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DVDs: Breaking Bad Still Good

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BREAKING BAD COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON ($55.99 BluRay; Sony) -- It's the best show on TV. Bar none. Why aren't you watching?

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THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM COMPLETE SERIES ($49.97; Shout) -- Silverman's TV show is off-beat (of course), offensive (at times), funny (always), and unique. Whether she's trying to marry her dog or suing the movie Home Alone (a personal favorite and I would have joined in on the lawsuit but I've never actually seen Home Alone), Silverman projects a naif attitude towards the world that is somehow both cynical and sweet. Shout presents the entire series with care, including bonus features like commentaries, the original pilot, a ComicCon appearance and more. If you like her, you'll like it.

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WILFRED SEASON ONE ($39.99 BluRay; Fox)
LOUIS SEASON TWO ($39.99 BluRay; Fox)
EPISODES THE FIRST SEASON ($29.98; Showtime/CBS) -- Wilfred is the story of a lonely guy (Elijah Wood) who imagines his neighbor's dog is talking to him. He sees the animal Wilfred as a lumpy, middle-aged guy with an Australian accent (Jason Gann), a walking, talking, crotch-sniffing id who pushes our hero to do stuff he'd never think of on his own. Sometimes the series goes off track into a mean and petty vein. But when the story stays focused on Ryan and Wilfred and we can see their odd couple friendship growing and each one making the other a better man/dog, there's precious little like it. Gann is quite funny but it is Wood's sad sack persona that anchors this series into the real world and makes it not just funny but affecting. Louie C.K. is the star of his own sitcom, another thoroughly original blend of skewed observations on the world, a backdoor peak into stand-up and despite itself, occasional warmth. Finally, Matt LeBlanc has fun trashing his own image -- as well as Hollywood -- in Episodes, the story of a British writing team who get a chance to take their Britcom and bring it to America. The sitcom is in very good health indeed.

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LANCELOT LINK: SECRET CHIMP COLLECTOR'S EDITION ($24.98; Film Chest)
RAGS TO RICHES COMPLETE SERIES ($29.98; Image) -- I'm sorry, did you say a TV spy spoof starring chimpanzees and apes and the such? Not a human in sight? The sets built to 3/4 size so this world of monkeys would be as convincing as possible? The most expensive kids show in history, up to that time? No, it's not an acid trip, it's Lancelot Link, that very show dimly remembered by kids in the early 1970s. It's by no means good, but by God it's unusual and we're finally getting the entire 17 episodes in nice, cleaned up fashion. For the final psychedelic touch, the show also featured musical numbers with our spy chimps rocking out. Yes, The Monkeys. Literally. The primetime series Rags To Riches centers on businessman Joseph Bologna who needs to burnish up his public image. Naturally, he adopts five orphan girls and they turn his world upside down. Unexpectedly, there are also musical numbers, which happily were classics from the 1960s and earlier, rather than original tunes. That probably held up the DVD release (music rights are the reason we still can't watch The Wonder Years) so it's nice to see the entire series available on DVD. It's not a particularly good show from 1987, but I'm a firm believer everything should be available in some form so it's a welcome release. Now where's Cop Rock?

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TRUE BLOOD SEASON FOUR 9$79.98 BluRay; HBO)
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM SEASON EIGHT ($39.98; HBO)
ENTOURAGE EIGHTH SEASON ($39.98; HBO)
TOO BIG TO FAIL ($19.97; HBO) -- I hate to say it. I've resisted it because money is tight. But I think HBO has become an essential purchase again. Entourage is walking into the sunset (bye, you lovable Hollywood playas and wannabes). But here is just a new batch of HBO shows: the red hot True Blood, Curb Your Enthusiasm (which some fans are now scandalously claiming is even better than Seinfeld), and TV movies like the Wall Street scandal Too Big To Fail, with HBO's usual stellar cast. Throw in Game Of Thrones, Veep, Girls, Real Time With Bill Maher and now The Newsroom and darnit if HBO has become a must-have again.

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CASABLANCA THE COMPLETE SERIES ($39.95; Olive) -- Even as a 17 year old kid, I was scandalized when NBC launched a TV drama prequel to Casablanca, one of the greatest films of all time. But at least they attempted this doomed-to-fail enterprise with a top-notch production. They recreated the sets of the film beautifully (the show received two Emmy nominations and won for Cinematography) and delivered a strong cast including Scatman Crothers, Ray Liotta, Hector Elizondo and David Soul as Rick. (Since the show was a prequel, no one had to be cast to play Ingrid Bergman, who at the time of the film was perhaps the most beautiful woman in the world). It ran for five episodes, with NBC very tentatively beginning the run in April of 1983, about the oddest time to launch a new series one can think of back in those days. It is a curiosity now and would make an excellent bonus feature on a deluxe boxed set celebrating the movie. On its own, it's strictly for completists, though if you pretend it's not actually Casablanca but just a TV series, it was quite ambitious and had some promise. Such a bad idea -- and not the first time it had been acted on. There was an earlier TV series in 1955 that ran for ten episodes, and several musical adaptations have been tackled over the years. But no one really wants to hear Rick break into song, do they?

