Monday, August 28, 2006

TV on DVD - What's the Best???


The Onion A.V. Club recently named what they considered to be THE prime cuts of TV on DVD by singling out the best seasons of given shows available. Granted, this sort of stuff is all about the opinion, but I was a bit flabbergasted by some of their choices. I was less annoyed by their omissions mostly because I'm aware that my fixations are rarely in line with what "normal" people would choose.

For starters - and the choice with which I took greatest issue - was The Shield: Season Three. What!?!? I consider myself a Shield devotee, although I admittedly missed Season Five (which the A.V. Club - as well as many I know - says just freakin' rocks). But even taking that out of the equation, how the hell did they come up with Season Three as the pinnacle? It was easily the weakest, sprawling, aimless season of the series. Call me a traditionalist, but Season One still ranks as the show's high point, with even Season Two coming in at a close second (heck, even Season Four - the Glenn Close season - was superior if only for going in unexpected directions). Don't get me wrong...Season Three's got some great moments - most notably the madness Aceveda's forced to endure - but somewhere around the time Dutchboy strangled a cat just to see what it was like to kill something, I realized the show had lost some focus.

Edward Copeland often champions The Sopranos: Season Three and the A.V. Club seconds his motion. I dove into The Sopranos head on by viewing the first three seasons of Tony's antics back to back on DVD. By the time I hit Season Three, maybe I'd grown weary. My feeling at the time was that as a whole it wasn't as good as the first two, despite some great moments such as Melfi's rape (which the A.V. Club does indeed single out) as well as the classic "Pine Barrens" episode in which Christopher and Paulie get lost in the woods . Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. I'd need to sit down and devour the whole damn epic over again to know for certain. The A.V. Club does give props to Season One as a runner-up. I still feel as if I'm one of a handful of people totally digging on recent Sopranos. Season Five was so deceptively great that I didn't even realize how good it was 'til it was over. The recently screened first half of Season Six rocked my world if only because it dished up slices of The Sopranos we probably never expected or even wanted to see. Much of my opinion of the series is likely due to me not being a die-hard fan...for me it's mostly a series of "the moment". To be sure, Season Four must be the weakest of the lot.

Arrested Development: Season Two. I do adore AD, and again, I've not yet seen Season Three. I've viewed both of the previous seasons on DVD and intend to do the same with the third, which hits DVD this Tuesday. But between the first two, Season One comes up the tighter. In all fairness to those wacky Onion folk, they do single out "Good Grief!" as S2's highpoint - which it was. Who in a certain age bracket is not instantly swayed by the music of Vince Guaraldi? (Ahem...Chuck?)

M*A*S*H: Season Nine. Um, M*A*S*H without Henry Blake, Trapper John, Frank Burns and Klinger in a dress isn't my M*A*S*H. The only thing that makes latter M*A*S*H watchable is David Ogden Stiers. That is all.

The rest of the A.V. Club's choices are mostly series of which I've not seen nearly enough to comment on. Once upon a time I was an X-Files nut, but that dimmed somewhere around the middle of S2 when the series suddenly became this pop culture phenom and I stopped watching. Maybe S3 is the best, I don't know. Never even seen a single episode of NewsRadio or The Gilmore Girls. I am curious...any classic Trek fans out there? Is S2 better than S1? I've wanted to buy one of the TOS boxes for some time, and had been veering toward S1...but if S2 is the better of two, I'd like to know.

"So Mr. High and Mighty Morgue...what are your picks?" ...I thought you'd never ask...

First and foremost, Nip/Tuck: Season Two. I gushed about it only last week and won't do so again...but just this past Saturday I indulged in a five episode marathon from the middle of S2, and I knew as I addictively kept spinning discs that I could stand by those words. I love Nip/Tuck so much that, even though I didn't like it, I still want the Season Three DVD set (which, alongside Arrested Development: Season Three, hits shelves on Tuesday) . That's some sick fanboy devotion, yes it is.

Farscape: Season Three. There are a few Morgue attendants to whom this choice will come as no surprise. I love Farscape, but in particular I worship its third season. It's a near perfect, almost self-contained science fiction epic (each episode is like a chapter in a book) that hits so many action peaks and emotional valleys that it's something of a shame the series didn't just end with episode 3.22, "A Dog with Two Bones". The cast, the writers, the directors, the effects artists, the set designers - everyone involved with the creation of Farscape - were at the top of their game. Unfortunately, ADV Films, which releases Farscape on DVD, charges a whopping $150 retail for the Season Three set! Fortunately, ADV recently began releasing these mini-sets called "Starburst Editions", which actually contain numerous extras not present on the original releases. Purchase the three separate Collections of "Farscape: Starburst Edition Season 3", which retail for $24.95 apiece, and you get the whole season for half the boxset price. (Everything written above applies to the other three seasons as well, although ADV is still in the process of releasing the Season Four sets.)

Update! RE: Farscape Starburst Editions. Anyone who owns or is considering purchasing the Starburst sets should read this news from TV Shows on DVD.

Doctor Who: The Complete First Series. The remake, the reimagining, the continuation...whatever you wanna call it - this, alongside Battlestar Galactica: Season One, is essential new millenium sci-fi.

Aside from Star Trek, conspicuously absent from the Onion list were older TV series, which leads me to...

Soap: Season One. All four seasons of Soap are now on DVD, and with each successive purchase, I've felt less and less enthused. But Season One remains a classic sitcom comedy goldmine. If you're a fan of Arrested Development, you owe it to yourself to at least check out the first season of the series which likely inspired it. It ends on a cliffhanger, so you'll likely be drawn to Season Two...but take it from me - just stop before moving on to Season Three, OK?

Land of the Lost: Season One. The low-budget Saturday morning adventures of Marshall, Will & Holly - trapped in a dimension of dinosaurs, Pakuni and Sleestak - aren't for everyone...but if you're somewhere between 32ish and 40, this is a major blast from your '70s past that won't disappoint.

Twin Peaks: Season One. Technically it's incomplete as it doesn't contain the 90-minute Pilot Movie...and sure, it's only seven episodes long. These factors matter not. The first season, abbreviated though it may be, is one of, if not THE highlight of TV history (rivaled only by The Prisoner). And the "Previously On" tagged onto Episode One does a decent enough job of recapping so that you can easily immerse yourself into the material presented. If you're lost, you're weak and have no imagination. Supposedly Season Two will hit DVD later this year (maybe even with the Pilot). Who knows? Who cares? Season One is the shit.

Jeez...I could list half a dozen more, but I won't. At this point, I'm mostly interested in your picks. Abduct the comments section...please...