Deck the Halls With DVDs
Face it. Netflix and Amazon are convenient when you want instant video for yourself, but you can't give electrons as a holiday present. You need great movies and shows in an actual box you can wrap a bow around. Here are eight new physical disc boxes to consider this season.
The Office Collection: Special Edition
(BBC, $39.98 DVD)
Why is Ricky Gervais famous? Find out in this 10th anniversary DVD set, which collects all 12 episodes of the British forerunner to Steve Carell's U.S. series, the two-part Christmas special and a slew of special features: new first-season commentary from creators Gervais and Stephen Merchant, an exclusive documentary on the history of the show and a featurette on celebrity fans (Ben Stiller, Matthew Perry, Christopher Guest). The real gem is Gervais and Merchant's never-before-seen original 1998 pre-pilot made for Merchant's TV production class. The 20-minute short became a cult hit passed around on the sly by British TV executives, who asked the unknown comics to turn the idea into a series.
Cars Director's Edition
(Buena Vista, $119 multiformat)
This 11-disc extravaganza contains both of John Lasseter's $1.1 billion-grossing animated auto adventures on DVD, Blu-ray, digital and Blu-ray 3D, which requires a special player. It has several extras not found on the regular DVD editions. When you take the flimsy plastic top off to retrieve the toy car (John Lassetire) on top, the box has no replacement top, making it more impractical than any other Cars set you can buy with sensible, ordinary packaging. But guess which version kids would rather unwrap?
Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series
(Universal, $129.99 DVD)
Often treated like the ugly stepsister during its five seasons on NBC, one of TV's best family dramas ever gets the deluxe treatment in a box set. Among the goodies are deleted storylines, a video yearbook and a moving featurette about the end of the show.
Band of Brothers/The Pacific Special Edition Gift Set
(HBO, $199 Blu-ray, $159 DVD)
Factual and fantastic, the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks-produced World War II epics follow Easy Company -- from boot camp to D-Day to the conquest of Hitler's Eagle's Nest -- and the Pacific island-hopping heroes who stopped Japan's fascists. The set resembles a coffee-table book with massive extras, including a new doc on the real soldiers.
Law & Order: The Complete Series
(Universal, $699.99 DVD)
Start watching this box set eight hours a day on Christmas Eve and you'll finish up season 20 on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. At 104 discs, it's the largest box set ever released in the U.S., and amazingly, it's still missing the 1998 made-for-TV movie, three crossover episodes with other shows in the L&O franchise and any extras. Die-hard fans will appreciate the chance to get seasons 10-13 and 15-20 on DVD for the first time.
Big Love: The Complete Collection
(HBO, $199.95 DVD)
You don't just watch this superb, underrated polygamy drama, you marry into it. The box boasts three prequels, and season four has "Inside the Episode" features. An excellent set except for sappy, sucky interstitial music.
Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy
(Universal, $79.98 Blu-ray)
Like a dinosaur egg long waiting to break free in all its gory glory, Spielberg's three dino movies at last make their Blu-ray debut, complete with a new six-part documentary and iPad and mobile apps. The $119.98 gift set includes a T. rex statue crashing through the park gate.
Barney Miller: The Complete Series
(Shout! Factory, $159.99 DVD)
The droll, innovative missing link between Car 54, Where Are You? and NYPD Blue, this 1974-to-1982 ABC cop show stars the denizens of a New York squad room, from smug human encyclopedia Steve Landesberg to deadpan Abe Vigoda to beyond-deadpan Jack Soo. With 25 discs, a 32-page book and scads of cast interviews, it's like a time-travel device to the dawn of smart TV.