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It was an idea so outlandish it shouldn’t have worked –- a midseason replacement series that used a single day in the life of a federal agent as the basis for its dramatic narrative. After all, how much could happen in a mere 24 hours? Well, if you’re Jack Bauer (the terrific Kiefer Sutherland), the answer is amazingly intricate. Season Five, available in an impressive DVD set overflowing with added content (including a preview of Season Six) presented Bauer with his most baffling case yet –- a series of assassinations and a nerve gas threat that, at first, appeared linked to some rogue Russian and a recently signed anti-terrorism treaty. But the truth was far more terrifying, as he eventually learns of a link to…well, you’ll just have to watch to find out.  [Amazon]

Talk about perfectly timed… we’re in a vital election year and Warner Home Video has served up the best DVD set of the season.  The award-winning Aaron Sorkin drama left the airwaves just this past May and already we’ve got the deluxe treatment on offer.  All seven seasons come in a handsome blue box with requisite presidential seal, organized like a nifty set of government files inside—a rare occasion where the bureaucratic aesthetic is pleasing.  The bonus documentaries offer a fascinating look behind the scenes, especially the 30-minute short on the live debate between Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). Yeah, the price tag is high, but this is some of the best writing and acting on a US TV drama ever, so it’s worth every penny.  Plus, with such lavish packaging, it has “buy me as a present” stamped all over it.  This is an essential addition to the DVD collection of anyone who believes in TV as a true art form. [Amazon]


The West Wing - Debate Rehearsal

An amazing motherload for classic film fans, this epic coffee table offering celebrates a half century of preservation and presentation by one of the business’ most significant contributors to cinema. Covering groundbreaking masterpieces by such seminal artists as Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game, Grand Illusion) Federico Fellini (La Strada, The White Shiek), Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Seven Samurai) and François Truffaut (The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim) among many, many others, this linen bound box complete with a 240-page illustrated book, stands as the benchmark in DVD’s brief entertainment tenure. As an overview and a singular achievement, Essential Art House stands as a stunning example of the importance of film as an international forum of expression. [Amazon]

Seven Samurai - Trailer

It’s enough to make fans of the famous dance team swoon with song and dance possibilities—10 films, a bonus CD, another disc featuring a comprehensive documentary and a startling array of complementary features. Just having the ability to own every film this dynamic duo made (Flying Down to Rio / The Gay Divorcee / Roberta / Top Hat / Follow the Fleet / Swing Time / Shall We Dance / Carefree / The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle / The Barkleys of Broadway) should be motivation enough for an instantaneous purchase. But Warner Brothers hedges it bets by providing the best possible print of each film possible, and then larding each entry with enough extra goodies to seal the cinematic deal. [Amazon]

“Cheek to Cheek” from Top Hat

“Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails” from Top Hat

Shaun Cassidy (that’s right, Mr. “Da Do Run Run” himself) can’t seem to get a break in network television. He has masterminded several sensational series (American Gothic, The Agency, the recent Invasion) only to see them unceremoniously cancelled before their time. Nowhere was this truer than in his sword and sandal epic for Fox, Roar. Starring an unknown Heath Ledger and centering on a young Irishman’s battles against the oncoming Roman onslaught, Fox hoped that the series could cash in on some of Hercules/Xena’s crazed cult audience. Sadly, the show was not a campy kitsch companion piece to said series, and after 13 scant installments, it was cancelled. Thanks to DVD however, fans and newcomers have a chance to revisit this special series—and ponder what if. [Amazon]

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