Holiday Gift Guide: Television shows on DVD
New releases of TV series allow you to circumnavigate the globe in 'Planet Earth,' follow the 'Flight of the Conchords' from New Zealand to America, or have an adventure in China with Indiana Jones.
The Best of The Colbert Report ($19.99)Skip to next paragraph
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Nation, if you're already hunting down Stephen Colbert's latest book for those on your gift list who can't get enough of the sharply dressed popper of pomposity, plan on adding this single-disc collection of highlights from his Comedy Channel show. It's 175 minutes of bits, not full shows, moving so fast you'll want to pause frequently to give your zygomaticus minor muscle a rest. Full truthiness: Hard-core fans might wish for some extras, or lament the occasional lopped-off intro. But there's still plenty here, including Jane Fonda going all cougarlike and curling up in his lap. (Always fun, however rare, to see Colbert meet his match.) Guest "Papa Bear" Bill O'Reilly even gets into the spirit of the show and posits that his own Colbert-spoofed tough-guy persona is an act. "If you're an act," Colbert says plaintively, "then what am I?" Stephen, you're a folk hero.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume One ($129.99)
This George Lucas series chronicling the early days of his matinee hero is a real gem. The filmmaker shot these seven feature-length films on location around the world, from Kenya to Paris and China, dropping the young hero in and out of history – he meets everyone from Picasso to Freud and Theodore Roosevelt. Great family entertainment, a visual treat, loaded with interesting extras. Educational and fun.
Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First Season ($29.98)
Picture the Butabi brothers from the late-'90s cult movie "A Night at the Roxbury." Overlay Bob and Doug McKenzie, the dialect-mangling Canadian slackers from those old SCTV "Great White North" skits. Now dial back the shenanigans – slightly – and drop the deadpan, self-absorbed duo into New York, where they're folk musicians on a mission. Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie (no relation) are pals from New Zealand who lurch awkwardly through New York's scruffier neighborhoods, often shadowed by their (lone) fan. It takes a couple of episodes of this occasionally off-color HBO production for a viewer to key into its weird rhythms. Many 20-somethings will warm to it instantly. There are funny forays into song, and a wonderful band manager – a moonlighting Kiwi tourism official – who seems to have torn a page from Steve Carell's management book.
Planet Earth – The Complete BBC Series ($79.98)
These 11 episodes, shot in high definition, at a budget of some $25 million, represent a high-water mark in nature documentaries. The teams traveled the globe to 62 countries and 204 locations to capture ice, water, high mountains, deserts, forests, and savannahs. The American version was narrated by Sigourney Weaver; alas, is not as good. Make sure to look for the version narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
My So-Called Life: The Complete Series ($69.99)
Since "My So-Called Life" was canceled in 1995, after just one season, Claire Danes has gone on to have an indisputably successful acting career. But watching her as Angela Chase in this gratifying collection of the series' 19 episodes, it's hard not to feel it was Danes at her finest. She is luminescent and ordinary, muddling through adolescence with translucent skin, flame-colored hair, flannel shirts, and an equally angsty supporting cast of friends and parents. We're told in one of the special features that 13-year-old Danes was chosen over Alicia Silverstone for her innate ability to shift between beautiful and ordinary. Fittingly, the box looks like a journal, opening to reveal liner notes thick with photos and musings – including creator Winnie Holzman on where the show may have gone had it lasted – and a disc of extras with an older, tanner, blonder Danes.