Paste's Complete 2016 Guide to TV-Themed Holiday Gifts

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<i>Paste</i>'s Complete 2016 Guide to TV-Themed Holiday Gifts

Though the biggest-ticket item in Paste’s 2016 TV gift guide was featured in last week’s top 10 list (our TV editor already wrote to Santa to ask for the clothbound set of Mad Men scripts), the remainder contains gifts for nearly every interest and budget. From inexpensive stocking stuffers to decked-out box sets, the following is sure to save you time shopping this season. Which means more time to catch up on TV.

You’re welcome.

Box Sets
Game of Thrones — The Complete Seasons 1-6 ($164.96, HBO)

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Now the cynical of you might say “Hey, now. This is just a cash grab by HBO,” but it’s really not. First of all, if it were, they would have included a small but very cool extra that you can only get on this set. They didn’t. It’s simply a way to buy all six existing seasons on Blu-ray at a reduced cost, and there’s no pressure to buy it if you already have Seasons One through Five. That said, it is a great way to introduce a loved one to the show. Talk about opportunities for binge watching… Personally, I am psyched to have it on my shelf, right next to all the Game of Thrones figures from Funko. While you’re at it, why not grab HBO’s own John Oliver? I know it’s not GoT-related, but it is HBO and really, who doesn’t want a POP! figure of the cuddly English TV host? Mark Rabinowitz

Falling Skies: The Completes Series ($89.96, Warner Home Video)

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As good as this series was and as big a hit as it was for TNT, shockingly few of my friends are admitted fans—which makes me think there are millions of potential viewers out there who can still get turned on to this excellent take on the alien invasion subgenre. Gritty and stylishly post-apocalyptic, the first episode grabs you and makes you wonder, “What would I do?” if you suddenly found yourself among the few humans left and were forced to mount an insurgency. Star Noah Wyle proved that he was more than E.R.’s Dr. Carter, and the supporting cast, anchored by the always welcome Will Patton, Moon Bloodgood and Sarah Carter, make this a compelling sci-fi drama. Mark Rabinowitz

Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection ($129.99, CBS Home Video)


While not the 50th anniversary super set Star Trek fans expected (and deserved), this one is great if, like me, you either didn’t already have TOS on BD or (also like me) all your Trek: TOS movies were stolen. For us, it’s great. For the rest of those waiting for some serious anniversary goodness, you need to check out Star Trek: The Original Series — The Roddenberry Vault that we covered in our TV top 10 list, last week. As for new content, this set sees the bow of Star Trek: The Animated Series on Blu-ray for the first time and the BD bow of the director’s cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, as well as a bonus disc containing a new multi-part documentary, Star Trek: The Journey to the Silver Screen. It also comes with a neat little collectible magnetic 50th Anniversary Starfleet insignia and set of collectible mini-posters for movies 1-6. (I dare you to frame The Final Frontier... I double dog dare you.) Mark Rabinowitz

Dexter: The Complete Series (75.99, CBS Home Video)

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Showtime’s fascinating look at vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) may be receding into the past, but it still represents enough of a phenomenon to draw new viewers and leave behind lasting fans. If you are or know one of them, this collection represents a solid, “You’ve done all one could ask” gift. The Complete Series features all eight seasons and a pretty standard selection of special features—cast interviews, commentaries and a few featurettes. Since Dexter’s homicidal adventures are unlikely to join Friends, Frasier and Seinfeld in syndication, this collection is the best way to make sure the series is never too far away—every disturbing minute. Michael Burgin

The Twilight Zone : The Complete Series ($83.99, CBS Home Video)

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There are classic TV series collections that require some convincing to get a modern viewer to give a try. Sure, Lucille Ball is a pioneer. And yes, you may find those episodes funnier than you thought something from the days of black-and-white TV could be. But when it comes to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, odds are even the under-30 set has seen—and been scarred by—at least one of the series’ amazing episodes. For that reason, the only selling point needed for this collection may well be the words, “All 156 episodes.” Because ultimately, it really does not matter if you know who a “young Bill Mumy” is. Or how familiar you are with the veritable Who’s Who of “popular actors your parents know that are now dead” to appear in the series. No, if you love suspense, horror, twists, creepy atmosphere or just good writing, here are 156 ways to hit the spot. Michael Burgin

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Vault Series ($129.99, Time Life)

