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On the 10th day of Festivus, TV gave to me ...

by Debra McDuffee, posted Dec 14th 2008 2:49PM
Mad Men lighter DVD case... Ten shows on DVD

Since there are twelve shows a-stinkin' on TV this year (well, that's the low estimate), you might be glad to hear that 2008 brought us some spectacular TV on DVD. You knew there had to be a bright spot, right?

Whether you want to re-watch your favorite classic shows from the '50s or '60s (or earlier), or catch up on one of the hottest shows on current TV (yeah, there are a few) by starting with the first season, they've been released on DVD in 2008. It was actually hard to pick just ten, but for better or for worse, here are my picks:

The Little Rascals, The Complete Collection (1929-1938)
Released in October, this is the ultimate DVD set for Little Rascals fans. And even if you're not a fan, you've got to appreciate this set from the collector's standpoint. You may not have loved Spanky, Alfalfa and the rest of the gang, but they were cutting edge back in the '30s.

The Love Boat, season one
Volume one was released in March, followed by volume two in August. Sure, it was campy, but season one of The Love Boat marks the beginning of an era. Whenever you tuned in, you knew you'd find Doc getting laid, Gopher getting goofy, Issac getting smooth, and Captain Stubing leading with dignity. Oh, and Julie being well, a cruise director. Shuffleboard on the Lido deck, anyone?

The real claim-to-fame of TLB, though, is the showcase for guest stars that it became. If you were anyone in the '70s or '80s, you were sure to have guest-starred on the ship destined for Puerta Vallarta (Charo?). Other shows followed suit: Fantasy Island, even this decade's Las Vagas, but The Love Boat was the original.

The Smurfs, season one
Speaking of the start of an era, any child of the '80s -- heck, anyone alive during the '80s -- knows of the huge phenomenon the little blue Smurfs became. They brought a whole new meaning to the term "merchandising." But really, it was a cute little show that was timely in capturing a wide audience, and it was not only fun reminiscing with this DVD set; I got to share my fondness for everything blue with my four-year-old.

Jericho, the complete series
This one had to make the list, for it's not often that a fan campaign actually brings a show back for a second season. I'm not sure what it was about this show that made it so special, but anyone who wants to find out can catch the whole season at once, and join the Jericho nuts, a fitting campaign topic for the show and the fans.

Mad Men, season one
Yet another show that has set the bar for shows to come. Since the start of Mad Men, we've seen other shows debut that are set in the past -- Life on Mars -- and shows about the ad business too -- Big Shots, Trust Me -- so you know you're onto something good when the copycats start popping up. Plus, this DVD set comes in a very cool case, a Zippo lighter that flips up and reveals the DVDs, so this one's an owner, for sure.

Get Smart, season one
And speaking of a show that influenced many to come, Get Smart even inspired a classy cartoon, Inspector Gadget. This spy show had clever gadgets, a funny lead and a sexpot. There's a recipe for success.

The Donna Reed Show, the complete first season

How could a family comedy centered around a working mom become so influential? Seeing as this show ran for seven seasons in the '50s and '60s, and its main story is the basis for probably half the sitcoms to follow since, I guess the rest is history.

Little House on the Prairie, the complete television series

The complete series? Oh yeah! Nine seasons, I repeat, nine seasons, following the lives of the Ingalls family, Michael Landon at the helm. This show was a staple in American homes, was way better than that nameless show with John Boy, but had the family values and historical value that made it a family favorite.

The Sopranos, the complete series
I don't like it, but I totally get it, and know why it needed to be on this list. Never done before, quality, gritty TV, dysfunctional family, mobster with panic attacks, yeah, yeah, yeah. Plus a finale that had everone talking. Probably you should own this one.

The Wire, the complete series
There are very few series as critically and viewer acclaimed as The Wire. Not easy to watch at times, its accuracy of urban life portrayal and its cinematic artistry makes this one a must-own, or at least a must-catch if you missed it the first time around (as most of you did, judging by the ratings).

I can't believe how many stellar shows I had to leave off this list -- ten is way too short! I tried to make it a diverse list that encompassed different eras, different tastes, and even some with historical significance. How'd I do? Some of my favorites didn't make the cut (it killed me to delete That Girl and Damages), as I'm sure some of yours didn't either. Tell us about some other great TV on DVD of 2008 in the comments.

Twelve shows a stinkin'
Eleven babes worth watchin'

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I guess I have to call the Mad Men Zippo Case a copy-cat. It was one on the Wailers LP "Catch A Fire" in 1973, in an limited run. I believe that some CD-reissues also used a Zippo Case. And there may be other products using the same gimmick...

December 16 2008 at 5:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Does anyone know where I can get the Zippo lighter DVD set of Mad Men? I received the set as a gift several months ago, and it was the regular set with a really poor plastic-y outside cover that keeps scratching the the set every time I remove it or scrapes my hand when I try to put them back in. I thought the zippo set was limited edition, more expensive than the regular set, or both

December 15 2008 at 1:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, since Malren has already eloquently covered my objections to referring to LoM as a copycat show, I'll provide a few of my choices.

Torchwood - Seasons 1 & 2
Spaced: The Complete Series
Quark: The Complete Series
Chuck - Season 1
Burn Notice - Season 1
Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Collection
Freakazoid! - Season 1

Breaking from the Season 1/Complete Series concept:

Doctor Who - Series 4
Night Gallery - Season 2
Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Complete Book 3

December 15 2008 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not fair saying that Life on Mars is a copycat show due to being set in the past. First of all, LoM is a Brit show from 2006. Remaking it for the US had *nothing* to do with Mad Men at all. A writer for a TV blog should know that, especially if you are going to use the show as the foundation for part of an argument about what makes Mad Men great.

Secondly the way being in the past is explored in both shows - both in the actual period and in how it is used thematically - have nothing whatsoever in common other than the fact that women were second class citizens and beginning to break out of that secretary/housewife mold in a big way. That's not enough of a commonality to hang the "copycat" label on LoM, especially since the source material - UK LoM - came *first*.

December 14 2008 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to malren's comment
Debra McDuffee

I did know those things about LoM, Malren, and I thought about them as I was writing this. Even though LoM is based on the Brit show of 2006, it was timely in that it appeared on American TV when they knew a show set in the past would do well. Just like the rash of medical dramas after ER's success, etc.

December 14 2008 at 8:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, then that makes it *worse* to label LoM a copycat. You shouldn't toss that accusation off so frivolously. I seriously doubt Mad Men's critical success (and let's face it, AMC's tiny ratings) made one *whit* of difference in the decision to remake LoM for a US audience on a network.

I just do not see the point of labeling the US LoM a copycat show. By the way I'm not defending it because I love it. Just the opposite, actually...I hated the very idea of it and watched ten minutes of the pilot. I consider the UK LoM to be one of the very few perfect television properties to ever be created and wish it could remain untouched and un-re-made.

I'm just taking issue with what I see as a frivolous accusation that it's a copycat of Mad Men. I feel like the two have almost nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Mad Men doesn't need to be propped up with flawed arguments; it's simply fantastic all by its lonesome. :)

Well now that I've been a total dick...I love your list and actually agree with all your picks. Lists can be subjective, but you picked a good and interesting mix for good and interesting reasons.

December 15 2008 at 12:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You left off everyones favorite - According To Jim.

December 14 2008 at 6:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Frisky Dingo (season 1). Criminally underappreciated [adult swim] comedy.

December 14 2008 at 4:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Zachary's comment

Totally agreed about Frisk Dingo. Brilliant show that truly captures the cynical, sarcastic humor that so many Adult Swim shows try for but cannot do well.

December 14 2008 at 7:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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