New TV on DVD: Lost, The Wire, Horny Swingers, Deadwood, Rocky Horror as Shakespeare

Gilligan's Island started running out of ideas soon after the castaways landed, but this week's top-selling title, Lost: The Complete Fourth Season ($59.99), is just hitting its stride. Granted, the writers got a bit lost themselves a couple seasons ago, but now the show is a festival of flashbacks, flash-forwards and trippy plot developments I won't reveal. The DVD has more behind-the-scenes extras than there are Others on the island.

But the number-two bestselling title is better: The Wire: The Complete Series (249.99) makes The Sopranos look dumb. It's an addictively complicated tragedy that explains every single thing about Baltimore (and the larger American) society, and exactly how every single institution we have is going to the dogs. The wiretap-expert cops and the inner-city drug gangsters they target are smart, cunning and abundant with thunderous Shakespearean flaws. You'd be much smarter to buy the DVD than watch it on TV; the utterly brilliant dialogue is fast and sometimes incomprehensible because it's authentic. Unless you grew up on the Corner, you will need the subtitle option. In fact, you'll need it to keep track of the rapid zigzags of the fascinating plot.

Speaking of Shakespearean, you've got to see Tim Curry as the Bard in Will Shakespeare ($29.95), a six-part miniseries made soon after Curry went from unknown British actor to the hottest cult hero of the mid-'70s thanks to his outrageous turn as Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. When I had dinner at his mansion, he told me it was a head-spinning transition. "One minute I was onstage in England, the next I was living in the Chateau Marmont and going out every night drinking with John Lennon during his Lost Weekend." (I also told Curry his huge grotto hot tub overlooking L.A. looked like a place Mayans used for human sacrifice, and asked whether he'd sacrificed any virgins there. "Not yet," he said.) You get a whiff of Curry's naughty real life in those days in John Mortimer's spirited saga of Will's ascent.

Swingtown: The First Season ($40.99) always gets compared with The Ice Storm because it too is about wife-swapping suburbanites circa 1976, but the latter is much better and more depressing. Swingtown, created by a Six Feet Under director, acts as if there was something partly nice about a time when there was no AIDS and people coupled happily as pot-smoking, Quaalude-popping rabbits. If you don't believe there ever was such a time, there's a featurette on the DVD, "Have a Nice Revolution: Sex and Morality in 1970s America."

Generation Kill ($59.99) is the most authentic war show you'll ever see, based on the Rolling Stone series by a reporter who risked his life right along with the troops who invaded Iraq. It's also the most confusing show you'll ever see, because it doesn't trouble to put the chaos of war into coherent narrative context. It's all about the human drama, and the remarkably realistic combat effects.

David Milch's Deadwood: The Complete Series ($179.97) is the most eloquently foulmouthed Western ever, but it's not exactly complete, since Milch never got a chance to finish it quite like he planned. Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interviews ($24.95) isn't as entertaining as the slightly fictionalized new movie, but it's wonderful to watch the two duel over Watergate minutia. Poor Little Rich Girl ($29.95), about neurotic billionaire Woolworth's heiress Barbara Hutton, who married (among many others) Cary Grant, is a pathetic Farrah Fawcett vehicle. Read the page-turner book instead, and for your DVD, rent the new, somewhat similar Bernard and Doris ($26.98), starring Susan Sarandon as the crazy billionaire tobacco heiress neurotic Doris Duke, and Ralph Fiennes as the crazy drunken gay butler who loved her, and all her money.