DVD box sets make great holiday gifts — and more shows are out on Blu-ray now, too. We've been scrutinizing dozens of recent (and imminent) releases. Here's the scoop on TV boxes worth considering. (Check back soon as we add more!) –DW

[Amazon prices below are accurate as of posting. To check current prices — and to order online for fast, easy delivery — click the DVD links below.]

$360 DVD for 56 discs, CBS ($270 at Amazon); out Dec. 11

There would be no NCIS or NCIS: Los Angeles, if there hadn't first been JAG to spin 'em out of. And CBS wouldn't be topping the ratings if NBC hadn't canceled JAG after its first season there, so CBS could pick it up and run some high-rated version of Naval investigation for decades on end. So the 1995-2005 David James Elliott series gets loving treatment here, in a spiffy hard box of dress white and Navy blue. Just unsnap epaulets at the box-ends, which fall to the side to let the top fold back and reveal 10 season sets in card-stock packets. There's also a 40-page booklet filled with Navy history, terminology and character bios, plus a new bonus disc with a 45-minute series making-of, archive interviews and more. There's even a JAG collectible coin. –DW



$360 DVD for 56 discs, CBS ($270 at Amazon); out Dec. 11

You can practically hear Lalo Schifrin's sizzling '60s jazz riff when you see this cleverly packed set of the TV spy adventures that inspired the Tom Cruise movies. Inside a clear plastic cube-box is a round red cardboard stick of dynamite (light it with that opening-credits match). It hinges open to reveal a stack of 8 metal "tape" cans (like those "self-destruct in 5 seconds" audio message). Each of those hinges open for a season's worth of discs and episode guide, slid inside nicely protective plastic sleeves. You get the 7 original seasons, where "behind the iron curtain" missions were led by Steven Hill (Season 1) and Peter Graves (Seasons 2-7); plus Graves' Australian-made revival of '88-'89. Cool enough to shelve in public view! –DW


$130 DVD for 24 discs, Shout ($82 at Amazon)

Why can't a series today hit the highway like this richly drawn '60s CBS drama? At-loose-ends dudes set off on their own "on the road": Rich kid Martin Milner and working-class pal George Maharis drive their Corvette cross-country, working along the way on shrimp boats, in zoos, at ski resorts, getting involved in local folks' murder mysteries, town secrets, rodeos and beauty contests. The crew was on the road, too, shooting full episodes in Boston, Cleveland, New Orleans, Arizona and in-between, for texture and reality no studio sets could imbue. The scripts take their time exploring human behavior, and guest stars go deep -- up-and-comers like Robert Redford, Suzanne Pleshette and Bruce Dern; established stars like Anne Francis, Walter Matthau and Lee Marvin; old-timers like Ethel Waters, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Four season sets in slipcase, with bonus cast/crew panel and vintage commercials. –DW


$35 DVD for 2 discs ($28 at Amazon), BFS

Here's a delightful surprise -- a 5-episode UK drama spotlighting Sanjeev Bhaskar, who wrote and starred in the giddy faux-talkfest The Kumars of No. 42 (seen on BBC America). Here he plays it straight as an eager 1960s physician newly arrived from India and assigned to a down-and-dirty Welsh mining town that has no idea how to react to him, or his elegant and pampered wife (Ayesha Dharker). Their culture clash swiftly balloons with elements of mystery, comedy, romance, political activism and more, all those strands nicely balanced throughout with warmth and wit. It's a revelation, really, with the townsfolk, the countryside and this moment in time beautifully rendered by sensitive filming. Be the next one to discover this quiet gem.–DW


$30 DVD for 4 discs ($25 Amazon), MPI

He gives mime a good name. And pratfalls, and tap dance, and lots of other physical skills only hinted in those 1960s Dick Van Dyke Show tumbles over the ottoman. Heck, the dude holds his own dancing through a Tina Turner number! He takes the ring with boxer George Foreman! This short-lived 1976 variety hour finally gave Van Dyke the chance to do what he wanted. Too bad it wasn't what '70s America wanted, so NBC canceled the effort -- but not before Van Dyke gave them what-for on-air, and showcased young Andy Kaufman's oddities weekly, and hosted an early Super Dave Osborne bit by series producer Bob Einstein. These 13 episodes are endlessly inventive (Freddie Prinze channels Muhammad Ali!), with guests like Flip WIlson, Chevy Chase, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, SId Caesar and, yes, she's here, Mary Tyler Moore. –DW


