NEW YORK — Sure, DVDs are slightly old-school in this age of streaming media. But a boxed set of a great TV show has elegance that goes beyond the episodes it has compiled. And it's a welcome backup when your cable or Internet goes on the fritz. Here are some DVD suggestions, listed decade by decade from TV's infancy. (And before you blanch at the suggested retail price, keep in mind these packages are generally available for much, much less.)
"I Love Lucy (The Complete Series)" (Paramount Home Video; $79.99). Better than a flask of Vitameatavegamin, this 33-disk collection rounds up all the antics of Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel on TV's first great situation comedy.
"Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show (The Complete Series)" (Shout! Factory; $129.99). This classic military comedy, which aired from 1955 to 1959, was also known as "You'll Never Get Rich." But by any name, it's a wonderfully irreverent exception to early sitcoms as it highlights the cagey Sgt. Ernie Bilko with his Army scams, which usually result in unforeseen fallout.
"The Dick Van Dyke Show (The Complete Remastered Series)" (Image Entertainment; $199.98). Ohhh, Rob! This domestic-and-workplace sitcom stars Van Dyke as a harried comedy writer and Mary Tyler Moore as his lovely wife in a rich blend of sophisticated humour leavened with hijinks and the well-timed pratfall.
"Star Trek (The Complete Series)" (Paramount Home Video; $79.99). Boldly return to the sci-fi series that boldly started it all, starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei and the other frontier-seekers on the Starship Enterprise.
"Great American Dream Machine (The Complete Series)" (Entertainment One; $39.99). Largely forgotten today, it predated Six Flags' Great American Scream Machine as well as "Saturday Night Live," but this satirical variety series aired on PBS from 1971 through 1973 with cutting-edge skits and political humour from the likes of future "SNL"-ers Chevy Chase and Albert Brooks, and even Andy Rooney, establishing itself as a comedy landmark.
"Little House on the Prairie (The Complete Series, Deluxe Remastered)" (Lionsgate Films, $149.98). A rosy, heartwarming portrait of pioneer life, it premiered in 1974 and aired for nine seasons, with Michael Landon starring as the patriarch of the Ingalls clan and Melissa Gilbert as his adorable daughter Laura.
"The Wonder Years (The Complete Series)" (Time Life/WEA, $199.95). Available on DVD for the first time, this beloved series follows sixth-grader Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as he experiences childhood and other challenges of American life circa 1968 (not to mention his first kiss).
"The Thorn Birds" (Warner Home Video, $29.98). Originally airing in 1983, it reigns as the second-highest-rated miniseries ever (bested only by "Roots"), based on the bestselling novel that follows a priest and his struggles between his spiritual calling and his carnal lusts. It stars Richard Chamberlain along with Rachel Ward, Barbara Stanwyck and Christopher Plummer.
— "Friends (The Complete Series)" (Warner Home Video; $202.92). Six young caffeine comrades bonded in Manhattan for a decade on one of TV's most successful sitcoms. In this collection, all 236 episodes are there for you.
"The West Wing (The Complete Series)" (Warner Home Video; $299.98). Who wouldn't love a man in the White House like Josiah Bartlet? Well, probably a lot of people. But that takes nothing away from this glorious series, which, in the guise of a realistic portrait of Washington, put an aspirationally noble face on politics. It stars Martin Sheen as the chief executive, along with an administration full of splendid co-stars.
"Foyle's War (The Complete Saga)" (Acorn Media; $199.99). Michael Kitchen stars as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, who investigates crimes on the home front during World War II, then counterintelligence threats at the dawn of the Cold War. This collection includes all 28 mysteries.
"Mad Men (The Complete Collection)" (Lionsgate Films; $209.97). It premiered in 2007 and, during its seven extraordinary seasons, tracked adman Don Draper's journey through the 1960s before ending with a sly smile and a Coke commercial. Revisit its glamorous, gin-soaked New York of a half-century ago in these 92 episodes.
"Justified (The Complete Series)" (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; $149.99). Sassy, unflappable U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens went head-to-head with cunning Kentucky outlaw Boyd Crowder for six sizzling, backwoods seasons that concluded last April. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins star.
"Downton Abbey (Seasons 1-5)" (PBS; $120.97). Get ready for the return of the Crawleys for their sixth and final season in January with this collection of all five seasons of romance, tears, elegance (and good old-fashioned melodrama) that have unfolded until now.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore
Frazier Moore, The Associated Press
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