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Top 10 Television Releases on DVD in 2005
The last two television seasons have experienced a small drop-off in quality from the early 2000s, but that hasn't stopped the deluge of television releases on DVD. Whether digging through the vaults to give new life to old classics or rushing the most recent series into stores mere months after airing, just about every show is finding its way onto semi-permanent discs that fill up our shelves and give us the satisfaction that intermittent syndication could never completely provide. These sets have added a completely new dimension to the world of television, allowing viewers to catch up on early season episodes of shows that are still on the air, and in some cases, actually creating life after cancellation. Even as I type this list, Family Guy continues to air new episodes, and Serenity (the Firefly feature film) sits at #1 on Amazon.com's DVD Top Sellers list. To see great television find a new audience and sometimes rise from the dead because consumer voices are heard through DVD sales is a beautiful thing.

2005 saw another batch of strong TV-on-DVD releases, and to narrow them down to a list of only 10 titles is a daunting task. Not being a fan of daunting tasks, or tasks in general for that matter, I have extended the list to 15 titles as 5 of them already appear on DVD Talk's overall Top 20 DVDs of 2005. It is the season of giving after all. Many criteria were used when building this list, including the quality of the episodes, the audio/video presentation, and potential bonus material. When necessary, preference was given to sets that do not appear on another DVD Talk Top 10 list. With that in mind, the Top 10ish Television Releases on DVD in 2005:

1. The Twilight Zone (The Definitive Edition) - Seasons 1, 2, & 3
In easily one of the most impressive DVD releases of the year, Image Entertainment finally gave The Twilight Zone the treatment it so richly deserved. With gorgeous new transfers from high-definition re-masters and a wide array of special features, these releases truly are the definitive versions of Rod Serling's ground-breaking anthology series. Each episode not only looks and sounds as good as technology will allow, but most are accompanied by one or more bonus features including the original CBS network bumpers and advertisements from the original airings. Brand new audio commentaries, archival interview footage, modern radio drama adaptations, isolated scores, clips from modern remakes, and Serling's own Sherwood Oaks College lectures are just some of the features scattered across these episodes. Moreover, the sets include clips of Serling on interview programs, game shows, advertising campaigns, and just about anything else that could be culled from the archives. In every way, these sets live up to their "definitive" name, and they are the no-brainer selection for the top spot on this list. (Reviews by das Monkey)

2. The Wire - The Complete Second Season
After its brilliant 1st season, viewers prepared for a drop-off in quality with the sophomore effort from HBO's The Wire. They're still waiting. Delicately weaving together the characters and motivations of both sides of the law, each season of The Wire focuses on a single criminal investigation and follows it from start to finish. Every aspect of the criminal enterprise is examined, from the interpersonal relationships to the physical logistics required, and it makes for a fascinating glimpse into organized crime and the men and women who try to prevent it. The Wire's 2nd season takes us away from the 1st season's housing projects and into the Baltimore shipyards where a new case is opened that deals with a completely different type of crime and the challenges associated with its investigation. The scripts are tight, the characters are compelling, and the story is riveting through every layer of its analysis. It is difficult to imagine that this series could actually improve on its inaugural season, but that is the case with this release, and it remains one of the best series on television. (Review by John Sinnott)

3. Lost - The Complete First Season
Exploding on the television scene with one of the most intense opening sequences of any pilot episode, Lost almost immediately became a phenomenon, that rare breed of show that not only brings in the monster ratings but also achieves a level of cult popularity with its fans. The tale of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 is a gripping one, creating a diverse group of compelling characters working together in common pursuit, all the while developing a layered mythology to this strange island on which they have crash landed. With a unique flashback style of character development, Lost's first season weaves the events from the passengers' pasts with what is happening in the present to craft thematic episodes that stand strong on their own in addition to helping build the overall story arc. By the 4th episode, you'll be completely hooked, and by season's end, you'll be tearing out your hair wanting more. Thankfully, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has given this breakout hit a DVD release worthy of its popularity. With audio commentaries, deleted scenes, audition sessions, hours of behind-the-scenes footage, and the beautiful "Art of Matthew Fox" feature, "Lost - The Complete First Season" is an example of what every moderen television release should be, and it is without question one of the top DVDs of the year. (Review by das Monkey)

