TV on DVD is busy again this fall, and so is Blu-ray.
You’ll find just-concluded adult cable hits in impressively gift-worthy box sets. Ditto some vintage family favorites. Many shows can be found on local store shelves. Others are available only online.
The gift sets covered below are only the tip of a very deep list of television treats. But this early heads-up should help get your holiday shopping started.
(First price is manufacturers’ suggested list. Price in parentheses reflects range of discounts we’ve spotted.)
Dexter: The Complete Series
$428 ($225) Blu-ray for 25 discs, $353 ($180) DVD for 33 discs (Showtime)
Wow. This one’s impressive right from the bloody fingerprint on the seal of the 15-by-8-by-6 white signature-design box. Inside is — wow, again — a metal-hinged re-creation of serial killer Dexter Morgan’s concealed case of victims’ blood slides. It holds a small pack of discs placed into separate red-bottom trays. Take ‘em out and file ‘em as numerical “slides”! Or — handy for completists — leave them packed, and there’ll be room in the case to also store all eight season sets. Nice. Also nice (though it’d be nicer if it actually fit inside the case) is the included wide-format paperback “Grafix: The Art of Dexter,” filled with Showtime’s season posters, promo art and faux magazine covers. A bonus disc delivers the extras (interviews, special effects, etc.) that don’t show up on the episode discs, along with two brief series-evolution featurettes and an hour’s chat between series star Michael C. Hall and a specialist in psychopaths.
Weeds: The Complete Collection
$120 ($70) Blu-ray for 16 discs + Ultraviolet digital (Lionsgate)
This holiday season’s true bargain arrives in this compact 8-season set, smartly ensconced in translucent grower-green Lucite. Its inner book-page package lists all 102 of Showtime’s smokin’ episodes, plus additional goodies like, um, brownie recipes. There are also photos of star Mary-Louise Parker in her various weed-dealing duds, along with guests like Albert Brooks, Zooey Deschanel, Mary-Kate Olsen, Richard Dreyfuss and Martin Short. Here, too, are all the season sets’ bonus features — commentaries, gag reels, music and more — while a new extras disc adds a funny roundtable of cast reflections (What did the preteen actor think about his hooker scene?), plus a guest-stars featurette and other euphoric fun.
Beverly Hills 90210: DVD Yearbooks 1990-2000
$350 ($250) DVD for 72 discs (CBS)
Pretty cool set for any ’90s kid, or parent. A super-sturdy slipcase (the height of two DVDs turned sideways) holds a pair of 2-inch-thick “yearbooks.” Each contains five seasons of the hot Fox youth soap — discs slipped into slits in pages covered with photos, episode descriptions, trivia and pseudo-scribbles (“Another wedding that almost was!”). You’ll, like, totally relive those teen ‘zine days! But seriously, this show took high schoolers seriously, as creator Darren Star recalls in a new 20-minute look-back on a bonus disc that also includes TV’s ‘93 backstage special and ‘03 reunion hour. The episodes addressed topical issues viewers could relate to, emotions they had felt, melodrama they could melt to. Now it’s all packaged for nifty gifting, to relive the big hair, big phones, big colors, big music.
$200 DVD for 24 discs (StarVista at TimeLife.com)
Vicki Lawrence’s cantankerous matriarch dominates this ’80s sitcom spinoff from the “family” sketches of “The Carol Burnett Show.” (Only Season 1 was released earlier, with syndication trims; The Complete Collection restores the episodes’ original network length.) All six separately cased season sets detail Mama’s history through hours of bonus interviews with writers, costumers and cast (Lawrence, Burnett, Ken Berry, Betty White, more). Also inside the baby-blue outer box is a 2-disc bonus case with more featurettes and the first “Burnett Show” family sketch. More fun: 1982 TV movie “Eunice” with Burnett and Harvey Korman, plus 2013 cast reunion, 24-page family album, lavish packaging.
Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Complete Collection
$250 DVD for 25 discs (StarVista at TimeLife.com)
They certainly weren’t as explicit as today’s Comedy Central cable roasts. But they laid the network TV groundwork, 40 years ago, and they endure as a name-dropping time capsule of the ’70s. Rat Pack crooner Martin morphed his 1960s NBC variety hour into a comedy showcase that gathered dozens of show-biz legends in Friars Club-inspired mockery. The 54 roasts in this deluxe box skewer comics (Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Phyllis Diller), TV icons (Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Betty White), movie stars (John Wayne, James Stewart, Kirk Douglas), sports names (Joe Namath, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron), politicians (Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater), publishing celebrities (Hugh Hefner, Truman Capote), pop culture oddities (Mr. T, Evel Knievel), dozens more. The wide outer box opens to reveal three thick cases of 6-8 discs each, plus three standard cases holding the Frank Sinatra roast, Martin variety show highlights, and bonus features (six hours) including interviews, featurettes and TV specials. A colorful booklet tops it off.
$200 DVD for 21 discs (StarVista at TimeLife.com)
ABC’s entire 1988-1991 series of a Vietnam War nurse and her battlefield community hits DVD in a slipcase holding four season sets of career-making work. Dana Delany (“Body of Proof”) was the soulful central caregiver, with Marg Helgenberger (“CSI”) as the earthy wartime “entrepreneur,” finding themselves as they served men fresh off the battlefield. Producer John Wells and director Rod Holcomb would go on to mold “ER,” but their earlier success here endures, delivering sensitive human drama, while allowing those stories to illustrate the cultural, political, life-changing landscape that was Vietnam. More than 10 valuable hours of extras include a 45-minute roundtable on the show’s creation, last December’s 25th anniversary reunion, cast-crew commentaries, reflective interviews/featurettes, and a half-hour on the real-life facility at China Beach. (And yes, the soundtrack’s original 300-plus pop songs are here!)
$120 ($75) Blu-ray for 7 discs (Acorn) (On DVD: 2010 release, 9 discs for $125 list, $70 discount)
Helen Mirren’s career-making turn as hard-nosed London police detective boss Jane Tennison gets sterling treatment in this high-def rendering. The slipcase holds a compact inch-thick case containing all 26 hours of investigating, sexism-battling, demon-facing and case-solving through seven separate “series” produced from 1991 to 2006. It’s a vast bargain compared to buying the DVDs separately, and the Blu-rays deliver widescreen video and lossless stereo. Mirren’s indelible portrayal has since influenced TV’s tough-cookie female investigators.
The Gene Autry Show
$80 DVD for 15 discs (discounts to $70) (Timeless) (due out Dec. 10)
Hollywood’s quintessential singing cowboy is back in the saddle in all five seasons of his ’50s series — the perfect grandpa gift. All 91 episodes (some with original commercials!) come in a somewhat flimsy box, but the eight slim cases inside detail all the episode plots, as well as the extras: radio shows, film trailers, even color episodes. And then there’s the fun final disc, with bonus episodes of other ’50s series in biz-wiz Autry’s Flying A empire: two each from “The Adventures of Champion” (Autry’s horse), “Annie Oakley,” “Buffalo Bill Jr.” and “The Range Rider.”