Father’s Day TV Gift Guide: DVD & Blu-ray ideas for dads
Father’s Day arrives this Sunday, and here are a few last-minute DVD & Blu-ray gift suggestions for the dad who loves binge-watching television shows in his man cave.
Gunsmoke: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS Home Entertainment, ratio 1.33:1, rated TV-MA, $338.98) —
Arguably the greatest western ever created in the televised format arrives in a massive, 65th-anniversary edition DVD set compiling all 635 episodes of its 20 season run on 143 discs. This Father’s Day, Dad is sure to love the hours of viewing time here
Original broadcast on the CBS Network between Sept. 10, 1955, and March 31, 1975, the show was set in and around a post-Civil War Dodge City, Kansas, and starred James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon, Dennis Weaver as deputy sidekick Chester Goode, Milburn Stone as Galen “Doc” Adams and Amanda Blake as Long Branch saloon owner Miss Kitty Russell. “Gunsmoke” ended up becoming the second-longest-running, live-action prime-time show in the history of television.
Paramount has done an exceptional job remastering all of the episodes especially noted during the last seven, full-color seasons of the show boasting vibrant, spot-on color correction and image cleanup.
It’s also worth noting for pop culture historians that many a guest star went on to bigger careers such as Harrison Ford, Jodie Foster, Dennis Hopper and Gary Busey, to name a few.
Although the collection is a love letter for fans, it does not offer as much bonus content as one would hope for.
The discs do contain multiple conversations with noted “Gunsmoke” historians Ben Costello and Beckey Burgoyne as they cover the last five seasons of the show (almost 90 minutes), a rare optional commentary track with Arness from 2005, a brief “James Arness: In Memoriam” featurette and some of the original product advertising spots that are pretty amusing.
Criminal Minds: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS Home Entertainment, 13,749 minutes, rated TV-MA, $199.99) —
Yet another intriguing crime drama captivated viewers for an incredible 15 season on CBS with a run boasting 324 episodes and ending earlier this year.
A hefty set complies the entire series on 85 DVDs to showcase the profiling work of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) stationed in Quantico, Virginia. The crack team of agents travel all over the country to solve murders and stop some of the most violent criminals often including serial killers.
Cast heavyweights that brought the drama to creator Jeff Davis’ award-winning series included Mandy Patinkin as BAU chief Jason Gideon (for only the first three seasons), Joe Mantegna as Senior Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi, Thomas Gibson as Special Agent Aaron Hotchner, Matthew Gray Gubler as analysis genius Spencer Reid and Kirsten Vangsness as technical analyst Penelope Garcia.
The villains were equally notable, played by familiar TV or pop culture staples such as Luke Perry (“90210”), Cameron Monaghan (“Gotham”), Keith Carradine (“Dexter”), Tim Curry (“Rocky Horror”) and Brad Dourif (“Chucky”).
Fathers who loved “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which also ran for 15 years on CBS, will absolutely want to dive into this even grittier television show based on the real FBI unit and showcasing the personal lives of the agents as well as the detailed profiling work is done to identify the perpetrators or “unsubs.”
Dad will enjoy the collection, presented into four hefty clamshell cases from individual series DVD releases over the years. The set includes all of the bonus content found on the original discs, roughly 17 hours of optional commentary tracks, featurettes deleted scenes, and the infamous gag reels.
That’s more than a dozen commentaries led off by Mr. Davis on the first episode “Extreme Aggressor,” and segments that offer an overview of the seasons as well as spotlights on the writers, villains, retrospectives and a look at real-world profilers.
30 Rock: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2,963 minutes, rated TV-14, $69.94) —
This Father’s Day, give dad a good laugh. Finally available is “Saturday Night Live” veteran Tina Fey’s Emmy Award-winning, hit sitcom that ran for seven seasons (between 2006 and 2013) on NBC debuts in all of its hilarious glory on the Blu-ray format.
Miss Fey, the creator of the series, stars as Liz Lemon, head writer for a weekly sketch comedy show shot in New York City. Her life is a wise-cracking, surreal and satirical roller coaster ride of a mess as she is forced to deal with her quirky staff, eccentric stars Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (the eye-watering Tracy Morgan) and a new boss Jack Donaghy (an impressively sharp Alec Baldwin before he lost his mind and soul).
The laughs are at or above the “Seinfeld” quotient, and guest stars such as Carrie Fisher, Buck Henry, Matt Damon, Tim Conway, Steve Martin, Alan Alda, Julianne Moore, and Michael Keaton keep the fun fresh for all of the 138 episodes now compiled on 20 discs.
And, best of all, the high-definition format delivers a most welcomed upgrade to the antiquated Universal Home Entertainment DVD sets (yuck).
By far one of the most impressive amounts of bonus content for a TV series (all culled from the DVD sets), the set boasts almost 50 optional commentary tracks that feature everyone from Miss Fey to Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Conway, Lorne Michaels (executive producer), Jon Hamm and for no apparent reason Val Kilmer.
Next, more than three dozen featurettes range from Emmy Award acceptance speeches to behind-the-scenes segments and Brian Williams hosting “An Evening with 30 Rock” at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Best of the bunch was a script read and stage performance held at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre as a fundraiser for the production assistants affected by the 2007 writer’s strike.
