Confessions of a Spec Tater — Give the Gift of TV

With Christmas around the corner, gift buying, the real meaning of the season, is about to get into full swing. Let’s face it; no matter how many Charlie Brown holiday specials or Christmas Carol remakes are put out there with the express intent of warming the cockles of our hearts, Americans only care about one thing this time of the year: buying and receiving presents.

If you’re anywhere near as obsessive-compulsive as I am, you are already making a list of family members and friends and checking it twice to cross off any dillwads who’ve insulted your honor in the last year.

For a lot of entertainment junkies, the easiest gift to give is one dug out of the DVD bargain bin at Wal-Mart.

With TV-on-DVD box sets becoming more and more affordable every year, though, why not splurge a bit and give your loved ones something a bit more substantial to unwrap Christmas morning.

Here are some TV-on-DVD gift ideas for those closest to you:

For the slacker in your life:

You know who I’m talking about. This gift is for the guy (or girl) who can barely find the energy to get dressed in the morning — spraying their body with Fabreze instead of taking a shower and bracing themselves for a full-day of watching cartoons and eating cereal. Why ruin their routine by giving them a tie or something else for Christmas that might serve as a reminder of how inconsequential their life has become. No, the best thing to do for these poor souls is to feed the monkey on their back by giving them more cartoons to watch, helping them find distraction in their life and ignore the fact that they’ve been reduced to a parasite suckling on life’s teat when its well past-time to have moved on to the baby bottle.

Mission Hill — The Complete Series

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This 1999 animated series had its original short-lived run on The WB, one-half of the doomed network sandwich that would eventually form The CW, before finding a cult following as part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up.

Featuring the voices of Wallace Lanham, Scott Menvillle, Vicki Lewis and Brian Posehn, the cartoon was about the continuing adventures of an underachieving cartoonist and his sheltered, genius little brother.

A wacky collection of supporting characters/inner-city cliches and an art style that was a beautiful mesh between traditional animation and the world of underground comix, gave the show a unique identity that helps enhance its rewatchability factor now that its available on DVD.

The complete series comes with episode commentaries, featurettes and animatics for unfinished episodes.

Buy it at Amazon.com

Other options:

Clerks: The Animated Series Uncensored — A television adaptation of Kevin Smith’s black-and-white indie film.

Undergrads: The Complete First Series — An MTV animated show about four high school buddies navigating the world of college.

For the film buff in your life:

This gift is for that person in your life that just won’t shut up about Hollywood. Whether they are filling you in on all the latest celebrity gossip they read on TMZ, downloading the newest movie trailers or trolling message boards, these people are intertwined in the lives of celebrities as much as the actual celebrities themselves. For Christmas, why not give them a show that will feed their obsession — nurturing the flame of celebrity passion until it is a full-fleged inferno and your friend decides to quit their job and become a professional celebrity stalker. Then you can say you know the guy or girl who was arrested for hanging outside Brad Pitt’s window.

Dinner for Five — The Complete Series

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Running for four seasons, this Jon Favreau hosted talk show managed to do something that I had previously thought to be impossible — make listening to celebrities talk about themselves for half an hour downright fascinating.

Using the basic formula of a dinner party between Favreau and four guests, the show was a free-wheeling, no holds barred chat between some truly interesting people.

Over the course of dinner, Favreau would draw out conversations from his guests that included topics such as past projects, friendships in the business and even embarrassing stories that were better left in private.

Once available on Amazon.com, the complete series contained all 48 episodes with guests that include everybody from Stan Lee to Rob Zombie to Kevin James. While the site no longer offers the complete series, a little searching on the back-market will turn up ample copies available to purchase.

Buy it at Amazon.com

Other options:

Action: The Complete Series — A Jay Mohr staring sitcom about a ruthless movie producer attempting his big comeback film.

The Henry Rollins Show: Season One — Rock star and outspoken loudmouth Henry Rollins hosts this unconventional talk show that originally aired on IFC.

For the vintage-store clothing wearing hipster in your life:

When purchasing a gift for the individual who shops at thrift stores and is disdainful for anything remotely mainstream, you’re going to have to hold back your contempt and burning desire to punch them in the face and find something that will appeal to their all-consuming need to feel like a unique snowflake of individuality. Thankfully, this sub-culture of weak-willed sugarplums isn’t as individual as they would like to believe. Their interests and likes are as easy to predict as the weather in Antarctica.

This American Life — Season One

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Ira Glass hosts this television adaptation of the popular public radio show, This American Life.

Presenting short documentary-style vignettes on various aspects of culture and society, the Showtime original series This American Life is sometimes funny, sometimes sad but always touching.

From a man who is turned on by the clone of his favorite pet bull to a young boy’s declaration that he will never fall in love, the show serves as a proxy tour of the best and worst that our country has to offer — all shot with stunning vision and beautiful imagery.

The first season set comes with an episode commentary and a photo gallery. While you can purchase either of the two seasons individually at any number of stores, a limited-edition complete series collection is available here.

Buy at Amazon.com

Other options:

Invader Zim: The Complete Invasion — An animated series about a intergalactic would-be overlord who is stuck attending an American school. Created by Jhonen Vasquez, the artist behind Johnny The Homicidal Maniac.

Flight of the Conchords: The Complete First Season — An HBO show about a pair of struggling New Zealand musicians.

Well, that’s it for this week. Look for a few additional gift giving columns in the weeks leading up to Present Unwrapping Day, I mean Christmas.

When not ignoring the fact that November isn’t even over yet and he’s already writing a Christmas column, Robert Saucedo is an occasional freelance writer whose work appears regularly in The Bryan/College Station Eagle, Dryvetyme Online and in the rejected bins of Penthouse Forums Letters. Visit him on the web at The Carrying On of a Wayward Son.

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