Best TV on DVD?
September 4, 2008 6:08 PM   Subscribe

TV-on-DVD recommendations?

My wife and have enjoyed the following shows (broken into tiers), and I'm wondering what people would recommend. We don't get much entertainment value out of movies, but rather prefer the length and character/plot development of TV-on-DVD. Also it's nice if the show is already over so we can watch the entire series.

Tier 1:
- Buffy
- Six Feet Under

Tier 2:
- Arrested Development
- Carnivale
- Dexter
- Firefly (probably would be Tier 1 if there were more seasons!)
- Lost
- The Office

Tier 3:
- Big Love (she likes it more than I do)
- Heroes (I like it more than she does)
- Northern Exposure
- Reality TV (American Idol, ANTM, Survivor)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (I liked them more than she did)
- Twin Peaks

Things we quit after watching a couple of episodes:
- Babylon 5
- Family Guy
- The Shield
- The Simpsons

We're not really into animated shows, and typically neither of us likes episodic stuff as much as something with a plot that develops throughout the season.
posted by jjsonp to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I think you'd probably enjoy Alias.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:12 PM on September 4, 2008

30 Rock
posted by mmascolino at 6:13 PM on September 4, 2008

Ah. Rome. You seek Rome.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:13 PM on September 4, 2008

Dead Like Me
posted by comiddle at 6:14 PM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sports Night.
Friday Night Lights (at least season one).
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:14 PM on September 4, 2008

Aside from Buffy, I own everything in your tier one and two, and half of tier three, but I noticed you do not have NewsRadio. Great series, hilarious, and five whole seasons!
posted by banannafish at 6:15 PM on September 4, 2008

The Wire.

Simply the best show ever...especially if you're into outstanding plots that develop throughout the season.

Also, if you liked about Angel?
posted by quentiniii at 6:15 PM on September 4, 2008

Seconding, The Wire. I'm sure it'll be repeated many times here.

Also Extras is quite good.
posted by zazerr at 6:18 PM on September 4, 2008

Veronica Mars. Doctor Who and Torchwood. The X-Files (at least the first 6 or so seasons). Seconding Alias.
posted by mogget at 6:18 PM on September 4, 2008

My husband and I found Arrested Development to be one of the best shows on TV. I am so sad it ended.

I recommend It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He and I loved it. It is irreverent, but hilarious.
posted by beachhead2 at 6:21 PM on September 4, 2008

Band of Brothers and 30 Rock (the latter is a sitcom but brilliant, I think your tastes run towards it - Netflix has season 1 online). Second NewsRadio. Futurama (another sitcom of sorts - if you like the Simpsons and you're nerdy, you'll love it)? The new Dr Who?
posted by kcm at 6:23 PM on September 4, 2008

The Sopranos.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:24 PM on September 4, 2008

Deadwood! also The Sopranos for extended character development. We've just started watching the new Dr. Who. Mr. Libraryhead likes it more than I do, but I thought a couple of shows had a Buffy-ish vibe.
posted by libraryhead at 6:24 PM on September 4, 2008

Six Feet Under is definitely my favorite of the new breed of cable shows, but Weeds is a pretty close second. Next on my radar is Mad Men, FWIW.
posted by piedmont at 6:28 PM on September 4, 2008

Mad Men.

I also agree with Sports Night and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
posted by sanka at 6:32 PM on September 4, 2008

Supernatural (maybe... because of Buffy)
Wonderfalls (short like Firefly unfortunately)
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:32 PM on September 4, 2008

The West Wing
If you like ANTM and other pseudo-merit-based reality shows, you might try Project Runway.
Not on DVD, but if you haven't checked out Dr. Horrible yet, you must (based on your love of Buffy and Firefly).
posted by lampoil at 6:35 PM on September 4, 2008

Oh and Mad Men! Duh.
posted by lampoil at 6:35 PM on September 4, 2008

Seconding Wonderfalls.
posted by myrrh at 6:37 PM on September 4, 2008

Oh crap, you cannot miss The West Wing. I KNEW there was something I was missing. It's far and away the #1 television series ever written (at least the first four seasons). You can't not watch it first thing. Nthing The Sopranos too for good measure.
posted by kcm at 6:39 PM on September 4, 2008

The Riches. fo sho.
posted by alcopop at 6:49 PM on September 4, 2008


You might like CSI Las Vegas... It's the best of the bunch, and although episodic, there are sometimes themes that run through the whole of some seasons.

