Gift ideas for TV fans
The holidays are a time for diehard television fans to think inside the box -- the box set, that is.
But fair warning: Most of the offerings we herald here are not for wimps. They're deluxe, king-sized extravaganzas that challenge their recipients to hunker down for hours and hours of programming served up on silver platters. It's an undertaking for only the heartiest of sofa spuds.
Also, some of the sets will fetch a big chunk of change. Just be aware, however, that these are suggested retail prices. If you do some searching, you can pay much less much through discount outlets and online sources.
"Seinfeld: The Complete Series" ($284, Sony Home Entertainment)
You truly can be the master of your domain with this 32-disc monstrosity that contains all the usual bonus goodies, including deleted scenes, commentaries, bloopers, documentaries and yada, yada, yada.
The real treats, however, are two items not included with the individual season sets: a 226-page souvenir book called "The Official Coffee Table Book" and a freewheeling "roundtable" discussion among the show's main foursome -- Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander and Michael Richards -- along with co-creator Larry David.
The former is packed with color photos, trivia and recaps of all 180 episodes. The latter has the gang reminiscing about their incredible nine years of working on a show about "nothing" that turned out to be really something.
"Everybody Loves Raymond: The Complete Series" ($279.99, HBO Home Video)
For the first time ever, all 210 episodes of "Raymond" can be found under one roof -- literally. Yes, the 44 discs that make up this set come neatly encased in a cardboard house that has the smiling Barones peering out the windows. It's either very sweet or kind of creepy, depending on your point of view.
"Raymond" was never as hip as "Seinfeld," but it enjoyed an equally long run (nine seasons) and its cast (Ray Romano, Patricia Heaton, Brad Garrett, Doris Roberts, Peter Boyle) was just as cohesive. Most significantly, the show succeeded where so many family sitcoms failed -- by being consistently hilarious.
The extras in this set don't go much beyond the norm, but there is a reproduced script of the series finale autographed by the show's writers.
"The War" ($129.99, PBS Home Video)
Ken Burns' 15-hour masterpiece deserves all the raves it has garnered. Dispensing with the conventional textbook formula that relies on world leaders and generals, it takes a "bottom-up" approach to examine World War II through the eyes of common Americans who experienced firsthand the "greatest cataclysm in history."
The result is an incredibly intimate, emotionally powerful film that will stay with you long after you view it.
Extras in the six-disc set include a behind-the-scenes featurette about the making of the film, commentary by Burns and producing partner Lynn Novick, deleted scenes, additional interviews with many of the film's principals, and then-and-now "biographies" of the four towns that served as the spine of the series.
"Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition" ($108.99, CBS/Paramount)
Serve up the hot coffee and cherry pie. We finally have Seasons 1 and 2 of David Lynch's surreal small-town murder mystery in one sleek package, including the show's pilot episode and its international version.
The 10-disc set contains all 30 episodes, which have been lovingly remastered under Lynch's supervision, and they unfold, as one character puts it, "like a beautiful dream and terrible nightmare all at once."
Among the extras are a compelling feature-length documentary on the series, a half-hour discussion among Lynch and some cast members, and an interactive map that points out where some of the key events of the spooky story took place.
"Gilmore Girls: The Complete Series" ($258, Warner Bros.)
Here's a set for fans who just can never have enough of quaint and quirky Stars Hollow. It comes packed in an adorable padded vinyl doll box, which is sturdy enough to hold 42 discs and more than 110 hours of Lorelai-and-Rory memories.
The bonus treats the usual documentaries, deleted scenes and trivia. But the highlight is a 60-page glossary of "Gilmorisms" to help you keep up with all the witty pop-cultural references on which the show prided itself.
"My So-Called Life: The Complete Series" ($69.99, Shout!)
The series that launched Claire Danes' career lasted for only 19 episodes over a six-month period in 1994, but has gone on to attain legendary status among television buffs -- and rightfully so. It set a standard for teen dramas that few have attained.
The bonus material in this six-disc set includes a "My So-Called Life Story" featurette, commentaries, interviews and a 40-page booklet in which such people as Joss Whedon and Janeane Garofalo pay loving tribute to the series.