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Revisit old favorites with DVD sets


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When it comes to buying DVD box sets as gifts, complete runs of television shows fare best. Not only do they give fans the opportunity to watch all episodes of their favorite dramas and comedies on their own time, sets also come with special features like commentaries, deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes segments to augment viewing pleasure.

So here's a select list of TV show box sets released during the year, plus some special movie sets for your consideration. (Note: These are all standard versions, as opposed to those offered in more expensive Blu-ray editions.)

» While not yet a complete series set, we can't ignore ”;Hawaii Five-0: The Sixth Season”; and ”;The Seventh Season”; ($49.99 each). Collections of the gritty, locally filmed crime series apparently sell well enough that releases are already up to season seven of the 12-season series since the first one debuted in March of 2007. At this rate a value-pack collection of the complete run should be out in 2 1/2 years. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much in terms of special features since Emme Tomimbang's documentary included in the first-season package. Even so, it's still fun to try to place scenes in our changed landscape. And, it starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett, for crying out loud!

Another classic series getting a repackaging is ”;The Prisoner: The Complete Series Megaset”; ($69.95). Re-released in conjunction with AMC's contemporary re-imagining of the series starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellan. I remember being captivated as a teenager watching this mysterious and challenging British series starring Patrick McGoohan as a spy who quits his work, only to end up in a supposed idyllic seaside village from which he regularly tries to escape with the classified information in his brain. The “;Megaset”; is basically the same as the 2006 40th-anniversary edition, but if you're a fan of “;Lost,”; you will find the “;Prisoner”; equally puzzling.

» Two previous hit network shows get renewed “;prime-time”; treatment: ”;Ally McBeal: The Complete Series”; ($199.98) and ”;Dawson's Creek: The Complete Series”; ($119.95). “;Ally McBeal”; keeps all the memorable music from the series intact (including a best-of soundtrack), while presenting a new retrospective of the show and a crossover episode of “;The Practice”; that was a continuation of an “;Ally”; episode, starring Calista Flockhart.

; Special features for the coming-of-age drama “;Dawson's Creek”; include an interview with creator Kevin Williamson, a trivia game and a bonus CD that includes series music.

» The popularity of cable-only series has grown over the years, and two deserving another look are ”;The Shield: The Complete Series”; ($159.95) and ”;Rome: The Complete Series”; ($99.98). “;The Shield,”; a superb amoral-cop drama starring Michael Chiklis, includes a bonus disc of two new documentaries: the first recounting a police scandal that spurred Shawn Ryan to create the show, and the other a tour of “;the Barn”; location set.

HBO's “;Rome,”; a high-level dramatization of the events surrounding the reign and fall of Julius Caesar, was riveting and filled with action, political scheming and, because we're talking premium cable, sex and violence. Relive it through 22 episodes on 11 discs.

» In the clever-and-cool-packaging category, hands-down winners are ”;Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series”; ($279.98) and ”;Futurama: The Complete Collection”; ($199.98). Both sets store their numerous DVDs in head-shaped packaging — Cylon and Bender, respectively — and are perfect for any thoughtful sci-fi fan. “;Battlestar's”; got special “;webisodes”; and a Cylon action figure. The “;Futurama”; set really is complete, containing all the episodes from the animated series' first run, plus all four feature-length adventures that entertained fans after its initial cancellation and before its coming renewal. They're all contained in a limited-edition set with a numbered letter from creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen.

» At the movies, there are 70th-anniversary collector's editions of ”;The Wizard of Oz”; ($84.99) and ”;Gone With the Wind”; ($69.92). Besides the usual DVD extras, both include commemorative collectibles: “;Oz”; has a limited-edition watch, replica of the original film budget, a hardcover book about the movie's production and a reproduction of the original 1939 campaign book.

“;Gone With the Wind”; includes a collectible photo and art book, art cards, a journal and the bonus feature “;Moviola: The Scarlett O'Hara War.”;

» On the darker side of life, there's the ”;Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics, Vol. 1”; ($59.95), all from the studio's 1950s period. Two of the better films are Fritz Lang's “;The Big Heat”; and Don Siegel's powerful thriller “;The Lineup.”; In addition to a couple of select movie audio commentaries, contemporary directors Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann and Christopher Nolan discuss the films in interviews.

» Finally, we get ”;Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut”; ($43.98), “;the complete story, as it was meant to be seen,”; reads the promotional copy. “;The Ultimate Cut”; incorporates more live-action scenes and the animated “;Tales of the Black Freighter,”; compared with the earlier released “;Director's Cut”; DVD, now making the movie 3 1/2 hours long. In addition to two new commentaries by director Zack Snyder and original graphic-novel illustrator Dave Gibbons, other specials released on their own DVDs — “;Tales from Under the Hood”; (part of the initial and separate “;Black Freighter”;) and “;Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic”; — are now part of this “;ultimate cut”; set.