Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for the TV binge-watchers in the family who own DVD and Blu-ray players.
Yellowstone: The Dutton Legacy Collection – Limited Edition Giftset (Paramount/CBS Entertainment, rated TV-MA, 1,176 minutes, 16 Blu-ray discs, 2.00:1 aspect ratio, $111.99) — Acting legend Kevin Costner’s modern-day Western arrives in a bundled high definition disc set for those unable or unwilling to subscribe to the Paramount Network or Peacock streaming services but are looking to appreciate a classic corporate cowboy drama.
Mr. Costner stars John Dutton III, a widowed patriarch of the Dutton family and owner of the Yellowstone Ranch in Montana, the largest in the United States and established near the end of the 19th century by James Dutton.
John’s daily life often includes an unending quest to protect the Dutton legacy while dealing with a troubled family, corrupt politicians and a short list of sometimes ruthless and violent enemies seeking to take control of his land and rural empire.
Viewers get the first four seasons of the series, 39 episodes, that not only shine from the performances of Mr. Costner and co-stars such as Luke Grimes (son Kayce), Wes Bentley (son Jamie), Kelly Reilly (daughter Beth), Cole Hauser (ranch foreman and enforcer) but the absolutely stunning, panoramic beauty of the terrain presented within the high definition format.
The collection also includes the extreme, 10-episode limited series “1883: A Yellowstone Origin Story,” which explores Tennessee’s original Dutton family and their joining a wagon train of German immigrants starting in Fort Worth, Texas, and moving across America on a mission to settle land in Oregon.
Of course, the bad news is season five is now streaming and not included in the set so look for another disc gift collection next year that will include that season as well as the second limited historical series on the Dutton’s roots called “1923.”
Best extras: Each episode first gets a short “Behind the Story” segment (roughly four minutes each) covering aspects of the production and story.
A collection of featurettes are also available on the final disc of each season with highlights including extended overviews of each season (averaging 35 minutes each) and brief segments covering cinematography, fight choreography, special effects, production design and Dutton flashbacks.
The packaging also includes four drink coasters with an ornate ranch logo on each. Certainly not the highlight of the gift set but combined with the high definition episodic content makes for a worthy addition to any Yellowstone fan’s library.
Ed Sullivan’s Rock & Roll Classics (Time Life, not rated, 984 minutes, 10 DVD discs, 1.33:1, aspect ratio, $99.99) — Lucky gift receivers can now appreciate arguably the best parts of one of the most watched variety shows in the history of television. On Sunday nights on CBS, “The Ed Sullivan Show” offered an eclectic assembly of talent between 1958 and 1971 that included some of the greatest musical acts in the world.
This DVD collection contains 128 performances wedged into thematic episodes narrated by Jay Thomas who first offers background on the acts while wedging the songs into such topics as Teen Idols, the British Invasion, Motown and the Psychedelic 1960s.
Owners get a wonderful musical history lesson merged into 16 hours of black-and-white and color video that includes the first appearances from Elvis Presley on Sept. 9, 1956, singing “Don’t Be Cruel” (he was actually in a studio in Los Angeles and not New York for the recording) and The Beatles on Feb. 9, 1964, with “She Loves You.”
Highlights abound with hits from The Beach Boys (“I Get Around”), Buddy Holly and the Crickets (“Peggy Sue”), The Animals (“Don’t Bring Me Down”), Jerry Lee Lewis (“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On”), The Jackson 5 (“I Want You Back”), Carpenters (“We’ve Only Just Begun”), The Rolling Stones (“Paint It, Black”), Diana Ross and the Supremes (“Love Child”), Vanilla Fudge (“You Keep Me Hangin’ On”) and Neil Diamond (“Sweet Caroline”) to just name a few.
Despite the dynamic performances, the set won’t win any rewards for visual resolution. Hey Time Life, it’s time to restore these moments in history shows and offer them in at least a high definition format.
Best extras: The discs also mix in contemporary interviews (from the 1990s) with some of the performers who appeared on the shows including David Crosby, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown, John Sebastian and Michelle Phillips.
Two extra discs offer highlights from many of the comedians that appeared on the show (90 minutes worth) hosted by Mary Tyler Moore as well as a pair of episodes (almost two hours total) from the documentary series “The History of Rock and Roll” covering “Britain Invades, America Fights Back” and “The Sounds of Souls.”
