As I've found myself pressed for time this week, I've decided to do another column in a handy-dandy list form - this time I'm naming three of my all-time favorite TV shows now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Nothing I'm listing is in any particular order, by the way; where they appear on the list solely depends on when they wandered out of my subconscious, hit the neurological highway and took the off-ramps to my fingers, speaking metaphorically (and rather sloppily at that). So without further ado, my three choices are:
1. "Lost: The Complete Collection." Far and away, this is the most remarkable box set I've ever seen. Not only is the show's boldly cinematic look and sound heightened and enriched (particularly in the Blu-ray disc version), this is the first time I've ever seen such a wealth of extraordinarily well-produced bonus material. If you're like me and enjoy delving deeply into the tiniest details of a large-scale production, this set has hours and hours of pleasures in store.
One featurette in particular that I have to applaud brings many of the cast members back to the Hawaiian shooting locations for one last poignant examination of their personal experiences while making the now-concluded series. It's a quiet, wistful and genuinely moving documentary short that lets the audience in on the difficulty that the creative types who produce our entertainment can have when it's time to end a show for good.
2. "NewsRadio." Of all the sitcoms I've ever liked, I can't say there's one that I liked more than this one. If I see an episode airing anytime I'm flipping around the dial, I will stop and watch‚ and even though I've seen that particular show probably a few dozen times, it will still make me laugh out loud. This half-hour comedy, set in a fictional New York City AM radio station, might never have been a ratings powerhouse, but the writing was usually rock-solid and the ensemble cast‚ led by Dave Foley and the late (and still sorely missed) Phil Hartman‚ was as tight as any comedic ensemble ever put before a camera.
3. "Mystery Science Theater 3000." I don't know if there's any show I've ever been more a fan of than this one. At first glance, it appeared to be a low-budget puppet show-meets-local TV weekend movie (which, admittedly, it was), but there was more there‚ a lot more. "MST3K," as its legions of fans call it‚ was an ingenious comic spin on the movie-watching experience as viewers were invited into a world where mad scientists tried to break a man's spirit with bad movies, but the intrepid hero‚ aided by his homemade robot pals‚ had no intent of letting that happen without getting a few words in edgewise.
Okay, maybe I made it sound at once too dramatic and too goofy, but make no mistake, "Mystery Science Theater" was something rather revolutionary. Written and performed by a smart, funny cast that had an Upper Midwestern sensibility, it first aired on a UHF station in Minneapolis, then was picked up by the Comedy Channel‚ which became Comedy Central‚ and ran for seven seasons, spawned a feature film and picked up multiple Emmy nominations at a time when cable shows were generally shut out of such prizes. Then, after it was cancelled by that cable outlet, the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as SyFy) resurrected it‚ thanks in no small part to an effort by the show's united and persistent fanbase‚and it would air for another three years. Through its ten seasons, the show hilariously skewered innumerable pop culture targets (from the obscure to the infamous) in a way that no other program had ever quite done before.
I could mention other shows that almost made this list: dramas like "Murder One" (still my all-time favorite legal series) or comedies such as "The Simpsons" (for my money, the longest continuous run of TV greatness can be found in seasons 3-8 of that show)‚ in fact, I guess I just did‚ but I need to save those for later.
Not next week's column, though. (At least I hope not.)