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 Clive Standen (“Vikings”)

Given the astounding success that History Channel found with its previous based-on-stuff-that-really-happened dramatic effort, “Hatfields and McCoys,” it’s no wonder that the network is throwing such a profound promotional push behind its latest endeavor, “Vikings.” Granted, the cast of this one can’t quite compare with headline names like Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, but don’t be so hasty to dismiss it just because you don’t know as many of the actors off the top of your head. After all, at the very least, it’s got Gabriel Byrne, who’s quite good (as anyone who’s watched him on HBO’sIn Treatmentor any number of his many cinematic efforts can handily testify), but, seriously, there’s a lot of other solid actors in the ensemble as well…like, say, Clive Standen, for instance. Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Standen about his work on “Vikings,” but we also managed to chat a bit about his work on “Camelot“  and “Doctor Who as well as a slightly less fondly remembered effort called “Heroes and Villains.”

VikingsCliveStanden

Bullz-Eye: To start with the inevitable, how did you find your way into “Vikings in the first place? Presumably it didn’t hurt that you’d already worked with the creators.

Clive Standen: It was a long process for me. I was fighting them, kicking and screaming, to try and get seen for this. [Laughs.] I was filming with one of the producers of Vikings, Morgan O’Sullivan, when I did “Camelot,” and I remember him and Michael Hirst talking about it quite a lot then as a new, exciting project they’d been working on for ages. Michael had been invested in the Viking saga for a long time. Right from the beginning, I think they were looking for big names, and they had their kind of wish list, with people like Viggo Mortensen and…well, it was a completely different breed. And I was stuck in “Camelot,” and I was just so jealous. When “Camelot” was finished, I was writing letters and, as I say, kicking and screaming, saying, “Can I get seen for it?” And they wanted to see me for Rollo, which is the part that I played, but for some reason I went on this whole journey of doing screen tests and things for the part of Ragnar. At the very end, though, they offered me Rollo, which was the part that I wanted in the first place, so I must say it made me very happy.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Brian Cox (“The Straits”)

The watching of one’s favorite programs has increasingly stretched beyond the TV set and onto the internet, with various online viewing outlets providing exclusive programming for its subscribers. In the case of Hulu, Stateside viewers suffering from Anglophilia have been particularly excited about seeing a flurry of programming from the UK turning up, but now they’re starting to bring us a few treats from down under as well.

The crime-family drama “The Straits,” starring Brian Cox, who you probably know from “Manhunter” or “Braveheart” or possibly even “Super Troopers,” premiered on Hulu a few days back and will be doling out a new episode every week, but once you’ve started watching, between the dialogue, the action, the humor, and, sure, the sex and violence, too, you’ll find that a week will seem like a bloody lifetime

Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to chat with Cox about his new endeavor, not to mention a few other highlights from his none-too-shabby back catalog, but be forewarned: he’s been talking about “The Straits” in the past tense for awhile now – it premiered in Australia back in February – so you’ll see that he has a tendency to slip up and offer spoilers on occasion. Not that they’ll stop your overall enjoyment of the series, but just don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Bullz-Eye: Well, I didn’t have enough lead time to absorb all 10 episodes of “The Straits,” but I’ve knocked out three of them thus far, and I’m really enjoying it.

Brian Cox: Well, good! Good, good, good. [Laughs.] It’s a good show!

BE: It is. A nice blend of drama, a bit of humor here and there, and certainly some darkness.

BC: Yeah, it’s got a black-comedy effect about it.

BE: So how did “The Straits” fall into your lap? Did they approach you directly?

BC: They did! They got in touch. I was doing “That Championship Season” on Broadway, and I just got this call from my English agent…because I have agents here and I’ve got agents in England…and they said, “How do you feel about going to Australia?” And the irony was that I’d been trying to get Australia for about the last four or five years, and I’m thinking, “Well, it’s only ever gonna be a job that gets me out there.” So when I got this call, I said, “I’ll do it! I don’t care what it is. I’m desperate to go to Australia!” [Laughs.] Then they said, “Well, hang on, read the script!” And I read the script, and I said, “Well, this is even better: a great job, a great role, and I get to go to Australia! This is a must!” So my wife came and my kids came, and it was a fantastic opportunity, one which I cherish. And I’m very sad that we’re not going to do some more of it, because I do think we were just…you know, the potential of it is enormous. But they’re a little nervous about it, because it’s about a crime family.  But what I love about this show and what I love about Australia…

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The Light from the TV Shows: Gifts for the TV Geek

You’ve no doubt already seen the TV-DVD recommendations in Bullz-Eye’s Holiday Gift Guide, but what if you’ve got a TV geek on your gift list who already has every single DVD set on our list? Fortunately for you, I’ve rounded up a few not-at-all-cheap suggestions.

“Community” Holiday Exclusive Gift Set

Features a “Troy & Abed in the Morning” coffee cup (“With a generous capacity of 15 ounces, refills are not needed!”), a Warhol-inspired Troy & Abed poster, a t-shirt featuring the Greendale Seven in video game form. and a plush Human Being…which, if you’re not already a fan of the show, probably warrants a bit of explanation. Per the NBC online store, “The Greendale Community Human Being plush mascot reflects the diversity of Greendale and our species by being nothing at all. Now you can have your own creepy version!” If that doesn’t sound like the icing on a delicious “Community” cake, then…well, uh, you’re probably not the target demo. But maybe you know someone who is, so keep it in mind just in case. ($50.00)


“Dexter” LOOK/SEE Limited Edition Sunglasses

Described as “perhaps the greatest Dexter usable collectable out there,” what you get is a set of sunglasses with white frames spattered in blood, stored in a wooden case which, not coincidentally, looks quite a bit like Dexter’s “trophy case.” The case also includes blood slides and a syringe. Move fast, though: it’s a limited edition set – there are only 500 units being produced, and each wooden case is individually numbered. ($149.95)

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Your appointment with the Doctor is hereby scheduled

“Doctor Who,” that is. (What, like you were expecting it to be Dr. Pepper?)

At 9 PM on April 17th, everyone’s favorite Time Lord…well, statistically speaking, anyway…is making his return to BBC America in his new guise, which has him looking remarkably like actor Matt Smith. He is the Eleventh Doctor, if you’re keeping count, and he will be accompanied by a new traveling companion: Amy Pond, played by the highly cute Karen Gillan.

According to the publicity department, they will be exploring sixteenth century Venice, France during the 1890s, and the United Kingdom in the far future, where the nation is floating in space, and the new series will feature episodes written by Richard Curtis (“Pirate Radio,” “Love Actually”) and Toby Whithouse (“Being Human,” “Torchwood”) and guest stars including Alex Kingston (“ER,” “Flash Forward”), James Corden (“Gavin & Stacey,” “The History Boys”) and Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo (“The Secret Life of Bees,” “Hotel Rwanda”) and Tony Curran (“24″).

You can get more info by heading over to the “Doctor Who” portion of the BBC America website, but for now, enjoy this trailer for the new season. Is this a Dalek I see before me…? Why, yes, I believe it is…


  

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