4. Seinfeld - Seasons 4, 5 & 6
To the delight of fans everywhere, one of television's most popular shows and arguably the best comedy series of all time has been brought to DVD in wonderful releases that feature a wealth of bonus material, including numerous audio commentaries and behind-the-scenes features. No longer in its formative stages, these 3 seasons show Seinfeld in full stride, from the 4th season arc of Jerry developing a "show about nothing" for NBC to the puffy pirate shirt he agrees to wear on The Today Show to Costanza's adventures with the New York Yankees. Much beloved by a generation of television viewers, Seinfeld is not only one of the funniest shows of all time but one of the most rewatchable ones as well, and these DVDs make the experience as enjoyable as possible. (Reviews by Holly E. Ordway)

5. Arrested Development - Season Two
Easily the funniest show on television right now, Arrested Development remains in a constant struggle to find new viewers. Its complex style of comedy rewards the attentive viewer but apparently turns off those looking for something to simply pass the time. It is the story of the Bluth family, an out-of-touch group of upper-class snobs who have lived off the riches of their wealthy patriarch for so long that when he is arrested for a wide array of illegal shenanigans, they really have no clue how to survive in society. With intricate plots that continue to build upon the episodes that came before and a cast of ridiculous but hilarious characters, Arrested Development truly is unlike anything that has ever been on television, and it is improbable that anything like it will ever come again. Dubbed a "TiVo Show" -- a series that is best watched with a DVR so you can watch it 3 times in a row, pausing to observe all the clever nuance -- Arrested Development is eminently rewatchable and the perfect candidate for TV-on-DVD. With a quality presentation and some wonderful bonus features, the 2nd season of this brilliant series is an essential purchase. (Review by Adam Tyner)

6. Six Feet Under - The Complete Third Season
One of the more unique shows of the last decade, Six Feet Under was a tale about the complexity of life and the inevitability of death. It sought to show us how fragile and precious our existence is through the lives of the dysfunctional Fishers and their family-owned funeral business. While the show was always dark and unflinching in its approach, the 3rd season took the series to another level, making some bold choices and challenging the viewer with a season of episodes that were more than just dramatic television but works of art. Many viewers did not like this direction of the show, and I can understand where they are coming from as familiar characters were taken into unfamiliar territory, but this 3rd season is more than the sum of its parts, and it presents an achingly funny and bitingly insightful look at the very essence of our humanity. This is a special season of television and a must for any fan of the series. (Review by das Monkey)

7. The Simpsons - Complete Sixth and Seventh Seasons
Having found its stride in the previous couple of seasons, The Simpsons was in full form by the 6th and 7th seasons and was marking its place as one of the greatest television series of all time. The show has been very good to Fox, and they have returned the favor with fantastic DVD releases that feature all kinds of bonus material, including full-length commentaries of every single episode. Appealing to people of all ages and demographics, The Simpsons blends all levels of comedy -- from the high-concept intellectual humor to the low-brow sight gags -- into a series that is accessible to just about anyone, and these 6th and 7th seasons contain some of the best efforts in the show's long history. (Reviews by Ian Jane)

8. Deadwood - The Complete First Season
Set on the lawless edge of the American frontier, Deadwood crafts a richly detailed morality tale during one of the most intriguing periods of the nation's history. The year is 1876, and prospectors have flooded the Black Hills of South Dakota in search of fortune, but relations between the Sioux and the American government are fragile, and the cavalry ultimately pulls out of the area giving the prospectors free reign of an outlaw community of mining camps. The town of Deadwood is at the heart of that community, and HBO's incredible series follows the characters who live there (many of whom are based on the real residents from American history) as they struggle with their personal demons and strive to form a community in spite of their differences. With raw and unflinching presentation, Deadwood is a character study unlike any other, and it is yet another in a long line of staggeringly high quality HBO dramas. (Review by das Monkey)

9. Scrubs - The Complete First and Second Seasons
Preparing to enter its 5th season, Scrubs has defied the odds and found a sizeable audience in a time when irreverent and meaningful television comedies rarely get the chance to flourish. Now on DVD, these first 2 seasons showcase the series in its formative stages, when the "newbies" we have come to know and love first began their tour at Sacred Heart Hospital. While the series has evolved quite a bit since it began, many of the show's best moments are found in these early years when the interns were wide-eyed and unprepared for the insanity that is their job. Scrubs is more than just an hilariously irreverent comedy to pass the time, but it carries with it an emotional undercurrent that is often as moving as it is funny, and with a solid slate of bonus features, the DVDs are worthy of the show's greatness. (Reviews by Scott Weinberg)