$30 DVD for 3 discs, Shout ($25 at Amazon)

Ah, for a television medium young enough, loose enough, bold enough and all-around whatthehell enough to just let raggedness unfold, especially when it's inspiration undoing the folding. Pioneer TV play-with-it boy Ernie Kovacs gets another go-round in this sequel-set to last year's collection of his video wit experiments through the medium's first 15 years. Included this time are eight of his 1950s NBC daytime shows (chaos-laden live broadcasts of chat 'n' laughs, seen years ago on Comedy Central), plus rarities like his 1961 western sitcom pilot Medicine Man (costarring Buster Keaton!), that same year's Kovacs interview with Canadian TV, and three utterly insane episodes of Kovacs' early '60s game-show-excuse-for-lunatic-sketches Take a Good Look. Plus great explanatory guidebooklet to help those new to Kovacsland. And bonus sketches, too! –DW


$50 DVD for 6 discs, WarnerArchive.com ($42 at Amazon)

David Janssen's first season as semi-sad-sack private eye Harry Orwell remains charmingly offbeat nearly 40 years after its 1974 ABC debut. Orwell may occupy a California beach house, but he lives on a police disability pension, an old gunshot makes him hobble, and his car is always in the shop, forcing him to chase by bus. You think Janssen couldn't top his '60s classic The Fugitive? Let the debate begin. And great guest stars -- Martin Sheen, Stefanie Powers, Kurt Russell, Cab Calloway, not to mention pre-Charlie's Angels Farrah Fawcett as his beach-side neighbor. Oh, wait, Farrah doesn't show up till Season 2? Better buy Season 1 to keep the DVDs coming. This set includes the first TV-movie pilot, 1973's Such Dust as Dreams Are Made On. (The second, which sold the show, is available separately as Smile, Jenny, You're Dead.) –DW


$22 DVD, WarnerArchive.com

Back to the days when men played golf in jackets and ties. The legendary Bobby Jones made 2 series of instructional shorts in the 1930s for Warner Bros., which inserted studio stars to spark "fun." Jones is all business, despite stars' side bets and babes babbling breathlessly, during appearances by W.C. Fields, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Joe E. Brown and other names. There's slo-mo and freeze-frame, too, and likely too many backswing and body axis details for casual viewers. But duffers get to see one of the game's pioneers explaining the basics. (These SoCal golf courses are probably 'burbs and strip malls now.) Includes 18 shorts of variable audio/video quality -- 12 from How I Play Golf (1931) and 6 from How to Break 90 (1933). –DW


$200 DVD for 22 discs, direct from TimeLife.com

You know who'll appreciate this? Anybody who watched this classic variety hour from TV's most legendary night (Burnett's 10 p.m. ET hour topped off CBS's Saturday '70s slate of All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show). Or anybody who likes movie parodies. Or traditional comedy sketches touched by the insane. Or … OK, everybody. Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence join in the lunacy of 50 episodes collected in five plastic cases, inside a wide hard box with an equally large and colorful photo booklet — definite "wow" factor. Bonus features include recent in-depth interviews, several skits from non-included episodes, even Burnett's star-making moments in her previous gig on The Garry Moore Show. –DW


$250 DVD for 41 discs, BBC; out Nov. 20

Whether you go for the first "modern" Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), his popular successor (David Tennant), or the young current personification (Matt Smith), they're all here in a package truly designed for gift impact. It's a huge box with a plastic top revealing what it includes — the six released season sets, plus The Complete Specials, plus the Eleventh Doctor's "sonic screwdriver." Remove them, and you'll still find BBC America Shop's exclusive IDW 2011 Comic-Con comic book and some art prints at box bottom. There's even something otherwise not out on DVD (yet): a disc with recent TV clipfests "The Women of Doctor Who," "The Timey-Wimey of Doctor Who" and "The Destinations of Doctor Who." (Why no Blu-ray? The series didn't shoot in HD until Tennant's 2009 finale specials.) –DW


$100 for 5 Blu-ray discs + 5 DVDs + digital copy, HBO; out Nov. 20
($80 at Amazon)