Additionally, the package includes a 36-page, full-color booklet covering the show and the performers, putting some of the episodes in context with historical events, and adding trivia and a list of the songs on each DVD.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated TV-14, 4,659 minutes, 19 Blu-ray discs, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $129.99) — The CW Network’s sci-fi supers team-up show that ran for seven seasons arrives in a high definition collection to allow new viewers to immerse themselves into a live-action version of the DC Comics’ universe.
The intriguing adventures of a time-traveling group of unlikely heroes were highlighted over 110 episodes of the series and found time-traveler Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) assembling a group of heroes and villains in an effort to prevent a future where evil Egyptian immortal Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) conquers Earth.
The team, traveling through time on the stolen ship, the Waverider, included the Atom (Brandon Routh), Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), White Canary (Caity Lotz) and Firestorm — a combined Martin Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh).
Traipsing through space and time, the Legends could be found visiting the Old West and Revolutionary War, in King Arthur’s Camelot, cavorting in the Golden Age of pirates, walking around Star City (home of Green Arrow) in 2046 and even in a world where the Nazis won World War II (a clear Crisis on Infinite Earths).
The cavalcade of characters also featured in the show was a comic book fans dream and included famed demonologist John Constantine, Flash, Justice Society of America’s Doctor Mid-Nite, Green Arrow, Jonah Hex, Sgt. Rock, Booster Gold and even Captain Nazi.
Gift receivers will appreciate the full-screen, high definition format that brings some wonderful locales and colorful characters to life.
Best extras: Nothing new, but the collection of discs offers all of the digital goodies from the previous Blu-ray releases.
Highlights include a 41-minute roundtable of key creators discussing the CW’s hero crossover event Crisis on Earth-X, 60 minutes on DC’s TV shows 2017 San Diego Comic-Con panels, 13 minutes on the team’s time travels and bunches of deleted scenes for each season.
Dexter: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS Entertainment, rated TV-MA, 5,619 minutes, 28 Blu-ray discs, 1.78:1 and 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $111.99) — Showtime viewers spent eight years enjoying the vengeful exploits of a serial killer with a strict code of honor between 2006 and 2013.
His bloody adventures return to the Blu-ray format offering the 96-episode run of the show that introduced actor Michael C. Hall (in a career-defining role) as Dexter Morgan.
A forensics expert for the Miami Police Department by day and a ritualistic murderer by night, Dexter focused his surgical rage on criminals who escaped justice.
While adding to his kill count, the supreme vigilante found time to spend with his homicide detective sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), and co-worker detective sergeant, Angel Batista (David Zayas); talk often with his dead adopted father Harry as his voice of reason; and try to maintain a romantic relationship with girlfriend Rita Bennett (Julie Benz) that ultimately led to having his son Cody.
The series was a nail-biting drama throughout as Dexter tried to find a sense of normalcy while hiding his horrors and fighting inner demons with perhaps the defining story arc being his gut-wrenching confrontation with a famed serial killer named the “Trinity Killer,” aka Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow).
Paramount also adds to the boxed set Dexter’s ultimate denouement with the 2021 series “Dexter: New Blood” that finds him hiding in upstate New York but returning to his murderous ways amid a 10-episode story arc.
Without a doubt, this collection is the definitive and best that may ever be available to cover the Dexter Morgan saga and a true gift for those mature humans fascinated by his grotesque deeds.
Best extras: Viewers get a smattering of short featurettes (about 15 minutes total) spread across the original series discs.
More worthy of a set are a pair of optional commentary tracks for the first season tied to the episodes “Return to Sender” featuring Miss Carpenter and co-stars Mr. Zayas, Lauren Velez (Capt. Maria LaGuerta) and Erik King (Sgt. James Doakes); and “Born Free,” with producers Clyde Phillips, Sara Colleton and Daniel Cerrone.
Next, “Dexter: New Blood” offers a 30-minute retrospective that includes spoilers and interviews from Mr. Hall, Mr. Lithgow, Miss Carpenter, and writer and showrunner Clyde Phillips.
That ’70s Show: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment, not rated, 4,410 minutes, 16 DVD discs, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $75.99) — Fox’s hilarious retro sitcom that ran eight seasons between 1998 and 2006 returns to the DVD format in a special release.