10. The Sopranos - The Complete Fifth Season
Throughout the course of The Sopranos' meteoric rise to "Pop Culture Icon" status, viewers have hopped on and off the bandwagon, proclaiming it the greatest show of all time and then declaring it dead not too long after. In truth, though, the show's quality has remained largely consistent as it follows the life of Tony Soprano and his two "families". Season 5 brings in a few new members of the family who have just been released from prison, most notably Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi), Soprano's childhood friend whose incarceration weighs heavy on his conscience. This season is a very important one for many of the major characters, and it brings into focus all the meanings of "family" in a way that only this show can. Almost 7 years after it originally premiered, The Sopranos remains one of the most engrossing and addictive shows on television, and this 5th season DVD is as strong as the show has ever been. (Review by John Sinnott)

11. Undeclared - The Complete Series
>From the creators of the brilliant Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared takes the insightful understanding of the human condition to the college dorms. For most of us, no time was more unique, more crazy, or more memorable than the years we spent in college, and this short-lived series captures the insanity of it all with a wonderful level of accuracy and humor. Deeply rooted in the reality of what college is actually like, not the absurdist fantasy often depicted in films, Undeclared finds great warmth and humor in the situations all of us experienced during that curious chapter of our lives, and it does so in an endearing manner that makes for great television. As for the DVDs, Shout! Factory has done it again, bringing to life a gem of a series with a staggering amount of audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and bonus features that engage the viewer and help him cope with the loss of the show. (Review by Scott Weinberg)

12. The Shield - Seasons 3 and 4
Almost four years ago, The Shield shocked television audiences with one of the most captivating series premieres ever aired on television. Since then, this raw and unflinching series has gained critical acclaim and opened the door for many new original series across the extended cable channels. Emboldened by its success, the 3rd and 4th seasons of The Shield do not rest on their laurels and continue to shake things up for the Strike Team, taking the characters to even darker places than they have already been. While the 4th season was met with mixed reviews, The Shield remains one of the most gripping series on television, and the generous amount of commentary, delete scenes, and featurettes make the DVDs worthy of inclusion. (Reviews by Preston Jones)

13. Desperate Housewives - The Complete First Season
Along with Lost, ABC struck gold with the women of Wisteria Lane and their prime time soap opera adventures. Mary Alice Young, one of the neighborhood's most loved and respected residents, has committed suicide, and the search for answers as to how and why this could have happened opens up a series of previously locked doors revealing all (well, most) of the dirty secrets of the people who knew her. Despite the attempts of many, Marc Cherry's unique new series really defies categorization as it ranges from slapstick comedy to heartfelt family interaction to the disturbing unfolding of the season's primary arc. Each episode tightly weaves the drastically different stories of the various neighbors into meaningful themes, and while it is unlikely the show will continue to be as fresh as it was when it first premiered, Desperate Housewives' 1st season is a wonderfully entertaining ride. Like their Lost release, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has supplemented the DVDs with quite a bit of bonus material that should satisfy fans and new viewers alike. (Review by Todd Douglass Jr.)

14. The West Wing - The Complete Fourth Season
For three years, The West Wing was the best show on network television. Aaron Sorkin brought his idealistic vision of the American political system to the small screen with a compelling cast of characters and relevant and meaningful stories. While the show would continue, this 4th season would be his last, and although some of the mid-season episodes meander a bit, this season closes with some of the best written episodes of the show's entire run and a paralyzingly gripping season finale. It is a reminder of just how wonderful this series was in its prime and how much we need people like Sorkin to return to television. This 4th season release contains 3 audio commentaries with the architects of the show, 2 featurettes about its development, and a few deleted scenes from various episodes. The final chapter in The West Wing as it was originally conceived and produced, the 4th season belongs in the library of every fan. (Review by Jeffrey Robinson)

15. Battlestar Galactica - Season One
A clever reimagining of the classic television series, Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica is a dark and unflinching series that follows the last survivors of humanity on their desperate journey to avoid extinction at the hands of the Cylons. Reinventing many of the show's core concepts, this new version adds humanoid Cylons into the mix and forces the viewer to question the very nature of mankind's existence and that which makes us "human". From the season's stellar premiere episode "33" to its shocking season finale, this set lays the groundwork for what could be the next great science fiction series on television. Included with this 1st season release are a nice group of special features as well as a DVD with the miniseries for those who may have missed out and want to purchase all of it at once. (Review by Todd Douglass Jr.)

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