Viewing Inside the Box

’Tis the season for seasons of TV's best and most beloved series to be gathered together...

TV Lists
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Presented here for your reading and shopping pleasure, is a fairly comprehensive look at boxed sets and other cool, gifty, TV-related items for this holiday season. Sure, there are plenty of other TV boxed sets out there, many of which we decided not to include, because they were not sufficiently Paste-y, or they weren’t quite on our radar (even Paste writers aren’t completely all-knowing). But we’re sure you’ll agree that this is a hefty post, chock full of great last-minute gift ideas, whether they be large, small or even British! Here are some excellent DVD sets and a few funky finds for the TV-lover (or mere TV-watcher) in your life.

1. The Office: The Complete Series


Play this game: Mention The Office to a friend and record which of the three inevitable responses you receive: 1) A disdainful, “Oh, you’re talking about the American version?” 2) A regretful, “I stopped watching after Steve Carell left,” or 3) a decently excited “I love that show!” Mark any who give you the third response as ideal destinations for this collection. This boxed set corrals all nine seasons (201 episodes on 33 discs) together for the American series enthusiast. Each season has the requisite deleted scenes, and a robust number of “big name” commentary accompanying the early seasons, especially.—Michael Burgin

2. True Blood: The Complete Series


Even the most diehard fan of the series recognized True Blood stumbled plenty in its final few seasons. Still, if you have a friend who loved the show at the beginning, I promise you he or she will be pretty excited about this set. More than 40 commentaries, a few mini-docs, faux PSAs on vampire rights—this boxed set provides a fitting tombstone/memorial for Alan Ball’s seven-season-long blood-soaked adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries series.—MB

3. The Sopranos: The Complete Series


Appropriately enough—the Godfather of HBO series. Though it’s arguable which series will ultimately take the prize as most critically beloved, The Wire or The Sopranos, David Chase’s saga of Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) definitely takes the popular vote. Over the course of six season and 86 episodes, The Sopranos redefined how great a television show could be. For those who already know and love the series, this edition brings the long-awaited remastering of Season One, in addition to the usual host of extras. For those “meaning to get around” to watching the series, dig in.—MB

4. How I Met Your Mother: The Whole Story, Seasons 1-9


After nine long years, we finally know how Ted Mosby met his baby momma. But if you missed any of this clever and often long-con referential sitcom, you can marathon the series with the How I Met Your Mother: The Whole Story: DVD boxed set. Besides all nine seasons and their respective extras—which include commentaries, deleted scenes, and an alternate (read: better) ending to the series—this twenty-eight disc collection also includes an informative series retrospective, a look at how they shot Ted’s kids on the couch, and a self-explanatory featurette titled “The Secret Of The Pineapple Incident Revealed.”—Paul Semel

5. Sons of Anarchy: The Collector’s Set


If you found yourself blissfully lost in the comments section on our Sons of Anarchy series finale, this collection is a must-own. The 19-disc set includes the first six seasons, and a special place (inside a coffin-shaped, faux-wooden box) for Kurt Sutter’s final ride.—Shannon M. Houston

6. Psych: The Complete Series


In addition to over 100 episodes of Psych (including the two-hour musical episode), this set comes laden with audio commentaries, video commentaries, behind the scenes stuff, and all kinds of extras. One extra that is completely unique to this collection is a bonus DVD featuring the Psych After Pshow, which aired right after the series finale. With hours of goodness in the bonus material, and of course the episodes themselves, Psych-O’s will love it.—Chris Morgan

7. Reno 911!: The Complete Series


Ah, Reno 911, you comic gem of mockumentary. Some found you on Comedy Central. It’s possible even more have discovered you on Netflix, where you provided a lighter, more bite-sized fare to taste in between binges. Oh, Thomas, Niecy, Cedric, Wendi, etc. ... how I missed you! Now, with this boxed set, we need never be apart!—Michael Burgin

Stocking Stuffers For Mom & Dad

1. Doctor Who: Season Eight


I’m a Whovian from way back, and while I dug Matt Smith well enough, he’s easily my 4th favorite of the four post-1995 Doctors. So I was actually pretty relieved when Peter Capaldi turned out to be almost an anti-Smith Doctor. Capaldi’s particularly adept at portraying the Doctor’s general (and growing?) difficulty with reconciling his past lives, and I can only imagine that with every regeneration, things get more and more jumbled in there. Capaldi was delightfully curmudgeonly, which only serves to make the soft bits all the nicer, when they emerge. My only real complaint? Not enough Paternoster Gang!—Mark Rabinowitz

2. Looney Tunes: Platinum Collection, Volume Three


You’d think that after the Platinum Collections One & Two , all the “good” shorts would be out there already, and we’d be left with Clyde, Foxy, and Gabby Goat shorts. The good news is, you’d be wrong. Loaded with classics like Hair-Raising Hare, Litter Red Riding Rabbit, Gorilla My Dreams, and The Stupid Cupid, this is a must-own for anyone who loves Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies. It’s loaded with commentaries and bonus features—and rumor has it that this is the last one, due to the slow sales of Volume Two. So, if you want to see more, buy this. If you don’t, I’ll sick Gossamer on ya!—Mark Rabinowitz