Covering the shenanigans of a group of teenagers in a small town in Wisconsin during the 1970s, the series dripped with nostalgia and launched the careers of Ashton Kutcher (Michael Kelso), Mila Kunis (Jackie Burkhart) and Topher Grace (Eric Forman).
The shows also featured a theme song by the legendary Cheap Trick (a cover of Big Star’s “In the Street”); a ton of music from the decade (episodes were often titled from real song names); and guest stars such as Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, Billy Dee Williams, Alice Cooper and Mary Tyler Moore.
Viewers were gloriously exposed to the concepts of eight-track tapes, television clickers, “Pong” and “Star Wars” mythology.
The selling point of this Walmart exclusive boasts all 200 episodes being remastered from the original high definition widescreen film negatives and released on, wait for it, the antiquated DVD format.
Why waste the money to only end up downscaling all of the extra work and not release the series in the Blu-ray format?
Despite the gripe, I have to report that the series looks great, even in the standard definition format though, and is worthy of a gift for older viewers.
Best extras: Boasting more than 12 hours of extras culled from previous releases, the collection of discs (packaged in bland, unattractive cardboard sleeves) includes over 20 optional commentary tracks.
Director David Trainer, a selection of production featurettes, an overview for each season and a retrospective on creating episodes from the cast round out the selections.
Ray Donovan: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS Entertainment, not rated, 4,410 minutes, 29 DVD discs, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $75.99) — Showtime’s popular family crime drama arrives in a massive DVD set offering the complete 82-episode story arc that was spread out over seven seasons of the show between 2013 and 2020.
Liev Schreiber plays Raymond Donovan, a preeminent fixer for a law firm handling the most powerful and elite celebrity clients in Los Angeles and a man protective of his family.
His past catches up to him when his habitual gangster father Mickey (Jon Voight) gets unexpectedly released from prison after a 20-year stint.
He wants to reunite with Ray while going back to his old criminal ways as law enforcement looks to take down the Donovan clan.
Distinguished for its dynamic acting of the two main stars in creator Ann Biderman’s gritty, “Soprano”-esque type narrative, the series also featured Paula Malcomson as Ray’s wife Abby, Kerris Dorsey as his daughter Bridget and Eddie Marsan as his older brother Terry.
Further supporting the acting chops were a cavalcade of top-notch guest stars (in both recurring and one-off roles) such as Susan Sarandon, Alan Alda, Elliott Gould, Ian McShane, James Woods and Hank Azaria in an Emmy-winning performance.
Paramount also adds “Ray Donovan: The Movie,” which was released this year to satiate fans for the lack of closure to the series when it was abruptly canceled after the seventh season.
Of course, the issue is releasing the series in the DVD format. Paramount has no excuse for not offering this great television show in the high definition format as it even recently rereleased an older show “Dexter: The Complete Series” in Blu-ray.
Best extras: A smattering of short featurettes spread out over the disc will not impress fans, but they might appreciate the occasional optional commentary tracks tied to the episodes “Yo Soy Capitan” with Mr. Voight; “Walk This Way” with Mr. Schreiber; and the important episode “Horses” with executive producer David Hollander and Miss Malcomson.
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: The Complete Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 1,804 minutes, 11 DVD discs, 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $69.99) — One of Cartoon Networks most popular and multiple Emmy Award-winning animated series arrives in the antiquated DVD format to thrill youngsters with its surreal universe of characters.
The series focused on an 8-year-boy named Mac and his imaginary friend, the bulbous blue and troublemaking Blooregard Q. Kazoo. After being told by his mom that he cannot keep his pal, Mac finds a compromise by moving Bloo into an orphanage for imaginary friends.
The elderly Madame Foster runs the home in her Victorian mansion with help from her rabbit-like butler Mr. Herriman and granddaughter Frankie.
She takes care of a wacky group of characters including the monstrous though docile Eduardo, the long-legged Wilt and the bird-and-palm-tree hybrid Coco.
The caveat for Mac is he must visit Bloo every day for his imaginary friend to not be adopted and that sets up encounters with some of those really odd creatures and subsequent hilarious adventures.
Viewers get all 79 episodes of the colorful series that ran from 2004 to 2009 that was created by the patriarch of “The Powerpuff Girls,” Craig McCracken.
Most of the seasons fill the screen with color, taking advantage of a wider-screen format and making the show even more fun to watch, except season four, which has the dreaded black bars.
Worth noting for parents: The disc tray is not secured in the plastic container, so it flops out immediately when opening. That could cause a damage issue when a child tries to extract discs.
