Christmas is, in the beautiful words of Sir Cliff Richard, a time for giving, a time for getting. It’s also a time for sitting on your butt, shovelling Quality Street into your mouth and watching TV, although I don’t think those activities were mentioned in the original Mistletoe and Wine lyrics.
TV is amazing at the moment, with something for everyone currently on our screens. Even some of the older shows that we know and love are being re-released as a complete set, and at great prices too.
So whether you’re compiling a last minute Christmas list for Santa, looking for gift ideas for the ones you love or planning your assault on the January sales in advance, we’ve put together a list of the best TV box sets – some old, some new and some questionable – neatly arrange by price. You’re welcome.
The idea is simple – a sitcom set in a British supermarket. So simple, and yet so wonderful. The show follows the daily working lives of a handful of Valco employees, like the nerdy Gavin (Jason Watkins), the ditzy Julie (Jane Horrocks), the handsome Kieran (Nick Blood) and the hilarious Margaret (Rita May). Pick up series one for your family if you love to laugh at inappropriate jokes together.
The Killing (US)
Don’t watch the US version of The Killing, they said. It’s nowhere near as good as the Danish original, they said. Well what the hell do THEY know? I watched The Killing US with no knowledge of the Danish original, so I judged it with an open mind… and I loved it. The drama follows homicide detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman) as they investigate the murder of teenage girl, Rosie Larsen. The acting is incredible, the story is gripping (although a little tough to watch at times) and the ending is flawless. An absolute must-watch.
The Good Wife
Everything I know about the law, I learned from The Good Wife – although that only means I’m up to scratch on US law, so I doubt it will help me if I’m ever in bother over here. The Good Wife may well be my favourite TV show of all time, and season three certainly didn’t disappoint. The show follows the life of Alicia Florrick, who is forced to go back to work as a lawyer after her States Attorney husband cheats on her, gets caught up in a corruption scandal and ends up in prison. Alicia takes a job at a law firm, working for an old friend, Will Gardner. Is there something between Alicia and her boss? Will she stand by her husband? As the show progresses through three seasons you’ll be on an emotional roller-coaster ride, but you’ll love every minute of it.
Pennnnny caaaaan! Oh, how I long to be a member of the Cul-de-Sac Crew – the name of the gang who all hang out at Jules Cobb’s (Courteney Cox) house. Cougar Town seems to have its own brand of humour, which I absolutely love, and somehow they make you feel like a part of their gang. Their in-jokes suddenly become your in-jokes, and if you watch it with your friends you’ll find yourselves picking up on all their cute and funny little traits, and your life will be all the better for it… or maybe I need to accept that the amazing Courteney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Philipps, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins, Ian Gomez and Brian Van Holt are not my friends, and that I’m all alone, just yelling pennnnny caaaaan at my TV. Oh God, someone pass me a mince pie.
If I could have a gang of friends like the ladies in Lip Service do, I’d happily say goodbye to men forever. Ok, that’s not true, but the show does follow the lives of a group of lesbians (Laura Fraser, Ruta Gedmintas, Fiona Button, Heather Peace) living in Glasgow and from episode one I was hooked. The characters, the situations and their relationships all just feel so real, you can easily relate to their problems whether you’re straight or gay, and you’ll love every last character – even the ones you’re not supposed to. The show isn’t afraid to shock, and one scene in season two literally took my breath away, shaking me to my core. Now that’s the sign of a good TV show.
David Duchovny – that’s all you need to know. Next. You want more? Fine. Californication follows the life of troubled novelist Hank Moody (that’s our David), who struggles to say no to life’s little temptations like drugs, alcohol and sex. David is just a fantastic actor, and even though Hank is pretty terrible you cannot help but adore him, and his best friend Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler). The beautiful thing about Californication is that you can find yourself crying your eyes out at a moving scene one moment, and then crying tears of laughter the next. I love the awkward sex situations Hank always seems to find himself in. Definitely get it for Christmas, but don’t watch it with your parents.
Ok, I’m really going to have to sell you this one because The Event was cancelled after one season, and so it doesn’t have an end, nor do most of the questions get answered… and yet I’d still recommend you watch it, because I loved every second of it. Ever since Lost ended, I’ve been looking for a sci-fi drama to fill the gap in my life, and The Event seemed to do that perfectly. The plot centres on a group of extraterrestrials, some of whom have been detained by the United States government for sixty-six years since their ship crashed in Alaska, while others have secretly assimilated among the general populace. You’ll have a blast trying to work out who is and isn’t an alien at the very least.
