by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & etween Netflix and BitTorrent, we're not exactly sure why people still buy TV series on DVD (or anything on DVD, really, you luddite pack rats). The collector impulse? TV series DVDs are so damn expensive, they certainly feel like collector's items.
Because we care, we'd like to defray the cost of your video disc habit a bit. Here are a few of the series you'll be scrambling to get your mitts on this season, with the cheapest prices we could find both online and locally.
Releasing them in no particular order (except, we suspect, best-ish to worst-ish), NBC has this week dropped Frasier Season 10 ($28, Amazon; $32, Hastings). The four-and-a-half-year-long trickling of seasons now finished, they've also seen fit to release the entire series in a massive 264-episode boxed set, creatively titled Frasier, the Complete Series ($209, Amazon.com; $230, Hastings).
By now, the admirable intent of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (3) and its towering failure as a series are pretty well hashed out. Fans of series creator Aaron Sorkin have taken their lumps, come to terms with their disappointment, and moved on to subscription cable. It's best not to belabor the grieving period of such things, which is why it's downright humanitarian of NBC to be releasing the Complete Series ($41, Overstock.com; $48, Hastings) as quickly as it is. Sit down with the 22 episodes, have one last sob, then put it out of your mind.
Really, though, Sorkin already had one totally brilliant TV show about a TV show. It was called Sports Night ($43, Overstock.com; $48, Hastings). We know we've sung its praises before, but we think a few of you weren't listening.
The Wire (4) is way better than The Shield because it dares to not merely side with an anti-hero (as in The Shield's Vic Mackey) but to suggest that, in the drug trade specifically (and in inner-city police work in general), there really are no heroes. There are harried cops judged by case-clearance rates rather than justice and drug hustlers trying to eek out a life from squalor by preying, to various degrees, on other broken lives. It's constantly riveting. If you're a fan, cop The wire Season 4 ($39, Amazon.com; $45, Best Buy) before season 5 begins airing in January. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and go get Season 1 ($40, Circuit City).
Nauseating as it is, our rough, cynical, unprofessional industry estimation is that sales of High School Musical 2 ($16, Amazon; $17, Best Buy) will account for, like, 99.95 percent of the DVD market this Christmas. Doesn't need any explanation really. If you know what this is, you've probably already bought it for somebody on your list. If you don't, thank God you're one of the less than 1 percent of American households who have preteens not yet brainwashed by the Disney Channel (also home to Hannah Montana).
Mary-Louise Parker of Weeds is TV's sexiest embodiment of the Oedipal complex. The widowed-mom-must-sell-weed-to-maintain-upper-mid-lifestyle is so tragic and quirky, we alternately want to be her white knight, saving her from her goofy, dark, drug dealer plight, and her pesky son, constantly worming his way into the (not-exactly-secret) family business. The less-than-stellar second season ($28, Hastings) came to DVD in July, a necessary bridge to the brilliant first season ($20, Circuit City) and the third (not yet released but widely available if you just do a little torrent-hunting).
Though the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series is among the best examinations of faith, culture, politics and warfare to ever grace the small screen, its spinoff film Battlestar Galactica: Razor ($20 almost everywhere), which aired on Sci-Fi in November, ain't exactly mind-blowing. It's good enough, though, and apparently has tangential bearing on the fourth and final season (set to begin airing in January).