Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas | TV DVD Box Set Style, The Ten Best For That Special Someone

The Christmas Season is almost upon us and we could all use some ideas for DVD stoking stuffers. So why not go with a television series on DVD. There are so many shows that are now available on DVD, it gets a little to narrow down your options. This is a list of ten television shows that are worth a spot of you or a loved one’s DVD rack. Starting with…

10. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is set in…Philadelphia the city of brotherly love, which is where irony only starts with this madly satirical comedy surrounding a group of friends that own and operate an Irish style pub. Each episode begins with a simple premise which also acts as the episodes title, such as The Gang Finds A Dumpster Baby or Charlie Goes American. Unlike most comedies this show is willing to take every episode to it’s most outrageous conclusion. By doing that the show can climb to the highest heights of hilarity and the lowest lows of shock comedy.
The shows politically incorrectness is tangible as the cast reminisce about the awful things that they have done or are in fact planning on doing. In a kind of Seinfeld meets South Park mix, this show appeals to the darker/morally numbed sensibilities of TV viewers. If you can allow yourself to follow the insanity in each episode you will literally piss yourself laughing. The character Charlie is a personal favorite of mine, as a glue huffing, dyslexic, wild card who’s personal grooming habits are always in question. Watch this show and be happy.
The best season was their third, and is filled with their darkest humor.
9. Supernatural
Supernatural stars Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as Sam and Dean Winchester. After their mother was killed by a demon, their father trains them to become hunters of supernatural monsters of every variety. The story is centered on their search for their missing father as they fight evil spirits along the way. Created by the same person responsible for the X-Files, Supernatural shares the same elements that made it great. Brothers investigating supernatural event, from town to town, from motel to motel. The great thing about is that the episodes are oriented at creating a horror feel. They often use concepts from horror movies and turn them into episodes. It’s dark, action packed, and filled with some funny witty dialogue. Something to notice is that it doesn’t use the most recent poplar songs as its sound track. There is nothing but classic rock all the time, and it works. As much as it seems like it reuses ideas from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the X-Files, it really makes it its own and does great things with it. This is show worth a look and a spot on the mantle, and the best season out of the five they have had was the third or first, depending on your personal inklings.

8. Smallville
Smallville follows the adventures of a young Clark Kent in the early years before dawning the cape as superman. Clark Kent deals with his budding superpowers and a friendship with a young Lex Luthor while dealing with super powered aliens and meteor freaks in his home town of Smallville. Now this has been on for 9 seasons now, and it’s good for a very odd reason, a lot of it’s good, a lot of it’s bad, but even the bad stuff is entertaining. This show is simply a guilty pleasure that you cannot get enough of. Ah, it’s a real Cinderella story this one. Eight seasons, the last three of which were supposed to be series enders, but everybody realized that they couldn’t let this show go. There is a reason behind a show lasting nearly a decade. It looks good, the people are pretty, the special effects and action are entertaining, and the superman mythology is interesting. It’s really become an entity in itself since it’s one of the few shows that have gone through massive changes over the years without hurting it. Smallville has gone through plot and cast changes that would hurt any other show, cutting just about every main character but superman, losing its original formula, but it has surprisingly made it better. Now moving into its ninth season, Smallville is now better than it has ever been before. There aren’t many shows that can last this long and get better along the way.
It’s been on forever, but out of all its nine seasons their eighth was their best.
7. Rescue Me