My favourite show of 2012. I watched Revenge with no idea what it was about and it had me from the word go. Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) arrives in The Hamptons for the summer, renting a beach house next to the stunning Grayson family manor… but she’s not there for a holiday. In reality, Emily is Amanda Clarke, the daughter of a man who was framed for a terrible crime by the Grayson family, and she’s here for, you guessed it, revenge. Emily absolutely blew me away, in fact she’s my hero. If you love mystery, revenge, secrets and corruption, then this is the show for you. If you love eye candy this is also the show for you, with notable mentions going to Nick Wechsler and Josh Bowman.
Sex and the City
Sex and the City is the ultimate TV show for women everywhere. It’s actually quite brilliant, because on the surface it may seem like it’s about cocktails, shoes and sex, but it’s so cleverly written that while you think you’re having a good time living the high life in New York, you’re actually learning some pretty valuable lessons about life, and picking up a ton of relationship advice as the girls tackle relevant and modern social issues. Oh, and you can’t help but pick up a little fashion advice along the way too. Blitz your way through seasons one to six and then pick up the two movies they made for an extra helping of Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon.
Mr Brown’s Boys
Say hello to the Queen of Dublin town. Mr Brown’s Boys is a sitcom full of cheeky and often slapstick humour, following the life of Mrs Brown and her family. The show, written by/starring the hilarious Brendan O’Carroll, has a real old school sitcom vibe to it, which probably has something to do with the fact that it’s filmed in front of a live audience. The programme uses a laissez-faire style of production in which the audience, cameras and production crew are often seen. Brendan frequently breaks the fourth wall, talking to the audience, having a laugh with the camera men and even taking the mick out of the actors if they make a mistake with their lines – it all gets left in the show, and it makes it seem all the funnier.
I knew I was going to love Fringe when I first heard that hauntingly beautiful theme tune. Fringe is another example of a show that I decided to embrace in an attempt to fill the gap that I knew Lost would be leaving in my life, and I won’t hesitate to say that Fringe is a billion times better than Lost. With the exception of a few things that made me snigger during my GCSEs, everything I know about science I have learned from Fringe. Of course it’s not useful day-to-day science that I am learning, but that’s what makes Fringe so fantastic. The show follows Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), and Walter Bishop (John Noble), members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation called Fringe Division. The team uses “fringe” science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained occurrences… in the interest of keeping this article spoiler free, I’ll just say that a lot of the weird things that happen are building towards some pretty huge stuff. With an incredible cast who always put in an incredibly moving performance, you’ll be hooked.
The Vampire Diaries
If you like tales of vampires that don’t involve werewolves falling in love with babies (I don’t know…) then The Vampire Diaries is the show for you. It’s more grown up than Twilight, but not quite as full-on as True Blood – perfect for you to sink your teeth into. The main focus of the show is the love triangle between the Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and ridiculously sexy vampire-brothers Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder). Yes, your teenage sister will love it, but if you give it a chance (even if it’s just for the pretty boys) then you might find that you’re really into it too.
Oh, the roller-coaster ride that was Lost. The thing about Lost is that there is no easy way for me to put into words why exactly you should watch it. After six seasons – that’s 121 episodes – the Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 plane crash survivors have been through so much. It’s one of those shows that is so deep that you’re constantly connecting dots, realising that the little details from season two are suddenly a huge part of season five, realising you’ve seen characters somewhere before… it’s a real journey for the viewer, and an emotional one at that. I’m not embarrassed (ok, I am a bit) to admit that there is one scene in the season three finale that I only have to hear the music from to burst into tears. I watched the season six finale live, at about 5am UK time, and by the time it was over I needed a warm drink and a blanket to try and calm me down. Amazing.
The Walking Dead
Another show I was late in watching, but now I’m absolutely obsessed with it. I’m not usually a zombie-loving kind of girl, but The Walking Dead doesn’t feel like another zombie gore-fest. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and life as you know it was over, the dead were coming back to life, zombies were strolling around eating anyone they could get their teeth around – well that’s what happens in The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a sheriff’s deputy who wakes up after being in a coma to find the world dominated by “walkers”. The show sees Rick and his family trying to survive, finding other survivors along the way. It’s not only full of blood and guts (but even if you’re squeamish, I think you should brave it) but some of the emotional scenes are hard to watch. For something so seemingly far fetched, the characters feel very real and you feel their pain. Excellent performances from Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Norman Reedus and young actor Chandler Riggs.
