Holiday Gift Ideas :: TV DVDs and Blu-rays

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Saturday December 13, 2014
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There has never been anyone else like Pee-Wee Herman, the most animated human ever to grace Saturday morning TV. The ingenious creation of comedian Paul Reubens, man-child Pee-Wee appealed to both kids and adults.

"Pee-Wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series" (Shout Factory), which premiered on CBS in 1986 and ran for five years, was like watching kids-show hosts Captain Kangaroo, Soupy Sales or Shari Lewis on an acid trip. Pee-Wee shared his playhouse with puppets as well as live characters, including Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Captain Carl (the late Phil Hartman), postal employee Reba (S. Epatha Merkerson), the most beautiful woman in Puppetland Miss Yvonne (Lynne Marie Stewart) and the usually shirtless lifeguard Tito (Roland Rodriguez), who brought homoerotic tension to the show.

"P-WP" also made good use of claymation and featured vintage cartoons. The digitally re-mastered eight-disc Blu-ray set includes brand-new interviews with members of the cast and crew.

Newly reissued and expanded in a 50th-anniversary collector's edition, the 1964 Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (Classic Media) includes a "Holly Jolly Sing Along," a video "Pop-Up Book" and other bonuses. The show features seven songs by Johnny Marks, with narration by Burl Ives. A favorite of outcasts for the misfit triumph of radiant reindeer Rudolph (voice: Billie Mae Richards) and "different" elf Hermey (voice: Paul Soles), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the kind of gift Santa would like.

"Cartoon Network: Holiday Collection" (CN/WB) is comprised of four holiday-themed cartoons plus two bonus episodes. The two-part "Holly-Jolly Secrets" episode of Pendleton Ward's Adventure Time, featuring Finn the human (voice: Jeremy Shada), Jake the dog (voice: John DiMaggio), Beemo the electronic device (voice: Niki Yang ), and the Ice King (voice: Tom Kenny), explains the history of the holiday season. Revenge-seeking elf Quillgin (voice: Thomas Haden Church) tries to kill Santa Claus (voice: Ed Asner), who put the kibosh on the dark-magic gift he invented, resulting in the end of Christmas in JG Quintel's Regular Show Christmas special. The DVD also includes the Christmas episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, the "Monkey Broom Wizard" episode of Clarence, and Steven Universe 's "Together Breakfast" episode.

Hosted by Richard Pryor, the May 1983 NBC broadcast of "Motown 25: Yesterday Today Forever" (StarVista/Time-Life) featured performances by Michael Jackson (the debut of his moonwalk dance moves) solo and with his brothers, Diana Ross (solo and with the Supremes), Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops and others. Tacky choreography by the Lester Williams Dancers aside, the music-lover on your list will dig the three-DVD Motown 25 , including rehearsal and reunion discs.

If you only know the late Merv Griffin as a TV talk-show host, then you don't know Griffin. He had a recording career in addition to hosting and creating game shows. The 12-disc set "The Merv Griffin Show: 1962-1986" (Reelin' in the Years/MPI) features musical performances by the guests on Griffin's show, including Dionne Warwick, Lionel Hampton, Isaac Hayes, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, Carole King and Whitney Houston. Griffin, whose sexuality remains a topic of debate, had queer and queer-friendly guests, including Andy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick, Roddy McDowall, Tallulah Bankhead, Moms Mabley, Rex Reed, Clive Davis and Joan Rivers.

The six-DVD set "The Midnight Special" (StarVista/Time-Life) compiles almost 100 live performances by musical superstars, from its 1972 pilot to early 1979. Hosted for years by Helen Reddy and featuring the voice of Wolfman Jack, the program presented many queer performers and several acts with queer appeal such as the Village People, Janis Ian, Blondie, LaBelle, Rufus with Chaka Khan, and Aretha Franklin. The set includes more than an hour's worth of bonus material, artist interviews, and featurettes.

Created by openly gay writer/director Alan Ball, "True Blood" was one of the queerest shows on TV when it premiered on HBO in 2008. The series came to an end in the Blu-ray "True Blood: The Complete Seventh Season" (HBO Home Entertainment), the bloody perfect gift for anyone who can't get enough of the Stackhouse sibs, queer Anna Pacquin as Sookie, and flawless Ryan Kwanten as Jason, as well as the rest of the residents, alive and undead, in their Southern Louisiana hometown.

The "Mad Men" and Jon Hamm fans on your holiday list have time to catch up with the triple-disc DVD/Digital "Mad Men: The Final Season Part 1" (Lionsgate) before the second set of final episodes begins airing on AMC in spring 2015. The show has had its share of queer characters over the years (remember Bryan Batt's Sal Romano?), and now that the swinging 60s are central to the story, perhaps there will be more of a gay presence on the show, with the Stonewall Riot looming.

One of the most important cable series of all time, David Chase's "The Sopranos" made a huge star of the late James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), gave a massive boost to the career of Edie Falco (as his long-suffering wife Carmela), and brought the mob into the 21st century. The 26-disc, 86-episode "The Sopranos: The Complete Series" (HBO) brings all six seasons to Blu-ray/Digital HD for the first time, and includes a new 45-minute bonus feature.

Co-created by openly gay "Sex and the City" mastermind Michael Patrick King, "2 Broke Girls: The Complete Third Season" (Warner Bros.) has a reputation as one of the most risque sitcoms on CBS. The story of struggling Brooklyn waitresses and roommates Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs), "2 Broke Girls" pushes the limits of sexual innuendo and good taste. Co-star Jennifer Coolidge, as zany neighbor Sophie, steals every scene she appears in. DVD special features include unaired scenes and a gag reel.

Long before Golden Globe Award winner Steve Buscemi was the corrupt New Jersey politician Enoch "Nucky" Thompson on "Boardwalk Empire," he played Nick, a gay man with AIDS in the late Bill Sherwood's groundbreaking 1986 film "Parting Glances." "BE" has wrapped up its final season on HBO, but if you missed anything, "Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season" (HBO) is available in a four-DVD set.

The CW network has a long history of featuring exceptionally handsome men in their TV series, including Tom Welling as Clark Kent in "Smallville." In "Arrow: The Complete Second Season" (WB) on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD, star Stephen Amell spends a lot of time in and out of clothes that flatter his fit physique. Ian Somerhalder has been starring as Damon in "The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fifth Season" (WB). As brothers Sam and Dean, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are two of prime time's sexiest siblings on TV, and on Blu-ray/Digital HD in "Supernatural: The Complete Ninth Season" (WB).