I'd also second Dead Like Me. Great show, but not easily available over here in the UK!


posted by mdavis1982 at 7:02 PM on September 4, 2008

Allo Allo
Desperate Housewives
Curb Your Enthusiasm
posted by steinwald at 7:03 PM on September 4, 2008

All signs point to Battlestar Galatica.
posted by jca at 7:04 PM on September 4, 2008

30 Rock (season two: Oct 7)
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season three: Sept 9)
Spaced (acclaimed BBC comedy)
posted by judomadonna at 7:10 PM on September 4, 2008

I'd agree with the recommendations for "Dead Like Me" and "Wonderfalls". If I recall, they were put together by the same group of people. Both are on Netflix. I would also agree with the "Rome" and "Deadwood" suggestions. Based on what you guys like, I think you would enjoy all four of these series.
posted by GregWithLime at 7:13 PM on September 4, 2008

Seconding Angel since you liked Buffy.

I also think you'd like Stargate SG-1 and its spinoff, Atlantis, judging by your Tier 2 and 3 choices. And if you liked Star Trek: The Next Generation (and your partner didn't mind it), you'll both love Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In my opinion, it is the best series in the Star Trek franchise (although I admit that it took some time to find its feet... it really only gets going about mid season 2) and I remember reading an article somewhere that it also appeals to women more than traditional Star Trek does since it has strong character development, making it feel more like a soap opera than a sci-fi show.

Also, have you tried The Sopranos? If not, do. Also, The West Wing.

For comedy, I think you'd like Frasier, and maybe the UK comedy series Black Books.

Hmmmm. I appear to have named most of the DVDs in my DVD collection. Well there you go.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:13 PM on September 4, 2008

Freaks and Geeks
The Wire
Veronica Mars
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:40 PM on September 4, 2008

This British series is from the 1960s, but it is a gem: The Prisoner

Also, Flambards was cool too.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2008

posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 7:45 PM on September 4, 2008

Double Hugh Laurie recommendation ahoy!

House is really, really good. A bit older, but Black Adder is great too.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:55 PM on September 4, 2008

Rome and Deadwood
posted by Jacqueline at 7:57 PM on September 4, 2008

Taxi, Newsradio. (I think you should have Dexter in tier one, especially after you see season 2, and I completely agree about Firefly). If you can find them there are also some great british shows, 'Coupling', 'Not Going Out' and 'The Young Ones'. Happy viewing and thanks for playing.
posted by docmccoy at 8:00 PM on September 4, 2008

Rome and Deadwood

posted by juv3nal at 8:04 PM on September 4, 2008

I am going to throw out My So-Called Life randomly because I like almost all of the things you like and loved that show. In terms of reality tv, you may also like the Amazing Race.

You might also want to try the Shield again. The seasons with Glen Close and Forest Whitaker are amazing. I didn't like the first season of the Shield that much.

Oh, Prime Suspect is a British mini-series, but it may have what you're looking for.
posted by hazyspring at 8:15 PM on September 4, 2008

Battlestar Galactica's only been mentioned once, and that's a travesty. It'll probably be a tier 2 for you, not a tier 1. But definitely has a plot that develops throughout the season, if by season you mean the entire show.

p.s. make sure you watch the webisodes, no idea if they're on the dvds. But handy for a bridge between seasons.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:21 PM on September 4, 2008

Seconding The Riches. I thought it was brilliant, and I love all the stuff on your list.

If you can stomach weird aliens and more traditional sci-fi, there's always Farscape (which I'm actually re-watching right now and really enjoying).
posted by gemmy at 8:58 PM on September 4, 2008

You might enjoy Neverwhere, which was a BBC mini-series from 1996 penned by Neil Gaiman. There's only 6 half-hour episodes and the effects don't match up to today's CGI extravaganza, but it's a unique piece of urban fantasy with a strong plot and something of a cult following.
posted by xchmp at 9:14 PM on September 4, 2008

Before there was The Wire, there was Homicide.

The first TV drama ever to win three Peabody Awards (1993, 1995, 1997).

TV Guide called it "The Best Show You're Not Watching."

Regulars: Paul Attanasio, Barry Levinson, Daniel Baldwin, Ned Beatty, Richard Belzer, Andre Braugher, Yaphet Kotto.