Need a dragon's egg? Get a stone one included in this "collector's edition," to serve as a paperweight or even a bookend. The padded-top box also delivers a first-season set covering all format options for HBO's hit fantasy fave — high-def Blu-ray Disc, standard-def DVD, digital copy, and Ultraviolet streaming. There's also a Blu-ray disc of Season 2's first episode, "The North Remembers," which otherwise won't hit disc until Feb. 19. The first season was initially issued in March without all the goodies, but can be hard to find; that release was halted when HBO discovered one episode included a scene with a George W. Bush mask among a row of disembodied heads. (A subsequent "corrected" season set was released.) –DW


$150 DVD for 46 discs, ABC Studios
(Click link to check Amazon price)

Here's a fancy box holding all eight seasons of Marc Cherry's Sunday night soap mainstay. So, time to get rid of your season sets? Not so fast. This may be an impressively glossy thick-board box, sort of a flat treasure chest topped by the series' Adam/Eve/apple graphic. And that embossed top hinges-back smartly to reveal eight compact "folders" holding the season discs. But you might say it's semi-holding them; the card-stock folders come so unglued that discs go a-tumbling. This cheap treatment of, y'know, the reason you bought the set can actually damage that content. (Two of my discs were scratched and glue-glopped.) If you're buying for someone who doesn't otherwise own DH, you'll get great giftbox impact and (if you shop right) a nice price. Fans who plan to really revisit the episodes might rather have securely packaged season sets. –DW


$280 Blu-ray for 21 discs, Warner
($195 at Amazon)

NBC's hit '90s sitcom sextet arrives in high-def for the first time, their 236 episodes now on 21 discs slipped two-per-page into slots of a wide hardcover book; that's packaged inside a black hard box with magnetic closure and lenticular cover photo(s). The whole thing stands a bit more compact than the show's 2006 DVD complete-box (still available from Amazon on 40 discs for $140, discounted from $200 list price). But the Blu-ray book is a single package, compared to the DVD box's six smaller CD-height packs, which let you watch one part of the series while you store (or share) other parts. Each set has a wide, colorful, detailed booklet locating the episodes and extras. The One With the Extra Extras: documentaries (lots of interviews!), funny cast stops at Ellen ("What's My Next Line?") and Tonight, plus more. It's also The One With Widescreen Episodes. –DW


$250 DVD for 18 discs, HBO
($110 at Amazon)

$300 Blu-ray for 18 discs, HBO
($140 at Amazon)

HBO's Hollywood-set half-hour gets fitting complete-series treatment, finally putting out all eight seasons of the boys on Blu-ray. (Only Seasons 6-8 had been out in high-def.) This 2-inch-deep box is amazingly compact on Blu-ray or DVD, too, compared to all those season (and half-season) sets previously available. A hardcover slipcase turns sideways to let you extract the hardcover book-page package inside. Fold-outs reveal each previous set's discs slipped into pages that also outline the 96 episodes. Existing bonus features include lots of interviews, cast discussions, on-location thrills, making-of "documentary" treatment of the movie Medillin, episode commentaries, and more. –DW


$350 Blu-ray for 15 discs, Image
($300 at Amazon)

Sitcoms grew up with this '60s half-hour eyeing both a Manhattan TV comedy writer's workplace and his suburban family life. Creator-producer Carl Reiner made his concept click with great casting (Mary Tyler Moore!), sharp writing, and lively situations showcasing Van Dyke's physical-comedy prowess. This new high-def Blu-ray release is a compact package with 158 black-and-white episodes direct from 35mm negatives, revealing amazing detail in everything from fabric textures to gray-sweater stripes so vivid, they practically take on color hues! Bonus features are retained from the previous DVD releases of five season sets or The Complete Series (which are currently available at an impressive Amazon discount). But there are new extras, too — Van Dyke and Moore in skits on the '60s Danny Kaye Show, a color episode test, even a fresh 50th anniversary Q&A with Reiner, Van Dyke and writer Garry Marshall. –DW


$400 Blu-ray for 24 discs, Image
($220 at Amazon)

