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DVD Talk Picks the Best TV on DVD

The Best TV on DVD

With the new television season underway, it seemed like a good time to poll the DVD Talk review staff and find out their favorite TV shows on DVD. The whole staff was asked for their input, and then we argued, pleaded, inveigled, threatened, and even cajoled each other. Eventually we settled on these nine shows. Ten would have been nice, but if we had to decide on another things would have gotten ugly. From classic 50's sitcoms to cutting edge dramas and even a British documentary, the list covers a wide range of styles and genres but no matter what your taste, you won't go wrong with any of these shows. Here, in alphabetical order, are DVD Talk's Best of TV on DVD:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: When Josh Whedon scooped up the Buffy the Vampire Slayer property for a hit TV show, little did he know it would be one of the top rated shows on the WB Network, and gain a cult following that consisted of millions of fans. The was so popular amongst fans, it stopped being a show, and became what's known as the 'Buffy-verse'. Yes, the WB was known for sappy teen dramas, and this series had its share of friendship clique drama, but it was a show that was dark and incredibly effective at creating the necessary atmosphere it needed to survive with longevity. There was an obvious creative slump for a season or two in the middle of the series, but it picked up strong again for the 7th and final season of the show. The created 'Buffy-verse' spawned the popular series Angel, and even continues its own story officially in comic book form. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is available in separate season sets, as well as in one of the coolest complete series box set designs available on DVD. This is a must own.

Firefly: In the Fall of 2002, the creator of Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer brought a new vision to the small screen in the form of Firefly. Set in a distant future where overpopulation has forced mankind to colonize other planets, Joss Whedon's new television series blended science fiction ideas with classic western storytelling as it followed the colorful crew of Serenity. Performing whatever odd jobs would net payment, some more legal than others, the crew of this small starship struggled to carve out a living, free from the restrictions of an increasingly meddlesome interstellar government. With clever writing and a remarkably talented cast, Firefly showed signs of potential greatness even more quickly than its predecessors, but it never had a fair chance to get off the ground as Fox executives buried the show on Friday nights with little fanfare and illogically aired the episodes in a nonlinear order that confused and annoyed prospective viewers. While 11 of those episodes ultimately aired in the United States, the series was marked DOA the moment it hit the schedule and was destined to disappear to the ever growing vault of promising but short-lived Fox series. If you missed this show during its run (which was easy to do) you'll want to check it out on DVD. Intelligent, engrossing, and cancelled way, way too soon, Firefly is a great series.

I Love Lucy - The Complete Series: I Love Lucy is a show that a lot of people take for granted. It has been on the air constantly since it's first run in the early 1950's, both in the US and abroad, and just about everyone has seen the show. Because of its ubiquitous nature, it is easy to forget how good the program actually is. Ground breaking for its time, this series is still able to get laughs from modern audiences over 50 years after it was first created. Paramount has released the entire show, all six seasons of I Love Lucy, and the 13 episodes of the follow up series, The Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz Show all in a very attractive heart shaped box. With copious extras including the I Love Lucy movie available only in this set, this wonderful collection is a must have.

The Simpsons: You probably know Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, better than you know your own neighbors. The Simpsons family has been at it for two decades with no signs of slowing down. They've become more than just an animated family, they're household names. The laughs may have taken a dip in the later seasons, but the best of what the series has to offer is available on DVD in season sets from FOX, as well as the more than respectable film translation that took 20 years to happen. The first 10 seasons are loaded with episode commentaries, deleted scenes, themed menus, and informative booklets that detail each episode. The 11th season is coming just in time for the holidays, too. If The Simpsons happens to be one of your all time favorite shows, or if you want to relive the golden years of one of the most comical and influential shows on television, there's no reason why these shouldn't find their way into your DVD collection if they haven't already.