Angry Irish Firefighters, this could be the title of the underappreciated FX show. The show surrounds the lives the men making up a fire house in New York City. This is not a third watch though where the drama is as canned and flat as the acting. This drama is a well written and engaging program, with the characters really having a life of their own on the screen. The main character in the show is the always angry, alcoholic Tommy Gavin. He is one of the most interesting characters currently on TV battling with his addictions and posttraumatic stress from 9/11, Tommy still fights fires even though he is very possibly mad. You see he see dead people… that’s cheap, none the less it is a main part of the show that Tommy can not only see the people that he has lost but he can carry on full conversations with them. The only catch is that he can only see them when he is on the booze. It may seem out dated to have a show about firefighters dealing with their experiences of 9/11 but Rescue Me manages to keep it fresh and exciting, always funny dialogue in the fire house and constant emotional conflicts in the bottle make this show worth watching for anyone looking for a engaging Television.
Go with the first season of this show it is a classic, very dark and very funny.
6. Sons of Anarchy
The Sons of Anarchy is a dramatic exploration of a motorcycle club based out of a small California town. In this town the Sons of Anarchy (or SAM CROW as they are often referred to as) run guns, porn, stolen goods and pretty well anything of value within the town limits. The town sheriff rests comfortably in the pocket of the club and allows the group to come and go as they please as long they keep their exploits at a subtle level. What you can expect from this show is a Soprano’s meets the Hells Angels type feel. As a cable show it can go that extra mile in terms of violence and content, who wouldn’t want to watch some badass bikers shoot up a rival biker club and then hit a brothel? First and foremost, this show has a very gritty feel to it. Examples range from the castration of a pedophile, to a former club member being forced to have his club tattoo burned off with a blowtorch (a signature grim reaper back tattoo all sons must bare). Every episode has something new to offer, the dynamic between members is much more caviler than what you may have seen in other organized crime type shows, members of the club playfully banter with one another. Special attention is given to the newest recruit to the club lovingly referred to by the sons as ‘one nut’ given his special disability of an obvious nature, courtesy of a recent tour in Iraq. The sons even have an agreement with the IRA as suppliers of AK 47’s which caused many interesting moments throughout the first season, like when the IRA contact was injured in a bar shoot out and injured as in shot in the ass and not being able to go to a hospital because he was currently wanted in the USA for being a terrorist…sort of thing. The show really surrounds the character of Jax a lifer within the club and the son of one of the forming members of the Sons of Anarchy. Jax’s coming to terms with the birth of his crack baby…you heard me crack baby, his wife in the show is a junky, and the return of an old flame only compound his already wavering belief in the so called anarchist mission of the motorcycle club. Looking for guidance Jax turns to a manifesto written by his now long dead father which is all about the ideology that the Sons of Anarchy was founded on, and has long since been abandoned for more violent and self-serving ideals. This show is a grower; it should only get better as time goes on as we learn more about the characters and their circumstances.
This show has almost finished its third seasons, but the second is by far the best season so far.
5. Firefly
Joss Whedon’s Firefly is an action-adventure western/sc-fi. It chronicles the lives of the crew of Serenity (the firefly class ship). It is set 500 years in the future, when humanity leaves earth and colonizes various planets. Shortly after a civil war between the Alliance and the brown coats, the unified government and the Independents, the crew of the ship Serenity, lead by Captain Malcolm Reynolds, attempts to maintain a life on Serenity by taking any job that pays enough.
Firefly is sort of the passion project of Joss Whedon that he made after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and before Dollhouse. It was canceled before its time, which ultimately made Whedon die inside and ruined him for Dollhouse. It’s an interesting concept: cowboys in space. All the elements that Whedon excels at are seen here, a descent story, character driven, and especially witty dialogue, and this is something that seems to be missing in today’s television.
Whedon seems to have somewhat taken the story for Firefly from Clint Eastwood’s western The Outlaw Josey Whales. I have no idea people cannot see the connection; just put Eastwood in space and it’s the same thing. This isn’t a bad thing because it had an interesting concept. It featured Eastwood as a confederate soldier on the run from the Union army immediately after the fall of the Confederacy. The twist is that the confederate soldier is the good guy and the Union is bad. Why? Because Josey Whales isn’t fighting for slavery; he’s fighting for his own freedom. In it Eastwood’s character goes on the run from the Union and encounters people, outcasts who have been wronged by the Union society, who join him and create a home for themselves on a farm in a ghost town. Whedon uses the same idea in Firefly by making Malcolm Reynolds a soldier who lost in the fight for independence against the Alliance and makes a home for himself along with his crew in the sci-fi version of a ghost town, a ship in space.If you know Whedon, it’s all about the dialogue. Firefly is serious when it needs to be and witty the rest of the time. What Whedon shows in Firefly is that the action shouldn’t be the only entertaining part of a show, you need good dialogue to keep it entertaining the entire time, and this show has that. Last but not least is the early performance by Summer Glau as River. Before she played creepy/crazy fem-bot on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, she was doing it better on Firefly. It is also where you will find the origination of the camera zoom-in. Before Battlestar Galactica used the zoom-in to distinguish their space battles, Firefly did it first and probably inspired its use in Galactica.