This iconic/intelligent Rod Serling anthology has never looked better than in this loving high-def transfer to Blu-ray. Its black-and-white episodes are sharp, sharp, sharp, as good as any movie in a theater. (Be aware, however, that six episodes, including the holiday tale "Night of the Meek," were produced on vintage videotape that's fated to stay standard-def forever.) Each of the five seasons gets its own slightly wide Blu-ray case, inside an overall slipcase, so you can easily pull out one to watch while keeping the discs safe and clean. All the myriad DVD bonus features are here, with new ones added — commentaries, interviews, even the "unofficial" pilot episode from Desilu Playhouse, as introduced by producer Desi Arnaz. No Blu-ray player? DVD's 2006 Complete Definitive Collection is still available, discounted by Amazon to $122 (from $300 list price). –DW


$75 DVD for 7 discs, Music Box Films
($43 at Amazon)

This is *not* Kenneth Branagh in the Masterpiece mysteries — it's 13 Swedish TV movies with Krister Henriksson as Mankell's complex homicide investigator. The author says in this set's episode guide/essay booklet that he only agreed to the creation of these new stories (not from his books) on the condition that Henriksson star, which tells you plenty about the middle-aged actor's portrayal. It's definitive, suffused with Scandinavian reserve and downbeat attitude. Also spot-on is the shooting on Swedish locations, with a cast of international characters that add yet more flavor to tales involving the Russian mafia, cross-border drug smuggling, human trafficking and other topical subject matter. Some dialogue is in English; most is in Swedish or other European languages, nicely translated in subtitles. –DW


$150 DVD for 34 discs, Universal
($130 at Amazon)

Peter Falk is the one, the only police detective Lt. Columbo, perpetually disheveled, mumbling, apparently bumbling and forever underestimated by the "smart" killers he catches. Everything here has been released already, but the box is considerably more compact than the collected season sets — 45 movie-length episodes from the '70s, plus 24 later TV movies (seen 1989-2003), inside eight standard-size cases. You can't beat the vintage Hollywood guest list — Dick Van Dyke, Robert Culp, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick McGoohan, Ruth Gordon, Jack Cassidy, Vera Miles and more. Or the talent behind the camera, including up-and-comers like Steven Spielberg, Jonathan Demme and Steven Bochco. (Extras include three episodes with a very young Kate Mulgrew in the mindbogglingly miscalculated spinoff Mrs. Columbo.) –DW


$200 DVD for 41 discs, Universal
($150 at Amazon)

Say sayonara to Hugh Laurie as the defective detective doctor after 176 episodes of enthralling mystery-solving. Can you believe this guy never won an Emmy? (Can you believe we never heard a hint of his native British accent?) But, geez, is this box all the show gets? No new extras? Just a colorful booklet that's mostly photos. Seems everybody including the studio was in a rush to get out of Dodge after that concluding one-season-too-far. But previous episodes can be plenty powerful, weird and wonderful, with the cool bonus features found in earlier season sets — commentary, interviews, making-ofs, behind-the-scenes tomfoolery. Each of the seasons gets its own standard-size case inside an outer sleeve, a better way to house the discs than early seasons' fold-out sets. No Blu-ray box option, though. (Seasons 6-8 already available separately in high-def. –DW


$200 DVD for 28 discs, Shout
($190 at Amazon)

Archie, Edith, Gloria, the Meathead and other ordinary Queens residents tussle over Vietnam-era public issues and liberation-era family concerns in this '70s sensation, which stirred unprecedented controversy and ratings success. Finally, all nine seasons are in one compact box, holding 213 episodes in five standard-size cases, plus a 40-page booklet with an episode guide and essays putting this landmark show in historical context. Bonus features fill an entire disc, among them existing documentaries, two previous Family pilots (with different actors) that failed to sell, and premiere episodes of spinoffs Archie Bunker's Place, Gloria and 704 Hauser. And there's a fresh chat with series creator Norman Lear. –DW


$96 DVD for 26 discs, Sony
($60 at Amazon)

Denis Leary burns through FX's lauded seven-season drama(dy) eyeing post-9/11 New York firefighters, grittily shot on location in the city and surroundings. Yet sadly it's not available complete in high-def (only Season 3 is out on Blu-ray), just this standard-def DVD set. The box leaves a bit to be desired, though, containing no episode guide — no episode list, even — much less any new extras that such an acclaimed achievement might merit. And the package itself is problematic — innards reluctant to slide out of the hardboard sleeve, then flopping open to reveal a pair of plastic spindles on which discs are stacked naked. Fans who own the season sets, already compact in protective thincases, might rather hang onto those; newcomers can at least pick up a one-box package of 93 episodes at a low price. –DW