3. A Sci-Fi Three Pack—Star Trek: The Next Generation Seasons One-Seven; Farscape 15th Anniversary Edition; Defiance: Season Two


Riches abound for the geeks in your life this season, and this trio (two classics, one soon-to-be) are among them. Finally, the complete run of Star Trek: TNG is on BD, and we rejoice! Considering the growing buzz around the fan calls for Jonathan Frakes to direct Star Trek 3, maybe now’s the time to complete your set. The BD video and audio are flawless, and the extras are copious and engrossing. The late-lamented Farscape is also on offer. I rank it in my top 10 sci-fi series of all time, and never hesitate to recommend it, sight unseen, to any sci-fi fan. The extras alone are worth the buy. As for Defiance, Farscape creator Rockne O’Bannon’s fingerprints are all over this inventive future-Earth set show, and along with co-developers Kevin Murphy (Caprica, Reaper) and Michael Taylor (DS9, Voyager, Battlestar Galactica) O’Bannon has created an original and surprising addition to the genre. Season Three hits SyFy in 2015. —MR

Other Great Stocking Stuffers

4. The Newsroom: Complete Second Season
Yeah, it’s uneven and preachy as hell, but when it’s on, it’s brilliant and at the core is as important as anything can be. Journalism—the core of a free society—is dying on the vine and sometimes this show reminds us of how important that is.—MR

5. Mad Men: The Final Season, Part One
How sad are we all that this ground-breaking series is ending? It paved the way for what we are now calling a golden age of television, and holds up as well as any series in the history of the medium. With the second half of the final season premiering next year, this is the perfect way to relive the magic of cast, entering into the ‘70s.MR

6. Sleepy Hollow: Season One
There’s nothing like falling in love with a new show, and last year so many of us got the feels for Sleepy Hollow. Those of us who grew up on Buffy found a new favorite in Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills. Although it’s difficult to tell if the show will stand the test of time, this is a gift any Sleepyhead would love… along with those awesome Sleepy Hollow plushies.—Shannon M. Houston

British Invasion

1. Merlin: Complete Series


Clearly influenced by Smallville, Merlin is a re-telling of the Arthurian legend from the point of view of a young adult Merlin and Prince Arthur. But if you think that this is anything like 90210 in 12th century England, you’d best reconsider. Merlin was a surprisingly engaging and exciting tale of swords, sorcery, court intrigue, romance and, oh yes… dragons! Not only that, but we have Giles (AKA Anthony Stewart Head) as King Uther Pendragon.—MR

2. Secret Agent (aka Danger Man): Complete Series


I know I have been kvelling about Shout! Factory’s releases this year, but the bottom line is, the Criterion Collection aside, Shout! is arguably the coolest home video retailer out there, especially for classic TV. A touchstone show of the spy genre, Secret Agent was the height of 1960’s espionage cool, and John Drake was the role that made Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner) a household name. A must-have for fans of the genre.—MR

3. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series


Sure, answering the question, “Who is the best Sherlock Holmes?” is as likely to end in an argument as “Who is the best captain in the Star Trek universe?” Some folks enjoy the old school black-and-white flavor of Basil Rathbone. Others, the modernized version best thought of as “Robert Downey Jr. plays himself … again.” But while there may be a number of possible answers, ultimately, among those who are familiar with the detective in all his incarnations, you’ll find few who don’t consider the decades-long turn at the role by Jeremy Brett a worthy choice for #1. This new Blu-ray edition represents a restoration of the originals. The tales—and Brett’s performance—are timeless, and this update of the 2007 DVD set does its part with the improvement of sound and video quality, to make the medium more so.—MB

4. Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Collection


Considering how many truly hysterical bits of filmed entertainment have come out of the UK, you might think yourself to be justified in shouting “Hyperbole!” when I say that this is up there with the best of them. But you’d be wrong. Fresh off their success in several of the equally side-splitting Blackadder series, Messers Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are outstanding as the perpetually disaster-bound aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his brilliant valet, Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse’s most famous literary creations come to life in this ITV series, which ran from 1990-1993. Care to hazard a guess as where the all-purpose name for a butler came from?—MB

5. Upstairs, Downstairs: The Ultimate Collection


Americans of “a certain age” may remember their parents gathering in front of the TV every Sunday night to watch this Masterpiece Theater show about a wealthy London family (Upstairs), and the servants they employed (Downstairs). It ran for five seasons and won seven Emmys (including Best Drama, three times), two BAFTAs, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody. It took me all of five minutes to understand why it was such a big hit, and maybe another 30 seconds to start noticing a lot of Downton Abbey. The 26-disc set includes over 25 HOURS of bonus features.