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While Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden and Seth Meyers have their fans (including me) and some people like Jimmy Fallon (most definitely not me), it seems that the late night talk shows are, well, not as good as they used to be, especially since the retirement of David Letterman. That’s not simply nostalgia talking. It’s likely that all of the men mentioned above would agree that none of them measure up to one John William “Johnny” Carson and now the generous folks at Time Life have opened up The Vault, giving us 24 full episodes of The Tonight Show: Starring Johnny Carson as they aired (with or without the original commercials). Guests include Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Suzanne Pleshette, Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali, Jack Benny, Sean Connery, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Paul McCartney, Burt Reynolds, Don Rickles, Orson Welles, and many others. Besides being an unparalleled interviewer and raconteur, Johnny was also the master of the double (and single) entendre and, given that this was in the “standards and practices era” at the networks, a surprisingly ribald interviewer. Available in single, three-disc, six-disc and 12-disc editions, online exclusively at BN.com. (The 12-disc set has four hours of bonus footage.) Mark Rabinowitz

DC on TV: The Arrowverse
Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season, The Flash: The Complete Second Season, Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete First Season and Supergirl: The Complete First Season (Approx. $25 each, Warner Home Video)

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Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which comprises both film and TV series, Warner Bothers has deliberately split its DC properties into the “Arrowverse” on TV and the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) in films. Considering how good the DC TV series are—and the poor critical and fan response to the DCEU—this may prove to be an excellent idea. One thing the TV properties have to their advantage is Greg Berlanti, who seems to have a singular vision for the Arrowverse. Plus, he’s really good at it.

The flagship show is, naturally, Arrow, and the CW was wise to give the series, which is fairly dark, a couple of years to get going and establish the TV universe. After Season Two of Arrow, The CW added The Flash, which was occasionally lighter in tone, but lately has proved to be its match in tragedy. Both series are quite adept at portraying the angst, stress and loneliness that costumed crime fighters have to live with—i.e. the constant worry that their loved ones are in danger—juxtaposed with the need to reach out and make a life for themselves.

With Legends of Tomorrow, Berlanti and company managed to create a spinoff of both Arrow and The Flash that held its own independently, at least for the first season. Season Two has followed more of an “anomaly of the week” format, and is therefore not quite as strong as the first.

The wild card in all this is Supergirl, which, while not fully part of the Arrowverse—it started on CBS and takes place on a different Earth, in a parallel universe—does occasionally cross over, as with this season’s wildly successful “DC Week” four-episode event. Supergirl is in keeping with the general Arrowverse atmosphere, but for the moment, public word from The CW is that there will be no merging of their universes. Am I the only one holding out for some sort of a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style solution? And while I we’re at it, can we have more Constantine, please?

Also new this holiday season are Funko’s DCTV Dorbz for The Flash and Arrow. Mark Rabinowitz

Four From Acorn
As mentioned in our Top 10 gifts for TV lovers piece last week, Acorn has a pretty damned cool streaming service. Parent company RLJ Entertainment also has a robust home video arm. Here, we turn the spotlight on four of their 2016 offerings.

Humans, Season One ($22.74, Acorn Media)

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A chilling and all-too-accessible sci-fi thriller that, if you think about it (and you should), might just scare the shit out of you. I say “all-too-accessible” in that it’s not a crazy leap in time and tech. It’s an alt-present, not a far-off future, where we’re approaching, or have reached, the singularity (look it up) and androids, or “synths,” are a part of every day life. One of the things that makes this show so compelling is its treatment of characters who are skeptical of the synths from a labor replacement point of view. As one posits, if they take all the physical or manual jobs, are we all supposed to become poets? As assembly lines and other physical or mechanical careers are replaced by automation, what happens to the people who used to do those jobs? Mark Rabinowitz

The Last Panthers ($22.75, Acorn Media)

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If you’re looking for an enthralling, well acted, superbly plotted international crime thriller, this one-off series is a perfect place for you to alight. The cast, including Oscar nominees John Hurt and Samantha Morton and A Prophet’s Tahar Rahim, is loaded; the locations are exotic (the series was shot in five languages and seven countries). The Last Panthers is a glimpse of what international TV could become. Oh, and did I mention that the theme song is “Blackstar,” by David Bowie? Mark Rabinowitz

And Then There Were None ($18.81, Acorn Media)

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A well-cast and widely acclaimed adaptation of legendary mystery novelist Agatha Christie’s masterpiece, the BBC’s miniseries stars Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Burn Gorman (Torchwood), Noah Taylor (The Year My Voice Broke, Game of Thrones), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Miranda Richardson (Damages, Blackadder), Toby Stephens (Black Sails), Douglas Booth (Romeo & Juliet), Maeve Dermody (Ripper Street) and Aidan Turner (The Hobbit). Whew. Mark Rabinowitz

Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music ($31.99, Acorn Media)

