2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Television

Television fans must love the holidays, because it’s the one time of year when studios unleash a host of massive box sets collecting their favorite dramas and comedies. This year is no different, with several critically acclaimed shows getting the complete series treatment. But while we like to devour an entire TV show just as quickly as the next person, sometimes a little self-discipline is required, which is why we’ve also included some less time-consuming (and more affordable) suggestions as well.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series

Is there anything more to be said about the late, great “Breaking Bad” at this point, other than the fact that it was one of the greatest TV series of all time and that, although it went out in a blaze of glory, it’s left a vacuum that’ll be damned hard to fill? Nah, that about sums it up. But if you’re a fan and you’re continuing to mourn, then Sony has put together a set that’s so awesome that it’s almost too much to handle… but not quite. The 16-disc set includes all 62 episodes and more than 55 hours of special features, including an all-new documentary which chronicles the making of the final season, and, of course, all of the bonus material from the previous season sets remains intact too. The whole thing comes packaged in a barrel, as well a series about a meth manufacturer should, along with a Los Pollos Hermanos apron, a collectible booklet featuring a letter from Vince Gilligan and a commemorative Breaking Bad challenge coin. We don’t actually know what a challenge coin is, but we do know that it was designed and created by Gilligan himself, and dammit, that’s good enough for us.

Dexter: The Complete Series

Loosely based on Jeff Linsday’s popular series of crime novels, “Dexter” is probably the biggest hit in Showtime’s history, which only makes its steady decline over the years that much more maddening. Though the last four seasons were incredibly uneven compared to the show’s first four years, “Dexter” continued to be appointment television every week thanks to Michael C. Hall’s brilliant, Golden Globe-winning performance as the titular antihero. It also featured an excellent rotating cast of guest stars that included John Lithgow, Keith Carradine, Jimmy Smits, Julia Stiles and Jonny Lee Miller, and at times, some of the best writing on TV. It’s actually quite amazing that a show with a serial killer as its protagonist was able to last as long as it did, and though it faltered a bit in the end, there are plenty of diehard “Dexter” fans that would kill to own this complete series set. Designed to look like the character’s iconic blood slide box (with every Blu-ray case featuring a blood drop on the bottom), the 25-disc set – which features all eight seasons and a bonus disc filled with over five hours of never-before-seen extras – is definitely one of the cooler collector’s items on the market.

Weeds: The Complete Collection

HBO has long been considered the undisputed leader of premium cable, but without shows like “Weeds” and “Dexter,” Showtime never would have become the worthy competitor that it is today. Though Jenji Kohan’s dark comedy series suffered a drop in quality during its later seasons, it delivered more than its share of subversively funny moments (as well as those of the WTF variety) over the course of its eight-year run. Constantly reinventing itself after Season Three’s game-changing finale, “Weeds” may not have always succeeded in the risks that it took with the storytelling, but it’s one of the few shows with the kind of punk-rock attitude to even consider taking such risks. And throughout its numerous highs and lows, the core cast never faltered, especially star Mary-Louise Parker, who made “Weeds” must-see TV for her crazy/sexy performance alone. For those that haven’t yet seen the series, or just never got around to picking up each season individually, now is the perfect time with this complete series set, which comes packaged in a nifty, translucent green box and features new bonus material like a cast roundtable, interviews with fan-favorite recurring characters and more.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with James Brolin (‘Christmas with Tucker’)

James Brolin has been a star of TV and film since the ’60s, rarely disappearing from either for very long before popping back up somewhere or other, and tonight at 9 PM he can be found starring in “Christmas with Tucker,” the debut original movie from the Hallmark Movie Channel (which, just in case you aren’t aware, is a separate entity from the Hallmark Channel), playing a gruff but loveable grandfatherly type fella who gets to have a lot of scenes with a very cute dog. I was fortunate enough to chat with Brolin for a bit when he attended this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, and – as you’ll read below – I was even more fortunate to be able to continue the conversation a bit later.

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Bullz-Eye: So you’re in a dog movie, but are you a dog guy by nature?

James Brolin: Yeah, but guess what? I don’t have a dog right now. But I’m kind of shopping! The thing is, I’m not sure where I’m going to be next, and I kind of hate to go off and leave a dog once I have it. I’ve found that didn’t work well in the past. But I got my wife a dog. And the dog is… I can’t believe she’s had it 10 years now. And it sleeps right here. [Points to his head.] It likes the top of the couch or the head pillow. So usually, if you roll over it or around it, it gets out of your way and just goes down to the other end. Anyway, I’ve been moved to the back seat of the car now. [Laughs.] Those two run things.

BE: Yeah, we just got a dog a few months ago, so I know what you mean.

JB: Oh, yeah. If it ain’t a baby, it’s a dog. [Laughs.]

