The big pre-order this week is the vampirific
True Blood: The Complete First Season ($59.99), which HBO infuriatingly declines to say when it will actually ship. But you'll want to be the first to stay up all night watching them straight through. (Say, how come you're always up all night, anyway?) The sizzling show-opening sequence alone deserves an award.
Also keep your eyes peeled for Night Court: The Complete Second Season ($29.98, Feb. 3), Harry Anderson's nicest trick, a reliably entertaining comedy that ages well. Fans were about to storm Warner Bros.' gates with torches, it's been so long since the first season was released, but it's worth the wait.
I'll get to this week's releases in a sec, but first, check out my old colleague Leah Weathersby's editor's picks for Best TV DVDs of 2008 on Amazon (where I used to work, but I don't care where you shop and I dumped all my stock just before it tripled). It's almost as good as my own Film.com best-of list, and last I checked the prices I'm about to list were discounted 35 to 52 percent: First place is Mad Men: Season One ($49.98), followed by The Wire: The Complete Fifth Season ($59.99), John Adams ($59.99), The Tudors: The Complete First Season ($42.99), 30 Rock: Season 2($39.98), The Office: Season Four ($49.98), Dexter: The Complete Second Season ($39.98), Battlestar Galactica: Season Three ($59.98).
I totally don't get her number nine choice, the utterly sucky It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 3 ($39.98) -- I guess Leah ran out of coffee and her brain shut down. But number 10 is a winner, the unjustly scuttled Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season ($29.98). It's got an original touch (the hero can bring folks back to life with one finger, and kill by tapping twice, so when he brings his sweetheart back he can only touch her once). There may be a movie in the works. Defy the network's touch of death! I'm pushing Daisies, here.
This week's releases: America's favorite barflies started pushing up daisies after Cheers: The Final Season ($39.98), except for Frasier, of course. Snobs say the last isn't exactly the show's championship season, but it is satisfying to see everybody's stories wrapped up, and to see Diane (Shelley Long) come back. So did early Cheers visitor Harry Anderson, who took time out to make Night Court. The show stayed lively because it was flexible: when I met Long's replacement Kirstie Alley, Kirstie's character was supposed to be a hard-chick business type, but she proved so goofy they rewrote her to accommodate Kirstie's loopy gift for clumsiness. In honor of Amy Adams' goofball Meerkat-loving character in the great film Junebug, check out Meerkat Manor: Season Four ($24.95), Animal Planet's answer to Family Feud.
M.A.N.T.I.S.: The Complete Series ($49.98) is an agreeably god-awful SF show about a guy vaguely like Iron Man, with a special superpower suit called the Mechanically Augmented Neurotransmitter System. And everyone's favorite seafloor denizen goes gladiator in SpongeBob SquarePants: Spongicus ($16.99). Unlike Spartacus, there's no gay bathtub scene with Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier. Sorry, anti-SpongeBob politicians! You can't have a bathtub scene underwater.