So those nice people at Vouchercodes.co.uk emailed me – and a few other bloggers – a while back to ask us for some recommendations for DVD boxsets released this year that would make nice Christmas presents. Taking a bit of a departure from the norm, rather than “Presents for Mum – she’ll love Miranda!”, “Presents for Dad – he’ll love Top Gear!”, “Presents for Sis – she’ll love The Vampire Diaries!” et al, which let’s face it, is never going to work for everyone or even the majority of people and would probably end up being offensive, I decided to go for three separate categories: drama, comedy and factual.
So decide what genre your relative likes then pick a gift: at the very least, you might introduce someone you love to something good.
Today’s TV dramas are some of the finest ever made and picking just seven from 2012 alone is hard enough. Time was when the BBC could be relied on to produce the best dramas, and while the likes of Doctor Who are still shining through, shows from other networks, including Sky, as well as from countries including the US, Canada, Scandinavia and Israel, are proving to be just as good as our home-grown productions.
Here are seven of the finest dramas released on DVD this year, with something for almost everyone to choose from.
1) Homeland/Prisoners of War – season 1
Although season 2 has been… variable, the first series of Homeland, in which a US PoW – and potential terrorist – is repatriated from Iraq was one of the finest US dramas of the last two years – even President Obama is among its fans. And if you want something similar but different, try the Israeli original – Prisoners of War.
2) The Bridge – season 1
Part The Killing, part Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, this tense Swedish-Danish co-production has two culture-clash detectives hunting down a devious political killer. But unlike other ‘Norse Noire’ shows, it’s also humorous, thanks largely to engaging female detective, Saga Noren, who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
3) Downton Abbey – season 3
Thank heavens the upper classes are here to save us! It’s the return of everyone’s favourite ITV period drama. Now with added Shirley MacLaine.
4) Breaking Bad – seasons 1-4
When people talk of the best US TV dramas, three shows get mentioned: Mad Men, Homeland and Breaking Bad. Find out why with these four seasons of Breaking Bad, as one US chemistry teacher decides to turn his knowledge towards crime and becomes New Mexico’s baddest – and baldest – drugs maker, “Heisenberg”.
5) Call The Midwife – series 1
A group of midwives working in London’s East End experience everything life in the 1950s has to offer them. A great cast including Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris and Miranda Hart that will warm almost everyone’s heart.
6) Strike Back – Vengeance
Anyone who tells you that the British can’t do action TV any more hasn’t seen Strike Back. Probably best not watched with all the family, it sees two ex-special forces touring the globe on spy missions that inevitably involve a lot of nudity, swearing and some of the best shoot outs you can see anywhere.
7) Ghost Stories for Christmas
One for lovers of classic television, this collects together for the first all of the BBC’s 1970s Ghost Stories for Christmas, including Andrew Davies’ haunting adaptation of Dickens’ The Signalman. Watch it at night with the lights down. Go on – I dare you.
Christmas is a time for cheer and laughter, and there’s nothing like a box set of your favourite comedy show to bring both. 2012’s seen the appearance of some fine new British comedies, largely from Sky Atlantic, including Moone Boy, but old favourites including the BBC’s The Thick Of It have proved reliable. And in the US, comedy continues to go from strength to strength thanks to Modern Family and new arrival New Girl. And Community. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it?
1) Community – season 2
Stuck on UK TV networks nobody ever watches is Community – America’s finest comedy that no one’s ever heard of. With stories that feature everything from episode-long games of paintball and Dungeons and Dragons through to an episode shot in claymation to a ‘clips episode’ entirely made up of new clips you’ve never seen before, this story of adult learners at a US community college is one of the funniest, most original things you won’t have seen. No trailer for season 2, I’m afraid, so here’s one for season 1.
2) The Thick of It – complete box set
Viciously satirical and with Peter Capaldi as an Alastair-Campbell-alike who takes swearing to whole new levels, this is Yes Minister for the 21st century.
3) Mrs Brown’s Boys – series 2
Although you almost certainly won’t like it, it’s bound to go down a treat with an older member of the family. You’ll have to decide for yourself which one, although, to give you a clue, they’re probably the sort of person who likes Are You Being Served? and Dick Emery, and only goes online to play bingo.
4) Moone Boy – series 1
The IT Crowd/Bridesmaids’ Chris O’Dowd wrote this and stars as the imaginary best friend of his younger self in this semi-autobiographical comedy about his life as a child in Ireland. Delightfully surreal and with a real nostalgia for the 1980s.
5) Alan Partridge’s Mid-Morning Matters
Aha! He’s back!
6) New Girl – series 1
The ‘adorkable’ Zooey Deschanel splits up from her boyfriend and moves into an apartment full of guys, who are in expert need of her tuition about women. They in turn teach her all about guys, because Zooey, it’s fair to be said, is pretty clueless.
It may be the ‘goggle box’ but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from or see things on television you’d never otherwise have known about – or in the case of the Olympics, have got tickets to have seen. 2012’s seen some fabulous live events, including the Jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics, all of which are available on DVD. It’s also seen some great documentaries, including Andrew Marr’s History of the World, which has once again shown us that there are some things that TV does best.
But just because we can learn, it doesn’t mean we have to. Which is why there’s Made in Chelsea.
1) London 2012 Olympic Games/London 2012 Paralympic Games
Britain does not only two things right but so right they’re the envy of the world. Watch the highlights, including the opening and closing ceremonies, of the two biggest sporting events in Britain for decades.
2) Andrew Marr’s History of the World
Following in the hallowed footsteps of Kenneth Clark’s Civilization and JP Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man comes the BBC’s Andrew Marr, here telling the history of the world, from the time of cavemen and women to the modern day, from a series of breathtakingly beautiful but highly expensive locations.
3) Attenborough’s Anthology
A BBC Shop exclusive, this boxset features the favourite episodes of legendary naturalist David Attenborough from his 60 years of broadcasting.
4) Made in Chelsea – series 3
A classier proposition than Made in Essex, it’ll still make your jaw drop.
5) Bear Grylls Collector’s Edition Box Set
Bear Grylls fact: he has a grizzly bear carpet in his room. The bear isn’t dead it is just afraid to move. Find out why with the collected expeditions of ex-SAS soldier and Born Survivor Bear Grylls.