittle his entire career down to bald old men chasing babes with big boobs set to "Yakety Sax" does Benny something of a disservice. That said, one episode a week will keep dad plenty entertained until next
Christmas rolls around.
Miniseries are not the behemoth they once were on American TV, but there was a time when such pieces of drama were true television events, and families gathered around the TV to partake in them together. "Rich Man, Poor Man," which debuted in 1976, is generally credited as the first miniseries ever, and after watching it, it's entirely obvious why it started a TV revolution. This is as much a tapestry of the American dream as anything you're likely to find. It kicks off right at the tail end of World War II, and chronicles the lives of three young people: the Jordache brothers, successful and bright Rudy (Peter Strauss) and troubled and proud Tom (Nick Nolte), and their friend Julie Prescott (Susan Blakely). It follows the three through turbulent times, dramatically reflecting a changing country that most of us have only read about. The guest cast that comes in and out of their lives is a roll call of incredible talent (Ed Asner, Bill Bixby, Robert Reed, Talia Shire and Dorothy McGuire are just a sampling). This is rich material, collected for the first time on DVD, which is just as strong now as when it was first broadcast nearly 35 years ago. When the first mini's over, the entirety of "Rich Man, Poor Man Book II" is also on this set. This is TV like they just don't make it anymore.
Before Patrick McGoohan created and starred in the counter-culture TV phenomenon "The Prisoner" back in the '60s, he spent several years playing suave superspy John Drake in "Secret Agent." The show is admittedly a little creaky by today's standards, but anybody who loves "The Prisoner," '60s-era James Bond or shows like "The Saint" and "The Avengers" is bound to find hours of entertainment on this set (according to the running time, 57 hours, in fact). This collects the show's early years, in which episodes ran for only thirty minutes, as well as the later years, when it expanded to an hour, became immensely popular on American TV and was renamed "Danger Man" and given the catchy Johnny Rivers theme song. Aside from its two-part color finale, the entirety of the "Secret Agent" run is in crisp black and white, some of which looks wonderful, while other times it's got "vintage" written all over it. Nevertheless, McGoohan's quirky style of acting always elevates the material, and makes it more special than it might be had it starred a lesser talent.
It seems like every holiday season brings a TV-DVD box set that we feel as though we have to apologize for including. By all rights, a guy-centric site like Bullz-Eye shouldn't be endorsing a complete-series set of "The Golden Girls," yet it's important to remember two things: 1) this is a gift guide, and you're buying gifts for more than just guys, and 2) damn
, this show was funny. We'd already known that Bea Arthur and Betty White were comedy goddesses, thanks to "Maude" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," but Rue McClanahan got to step out of "Mama's Family" and into a show with a little more street cred, and Estelle Getty…well, we may not have known much about her prior to "The Golden Girls," but with her impeccable comedic delivery, she made Sophia Petrillo the star of the show. If you've been picking up the individual season sets as they've been released, then the only thing this collection offers you is some sweet-ass packaging (it looks like Sophia's purse!) and a pack of "Golden Girls" playing cards. One major disappointment: this would've been the perfect place to include the short-lived spin-off, "The Golden Palace." Maybe it'll get a release one of these days.
Even a bunch of serious TV apologists like us here at Bullz-Eye aren't going to try and claim that Norm MacDonald's ABC sitcom was one of the defining moments of television comedy. We will, however, say this: Norm is awesome, and we'll watch just about anything he's in. (True story. We've got the emotional scars from several Rob Schneider movies to prove it.) For what it's worth, though, "The Norm Show" is actually pretty funny, if not necessarily groundbreaking. If Norm proved nothing else during his years on "Saturday Night Live," it's that he derives very little pleasure from playing characters, which means that when you watch "The Norm Show," as often as not, you're seeing Norm playing Norm, a fact which is emphasized by the fact that his character on the show is named
Norm. He's got a pretty solid ensemble backing him up, too, including Laurie Metcalf ("Rosanne"), Artie Lange ("The Howard Stern Show"), Nikki Cox ("Unhappily Ever After"), Max Wright ("ALF"), Ian Gomez ("Cougar Town"), and Faith Ford ("Murphy Brown"). As this is a Shout Factory release, it's also filled with a nice amount of bonus material, though arguably the most amazing inclusion is the audio commentaries from Norm himself. (We'd always gotten the impression that he was kind of a never-look-back kind of a guy.) You probably won't want to risk your money if you're not already a converted Norm MacDonald fan, but if you're willing to go out on a limb and say that he was the best Weekend Update" host of all time, we'd say you'll find it a worthwhile purchase.
