Can you hear the jingling bells and see the decorations put up while you’re still wearing shorts and a t-shirt? Naturally it’s time to enjoy the Christmas shopping season. This is a list of Blu-rays and DVDs that have come out in the last year that ought to be appreciated as holiday gifts. In this age of streaming, what’s the point of buying shiny discs? Well sometimes in the winter your cables goes out and stays out. Mine went out for 48 hours. That’s right, no cable TV or internet access for 2 days. That meant no Netflix. Luckily we had power so using my pioneer spirit, I was able to keep up a steady diet of Blu-rays. Plus there’s a big chance that the film or TV show you want to watch are missing for your various streaming services. Why allow yourself to be a viewing slave to the whims of a digital content system?
Shout! Factory is a great stop for pop culture fun. The indie distributor continues putting out episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 which includes re-issuing the original Rhino boxsets. The big continuing TV series is Newhart including seasons 6 & 7 being fresh in the stores. Bob Newhart’s second big series is up there with Cheers as the best sitcom of the ’80s. The final season (season 8) ought to be coming out in early 2017 so save your gift cards. Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series allows a trip back to ’80s high school get clearer with a Blu-ray release. The show gave us Gruber in primetime! Fans of the Chicago Cubs will be able to pick up the 8 disc 2016 WORLD SERIES COLLECTOR’S EDITION: CHICAGO CUBS in Blu-ray. Bob Newhart will be able to fly his W flag ever night when he hits play to watch ex-Redsox players in Wrigley beat ex-Redsox players from Cleveland.
Shout! Factory has developed Shout Select as a way to give worthy non-horror films the same bonus treatment as Scream Factory titles. They started out right with the cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!. Buckaroo is a science god and rock star that must deal with not only aliens, but creatures from another dimension and Ellen Barkin. The actors include Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Peter Weller, Christopher Lloyd and Clancy Brown. You get to see Mike (Jonathan Banks) from Breaking Bad as a guard at the nuthouse. The bonus features include a new documentary that digs deep into the film. There’s also an alternate opening, deleted scenes and the original DVD features. It’s a boxset as perfect as Perfect Tommy.
Another select title is the rocking T.A.M.I. Show & The Big T.N.T. Show that makes a double feature out of two legendary concerts. Both shows were staged for the movie, but featured a bill of nearly all legends giving great live performances and not merely lip syncing. T.A.M.I. Show challenges Woodstock for a line-up. Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and James Brown are among the bands that grace the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This is the end of 1964 when many of these acts were just establishing themselves. It’s a concert that’s a musical yearbook. The Big T.N.T. Show was shot a year later with more stars that remain seminal. Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Lovin’ Spoonful, Ronettes, Roger Miller, The Byrds, Petula Clark and Ike & Tina Turner get a crowd of teenagers and Frank Zappa excited. Phil Spector was hired to put the sequel show together. Both concerts are amazing and perfect way to enjoy a night of classic music performed by legends in the making.
While CBS DVD has been cutting back on its releases, they have focused on putting out complete collections of series that were released in season or half season sets at a price that’s a massive savings if you bought them by the individual boxsets. The first big ones to look into are the Star Trek collections. This is the 50th anniversary of when the series boldly took audiences on a trip around the universe inside the U.S.S. Enterprise. Star Trek: The Original Series: The Complete Series has the first three seasons for under $60 on Blu-ray. When the season one boxset came out a few years ago, the price tag was $130. Now you can get it for your cool uncle who introduced you to the show when it aired in the afternoons on WLVI-56 in Boston. They’ve never seen Spock’s pointy ears with such resolution. For fans of the Picard era, Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete Series features the high definition post production remix of the series. It costs a bit more, but the series did last longer thanks to first run syndication instead of a clueless network. Even more enjoyable on Blu-ray this holiday season is Star Trek Animated: The Animated Adv of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek which contains the Saturday morning cartoon version that featured the original cast and many of the original series writers. All these collections contain enough bonus features to make you think you’ve gone to a Star Trek convention without having to worry about getting a hotel room. To increase your sense of being in a large ballroom watching rare footage, Star Trek: The Original Series – The Roddenberry Vault has a lot of the outtakes and snipped scenes that Gene snuck off the lot during the production. I’m not completely sure what the resurfaced footage contains, but I’m hoping for more Captain Kirk fights. This is a great season for being a Star Trek fan on a budget.
Twilight Zone: The Complete Series has all five seasons of Rod Serling’s legendary show on Blu-ray at a price under $100. This is the cream of sci-fi anthologies. Sure you can see it marathoned on a cable channel, but they pack in so many commercials, you almost forget what episode you’re watching. Like Star Trek, this is a classic series that ought to be part of a serious TV enjoying collector’s library. Twin Peaks: The Original Series, Fire Walk With Me & The Missing Pieces brings down the cost of the previous incarnation of the boxset. Fans can now get caught up on the series before it gets revived on Showtime in 2017. All the episodes and the movie are here in Blu-ray quality. Behold the glory of Sherilyn Fenn!
Vinegar Syndrome had another fine year releasing grindhouse and adult cinema titles, but the most noble work came with restoring the cinematic legacy of Rudy Ray Moore. Dolemite, Human Tornado, Petey Wheatstraw and Disco Godfather finally get respect with Blu-ray editions that restores the luster to these films that made Rudy Ray Moore an icon like comedic Bruce Lee. The bonus features give context to each film.
Lionsgate is paying tribute to the early days of home video by reviving the Vestron name for many of their most popular VHS era titles. Included in this series so far is C.H.U.D II: Bud The Chud, Return Of The Living Dead 3, Blood Diner, Chopping Mall, Waxworks Compilation, Parents and Lair of the White Worm. These were completely fun rental titles during the ’80s that would be brought back to the dorm to brighten up a lame Friday. Each film is loaded with bonus features so you get the big context of the film that wasn’t part of the VHS tape.
There should be a title in this list of please anyone on your gift list whether they like classic TV or low rent horror. Of course you should always grab a copy for yourself if you have a gift card lying around.
Joe Corey is the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.