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This eight-part documentary on the history of recorded music was executive produced by the late, legendary Beatles producer Sir George Martin. The series features 150 original interviews, with rare archival studio footage—and a pretty insane soundtrack. Participants include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Dave Grohl, Debbie Harry, Steven Van Zandt, Chuck D, BB King, Brian Eno, Tom Petty, Roger Daltrey, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart, Smokey Robinson, Quincy Jones, RZA, Roger Waters, St. Vincent, Rick Rubin, Bonnie Raitt, Questlove, and Beck. A truly comprehensive film on the history of recorded music would probably have to be 10 times as long, but this is a start! Mark Rabinowitz

Stocking Stuffers
The T.A.M.I. Show / The Big T.N.T. Show Collector’s Edition ($29.98, Shout Factory)

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For over 35 years I have wondered what made Sting write “Turn on my V.C.R., same one I’ve had for years, James Brown on the T.A.M.I. show, Same tape I’ve had for years.” I mean, I knew what the T.A.M.I. Show was, but I didn’t know... you know? Ah, but now, thanks to our friends at Shout! Factory, I know. Dig this lineup: The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Lesley Gore, Jan and Dean, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Rolling Stones and The Supremes. And man, could they go. Smokey Robinson and James Brown tore it up and the genuine excitement of this group of young, integrated—remember, this was 1964—musicians was palpable. 1966’s The Big TNT Show lacks the non-stop energy of the earlier show (folk music had gained popularity) but it’s certainly worthy in its own right, featuring Ray Charles, Joan Baez, Donovan, Petula Clark, Roger Miller and Bo Diddley, among others. Mark Rabinowitz

Peanuts: A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Come Home ($20.79, CBS Home Video)

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“No dogs allowed!” Snoopy, Come Home and A Boy Named Charlie Brown should be on everyone’s lists of classic American animated films. Snoopy is a national treasure (I will confess: as a little kid I had 5 different versions of plush Snoopy), and if you can convince your kids to put down the iPads and videogames long enough, just maybe these “vintage” animated films will enchant them as much as they did me. Mark Rabinowitz

Doctor Who : The Complete Ninth Series ($44.99, BBC Home Entertainment)

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Objectively one of the greatest science fiction TV shows of all time (you don’t last 826 episodes over 35 seasons by sucking), Series Nine of the show stars Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor and Jenna Coleman as his companion, Clara Oswald. It’s a solid entry, delving deeper into exactly who The Doctor is than any of the post-2005 series, and bringing us The Doctor’s borderline nervous breakdown. The 11th episode, Heaven Sent may be the single best of the post-2005 version of the show. Mark Rabinowitz

The Shannara Chronicles: Season One ($19.96, Paramount)

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I was pleasantly surprised with this show. I guess you could call it a “teen friendly Game of Thrones,” but you’d be selling it short. It helps to look at it with fresh eyes, remembering that most of the source material for this series was first published in 1982—fantasy tropes and devices you now deride as being over-used might actually have originated with the novel’s author, Terry Brooks. Mark Rabinowitz

Rick and Morty : The Complete Second Season ($15.49, Warner Home Video)

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The oddest and most clever cartoon since The Venture Bros., Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty is basically like Back to the Future if Marty were a dumb, insecure kid with bouts of conscience; Doc Brown were an arrogant, alcoholic genius; and they traveled around the galaxy and alternate dimensions looking for good times and bad influences. But what makes this more than just dick jokes and sci-fi references are the smartly written scripts. Along with all 10 episodes, this collection also has insightful commentaries, some interesting deleted scenes in early form, and animatics for every episode, though the crew’s reluctance to talk makes the making-of featurette more irritating than informative. Oh, and if you want a companion as you watch the show, Funko has released POP! figures of both Rickard and Mortimer that stand 3.75-inches tall and don’t do a damn thing. Paul Semel

Funko’s Pint Size Heroes — Steven Universe ($4.99, Funko)

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Funko already appears on our guide to the top 10 gifts for TV lovers, as their vinyl figures make a great gifts for pretty much anyone who enjoys in pop culture, but maybe you’re still a bit shy about expressing your love of, say, a cartoon. Perhaps even of one of the best cartoons out there, Steven Universe. We’re not here to judge, but we will suggest a smaller totem or twelve—Funko’s Pint Size Heroes provide 16 figs from Rebecca Sugar’s marvelous animated series. These are much less showy than the vinyl and part of a merchandising trend—small collectible figures—that’s probably only a few steps behind Beanie Boos in terms of national fervor, but the allure for lovers of the show is undeniable. I’ll admit that not all are created equal—I love the kids, but having basically five Steven figures (including watermelon Steven and Stevonnie) plus a Greg means you might have to buy more than a few packs to score a Pearl, Garnet, Peridot or—likely the consensus winner of “Most Popular”—Lion. But hey, if Sugar gets even a few pennies per fig, it’s worth it. Michael Burgin