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BE: How was this dog, Tucker, to work with?

JB: Fine! Really good natured. He would do all the things, and then when you’d go to shoot, sometimes the dog would have a little brain fade or confusion, but it’s not unusual. You just keep going. You have the trainer keep going, you run the camera, and now with digital, you can just turn the camera on and let it run for two hours, and then you go in there, wade through it, and pick out just what you need. But that’s Filmmaking 101, in a way. If you have time for that, you do that. And if you’re doing a dog picture, you make time. And the kids… Anyone youthful who was involved was just right on. Gage (Munroe) is just like a honed pro, so that wasn’t an issue. Kids weren’t an issue. But animals are always an issue, and you just need to schedule the time to shoot and shoot and shoot a little bit.

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Bullz-Eye tackles Tough Mudder Lake Tahoe Degree DO:MORE Style!

Degree Men DO-MORE CORPS

There is no feeling on earth like sliding into the $125 robe in your room at the Ritz Carlton after spending six hours on the most difficult obstacle course in the world. Wait a minute, did someone say “Carlton”?  I thought they did.

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This robe is the kind of robe Carlton would’ve rocked when he was on “Silver Spoons” with Ricky Schroeder. God, how I yearned to ride on that sweet in-house train, even just to go get the mail. Imagine me and the robe and the train. We’d run a train on the train; me, Carlton, the robe, Ricky… good times.

Sure, I thought about stealing the robe. Who wouldn’t? But the minute I stepped foot off the premises, the magic would’ve been gone, like when a young Moonlight Graham steps over the foul line in “Field of Dreams” to be irrevocable transformed into Doc, the kindly doctor who removes a piece of hot dog from Kevin Costner’s daughter’s airway to save her life.

Anyway, I left the robe, and about a pound of ball skin, on the mountain that day, and lived to tell the tale.

Keeping it REAL klassy on the mountain...

Keeping it REAL klassy on the mountain…

But you know what I didn’t leave on the mountain that day, friends? Sweat, or a stench of any kind. That’s because Degree had my back, not unlike the way Chuck Norris had Jonathan Brandis’ back in the movie “Sidekicks.”

Degree allows you to DO: MORE with three levels of protection.

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Breaking Bad 5.16 – “Felina”

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“My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to the AMC viewers now. There are… there are going to be some things, things that you’ll come to learn about me in the next five seasons. I just want you to know that, no matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart. Goodbye.”

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what Walt said in the opening moments of the first episode of “Breaking Bad,” but as I sat down to write this, my review of the last episode of “Breaking Bad,” the paraphrasing seemed like as apropos a way to kick things off as any.

I’ll be honest: as much as I wanted to just let the events of the series finale wash over me and accept whatever Vince Gilligan wanted to give me, it was impossible to walk into the proceedings without feeling like a kid at Christmas, giggling and wondering, “What am I gonna get?” We knew the big-ass gun in Walt’s trunk and the ricin he’d retrieved from his house were both going to come into play, but we didn’t know how. Well, not really, anyway. The two big theories I kept hearing about the ricin were that he was going to slip it into Lydia’s tea or drink it himself, but I’d also heard convincing dismissals of both theories, so I really didn’t have any clue how things would play out. Besides, I’ve said more times than I can count that this is a series that never fails to zig when you think it’s going to zag, so there’s just no point in trying to guess. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get really, really excited about the prospect of finding out.

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Breaking Bad 5.15 – “Granite State”

After hearing about Saul’s “guy” for quite some time without ever getting the slightest hint about the identity of this individual that could, for a price, make you disappear, it seemed reasonable to presume that we might never actually catch a glimpse of him. Surprisingly, however, we were finally introduced to him this week, and the casting couldn’t have been any better: ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Robert Forster. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but, dammit, he might well go down in history as my favorite Breaking Bad guest star of all time. Blame it on my love of Jackie Brown and a youthful obsession with Alligator if you wish, but for my money, you just don’t get much cooler than Robert Forster.

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As it turns out, Saul’s also taking advantage of his “guy,” and with good reason, given that he’s arguably the only one in the mix with a higher profile than Walter White at the moment. Soon, he’ll be living in Nebraska and – fingers crossed! – maybe even managing a Cinnabon. First, though, he’s got to escape from the clutches of his temporary bunkmate. Despite seeing him hop into the van and drive away at the end of last week’s episode, Walt’s departure from ABQ has yet to take place, due to the fact that, as implied a moment ago, he’s a pretty hot commodity that just about every law enforcement agency in America wants to get a piece of. Not that that’s stopped him from spending his time in the basement of the vacuum-repair place figuring out how to extract his revenge on Todd’s uncle and his neo-Nazi pals.

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