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Top 10 Essential Blu-Ray TV Box Sets
Few would disagree that we are in the middle of a long and leisurely Golden Age of dramatic television. The advent of original cable series, proliferation of new networks and rise of original new voices have combined to give us an absolute embarrassment of quality television which does not seem to be slowing down. Here are some of the best full collections available on Blu-ray.
10Sons of Anarchy Complete Series
7 Seasons, 92 Episodes
Debuting in 2008, creator and showrunner Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy follows Jackson “Jax” Teller (Charlie Hunnam) and the members of his extended family- the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (or SAMCRO). The show’s twisty plotlines have been compared to “Hamlet on Harleys”, and features strong supporting performances from Katey Sagal (Married With Children, Futurama), who won a Golden Globe for her role, and Ron Perlman, in a rare role that is not augmented by pounds of makeup and prosthetics.
The “Reaper’s Collection” box set includes a collectible photo book and all seven seasons of the series.
9House, M.D. Complete Series
8 Seasons, 177 Episodes
Noted British comedic actor Hugh Laurie created an iconic dramatic lead in Gregory House, the brilliant, brazen and supremely troubled master diagnostician. While lean on special features, this 39-disc box set is priced right and collects all eight seasons of the Fox drama.
The well-regarded and highly rated series ran on Fox between 2004 and 2012, and features great supporting work from Lisa Edelstein as Dr. House’s Chief of Staff and Robert Sean Leonard as the closest thing he has to a friend, oncologist James Wilson. Laurie’s work here really is everything it’s cracked up to be- funny, acerbic, heartbreaking at times and always riveting.
8Breaking Bad Complete Series
5 Seasons, 62 episodes
If you’ve seen it, you’ll want to see it again eventually, and if you haven’t, you really must. Breaking Bad has been called one of the greatest television series ever made for good reason, and Bryan Cranston’s lead performance as high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin Walter White is truly among the best ever on television.
The standard Blu-ray collection is priced reasonably, but hardcore fans will want to check out the Collector’s Edition Tin Steelbook, which comes with special features including a two-hour documentary and an extra DVD copy of sason one- all the better to get your friends hooked with.
7Twin Peaks Complete Series + Fire Walk With Me
2 Seasons, 30 episodes, 1 feature film
Feature film director David Lynch’s surreal, at times downright hallucinatory foray into television has been praised by critics and puzzled over by fans since its introduction. Ostensibly a murder mystery set in the titular small, weird Washington town, it continued the “dark underside of small American town” aesthetic of Lynch’s film “Blue Velvet”, while creating a singularly weird narrative that resulted in its becoming a surprise hit in its debut season.
Although the story concluded after two seasons (1990-1991), it was followed by the feature film Fire Walk With Me, also included in this collection, which serves to bookend the series with both a prologue and epilogue of sorts. Fans will want to brush up- Twin Peaks is returning as a limited series on cable network Showtime in 2017 with much of the original cast returning.
6Fringe Complete Series
5 Seasons, 100 episodes
The Fox TV series Fringe ran from 2008 to 2013, and developed a strong following with its nimble plotting and interesting high-concept premise: an FBI team who uses weird science to investigate strange events that are somehow connected to a parallel universe. Although it suffered from consistently low ratings (its Friday night time slot didn’t help), it developed a strong enough following to run for five seasons.
The show’s pedigree may have saved it, having been created by TV and film giant J.J. Abrams and the creative team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who together wrote a huge number of hit franchise films including entries in the Transformers, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and Amazing Spider-Man series.
5The X-Files Complete Collector’s Set
10 Seasons, 208 episodes
Fans of long-running supernatural police procedural The X-Files will definitely want to check out this set, which handily includes all nine original seasons as well as the 2016 “The Event” revival. The long-running horror drama paved the way for other shows of its type, and made stars out of leads Gillian Jacobs and David Duchovny.
Although not falling squarely within the current Golden Age, the series’ influence can be seen not only in shows such as AMC’s crazily popular American Horror Story, but in the work of one of its writers- Vince Gilligan, who created Breaking Bad and cast Bryan Cranston as his lead based on Cranston’s performance in the X-Files episode “Drive”.
4The Wire Complete Series
5 Seasons, 60 Episodes
Along with Breaking Bad (which also ran for five seasons and right around the same number of episodes), the HBO original series The Wire has rightly been hailed as one of the greatest crime series ever made. Each season of the show focuses on a different aspect of the corruption and strife plaguing the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and among its iconic performances, that of Michael K. Williams as psychotic, charismatic, gay gangster Omar Little looms large.
The Blu-ray set includes a dozen audio commentaries, Q&A with creator David Simon and a behind-the scenes documentary, among other features.
3Battlestar Galactica Complete Series
The 2004 revival of the classic 1970s series Battlestar Galactica treated its premise- the last survivors of a destroyed Earth, searching for a new home aboard the titular vessel- much more seriously than its predecessor, and as a result was one of the more unique and well-made science fiction series of the last couple decades. This Blu-ray set is absolutely laden with commentaries, featurettes and documentaries, making it a must-have for any fan.
The series notably incorporated many relevant themes into its sci-fi narrative, earning it widespread critical praise and a slew of awards, including multiple Emmys for visual effects. Now considered among the best sci-fi series of all time, even non-genre fans should give it a shot.
2Star Trek The Next Generation Complete Series
7 Seasons, 176 episodes
Speaking of the greatest sci-fi series of all time, Star Trek: The Next Generation… is. Featuring writing every bit up to the standards of the original series and superior acting and direction, “TNG” is adored by fans for good reason- it’s simply great television.
Although its behind-the-scenes production was always troubled, the cast and crew managed to consistently produce thought-provoking, engaging and action-packed episodes while introducing now-iconic nemeses such the alien race the Borg and the omnipotent, godlike Q (played with aplomb by the great character actor John DeLancie). Remastered in high-definition for this box set, this television milestone belongs on your shelf. Yes, you.
1The Sopranos Complete Series
6 Seasons, 86 episodes
Finally, we have the seminal HBO original series that most agree kicked off this Golden Age of TV- the Sopranos, one of the most influential series of all time. The struggles of gangster Tony Soprano as he tries to hold everything together- his family, his criminal organization, his sanity- the Sopranos is notable not just for its place in TV history but for its superb writing, direction, and towering lead performance by the late, great James Gandolfini. Just be warned- as even non-fans are likely aware, the series finale proved to be one of the single most divisive episodes in the history of television. (We think it’s great.)
Now, if you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. You could honestly print out this list, pin it to the wall and throw a dart at it, pick whichever box set you hit, and order it. You can’t go wrong.