Checking It Twice:
Your DVD holiday wish list
By Aaron Barnhart, The Kansas City Star
Time once again for my annual Best TV Shows/Great Gift Ideas list. We’re doing this one a little early and a little differently this year.
America was a tad frugal last holiday season, you may have heard, but with the economy recovering oh-so-slightly, retailers are expecting folks to shop. Bargain-shop perhaps, but shop nonetheless.
So this year’s list emphasizes good values, and to help you with that, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite TV series from the past decade. Many of them can be had at bargain prices through the resale market (Amazon, eBay, etc.).
But first, a word about your DVD player. You may have read that stores are expected to offer $99 Blu-ray high-definition players this season, and there have even been whispers about a $49 Black Friday special.
But before you bite on that, ask yourself this: Have I seen every movie and every TV show that I wanted to see in the pre-HD era? If your answer is “no,” then strongly consider keeping your existing player or replacing it if it’s worn out.
Bargain DVD players are everywhere; I saw one selling for $19.99 last weekend at Strasser Hardware. Two years from now, those will be Blu-rays.
Right now, though, not only is a Blu-ray player several times costlier than its standard DVD counterpart, the discs themselves are typically much pricier, especially if you’re comparing new to resale.
Now, onto the discs. Once again, my list of shows you must rent or own is led by “The Wire,”
the gritty, novelistic urban drama that aired for five seasons on HBO. I recommend starting with the first two seasons, which in my opinion were the best two years the show had. Some of my colleagues disagree, which gives you an idea how good “The Wire” is.
After that, I can’t recommend any show from the past decade more highly than “Mad Men,”
which aired a ridiculously satisfying third-season finale earlier this month.
By starting with Season 1, you’ll be ushered into a wry critique of American middle-class life circa 1960, with unsafe sex, unhip fashions and above all, an unreal amount of smoking. Jon Hamm, who plays ad man Don Draper, said he was counted taking 76 drags off a cigarette in the first hour alone.
But as the show eases into Season 2, you start paying less attention to the scenery and more to the fantastic characters inhabiting it, from Don’s desperate housewife, Betty, to Pete and Roger, his rivals at the agency, to the ghosts in his past.
If you’re kicking yourself because you missed Season 3, you can watch it on your computer in high-resolution Amazon Video for $20 (you can also download it to your TiVo, as I did).“House: Season Two”
is selling for under $11 plus shipping. In my opinion this was the series’ high point, when the notion of a doctor who loved illness but hated dealing with people was still a fresh and exciting premise for the show, before the script writers got bored and veered off track into having House stage a “Survivor” competition for new employees to abuse.“The Shield,”
Seasons 1 and 4 ($10 and $17 used), offer the back-to-back brilliance of Michael Chiklis in a breakout role as rogue cop Vic Mackey and Glenn Close coming along three years later to pump new life into TV’s most intense cop show as someone who speaks Vic’s language but refuses to pledge allegiance to him.
This would be a good time to introduce a loved one to the joys of “Burn Notice”
($14). With the weather turning foul, everyone would like to escape to Miami.“Life on Mars”
is simply one of the most ingenious ideas for a detective series — knock a contemporary, forensics-trained cop back into the paleolithic era of 1973, and see how he does. Be sure you get the British version starring John Simm, which is finally out on DVD. Series 1 was released this summer; the concluding Series 2 this week.“Andy Barker, P.I.,”
is also just out. It stars Andy Richter as an accountant-turned-gumshoe and lasted only six episodes, but four of them are fantastic. Whoever you gift them to will almost certainly not have even heard of the show.“The Paper Chase: Season Two”
is out Dec. 15. Those of you with long memories may recall that the drama starring John Houseman as a Harvard Law professor lasted only one season on CBS. But Showtime picked it up five years later and produced more episodes. These are those episodes.
Finally, no holiday list is complete without “Police Squad!,”
the 1982 series that spawned the “Naked Gun” movie franchise, can be had for less than 10 bucks and to this day is the comedy gift that keeps on giving.http://www.kansascity.com/entertainm...y/1581602.html