As there was only the one season...
4. Kitchen Confidential
Chefs, funny actors, and an amoral sensibility make up this show that ranks at number 4. Kitchen Confidential is a single camera comedy which follows a down and out, alcoholic, and drug using chef (Jack Bourdain) who loses his career but is given a second chance as the new head chef at a restaurant where he must deal with his equally misfit staff, along with the antagonistic owner’s daughter who hopes to see him fail.
It had a short run, but Kitchen Confidential will stay in your memory as the surprisingly funny dark comedy that shocks the funny into you. The notable performance is of the egotistical and competitive head chef played by Bradley Cooper. It’s also the last place you can see the guy who played Xander on Buffy the vampire slayer being funny. Now, I did say it’s dark, but how dark? Let’s put it this way: does killing a few fluffy rabbits sound dark? Does attempting to kill a man by feeding him extremely decadent food that will explode his heart sound dark? Yes it does, but it’s also damn funny. So if you like to watch a dark comedy about chefs, check this one out.
There was only one season, but it’s a perfect fit for a dark humored friend.
3. Battlestar Galactica
A remake of a terrible 70’s science fiction show Battlestar Galactica has changed the game for all future science fiction. Set in a futuristic universe where the enemy of the human race is a race of self-aware robots called Cylons which were in fact created by humans. The show which began with a movie length mini-series about how the Cylons returned to their place of origin and annihilated the human race, destroying all but a few survivors. With all of the worlds which the humans inhabit in this story destroyed and rendered uninhabitable. The remaining survivors led by a President dying from cancer and a Battlestar Captain acting as the only line of defense from the incessant attacks of the Cylon fleet.
As a show the quality of the acting and stories which made up this instant classic is unmatched in the realm of science fiction. This show became for many viewers a touch tone for current social commentary such as the use of torture, religious extremists, and the survival of a Democracy during a time of paranoia and fear. The visual effects in this series are movie quality but they just act as a backdrop for the drama of the show. At its hart this show is less of a sci-fi and more of a drama set in a fictional world. If you have not watched Battlestar Galactica then you have missed out on a thought provoking and insightful program which just so happens to be really entertaining. Some people have spent many an hour trying to decipher the hidden meaning in each episode of the show and the idea that anyone can be a Cylon in human form only adds to the paranoia of an already suspicious viewer. This show is worth the watch. The only problem with this show is that one cannot be a casual viewer since each episode relies so heavily upon the previous one, each episode building upon the others. And because of this if you want to start watching the show, you have to start at the beginning.
Out of all four of its seasons the first was by far the best.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In a nut shell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is about a young woman who in supernaturally endowed with strength and speed in order to fight the forces of darkness. With her trusty sidekicks aka the Scoobies Buffy battles her way through a plethora of demons, monsters, x boyfriends, and of course vampires. Set in the small fictional town of Sunnydale CA. home of the hell mouth; a portal to the netherworld which is conveniently located beneath Buffy and the gangs base of operations, the high school library. This is where the final member of the Scoobies can be found for the most part during the first three seasons of the show, Buffy’s watcher/father figure Giles.
Now most people have heard about this show and many just leer at the fans of this show like some kind of sideshow act. On the surface of the show it is….well silly. The star of the show and apparent savior of the show is a 90 pound girl who can beat up… I’m sorry…is destined to beat up the evil of the world. Therein is the draw. The show’s visual and thematically oddness is made not believable but watchable, very watchable. Like most within the fantasy genre, the stories that make up the show are extreme and abstract. They provide a coloured window into the more sensitive topics of the real world, such as how things in a relationship change when things get physical.
In terms of simple viewing pleasure Buffy the Vampire Slayer has what you need. The lovability of the characters of the show and the playful and witty dialogue they all engage in at every turn, whether it be during a fight to the death or at the cafeteria lunch table. If you are looking for a mythology to get caught up in and have the ability to suspend your sense of reality and enjoy a fantastic show, then rent the first couple of seasons of the show.
The fourth season is the best in my opinion, but that’s just me.
1. Freaks and Geeks
Mainly a high school show set in the 80’s focusing on the lives of the out cast of schools social strata, the title characters…the freaks & geeks. Not exactly the freshest sounding idea for a TV show, high school, teenaged angst, boy meets girl, whatever sounds like 90210 in but in bizarreo world. Not so much, the stories that actually make up the foundation for this show have a cynical feel and real feel that cause you to be involved in the characters and stories that make up the series. Why is this show number one on this list? First off, I am listing these shows in terms of surprise at their quality and ability to entertain and for me Freaks and Greeks was a great surprise. Having heard of the show before but never giving it much attention it was only last year that I actually rented the one and only season. Partially due to the success of Jud Apatow the guy who made 40 Year Old Virgin, Knock up, etc; comedies that are actually funny. Not funny ha ha more like funny “I just pissed myself” kind of funny, which seems to be becoming more and more rare. The reason this show was so good has much to do with the cast, relative un-knows in the late 90’s James Franco, Seth Rogan, Linda Cardellini, just to name a few.
There is only one season so enjoy. Hope this list helped in your holidays search. Happy Hoidays!

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