2007 Calvin Awards: Best DVD

February 13, 2007

Is this drawn to scale?

Anyone who is a fan of TV on DVD will find plenty to peruse in our Calvins list of best DVDs for the calendar year of 2006. As more and more favorites make their way to DVD format, viewers have the opportunity to revisit shows that aired years ago as well as enjoying new favorites. We throw in a few movies for good measure, of course.

In fact, our winner in this category is a special edition DVD of one of the great noir classics. The Maltese Falcon 3-disc special edition is indeed ‘the stuff that dreams are made of', as it features not only an all-new digital transfer of the Humphrey Bogart/John Huston film, but also has a documentary, two previous versions of The Maltese Falcon, commentary from Bogart biographer Eric Lax, and plenty more. It's an outstanding package for one of the finest movies ever made.

Coming in a very close second are Doctor Who Series Two and Deadwood: Complete Second Season, which tied for the runner-up spot. Doctor Who Series Two features some of the finest single episodes of television in recent memory, as David Tennant stars as The Doctor alongside the vivacious Billie Piper, who plays his traveling companion Rose Tyler. While the single episode The Girl in the Fireplace stands alone as one of the great television episodes of the past several years, the run up to the season finale is fantastic in its own right. Viewers familiar with the show will delight in villains from the past, such as the Cybermen and the Daleks. And the final moments of the last episode of the season will tug at the heartstrings, to be sure. Extras include commentary from cast and crew on all episodes as well as picture-in-picture commentary on certain episodes. David Tennant's video diaries are also included, which is good news for anyone who has seen his brand of humor on shows on the BBC and otherwise.

As for Deadwood, it should be no surprise that it places highly in this category since we found Season Two to be of such high quality that it was selected as our Best TV Show last year. Season Two sees the arrival of Sheriff Bullock's wife and son as well as Francis Wolcott, the evil agent for mining magnate George Hearst. Swearengen goes through a bout of miserable health and emerges as a sort of ally to previous enemy Bullock. There is plenty of blood and violence and cursing, and Wu has some of the greatest lines the show will ever provide. The fine DVD package has commentaries from various cast members on the different episodes, including a pairing of Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane on the episode where their characters have a knock down, drag-out fight.

Next up, two Bruce Campbell shows are tied for the fourth spot. The first of these, Jack of All Trades, was a syndicated half-hour comedy that sadly never got the marketing push it really deserved. Clever, witty and just plain fun, this show put Campbell's character, Jack Stiles, on the island of Polau Polau, where he was assigned by Thomas Jefferson to spy on the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte (brilliantly played by Verne Troyer) and stop the little emperor from his quest to take over the world. Jack is partnered with the lovely British spy Emilia Rothschild, and though the two of them frequently trade pointed barbs, they have wonderful chemistry. The Daring Dragoon lives!


The second of our two Bruce Campbell entries is the amazing Western/Adventure The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., yet another Fox network television series that was cancelled far too soon. Created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse (who is currently one of the key people behind Lost), this bright show had Campbell playing a lawyer who turns bounty hunter in an effort to avenge his father. Working alongside him are an attorney named Socrates Poole (United 93's Christian Clemenson) and a mean bounty hunter known as Lord Bowler (played by Julius Carry, an actor who really deserves more work). The show is consistently smart and funny, and has a ridiculous number of cameos in addition to a fine recurring appearance from Kelly Rutherford, who played femme fatale Dixie Cousins. The DVD has a plethora of strong features, including some commentary from Campbell and Cuse on the pilot, a video catalog of the show's references to future inventions and ideas, a documentary on The History of Brisco County, and a round table with key series creative personnel.

Our list wouldn't be complete without a Criterion disc, and this year's entry is their special edition for the Richard Linklater-directed Dazed and Confused. We visit the world of football star Randall "Pink" Floyd, who takes us through a variety of high school groups ranging from jocks to stoners to rockers as it dares to wonder what might come next for its high school characters. As always is the case with Criterion DVDs, the special features are top notch. There is commentary with Linklater, a 72-page book with essays from Kent Jones, Jim DeRogatis, and Chuck Klosterman, audition footage, clips from the tenth anniversary celebration and on-set interviews and images from behind the scenes.

It wouldn't be a Calvins DVD list without the Simpsons, would it? This time around, we picked Season Eight. This particular season includes some of the show's best work, including Treehouse of Horror VII (which has the great bit with Kang and Kodos kidnapping and replacing Bill Clinton and Bob Dole), The Homer They Fall, The Springfield Files, Homer vs. the 18th Amendment, The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show, and best episode ever You Only Move Twice. After a rough start in the early going with extras, the producers of these discs have improved substantially. For season eight, there is commentary on every single episode, a featurette titled "Simpsons House", original sketches, deleted scenes and a variety of other selections.

Doctor Who wins not once but twice with us, as we choose Series One for our eighth spot. Series one had Christopher Eccleston as the doctor, with Billie Piper still working her way into our hearts as Rose Tyler. Fans are fairly divided as to whether they prefer Eccleston or Tennant in the lead role, but both men are masterful and play it in their own way, making the character their own. The extras on this set are ridiculously great, including commentary from writer Russell T. Davies on all episodes (Piper and the incomparable John Barrowman – Captain Jack Harkness on the show – show up for a few as well).

Ninth place goes to Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Given that the film made $423 million in North America, it seems a bit unlikely that we need to tell you much about the movie itself. Instead, we'll talk special features on the disc, which include commentary from the screenwriters, a pre-production diary, bloopers, a documentary on the film, a look at both Captain Jack and Davy Jones, and other easter eggs.

We had a tie for tenth place, including the Seven Samurai 3-disc remastered edition, An Inconvenient Truth, The Office: Second Season, and Rescue Me: The Complete Second Season. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Top 10
Position Film Total Points
1 Maltese Falcon (3 disc special edition) 23
2(tie) Doctor Who Series Two 22
2(tie) Deadwood (complete second season) 22
4(tie) Jack of All Trades - The Complete Series 20
4(tie) The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. - The Complete Series 20
6(tie) Dazed and Confused (Criterion) 19
6(tie) The Simpsons (complete eigth season) 19
8 Doctor Who Series One 16
9 Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest 13
10(tie) Seven Samurai - 3 disc remastered edition 12
10(tie) An Inconvenient Truth 12
10(tie) The Office: The Complete Second Season 12
10(tie) Rescue Me: The Complete Second Season 12

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