Outlander Season Two ($24.99, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

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Looking for the perfect gift for your mom, sister or aunt? Then look no further than the Outlander Season Two Blu-ray set. The bestselling book from the Outlander series, A Dragonfly in Amber, comes to life in the Starz television drama. Even if your friend has already watched the series, the set is loaded with extras, including full-length podcasts for every episode, featurettes on the Emmy-nominated costumes (designed by the amazing Terry Dresbach) and the re-creation of 18th-century Paris, and many more. Also included, thankfully, is a gag reel, which, considering how serious the show got this season, is a welcome relief. “Faith,” arguably the best episode of Season Two, is even better as the included extended episode. The set comes with more than 12 hours of footage, so in addition to the Blu-ray, it probably wouldn’t hurt to include a box of tissues. Keri Lumm

The Hunt ($39.98, BBC Home Entertainment)

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If you loved Planet Earth or Frozen Planet (and of course you loved them), then you need to see The Hunt. Once again, technology has provided us with the ability to get up close and personal with some amazing animals—like the Darwin’s bark spider, which creates orb webs up to 4,340 square inches and anchor lines up to 82 feet long, or the world’s smallest marine mammal, South American marine otters, filmed in this series for the first time. Narrated (of course) by nature doc legend Sir David Attenborough, The Hunt is an intriguing, exciting and groundbreaking look into the relationship between predator and prey. Once you find out how hard life is for a mother leopard with four cubs, I promise that you’ll never again be sad when she brings down a gazelle. Mark Rabinowitz

Narcos Season One: Blu-Ray ($19.55, Lionsgate)

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It’s difficult to determine the exact moment when a show has become your favorite, but one good measure is usually your reaction to the theme music. Fans of Game of Thrones, Transparent and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all know that feeling. Somewhere in the middle of Narcos Season One, the theme music starts to become just as exciting as the episodes that await you—and the music reflects the insistence of the show that this story is really from another part of the world, with a style, sound, culture and social atmosphere all its own. An American FBI agent (Boyd Holbrook’s Steve Murphy) may be narrating the tale, but we know he’s in Pablo Escobar’s world, and he’s not exactly a match for el patron. A lot has changed (and many great characters have died) since Narcos first premiered, but you can relive the magic of Wagner Moura’s incredible, impassioned portrayal of a man who continues to effect the way we understand (and misunderstand) the relationship between politics and the war on drugs. Shannon M. Houston

Roots Miniseries ($18.18, Lionsgate)

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I wish we lived in a time when a Roots remake felt unnecessary, or when Kunta Kinte felt like a hero of the past, with no relevance to today’s universe. Instead, the History Channel proved, once again, that the past is never really past by revisiting Alex Haley’s 1976 Pulitzer Prize-winning saga. The series worked as interesting compliment to WGN’s Underground, both of which were invested in the empowering elements of narratives focused on enslaved black Americans. Unforgettable performances from Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker, Malachi Kirby and Anika Noni Rose make this is a must-own. Shannon M. Houston

The Night Of Complete Series ($29.99, HBO)

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Although the network isn’t without its faults, we still look to HBO to give us a sense of where the medium of television is headed—what types of stories we should tell, and at what pace. The Night Of works as one more answer to these questions, and suggests that audiences don’t always need a shocking, tweet-able end to a dramatic series. The murder mystery didn’t seem to end with a big win or a devastating tragedy for Naz (played by Riz Ahmed)—the story, rather, leans into and the unsettling feeling that the American justice system is nothing short of a failed experiment. Though the series is flawed (particularly concerning its presentation of the Muslim and black characters), it succeeds as proof that leading men are not only white, hyper-masculine, disturbed heroes. Naz as a vulnerable and (likely) innocent protagonist was a revelation, and his performance is one you’ll want to watch again. Shannon M. Houston

Orange is the New Black , Season Three ($12.97, Lionsgate)

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When we look back on the shows that define the Golden Age of TV, Orange is the New Black will always be a part of the conversation. But after four seasons, it’s the third that remains one of the most memorable. OITNB crossed over into profound new territory with a deep philosophical concern for maternal relationships and how they informed the Litchfield inmates. And, as is the case with every season, characters that once seemed minor were given expanded narratives that allowed them to flourish. But, of all the reasons you may want your own physical copy of Season Three on DVD, I’d have to point to one of the most important (and comedic) conversion narratives on TV. Black Cindy (now Black Cindy Tova) and her move towards the Jewish faith started as a hilarious joke, and blossomed into a story about faith and our relationship to a sometimes unknowable God. That’s no small feat for any show, and it’s proof that there’s still a wealth of plot material out here for peak TV to tackle. Shannon M. Houston

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