Only Fools and Horses
Only Fools and Horses is a British classic. The show stars David Jason as ambitious market trader Derek “Del Boy” Trotter and Nicholas Lyndhurst as his younger brother Rodney, and despite being set in Peckham and kicking off in the early eighties, it’s a show that people of all ages can appreciate because it is just so funny. It’s got everything you want from a sitcom – lovable characters, big laughs, memorable moments that everyone can recall (Del leaning on the bar, the chandelier scene, etc.) and brilliant catchphrases – lovely jubbly. A real sign of its success is the fact that it ran from 1981-1991, with Christmas specials running up until 2004, and the fact that the show had two spin-off series, The Green Green Grass and Rock & Chips. Perfect family viewing over the festive season.
£40 and beyond…
Scrubs is one of those sitcoms that very much has its own brand of humour – but people love it. Despite being set in a hospital, the show is mostly upbeat and the characters are both likeable and hilarious. The series features fast-paced screenplay, slapstick, and surreal vignettes presented mostly as the daydreams of the central character, Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian – that’s the hilarious Zach Braff to me and you. With strong support from Donald Faison, Judy Reyes, Neil Flynn and John C. McGinley, the show managed to run for an impressive nine seasons, and while it is absolutely hilarious at times, it also boats a few touching and devastating moments.
Nope, you haven’t fallen into a time machine and been transported back ten years in time, hear me out. Bad Girls is a pretty fantastic TV programme. The show, which ran from 1999 to 2006, focused on the lives of the inmates and the staff at fictional women’s prison, Larkhall. I didn’t watch the show when it was on (mainly because I was eleven-years-old when it started) but thanks to re-runs on CBS Drama I’ve seen every episode and I can safely say I’m a fan. The show, packed full of actors and actresses who you will have seen in loads since (Jack Ellis, Debra Stephenson, Linda Henry), has everything you want from a drama – comedy, secrets, murder, relationships and rapping. It’d be a crime not to watch it.
Desperate Housewives is a show that I am currently working my way though. I don’t know why, but I enjoy box sets more when I know I have the ending sitting in a box on my DVD shelf – perhaps it’s because I over-invest emotionally in shows like The Event, only to find out that they don’t have an ending. What I have seen so far, I have loved, and the more I watch the more my real life seems like that annoying thing that happens in between episodes. I want to live on Wisteria Lane, in a huge house where I can hang out with my pals Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Eva Longoria. The only difference is, I won’t be putting a bullet in my brain, which is exactly what happens in the first episode. As the four friends get caught up in mystery surrounding the suicide of their friend, you’ll only find yourselves getting more into the show, and possibly faking a cold so that you can socialise less and watch TV more – well, colds are pretty common this time of year.
We’ve all heard of Friends – the one with the six friends living in New York. Can you believe it’s been eight years since the final episode aired? My God, I feel so old. The thing about Friends is that it’s one of those shows that never gets old, it doesn’t matter if you’re watching an episode from 1994 or 2004, it’s a great giggle watching the characters (Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer) grow up, get married and have kids. The show ran for an impressive ten seasons – that’s 238 episodes – and no two of them seem alike. Pick this one up for its rewatchability.
Monk is another show that is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. It is essentially a murder mystery show with a new case to be solved each episode, although thanks to the fantastic main character, the defective detective Adrian Monk, it has both dark and comedic touches. Monk, played by the fantastic Tony Shalhoub, was a brilliant detective for the San Francisco Police Department until his wife, Trudy, was murdered by a car bomb. After that Monk had a breakdown, resulting in his discharge from the police force. Monk begins working as a private detective and a consultant for the SFPD, and while he is still brilliant his OCD and his long list of phobias (dentists, germs, milk, heights, nature and fear itself to name a few) really get in the way of him solving cases. As he tries to solve the case of his wife’s murder your heart will break for Monk but it’s well worth the journey for a fantastic season eight finale.
It seems today that all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV… if you want more of that, watch Family Guy. The hilarious cartoon for grown ups isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues or be totally ridiculous, and it does so around the lives of a dysfunctional family. The show’s creator, Seth MacFarlane (of Ted fame), is an absolute genius, seemingly incapable of being unfunny. I love Stewie the talking baby (Seth MacFarlane) and Brian the talking dog (Seth MacFarlane), as well as kids Chris (Seth Green) and Meg (Mila Kunis) and parents Lois (Alex Borstein) and Peter (Seth MacFarlane). I also love Mayor Adam West, voiced by THE Adam West, y’know, probably the greatest Batman ever. Non-stop laughs.