Shout Factory's typically great job with "All in the Family" the complete series earns that set top honors on this year's Black Friday list of best complete series DVD sets. It is genuinely a coincidence that the Shout Factory store is running a good sale on that set as of the writing of this post.
As I wrote in my review of "Family" when Shout released it, this example from of CBS' golden age of sitcoms in the '70s depicted the daily life of a middle-aged blue collar WWII veteran, his loving and seemingly simple-minded wife, their 20-something quasi-liberated daughter, and the daughter's suburban radical husband.
The range of the superbly written and perfectly acted theatrical quality series went from slapstick scenes, such as two people getting stuck in a doorway, to deep drama regarding countless still timely topics such as abortion, addiction, and virtually every form of bias.
The "Family" DVD set has every element of the complete series sets that Shout does so well. It is a classic show that another studio stopped releasing after a few seasons, it is chock full o' extras that include previously unseen pilot episodes and rare episodes of "Family" spinoffs, and it includes a comprehensive booklet with television experts' entertaining and insightful comments and detailed episode synopses.
Shout does such a great job with these sets because it is clear that their executive sofa spuds share my deep love of these classic shows.
Shout's very good complete series set of the '60s quasi-anthology series "Route 66" earns second place in this list. "66," which depicts two young men hitting the road looking for both adventure and whatever comes their way.
This is a great set, and the show is as much of a classic as "Family." The set however is not quite as good as "Family" simply because it lacks the same comprehensive booklet that distinguishes the Shout Factory complete series set.
Also, there are not quite as many special features as other Shout Factory complete series sets. Having said that, a 1990 Paley Festival Panel on "66" is a must see for new and old fans.
Before moving on to awarding the "bronze medal" for this year's sets, I want to mention other outstanding Shout complete series sets from prior years. These sets are just as great as the "Family" set.
I believe that I awarded top honors to Shout's complete series release of Judd Apatow's early classic "Freaks and Geeks" when it was released. This show launched the careers of many folks, including Seth Rogen and James Franco, and the set simply rocks.
In some respects, I liked Apatow's second effort "Undeclared" even better than "Freaks" because I could relate a little more to this series about college freshman adjusting to dorm life and classes than I could about high school kids in the '70s.
"Undeclared's" themes were also just a hair more timeless than "Freaks." However, Shout did Apatow proud once again. Further, I can state that the rumors regarding missing episodes and episodes being out of order are completely false.
Apatow also worked on another all-time Shout favorite, "The Larry Sanders Show." I loved this talk show veteran Garry Shandling series that was a dark take on late-night talk shows when HBO aired it, and Shout did its usually great job of adopting it after another studio abandoned it.
Garry Shandling's first series "It's Garry Shandling's Show," which aired on Showtime and did not bother with any form of a fourth wall between the actors and the audience, is another great example of Shout improving the lives of true lovers of awesome (had to work that in at least once) television.
It is also worth mentioning that Shout's deluxe sets of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" are in my list of top 10 favorite all-time sets. Shout's great extras plus an exclusive toy and mini-posters are tough to beat.
Returning to this year's awards, the third place honors must be an honorable mention to "The Fugitive: The Most Wanted Edition," which is a Paramount release. Because I do not YET have a copy of this set, I cannot grant it official honors.
"Fugitive" is similar to "66" in that it is a classic '60s quasi-anthology series in which the main character gets involved in the lives of folks who he meets on the road. In this case, that character is trying to evade being arrested for his wife's murder long enough to capture the one-armed man who committed that dastardly deed.
The film noir style artwork on "The Fugitive" set looks way cool, and the extras seem very interesting. They include extended episodes and even a "Mike Douglas Show" interview with series star David Janssen.
"Fugitive" will definitely make its way into my collection next year if it is not under my tree in a month.
Genuinely with all due respect to the terrific folks at Shout, I feel obliged to follow my annual tradition of sharing my two all-time favorite complete series sets. In these cases, Warner outdid Shout.
My complete series set of Mel Brooks' '60s spy sitcom "Get Smart" is on my desert island list. This barely beats out "Sanders" because the show is a little better and the complete series set packaging is a clever reproduction of the multiple doors that the titular Smart enters in the classic opening credits.
Like the Shout sets, "Smart" includes rare footage and interviews but lacks a booklet of terrific essays. The series itself is one of the few that makes me laugh out loud, and its trademark jokes are still timely.
Many friends have been subject to both "sorry about that Chief" and "that's the second biggest X I have ever seen."
Warner's treatment of the more traditional '60s spy series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is just as good as its job with "Smart." The sturdy cardboard briefcase packaging is good, and the set includes two bonus discs full of rarities. That other '60s spy show is the one in which the briefcase self destructs.
Anyone with questions regarding any of the sets listed or who simply wants TV on DVD gift suggestions is welcome to email me. I hope that you enjoy your holiday; that day is sponge cake worthy to me in the sense that I will enjoy a Twinkie from the small stash that I amassed last Friday.