Best extras: The first two seasons toss in a few goodies including optional commentary tracks on the episodes “Store Wars” (with Bloo, Mac and Frankie); “Mac Daddy” (the yellow humanoid Cheese); and a couple of production featurettes.
The discs also offer the bonus episode specials, “Christmas Special: A Lost Claus” and “Destination Imagination.”
SeaQuest DSV: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment, rated TV-PG, 2,640 minutes, 10 Blu-ray discs, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, $85.99) — Big-time movie star Roy Scheider took a deep dive into network television back in 1993 in an Emmy-Award winning, sci-fi drama that finally makes its way to the Blu-ray format.
Viewers get all 57 episodes from its three seasons on NBC that cover the exploits of Capt. Nathan Bridger (Scheider) and his crew of the high-tech submarine SeaQuest DSV 4600 on a mission sanctioned by the United Earth Oceans Organization to protect Earth’s burgeoning undersea colonies and explore mankind’s final frontier in the mid-21st century.
Yes, we get a bit of a “Star Trek” narrative here that’s obviously more grounded as the ship encounters ecological disasters, deadly viruses, sea mammals that need saving and hostile nations with nasty dictators fighting over the oceans, although the crew eventually deals with extraterrestrials and some time travel.
Amazingly, the series drew some other top-notch guests stars including William Shatner and Charlton Heston and pop culture stalwarts such as Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Seth Green (“Austin Powers”), Jonathan Banks (“Breaking Bad”) and Michael York (“Logan’s Run”).
Also, the series kind of looks like it has been remastered — with scenes that are often colorful and rich although inconsistent — but the antiquated special effects show their age.
Mill Creek does deliver a nostalgic favorite in a series that boasted some great production values and stories, before saving the climate was the rage.
Best extras: Viewers actually get a nice selection of featurettes (about an hour’s worth in total) including interviews with composer John Debney (winner of the Emmy for the theme title), series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon and directors John T. Kretchmer, Bryan Spicer and Anson Williams (Potsie from “Happy Days”).
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The Baffler Meal Complete Collection (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated TV-14, 1,684 minutes, 20 DVD discs, 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $112.99) — Cartoon Networks’ late-night Adult Swim programming offered one of the more surreal shows in the history of animated television concocted by the damaged minds of Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro (the pair responsible for “Space Ghost Coast to Coast”).
All 138 episodes from the 11-season run are now collected in this massive DVD set covering a trio of anthropomorphic fast-food items existing in South Jersey and solving mysteries.
The crime-fighting team consists of the self-absorbed and pathological milkshake container named Master Shake (a milkshake who acts as the leader), an intelligent box of french fries named Frylock (like Spock) and a shape-shifting mound of meat named Meatwad.
Yeah, and I’m not taking any pain medications or under a psychiatrist’s supervision.
The trio spends time annoying next-door neighbor and Dennis Franz-looking, middle-aged, balding, sports fanatic Carl Brutananadilewski; stopping an invasion by the foul-mouthed aliens Mooninites (pixelated Space Invaders); and going on a variety of adventures involving clones, an inflatable Adolf Hilter, a Hand Banana and creatures created by mad Scientist Dr. Weird.
The roughly 12-minute, stream-of-unconsciousness episodes are often hilarious in the same way depriving oxygen to a brain makes a human giggle.
The set also includes the first full-length film “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters” but leaves out what would have made this the definitive collection, the second movie, “Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm.”
Still, it’s the best fans get for now, and it is a potent comedic journey reaching levels of madness that probably sent some of the weak-minded animators to mental asylums or detox centers.
Best extras: Paramount overloaded on digital goodies during the initial releases of the show’s seasons on DVD and now accumulates more than 30 hours of that and new stuff into one steaming pile, spread across all discs for the hardcore followers.
Start with 20 optional commentary tracks that are pretty free-form with the creators. The absolute highlight is the track for the “Colon Movie.”
It stars singer Patti Smith for no reason (with some additional comments from son Jackson); Dana Snyder (the voice of Master Shake); Todd Hanson (“Squidbillies” voice-over actor); and Fred Armisen (the voice of Abe Lincoln).
Other extras include 30 minutes of Carl ranting about sports, the episode from “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” introducing the team, 37 minutes on the writing of the show including a table read and 21 minutes covering the voice-over work on the show.