Pay close attention, because this may well be the last year things like "narratives" appear on television. If this writers' strike continues into the New Year, producers will have to start cobbling together more new reality shows like, oh, I don't know, "People Picking Mint" or "America's Next American" or "Something Falling Down." Gad, things are grim. Which is why it behooves us to crawl right into our little nests of nostalgia and forget that the future ever (is going to have) happened.
These DVD collections remind us of a time when people actually wrote stuff, though, ironically, it's partly issues with DVD royalties that got the whole writers' strike going in the first place. So I feel a little bad recommending them, but then I think of next year's lineup -- "Survivor: Newark," "Yelling Things at Sleeping People," "Celebrity Colonoscopies" -- and I don't feel so bad.
"Flight of the Conchords, The Complete First Season" ($30) -- Two New Zealand goobers have adventures, sing songs and sort of date girls in unsympathetic New York.
"Dmitri Martin. Person." ($20) -- Stand-up comedian tells jokes with incredible charts; an indie-rock Mitch Hedberg.
"Jim Gaffigan: Beyond the Pale" ($15) -- More stand-up, this time by someone who does the criticizing for the audience and romances the Hot Pocket.
"The Best of Crank Yankers" ($20) -- Muppets make prank calls, voices sound suspiciously like late-night talk-show hosts.
"Sesame Street, Old School" ($40 each) -- The two volumes covering 1969-1979 remind us that Sesame was once a street you didn't particularly want to be on at night, and the lessons are a bit too raw for today's tender children.
Back From the Grave:
"Futurama: Bender's Big Score" ($30) -- After five years, the math nerd sub-species of "The Simpsons" gets the go-ahead for 16 new episodes to air on Comedy Central next year. They'll be coming out simultaneously as four feature-length DVDs. Onward, fifth season.
"The State, Season One" -- Perhaps the last good thing MTV did, the 1990s sketch comedy show is coming together on DVD, but not quite yet. MTV is clogging the process, but if not in time for the holidays, let's hope for Valentine's.
Super Long, but Totally Worth It:
"Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series" ($80) -- Your world in 11 episodes, including lions attacking elephants, New Guinea birds mating and the "vampire squid." Probably worth the upgrade to high definition.
"The War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick" ($130) -- Calling it a "film" is like calling Britannica a "book." The Burns name means big scope -- seven episodes of World War II and its effects on American families.
"Northern Exposure: The Complete Series" ($200) -- Maybe the 5,091 best minutes of television, the whole shooting match of life in Cicely, Alaska, together in a saddle bag but not, controversially, with the original broadcasts' great music.
"Benny Hill: Complete & Unadulterated Megaset (1969-1989)" ($150) -- Who knows why the Brits get off on a bunch of go-go girls chasing a little fat guy through corridors? But they invented humor, so it must be funny.
"Chappelle's Show: The Series Collection" ($50) -- It's the whole thing, all right -- all two-and-a-half seasons (including the "Lost Episodes"). A show that will inspire street-corner humor and frat-house recitations for generations.
"Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition (The Complete Series)" ($100) -- It's nice to have all of David Lynch's apocalyptic picket-fence drama together, but that doesn't mean it'll make much more sense.
"My So Called Life: The Complete Series" ($70) -- It only made it through 19 episodes, but it introduced the world to the '90s teen and that orgasm with eyebrows, Jared Leto.
"Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: The Complete Series" ($140) -- Somehow, incredibly, 13 discs of animated shrink Dr. Katz analyzing animated comedians like Ray Romano in his last appearance as a funny person. Highlights from popular stand-up acts channeled through squiggly therapy sessions. Packaged in a cigar box.
These are list prices, so you'll probably be finding them much cheaper than this.