The 46-minute organized comedy improvisation featured all of the main cast and plenty of extras as the appreciative audience (hand raised) reveled in the verbal hijinks.
Veep: The Complete Series (HBO Home Entertainment, 1,857 minutes, rated TV-MA, $112.99) —
Former Vice President Selena Meyers hilarious ascent to America’s commander in chief was chronicled for seven seasons by HBO in a 17-time, Emmy Award-winning series.
All 65 episodes now arrive in a 13 DVD disc set to showcase the raw, biting comedic talents of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the bumbling politician and her often idiotic staff that included Tony Hale as her personal assistant Gary Walsh, Anna Chlumsky as occasional press secretary Amy Brookheimer, Reid Scott as campaign manager Dan Egan, Kevin Dunn and Gary Cole as strategists Ben Cafferty and Kent Davison, Matt Walsh as speechwriter Mike McClintock and Timothy C. Simons as resident punching bag Jonah Ryan.
Folks, this is some of the cleverest as well as sophomoric political satire ever unleashed on television audiences and, even in the antiquated standard definition format, it’s well worth a Father’s Day gift to any dad in need of some eye-watering laughs during this year’s election season.
The prime bonus here is for those who love optional commentary tracks. Over three dozen are available including tracks for all episodes in the final season and often feature Miss Louis-Dreyfus and her funny castmates.
The Good Place: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, 1,278 minutes, rated TV-PG, $69.97) —
Dad will appreciate this Father’s Day gift because he may have missed The Good Place broadcasts.
Creator Michael “Park and Recreation” Schur’s philosophically enriched situation comedy ended a four-season run earlier this year on NBC as it attempted to answer the burning question: “What happens when we die?”
Now available on a nine-disc Blu-ray set, all 53 episodes make the case for ending up in a fantasy universe called the Good Place, populated by only the very best of humanity.
Life is grand until a clerical error puts the not-so-perfect Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) with the best of the best, and she mucks up the system while trying to learn how to be a good person to protect her secret.
Besides Miss Bell’s hilariously complex character, Ted Danson plays Michael, a cosmic architect tasked with keeping residents happy in the afterlife, and he crafts another iconic comedic role.
However, this is not the complete series as the set is missing the six webisodes (available on YouTube) that bridges the gap between the third and fourth seasons — boo.
Let’s start with five optional commentary tracks (“Everything Is Fine,” “Flying,” “Mindy St. Claire,” “Michael’s Gambit” and “Dance Dance Resolution”) with a small group of creators and cast assembled to discuss including Mr. Schur and executive producer Drew Goddard on each.
Next, and the meatiest of the featurettes, is a 29-minute table read for the episode “Mindy St. Claire” and a 50-minute San Diego Comic-Con panel from 2019 featuring Mr. Goddard, Miss Bell, Mr. Danson and most of the key cast.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert (Time-Life, ratio 1.78:1, not rated, $69.99) —
Some of the greatest musicians of the evolved rhythm and blues musical genre have been celebrated each year since 1986 with their place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
This six-disc Blu-ray set covers highlights of the 2010 to 2017 ceremonies including induction speeches and performances as well as the 25th-anniversary concert held Oct. 29 and 30, 2009, at Madison Square Garden, all seen on HBO.
The massive collection features more than 150 performances and over 30 hours of music featuring Alice Cooper, Darlene Love, Donovan, Heart, Joan Jett, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, ELO, Journey, Yes, Pearl Jam, Deep Purple, Chicago and Joan Baez.
Some of the best include the tribute to Linda Ronstadt with help from famed singers Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, and Carrie Underwood as well as short sets from the original Cheap Trick line-up and Rush.
The anniversary concerts also shine with once-in-a-lifetime matchups, including Ozzy Osbourne performing with Metallica or Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith teaming up with Bono and U2 for an intense version of “Because the Night.”
For most older dads looking for even more nostalgia, it will be satisfying but still not enough.
Time-Life offers numerous sets that take the Hall of Fame highlights back to the early days when legends such as The Who and Cream were inducted and played live, but the collections are only available in the antiquated DVD format.
Besides a full-color booklet offering specifics on the musical selections, the 25th-anniversary concert collection has an additional hour’s worth of performances.
They include Stevie Wonder playing “Uptight”; “I Was Made to Love Her”; “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”; “Mercy, Mercy Me”; and Bruce Springsteen with Tom Morello performing “London Calling” as well as more music from U2, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Metallica and Jeff Beck.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment, rated TV-14, $32.99) —
“Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” comedy innovators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock unleashed an equally frenetic episodic series on Netflix back in 2015 delivering four-seasons of laughs.
Now available in the high-definition format on eight Blu-ray discs, all 51 episodes of the hilariously scattered show explore the life of 29-year-old, Durnsville, Indiana, native Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), a woman kidnapped by a cult leader, the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) and forced to live in an underground bunker with other females and the evil guy for 15 years.
Once rescued, she looks for freedom and redemption in New York City while enjoying new friendships with roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), landlord Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane) and employer Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski) as she takes part in a Lucille Ball level of chaos nearly every episode.
Viewers get zero bonus content, a terrible tragedy for such a wonderfully surreal and bizarre show.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.