Guest Stars: James Earl Jones, Robin Williams, Steve Buscemi, Alfre Woodard, Marcia Gay Harden, Lily Tomlin, Chris Rock, Wilford Brimley, Steve Allen, Bruno Kirby, Edie Falco, Vincent D'Onofrio, Luis Guzmán, Elijah Wood, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lewis Black, Paul Giamatti, David Morse, Chris Noth, Jay Leno, Tim Russert, and Jerry Stiller.
posted by Exchequer at 9:37 PM on September 4, 2008

As everyone's already said, you must sample Angel if you liked Buffy. David Boreanas' current gig Bones is also a pleasant mix of humor, crime scene science, whodunit, and quirky personality blends. There is a moderate amount of overarching story arc as well (in particular dealing with the main character's family history) so if you read "crimescene whodunit" and think "hardcore procedural", you might be pleasantly surprised. (But it is of course first and foremost a procedural.)

Some other shows that had a similar Angel vibe were New Amsterdam and Moonlight. They were both canceled after one season and are not yet available on DVD, but if you're okay with illicit downloading they can be acquired easily. Also, Reaper has a bit of a Buffy vibe and s1 should be out on DVD soon. All three of these more or less follow the same pattern of "main character has larger personal dilemma to understand/resolve" which plays as complimentary B-story to each episode's main A-story of "baddie of the week needs slaying".

For half hour comedies, Showtime's pair of Weeds and Californication can't be beat. Plus being Showtime it's R rated at times.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:42 PM on September 4, 2008

echoing some folks above to say:

The Wire
Veronica Mars
Battlestar Galactica
Doctor Who

I'm about to pick up another Brit series, Spaced, that sounds like good fun
posted by ahimsa at 10:03 PM on September 4, 2008

Nthing Spaced and Freaks and Geeks.

Both are period pieces (late 90s and early 80s, respectively), both are hilarious geeky fun and both launched a number of careers.

I recommend Spaced above all, though. If you enjoyed the laughs in Hot Fuzz and especially Shaun of the Dead, there is nothing to keep you from loving Spaced. If you have any lingering animosity for Jar Jar Binks, you'll love Spaced. And Spaced finally came out on R1 dvd hardly a month ago.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:29 PM on September 4, 2008

Definitely Angel, for the Buffy continuance. Specifically in the final season of Buffy, there's some bits that don't quite make sense if you don't also see the corresponding Angel episode. That said, Angel was a bit darker, and given the namesake of the title, much moodier than Buffy.

And definitely, the Wire and Homicide. The Wire is definitely stunning, but in some ways, some of the stuff we're all so blown away with was there in Homicide as well. In some ways, I think, Homicide was a little less hardcore about "the message"/theme of the season, and more about damn good storytelling. It was limited in that it was from a single perspective (the cops) than The Wire, but it was amazing. I need to pick that up soon.

I just finished watching Generation Kill, which, like Band of Brothers is basically a mini-series, but I would definitely recommend flagging that for when it comes out on DVD (and yeah, Band of Brothers was quite good as well.

Also check out Millenium if you get a chance. Fantastic until they did the "were going to cancel you, wait, no we're not" dance at the end of season two.

Oh, and the first season of Babylon 5 was meh-ish, but it's really a show that can be appreciated long term. Pretty much every single episode furthers the overall story to its end. One of the first shows that had a set plan, for a set number of seasons, with essentially the entire story laid out in advance. Lost could take some notes.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:27 AM on September 5, 2008

posted by flabdablet at 5:53 AM on September 5, 2008

Seconding the Wire. The plot develops over several seasons, not just one.
posted by PTCHFRKR at 6:00 AM on September 5, 2008

The Wire and Freaks and Geeks are the two best hour long dramas of all time IMO. 30 Rock is the best thing on at the moment.
posted by Andy Harwood at 6:19 AM on September 5, 2008

Like many, nthing Freaks and Geeks and Spaced. If you haven't seen the original UK version of The Office, I would definitely get that as well.