Long the secret weapon on "South Park," Leopold "Butters" Stotch finally has the spotlight directed his way with this collection of 13 Butters-centric episodes. Like previous "South Park" compilations like "The Cult of Cartman
" and "The Hits: Vol. 1
," there's nothing here that an owner of the single-season sets doesn't already have – save for the "It's Butters! A Trivia Game" feature and "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs," which will be included whenever Season 14 hits shelves – but it's a fun little set to own, nonetheless. Highlights include "Professor Chaos," "The Simpsons Already Did It," "AWESOM-O" and "Cartman Sucks" (no "Case Bonita"??), but the best episode may be "Butters' Bottom Bitch," which is memorable for so very many spectacular reasons. There also are a few silly trinkets inside the box, including a "W.W.B.D?" plastic bracelet that any "South Park" fan would be honored to wear, but the draw here is clearly the episodes. Now, with Butters and Cartman both checked off the list, which character gets his own compilation next? We're casting our vote for Jimmy or Randy Marsh. Stay tuned.
The idea of taking an established superhero and investigating their legacy in the future is one that stretches back to the inception of the Legion of Super Heroes, but Paul Dini and Bruce Timm didn't need to venture all the way to the 30th century for 1999's "Batman Beyond." They only needed to jump ahead a couple of decades and set a stage where a bitter and elderly Bruce Wayne is convinced to let Terry McGinnis, a young lad with a past similar to his own, take on the mantle of Batman. For three seasons, this new incarnation of Batman battled to protect Gotham City from such villains as Blight, Inque, Shriek, Bombshell, and a street gang known as the Jokerz. (Guess who inspired their name?) Some of the original Rogues Gallery turned up as well, including Mr. Freeze, Bane, and Ra's al Ghul, albeit in Talia's body. Warner Brothers is being kind enough to release this complete-series set, but they're doing so in limited edition, so if you want the commentaries, season retrospectives, and the bonus disc, which includes three new featurettes as well as the documentary "Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics," then you'd better move fast.
Saturday mornings just ain't what they used to be, and they haven't been, frankly, since the days when Hanna-Barbera ruled the roost. Granted, it's easy to look at the big picture and see how often the famed animation studio was prone to taking their best ideas and replicating them as many times as possible in order to get as much mileage out of them as they could. Rarely did this occur as often as it did when they figured out the formula for "Scooby Doo, Where Are You." It's as simple as these three steps: take a few teens, team them up with an animal, preferably one with the ability to talk, and have them roam around hither and yon solving crimes. But for as much fun as "Jabberjaw," "Josie and the Pussycats," and "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" may have been, it's the original "Scooby Doo" series that's aged the best. This set provides you will all of the classic episodes (read, "before that little shit Scrappy Doo entered the picture") and houses them in a replica of The Mystery Machine. We know what you're thinking, and don't feel guilty about it: "zoinks!" is a perfectly appropriate reaction.
For any sports fan on your list, this set is a must have. ESPN's excellent "30 For 30" series, a collection of feature films diving into some of the most fascinating sports stories from the past 30 years, is helmed by some heavy hitters, including names like Barry Levinson, Peter Berg and Ice Cube. Volume 1 features the first 15 movies from the series, with some of our favorites including "No Crossover: the Trial of Allen Iverson," "Silly Little Game," which examines the creation of fantasy baseball in 1980, and "Run Ricky Run," a compelling look at the trials and tribulations of Ricky Williams. Truth be told, each of these 30 films is outstanding, with several receiving official selections from the Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and South by Southwest Film Festivals. If you love sports or know someone who does, pick this set up and be on the lookout for Volume 2.
Two years ago the BBC gave us installment #1, and it showcased "Planet Earth." Hot on the heels of their incredible follow-up series, "Life," a new box set of high definition goodness has arrived. Here's the thing with nature documentaries – when they're done correctly, and clearly the BBC has tapped into perfection for this sort of thing – they rank among the best high-def material money can buy. "Life" is stunning, although here in the States we got a version of it narrated by Oprah Winfrey. The original David Attenborough-narrated version is vastly superior, and that's the one included here. The ten-part series travels all over the globe, chronicling the lives of critters small and big, benign and ferocious, and beautiful and hideous. It's must see TV, and either in this box set, or purchased alone, it makes a fine Christmas gift. But this 9-disc set offers up three more series: "Yellowstone: Battle for Life," "Nature's Most Amazing Events," and "South Pacific," which is not to be confused with the musical. All in all, this is probably the most bang for your gift-giving buck, and the thick cardboard box it comes in is mighty
|SINGLE SEASON TV SETS
Talk about game-changers. The third season of "Mad Men
" sort of meandered along for most of its 13 episodes, leaving many fans wondering if there would be any sort of payoff. But then, in a flash, Don's mysterious past is on full display for Betty, Betty tells Don she wants a divorce and, with Sterling Cooper on the verge of getting bought out, Don, Bert and Roger convince Layne to fire them so they can form their own ad agency. It was an ending that made up for the season's slower-than-usual pace in the early going and provided a memorable highlight for those who had been sucked into the mystifying life and times of Don Draper since "Mad Men" first debuted on AMC in 2007. We would have liked to have seen more of Roger during this third season, but fortunately, we got our fill during the recently concluded fourth season. And yes, you can expect to find that
set in next year's edition of our Holiday Gift Guide!