The Sopranos: The Sopranos forever etched itself as one of the best dramatic series in the history of television. It gained a huge fan base that would lovingly nit-pick every detail, and the base continues to grow now that it's syndicated on A&E. There was always a snowballing debate that criticized the show for ignoring unresolved issues, but that's exactly why The Sopranos was always so compelling... it was relevant. Drama isn't just a genre, it's an art, and that art isn't properly conveyed if the audience can't imagine the world they see on screen is 'real'. Life doesn't wrap everything up in a nice little bow for you, and neither did this groundbreaking show. It's as fresh today as it was the day it began, and that's because it never dumbed-down the material for its audience. All 86 episodes have been released by HBO on DVD in seven season sets (with the sixth season being split into two parts as it was on HBO), and a massive collection of the complete series is due out in time for the holidays. If you haven't experienced The Sopranos yet, now is the time. If you're a fan of mobbed up crime drama, or just drama in general, you're not just missing out on 'another show', you're missing some of the finest work television has ever had to offer.

Stargate SG-1 Complete Series: When Stargate SG-1 first aired on Showtime, no one thought it would become the huge franchise that it has. Based on a good, but certainly not great, film by Roland Emmerich (the director of such hokum as Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow) the show really took to life on the small screen. Running for an amazing ten seasons the program has also spawned a spin-off series Stargate Atlantis, and cartoon, Stargate Infinity (the less said about that misstep the better) and a pair of direct to DVD movies: The Ark of Truth and Continuum. Much more than a 'monster of the week' type show, Stargate SG-1 is filled with creative stories, strong acting, and a lot of carefully thought out continuity that has gained the program legions of fans. There were some problems on the way of course; Showtime, where the series originated, canceled the show at one point, but the Sci-Fi Channel stepped up to the plate and picked the series up. A bigger problem for a lot of fans was when Dr. Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks,) left the show in the 5th season to become a "ascended being." He eventually returns, and while the last season wasn't as strong as what had come before, Stargate SG-1 is still regarded as one of the best SF shows that ever aired on television. A great way to pick up the show is in the complete series boxed set which presents the entire 10 seasons along with copious extras in a very cool case designed to look like the Stargate itself.

Twilight Zone Complete Definitive Collection: If parody is the sincerest form of flattery, then The Twilight Zone is still blushing from all the attention it gets. Each stand alone episode delved into realms of madness, confusion, and condemnation. Sure, you could probably predict the big twist at the end of each episode, but it's not the twist that defined almost every episode as classic, it was the journey. The acting was superb. In fact, there are a lot of major stars that appeared on The Twilight Zone before they were famous. Sci-fi, fantasy, terror, suspense - This anthology series always carried its own style, but you could never pin an exact genre label on the show, because it covers so much ground. Rod Serling knew how to craft a story that would suck the viewer in for the entirety of each episode, to the point where commercials felt like acts of evil. This show was often used as a vehicle for subtle social commentary, and Serling fought with censors constantly. The series has been released in numerous forms in the past, but is now available for the first time in chronological season sets from Image Entertainment, and is also available in a Complete Definitive Collection boxed set. 5 seasons and 156 episodes, and there's hardly ever dud. If you're looking for classic television that will grip you from beginning to end of every episode, you owe it to yourself to get The Twilight Zone. It's not just another series, it's masterful.

The Wire: The Wire is a HBO television series, which was created by Homicide: Life on the Street's David Simon. It is a crime-drama that goes beyond a common format by offering intense storylines, in-depth characters, solid writing, excellent acting performances, and a realistic portrayal of crime, policing, and other related aspects of Baltimore, Maryland. The Wire comprises of five seasons, which are available on DVD. Each season focuses on different aspects of the community and its relationship to crime and policing. Season one dealt with the world of illegal drugs; season two unraveled a corrupt port system; season three focused on city politics; season four outlined ties to the public school system; season five highlighted the media. If you haven't had the chance, give The Wire a chance. You won't be disappointed.

The World at War: Nearly thirty-five years after it first aired, the 26-episode British documentary series The World at War remains the preeminent televised history of the Second World War, and arguably the greatest episodic documentary ever produced. The recipient of numerous accolades around the world, The World at War was the culmination of four years of meticulous research. Narrated by Academy-Award winner Sir Laurence Olivier, the series features eyewitness recollections from civilians, politicians, and combatants from both sides, including Alger Hiss, Curtis LeMay, Lord Mountbatten, and Albert Speer, along with much of the finest combat photography ever recorded. The 2004 U.S. release of The World at War is digitally remastered for DVD, and contains over 12 hours of supplementary documentaries including a thirty-year retrospective on the making of the landmark series.

Click on any cover to purchase the set at Amazon.com.


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