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FALLING SKIES FIRST SEASON ($49.99 BluRay; Warner Bros.)
DOCTOR WHO RESURRECTION OF THE DALEKS ($34.98; BBC?Warner Bros.)
THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES SEASON FIVE ($19.98; BBC/Warner Bros.) -- Steven Spielberg's Falling Skies is a heartfelt family drama with an alien invasion as the backdrop. That is both the show's strength and failing, though Noah Wylie anchors the series nicely. Hopefully, the action will pick up a bit in season two. Having just watched the classic British drama All Creatures Great And Small, I especially looked forward to seeing costar Peter Davison (who played a ladies' man of an animal veterinarian) as the good Doctor. The BBC loads up these multi-episode collections telling one long story with excellent bonus features. But this is still absurdly over-priced at just 90 minutes (though they do contain the slightly longer, rawer four part version which -- oh, if you're a Who fan you probably know and if you're not you don't care). Good silly fun. Sarah Jane has always been the most popular companion for the Doctor and she finally got her own series. Doctor Who has always been family fare but the recent reboot tilts slightly more adult and mature whereas this spin-off is definitely geared to kiddies. Sadly, the star Elizabeth Sladden died suddenly during the filming of this season and the show has ceased production, so this is the final goodbye for Sarah Jane.

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DAMAGES COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON ($45.99; Sony)
WASHINGTON: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS ($59.99; Acorn) -- Glenn Close continues to tear it up in the legal drama Damages. But you're only as good as your client or opponent and Close has a juicy one with John Goodman as the corrupt CEO of a security firm doing business in Afghanistan. (It's clearly inspired by the controversial firm Blackwater, which has now redubbed itself the hilarious inapt Academi.) Goodman always tears into good dramatic roles when given the chance and doesn't disappoint here. A similar tale of power and corruption can be enjoyed in the 1977 miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors, based on John Ehrlichman's post-Watergate novel The Company. He knew something about paranoid presidents and this nearly 10-hour miniseries has a lot of fun, thanks to a stellar cast that includes Jason Robards, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman, Robert Vaughn, Stefanie Powers and Andy Griffith. It's down and dirty rather than lavish like Shogun or The Holocaust but it's still fun.

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WHITE COLLAR COMPLETE THIRD SEASON ($39.98; Fox)
FRANKLIN & BASH FIRST SEASON ($45.99; Sony)
BURN NOTICE SEASON FIVE ($49.98; Fox))
TOP GEAR COMPLETE SEASON 18 ($24.98; BBC) -- I love boundary pushing, provocative television. But sometimes you just want to zone out. That doesn't mean you want something stupid and with the right charismatic cast and clever than average scripts, junk food television that you can dip into anytime without worrying about complicated story lines can be just the thing. White Collar is a sterling example, thanks to devilishly handsome leading man Matt Bomer (almost the perfect name) as a con man-turned-FBI consultant. Bomer should be answering calls from Hollywood when they want a new leading man but for the moment he's having great fun here. "We're totally lawyers" is a great tagline that perfectly captures the appeal of Franklin & Bash, a buddy show about two dudes who practice law. Stars Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar have excellent chemistry. Toss in Malcolm McDowell into the mix and you've got yourself a breezy bit of fun. Ditto Burn Notice, which had so much long-anticipated action (our hero returned to the CIA -- briefly -- faced down the person who burned him and so on) that it almost felt like a series finale. They're back for a sixth season, however, so catch up if you want. Unlike the other shows, this one does have a serious overarching plot but you can still enjoy it week to week. Finally, Top Gear always gets compared to the radio show Car Talk because they both entertain even if you don't give a hoot about cars. This set contains the entire 18th season (including the India special and a look at China's automotive industry) plus an episode from the U.S. spin-off. With Car Talk fading into permanent reruns, this is the last refuge for gearheads.

*****

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Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It's available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes. Link to him on Netflix and gain access to thousands of ratings and reviews.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free copies of DVDs and Blu-rays with the understanding that he would be considering them for review. Generally, he does not guarantee to review and he receives far more titles than he can cover.