- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2017

Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for the DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD-loving, TV binge-watcher in the family.

Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection (Time Life, rated TV-14, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $249.95) — One of America’s funniest and greatest entertainers of the 20th century gets honored with a massive DVD set covering five decades of ole Ski Nose’s legendary television shows.

The late Bob Hope is remembered for delivering celebrity power and entertainment to both television viewers and millions of troops overseas with his all-star visits — now captured in 19 DVDS showing 37 hours of song, dance and laughs.

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Appearances by Hollywood legends included John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Raquel Welch, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett, Johnny Carson, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, George Burns, Cyd Charisse, Tom Jones and Glen Campbell.

I defy anyone infatuated with nostalgia to not appreciate a skit from one of Hope’s specials starring Elizabeth Taylor interacting with Oakland Raiders’ Hall-of Famer George Blanda.

The set also includes plenty of Christmas specials, so it’s a perfect gift for the holiday season, as well as tributes to Hope zinging the presidents (from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Bill Clinton), and his 90th birthday special.

The only bad news is that its standard-definition resolution, DVD quality, and many of the programming suffer from age with occasion blemishes and sound issues.

Still, fans of the great Bob Hope will relish these memories.

The package includes a 32-page, magazine-sized book covering Hope’s career with plenty of great archival photos of the master showman whose life almost spanned the entire 20th century.

By the way, viewers also get an extra disc that is possibly the gem of the set, if one judges laughs per minute.

It contains the complete 1974 “Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts” episode where stars such as Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Lucile Ball, Don Rickles and Foster Brookes skewered Hope. Even then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and Gen. Omar Bradley got into the action.

Bones: The Flesh and Bones Collection (20th Century Fox Entertainment, rated TV-14, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $129.99) — Forensic anthropology and a quirky courtship between an unlikely duo took center stage in a popular television show that existed for 12 seasons on the Fox cable network.

This boxed set offers the entire 246-episode run of the series packed onto 67 DVDs showcasing the brilliant investigative work of the Jeffersonian Institute’s Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and her team’s scientific knack for solving murders for the FBI by examining human remains.

Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz), an Army Ranger veteran sniper, brings the cases to the group and mainly works with Dr. Brennan, which leads to sometimes amusing, sometimes thrilling and sometimes soap-operatic episodes that also feature their budding romance.

The crime drama series is actually based on the true stories from real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs and offers plenty of entertaining binge-watching for both the science and murder mystery lover.

The collection offers six hours of extras reproduced from the individual sets released over the years, including: a smattering of optional commentary tracks; gag reels; deleted scenes; extended episodes; a retrospective of the show; and short featurettes covering such fodder as the creation of the show with Miss Reich, the work of forensic scientists, a look at the special effects and character profiles.

Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment, rated TV-14, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $99.98) — Based on the book by H.G. Bissinger and film by Peter Berg, this staple of Tuesday night viewing for five seasons on the NBC network offered a drama taking place on and off the grid iron in the fictional small town of Dillion, Texas.

With the title tied to the serious traditions, competitions and angst tied to Friday night high school football, the show starred Kyle Chandler as Eric Taylor, the brand new coach of the Panthers.

His challenges surrounding the team, his family and the players as he attempts to turn them into champions fueled the weekly series.

The show’s ensemble cast featured Connie Britton (“American Horror Story”) as his wife Tami; Taylor Kitsch (“Lone Survivor”) as fullback Tim Riggins; Michael B. Jordan (“Creed” and “Black Panther”) as quarterback Vince Howard; and Adrianne Palicki (“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”) as former bad girl Tyra Colette.

Viewers get all 76 episodes of the award-winning show in high-definition glory with a Dolby 5.1 sound mix, all contained on 13 Blu-ray discs.

Owners will be bummed by the lack of extras, not even a list of episodes or cast reunion featurette to appreciate, but the above-average picture quality will satisfy football fans looking to appreciate one of the better-written shows in television history.

Westworld: Season One, Limited Edition Tin (HBO Home Entertainment, rated TV-14, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $64.99) — The Emmy Award-winning series adapting screenwriter Michael Crichton’s movie about an unusual theme park arrives ready for gifting to ultra-high definition home theater owners in a six-disc set contained in a blood-red metallic case.

The 10-episode, first-season story arc features a dive into a sophisticated, 19th century, Western-themed park filled with expendable androids (called hosts), and where rich humans can enjoy their deepest and darkest desires unfettered by morality or laws.

