Where have all the great movies gone? Most have moved to television, where story arcs, character development and creative ideas are given room to flourish.
With major film studios shying away from anything ‘unproven’, most of the truly ambitious screen work of the past decade has been nurtured in a TV environment. The advent of DVD has a lot to do with that – if a show fails to find its audience, it can find one thanks to DVD sales. With that in mind, here’s our pick of the best television available on DVD. We didn’t need to scrape the bottom of the barrel – all of it is sublime.
The first series of Deadwood is perfect television. Based on real-life characters from the pioneer town of Deadwood in 19th century America, the show depicts men seeking to rule Deadwood and make their fortune through brutal powerplays and uneasy alliances. You don’t have to like westerns to love Deadwood – the compelling plots, swigs of humour and almost unbearable tension will have you feeding disc after disc into your DVD player.
Also try: Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad
Fantasy: Game of Thrones
Like Deadwood, Game of Thrones transcends the trappings of its genre and is accessible to a broad audience. While the debut episode suggests it will be a dark and vicious Lord of the Rings clone, it soon establishes itself as an intense character study about seven noble families engaged in a physical and mental duel to become undisputed rulers of the realm. Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage are the standouts in an almost flawless cast. The final twist in the first series will leave you shell-shocked and breathless for season two.
Also try: The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, The Prisoner
Horror: The Walking Dead
Right from the opening scene, when Sheriff Rick Grimes guns down a little girl, The Walking Dead promises it will pull no punches. Following a band of survivors as they try to find a safe haven in a world overrun with the living dead, they soon find the living can be just as dangerous as the ravening ‘walkers’. Writer and producer Frank Darabont delivers the best interpretation of George A. Romero’s zombie apocalypse world since Romero himself.
Also try: Supernatural, True Blood, The Outer Limits
A victim of the nervous nellies who ran the Fox network, Firefly never saw its full run on television – it was cancelled in 2002 after just 11 of its 14 episodes had aired. But the sci-fi series developed a feverish cult following after its release on DVD and began a second life in movies and comics. Set in another star system in 2157, it is effectively a western in sci-fi guise that is driven by characters rather than pseudo-scientific gobbledegook. It cemented writer/director Joss Whedon’s place as an icon in the genre.
Also try: Star Trek, The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica
Comedy: Family Guy
This off-the-wall animated series was among the first to demonstrate the power of DVD. Killed off in 2002 by the Fox network (yep, them again), its extraordinary DVD sales coupled with demand from the viewing public saw Fox reinstate the program as part of its line up in 2004. Not afraid to push moral and social boundaries in its quest for laughs, it has been subject to a number of lawsuits – which have only further endeared it to its fans.
Also try: 30 Rock, Blackadder, Red Dwarf
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