There aren't a lot of series that emerge from the starting gate with a complete and total vision of what they want to be, but "Modern Family" is an exception. It started out as a family comedy that appealed to a multi-demographic audience while never feeling obliged to dumb it down for the masses, and it stuck to its guns all the way through the season, offering up some of the most hilarious half-hours on television. If you haven't watched the show yet, let's just pretend that we've already asked you what the hell you're waiting for and move on to a brief primer. "Modern Family" focuses on three interconnected families. First, there are the Dunphys: Phil, Claire, and their kids Haley, Alex, and Luke. Phil's a realtor, Claire's a stay-at-home mom, and their relationship works because they're opposites: she's anal-retentive and he's a big, goofy man-child whose only goal in life to impress and entertain everyone he meets. From there, you've got Cam Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett, a gay couple who've just adopted a little Vietnamese girl named Lily. Again, a case of opposites: Mitchell's mild-mannered, Cam's consistently flamboyant. Mitchell and Claire are siblings. Their father is Jay Pritchett, who's just gotten remarried, this time to a Columbian goddess named Gloria. Gloria has a son from her first marriage: Manny, a kid who's 11 but talks like he's 35, making him something less than a catch at middle school. What else can we tell you? We here at Bullz-Eye think it's the funniest show on television right now, and the Emmy Awards agree with us. Someone in your family will want this. Figure out who it is, and buy it for them.
Haven't watched "Glee" yet? We understand. It's probably hard to get good reception in your cave. That's where you live, right? Because, seriously, it's hard to imagine anywhere else that this cultural phenomenon hasn't yet infiltrated. Some people can't hang with the idea of students and teachers randomly breaking into song as they stroll through the halls of their high school, but it's not like Ryan Murphy invented this conceit. Just lie back, accept the concept, and let the music move you. Now, admittedly, given that they've released the first season of the show in two volumes as well as in a complete-season set on both DVD and Blu-ray, it's probable that the more obsessive Gleeks won't have a need for this gift-set version of Season 1. Then again, if they're really
obsessive, they might be willing to buy it all over again just to get this sweet journal that they've thrown into the package as an added incentive.
We didn't really know what to expect from TNT's "Men of a Certain Age" when the dramedy debuted late in 2009. Ray Romano in a semi-serious role? Hmm. But not only does the former sitcom staple deliver in spades as a recent divorcee and gambling addict struggling to keep his business afloat while trying to remain involved in his kids' lives, his two buddies – Scott Bakula as a largely out-of-work actor with a thing for the ladies, and Andre Braugher as an overweight and undermotivated car salesman who resents living life under his father's thumb – are equally as impressive as the trio of friends deal with the twists and turns that most middle-aged men are confronted with. As the title suggests, this isn't a show that will appeal to a younger audience, but with Romano, Bakula and Braugher playing their respective roles to perfection, most men will find someone to relate to. Pick up this first-season set just in time to catch the show's sophomore run, beginning December 6.
With Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law so successfully putting a new spin on Holmes and Watson at the movies, a TV reinterpretation doesn't immediately sound all that interesting. You might think that, but you'd be wrong. "Sherlock," featuring "Doctor Who" writer Steven Moffat at the helm, updates the Arthur Conan Doyle concept and brings it squarely into 2010. Gone are the clichéd pipes and deerstalker hats, and enter computers and blogging: This is a Holmes for people who think they've seen it all. Quite literally, too, as it turns out some of the series' biggest fans have been the Conan Doyle aficionados who initially wanted to dismiss it. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch ("Atonement") and Martin Freeman ("The Hobbit") as Holmes and Watson, the first season boasts three 90-minute tales of adventure and intrigue. The series scored mammoth ratings in England, and recently was no slouch here in the States on PBS, and a second season is in the works. Indeed, this Holmes is good enough that it might just make some folks forget about Downey and Law altogether, although, admittedly, there's more than enough room for both in people's homes.
You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead. Your next stop: "The Twilight Zone" on Blu-ray. Now, obviously, it's not as though we haven't seen this and many other incarnations of the series released on home video in various capacities over the years, but Bullz-Eye hereby puts its hand on its heart and swears to you that you have never
seen it look as good as it does on Blu-ray. Seriously, it's downright breathtaking
, it's so crisp and clean. Better yet, you'll find some of the show's signature episodes within these two seasons, including such classics as "Time Enough at Last," "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street," "Walking Distance," "The After Hours," "The Eye of the Beholder," and "The Invaders." In addition, though, the bonus features, many of which have been accumulated from various different releases over the years, include commentaries and recollections from Martin Landau, Kevin McCarthy, Martin Milner, Rod Taylor, Burgess Meredith, Anne Francis, Don Rickles, Cliff Robertson, Dennis Weaver, Shelley Berman, and more. There's also the never-before-released pilot for the show, hosted by Desi Arnaz (!), isolated music scores, 18 radio dramas, a series of audio lectures that Rod Serling did for Sherwood Oaks College, and, well, as they say, the list goes on and on. Even if you already own all of the "Twilight Zone" episodes, these sets are still absolutely indispensible.