The complex plot questions humanity, and the emergence of artificial intelligence at every twist and turn was helped by performances from Anthony Hopkins as the park’s co-creator Robert Ford; Ed Harris as the Man in Black, a sadistic human corrupted by the park; and Evan Rachel Ward as Dolores Abernathy, an android becoming self aware.

The set features a trio of 4K discs (a first for a television show released on that format) as well as three discs to watch in high definition.

Clearly owners will want to appreciate the 4K versions offering a rich-looking and -sounding experience, especially evident in all of the panoramic vistas of the Southwest and any gunfights enhanced by a Dolby Atmos-infused soundtrack

Extras, the same on both formats, include a 30-minute visual commentary of the final episode with creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy; a 15-minute look at the opening title sequence; and about 50 minutes of additional production featurettes.

The metallic package also contains a pamphlet summarizing all of the episodes and includes the more intriguing, full-color, new employee handbook covering all of the Westworld core divisions’ work and responsibilities.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Series (Paramount Entertainment, not rated, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $199.99) — One of the longest-running scripted show in the history of the television arrives in a bare bones but massive boxed set to offer viewers a dramatic look at the world of evidence collection and crime-solving.

Set in Las Vegas, the weekly show featured Gil Grissom (William Peterson) leading a team of forensic scientists (“the nerd squad”) as they use investigative techniques, usually going beyond the scope of their work, to aggressively crack cases.

The show is anchored by the performance of not only Mr. Peterson but acting luminaries such as Marg Helgenberger as blood spatter analyst Catherine Willow; Laurence Fishburne as investigator Dr. Raymond Langston; Ted Danson as Las Vegas crime lab director D.B. Russell; and Elisabeth Shue as blood-spatter specialist Julie Finlay.

The multiple Emmy Award-winning series ran for whopping 15 seasons between the years 2000 and 2015.

Lucky gift receivers get all 337 episodes contained on 93 DVD discs in four, space-saving plastic slipcases, and, that’s not all.

They also get over 19 hours of extras culled from the individual set releases that supplement the episodic action.

The bonus content offers 40 optional commentary tracks, with select cast and crew; dozens of featurettes covering the background and production of the show; and even a behind-the-scenes overview of the two-part episode “Grave Danger” directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated TV-14, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $234.99) — Moody blood-sucking teens ruled the CW network for eight seasons as author L.J. Smith’s young adult novel series came to life through a popular supernatural drama between 2009 and 2017.

The TV show’s entire 171-episode run is now available on 30 Blu-ray discs to offer a high-definition look at the soap-operatic life of teenage gal Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) when a pair a vampiric brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder, respectively) woo her and decide to shake up the secret-riddled town of Mystic Falls, Virginia.

Werewolves, witches, ghosts and more vampires pop up to complicate their lives while the mysterious Founders’ Council tries to maintain order as Elena’s gothic love triangle plays out.

Fans will find a couple of hours of visual extras to take a bite into including a San Diego Comic-Con panel, gag reels, deleted scenes, production featurettes and just a few optional commentary tracks.

However, best of the bunch is the complete, downloadable audiobook of “The Awakening,” the first volume of L.J. Smith’s “Vampire Diaries” book series found on disc four of the first season set.

The entire set is a true gift for the “Twilight”-inspired fan and anyone looking for a millennial version of “Dark Shadows.”

Ernie Kovacs: Take a Good Look – The Definitive Collection (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, $69.97) — Strictly for the hardcore, amateur television historian in the family, this seven-disc, DVD set offers all 49 episodes of a quirky, early 1960s game show on the ABC Network hosted by one of the pioneers of TV, Ernie Kovacs.

The premise found a trio of panelists trying to guess the identity mystery guests in each 30-minute episode by watching ridiculous skits and sight gags that often were little help.

It was Kovacs’ skewer humor at its finest while he puffed on Dutch Master cigars (the show’s sponsor), riffed aimlessly in skits and led such celebrities as Caesar Romero (“Batman”), Carl Reiner (“The Dick Van Dyke Show), Tony Randall (“The Odd Couple”) and Jim Backus (“Gilligan’s Island”) into his comedic traps.

This obvious homage to “What’s My Line” included such famous mystery guests as Dodgers famed pitchers Don Larsen and Don Drysdale, film producer Mack Sennett and chess champion Bobby Fisher.

Owners get no digital extras, not even a short featurette on Kovacs’ legacy, but the package includes an insert listing guests for each show and a short essay by TV historian Ben Model.

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