Since you mention reality shows, I have to mention Project Runway. The jury's still out on the current season, but any of the previous ones are worth watching.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:03 AM on September 5, 2008

The Wire
Battlestar Galactica
Freaks and Geeks
Gilmore Girls
posted by designbot at 8:03 AM on September 5, 2008

I have to put in a big vote for PRISON BREAK

Also seconding some others that I think you'd really enjoy:

'Supernatural' is awesome
'Alias' is great, as well. I'm working my way through Season 4 now.
posted by Spyder's Game at 11:02 AM on September 5, 2008

Thanks for the great ideas everyone! Will definitely check out The Wire, Angel, Spaced, Rome, Prison Break...West Wing & Californication are in the queue. After we work through those I'll come back to this thread and mine it some more;).

I totally forgot about Battlestar Galactica...that was top-notch for both me and my wife - just waiting for the next season to come out on DVD. Also saw Freaks & Geeks, which we liked (wasn't there only one season though?).

Seen a few of the various Stargates...I could see us enjoying a season or two of that. After dragging my wife through all 7 seasons of SNG I doubt I could get her to acquiesce to DS9, but maybe...we liked season 1 of Millennium enough to get season 2, which we didn't like much. Oh also felt the same about Veronica Mars. We've seen all of Weeds...she likes it okay and I find all the characters annoying.

Also watched a couple of seasons of 24, but maybe we can figure out which ones we haven't seen. Will definitely check out The Wire, wife watches 30 Rock and I background-watch it; it is clever and funny but not plot-ty enough for my tastes. Same with Scrubs. Seen a couple of Houses but would probably enjoy a full season on DVD more. My wife watches Project Runway too...I like it better than ANTM but not as much as Survivor. For some reason we haven't watched Amazing Race.
posted by jjsonp at 11:32 AM on September 5, 2008

Well, we're only matching your picks about 30% (Buffy over Lost??), but totally agree that TV series on DVD are trumping movies these days for "length and character/plot development," for us too.
So, just for the sake of some variety on this list, and maybe for other readers, our recent really-liked-it results after digging deep for TV at Netflix (excluding anything previously mentioned up-thread, and we're anglophiles a bit):

Intelligence (wow!)
Friday Night Lights
William & Mary
Cold Feet
The 4400
The Tudors
The L Word
DaVinci's Inquest
Invasion (loved it!)
Cracker, BBC version
Wire in the Blood

Mini-series come next, in our book. Some good ones:
State of Play
The State Within
Foyle's War
Random Passage
Falling for a Dancer
The Grid
posted by dpcoffin at 12:20 PM on September 5, 2008

Everyone has already mentioned what I was going to mention, so I'm going to make a long, looong stretch and suggest the anime Bleach (up to episode 62) and the very short-lived Boomtown.
posted by NemesisVex at 2:04 PM on September 5, 2008

Not for all tastes .. but I think you should check out Oz. Intense, graphic, violent .. but also drama-filled. Excellent, excellent, excellent writing and acting.

And nth-ing the Wire.
posted by duckus at 5:34 PM on September 5, 2008

N-thing Rome.
The Tudors (a Sopranos-like version of British history)
Life on Mars (a UK time travel series -- seriously fascinating as it develops)
posted by Susurration at 5:54 PM on September 5, 2008

I noticed you didn't mention Dead Like Me in the ones you ordered, but I really think you will like it. Also, Veronica Mars.

If you like the idea of Spaced, then how about Red Dwarf?
posted by exceptinsects at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2008

Homicide never gets the love it deserves! I used to watch it religiously when it was on originally, and I keep meaning to go back and watch it on DVD. But really, it was such a fore-runner in the current trend of intelligent, complex serialized drama. Also, it was one of the first of the modern-era shows that used music to amazing effect (to this day, I still can't hear "Hurt" by NIN or "Cold Cold Ground" by Tom Waites without thinking of specific episodes.

West Wing, too. It'll be especially fun right now with the presidential race going on. I swear, this entire campaign season is straight out of the Aaron Sorkin playbook.

Gilmore Girls got one mention ... I resisted this show for a long time because it looked like some sort of religious-right 7th Heaven knockoff, but it's actually a massively entertaining feminist fairy tale (women gets knocked up at age 16 yet makes it on her own with her super intelligent daughter, runs a business with her best friend), with smart, snappy dialogue. The first few seasons are great fun, but it got a little grating after that.
posted by lunasol at 11:21 AM on September 7, 2008

It's Always Sunny In Philadephia. Awesome show with very unconventional characters. It is episodic, though.
posted by reenum at 7:12 PM on June 6, 2009

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