As a related item, there’s Acorn.TV Streaming Service, and I’m not sure I can endorse this highly enough. If you’re a fan of British comedy and drama, this is kind of a must-buy. For a paltry $4.99/month or $49.99/year, you get everything from classics like Brideshead Revisited, Cracker, and I, Claudius, to more recent fare, like the completely brilliant The Hour. Gift subscriptions available for the Anglophile you love most!—MR

Other cool British titles making the rounds this season:

Anthology series Accused, starring Christopher Eccleston, Peter Capaldi, Juliet Stevenson, Andy Serkis, and Sean Bean (Acorn), The Great Train Robbery with Jim Broadbent (Acorn), and the now 17 year-running, occasionally gruesome (Quincy, M.E. it ain’t) medical examiner series, Silent Witness (BBC).—MR

Posters/Toys/Gadgets/Books/Geeky stuff

1. Firefly pint glasses


Wanna know how to make your beers taste better when you find yourself in an Alliance-friendly bar, come U-day? Put ‘em in one of these nifty glasses from Quantum Mechanix!—MR

2. Game of Thrones POP! Figures from Funko


All I can say about these is “Awwwww! Isn’t little Hodor cute!” And if you get one, all you’re going to do try and figure out how to get the rest for a full display.—MR

3. Inside Game of Thrones Seasons Three & Four


Far more than one of those flimsy, barely-more-than-a-press-kit fan books, this 192-page hardcover is jammed with photos, interviews and insider info that any GoT fan will devour. Character profiles, house histories, family trees, and more—you know you need this!—MR

4. Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years and Teen Titans Earth One: Volume One


Considering the recent tweets from DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, my timing couldn’t be more perfect. And while not specifically related to the TV show, these were far too cool to pass up. As a kid with a rich fantasy life, The Teen Titans were among my favorite DC heroes (they were kind of my peers, after all), so these volumes brought back some fond memories and created new ones, to boot! So yes, more things to spend your money on.—MR

Classic TV Complete Series

1. Twin Peaks: The Complete Series


Arguably the coolest (and weirdest) show ever made Twin Peaks was also first example of ‘appointment TV’ and this is pretty much a complete a collection. Every episode (both U.S. and international pilots), the North American Blu-ray bow of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, new deleted scenes and, the holy grail for completists, Fire Walk with Me: The Missing Pieces—over 90 minutes of extended and deleted scenes from the film. Now, if only Lynch would recut the film into a four-hour version!—MR

2. Mork and Mindy: The Complete Series


One of those shows that many people forget was a spin-off (in this case of Happy Days) Mork and Mindy was a surprisingly short-lived (four seasons, 95 episode) series, for something that’s endured so long. Far and away, the main attraction here is the genius of the dearly departed Robin Williams. Created as a vehicle for his incredible improv skills, the writers actually left free blocks in scripts to allow Williams to riff. Like a surprising number of 1970s sitcoms, this show actually holds up well (despite severe cast tinkering by ABC) and brings on the nostalgia something fierce. As a (very) cool bonus, the set includes the two Happy Days episodes, featuring Mork, plus some gag reels.—MR

3. The Jeffersons: The Complete Series


Norman Lear is arguably the greatest sitcom creator in history (Google him. I’ll wait.) and The Jeffersons was the second spin-off of Lear’s All in the Family. (The first was Maude—see what I mean about classic 1970s sitcoms?) Less overtly political than some of Lear’s other shows, The Jeffersons was still able to offer up some biting commentary on racism, gun control and the class struggle, among other hot topics. This excellent Shout! Factory release includes 253 episodes, plus the All In The Family episode where The Jeffersons leave for Manhattan, the pilot episode of the 1984 sitcom E/R (not to be confused with ER), featuring Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson, and loads more.—MR

4. Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series


I’m still unsure how kindly or cruelly time plans on treating Paul Reubens’ character, and the show he built around him. Misdemeanors for illicit acts aside, Reuben’s creation is inescapably unique—a cult artifact practically the moment it aired—yet it’s also been influential enough that, to some modern eyes, the sense of newness it carried has been subsumed into the pop cultural gestalt. Nonetheless, if you want to decide for yourself just where its importance lies, there’s no better place to start than here.—MB

5. WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete Series


As God is my witness, I never thought I’d see the day, but rounding out this 1970s mini-bonanza is another Shout! Factory release, the (very) long-awaited WKRP In Cincinnati. While much has been made about how some of the hundreds of songs featured in this show aren’t on the set, this is a far better job than has been done to date and, well, you’ll just have to live without Pink Floyd’s “Dogs.” Extras include: WKRP In Cincinnati: A Paley Center Reunion and some featurettes.—MR

6. Batman: The Complete Series


Holy buy-it-now, Batman! I have vivid memories of watching this show every day after school, and Yvonne Craig’s Barbara Gordon was my first TV crush. Batman was possibly the best camp TV show ever made, and this set is loaded with more than 3 hours of digital bonus features and real-world goodies, including an exclusive Hot Wheels Replica Batmobile, and 44 replica vintage trading cards. But don’t touch that Bat mouse (Wait, what?)… there’s a book with never-before seen pictures from Adam West’s private archives, Burt Ward’s original screen test with Adam West, the Batgirl pilot, and much much more.—MR