$66 DVD for 27 discs, Sony
($50 at Amazon)

Is it quality TV? Well, it's quintessential TV, at least, from those silly '70s. Shapely women, criminal men, squealing tires — that was pretty much all that "eye candy" producer Aaron Spelling needed to keep audiences riveted through five seasons of derided drama. The mogul had commercial-girl Farrah Fawcett becoming boys-room poster legend, former model Jaclyn Smith holding down the fort through multiple cast changes, and TV mainstay Kate Jackson being pronounced the brainy one by default. Season 5 is available nowhere else but in this box of all 117 episodes, which includes not only Cheryl Ladd and Shelley Hack but also replacement replacement Tonya Roberts. Too bad the discs come stacked on cheap plastic spindles. Couldn't Sony have raised the price a buck or two for better packaging to protect your investment? –DW


$35 DVD for 3 discs, Shout
($30 at Amazon)

Well, excuuuuuuse me for recommending this treasure trove from the wild-and-crazy-guy's early career.  His 1976 HBO special On Location With Steve Martin documents the freeform standup that made him famous — "happy feet," arrow through the head — and it's followed by four even stranger NBC specials taking us to 1981. Then a full disc called "Bits and Pieces" expands to cover the years 1966 (Martin's tube debut on a local L.A. kiddie show) through 2005 (his Mark Twain Prize acceptance speech). Other thrills include little-known Saturday Night Live bits, David Letterman appearances, music videos and more. Plus Martin looking back on it all. And a dang smart essay booklet. Please, Shout, more performance archaeology like this! –DW


$90 for 5 DVDs plus 1 CD, Shout
($80 at Amazon)

And here we go — "An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy." It says so in the subtitle! Hard to deny after sampling the rampant silliness compiled here, spanning just about everything done by the writer-director-actor except his movies (available elsewhere). We get TV episodes (Get Smart, When Things Were Rotten), sketches (Your Show of Shows, The Electric Company, The Tracey Ullman Show), unsold pilots, crazed commercials, insane interviews (Carson, Cavett, Susskind), peculiar portraits (60 Minutes, I Thought I Was Taller), music videos (The Hitler Rap). And more. (Hours of fresh Mel discussing his movies!) And yet more. (The 2,000 Year Old Man does original daytime Jeopardy with Art Fleming!) And still more! –DW


$600 DVD for 131 discs, MPI
($470 at Amazon)

That crazy number is correct — 131 discs — because ABC's complete 1966-71 gothic daytime soap includes 1,225 episodes of vampire/werewolf/time-travel chills. The cult fave gets its due in the packaging department, too, with a hefty coffin-shaped box that opens on metal hinges to reveal a stack of DVD cases whose spines form a picture of vampire Barnabus Collins, snugly awaiting the dusk of another night. The extras also go nuts, with hours and hours of new and vintage interviews, bloopers and making-of content, a detailed episode guide booklet, and more. Don't strain yourself picking up this 15-pounder. –DW


$260 DVD for 33 discs, CBS
($225 at Amazon)

David Janssen plays the '60s Ohio doctor who didn't kill his wife — the "one-armed man" did — so after being convicted of the crime, he spends four seasons on the run after the guilty party. His 120-episode odyssey takes him all across the country, working odd jobs, meeting eccentric characters, and leading up to a series finale that groundbreakingly brought the series to a satisfying conclusion. Now it's all in a large-format box holding four separate season sets in thick standard cases, along with a Pete Rugolo soundtrack CD. Here, too, are previously released extras, including pilot commentary, vintage interviews and more. Hardcore fans will be happy that most music replaced in previous half-season sets seems to have been restored. –DW


$100 DVD for 12 discs, Timeless
($80 at Amazon)

Looking for Rat Pack-era cool? This is it — all smoky saloons, cool jazz, hot women, shady characters and the world's smoothest sleuth. Craig Stevens is the polished private eye who barely musses his business suit doing battle with the bad guys, in fistfights, car chases, gunplay and, geez, I think there's a samurai sword in there somewhere. Gunn likes to hang at neon-lit nightclub Mother's, where curvy gal-pal Lola Albright wraps her voice around tunes as tight as Gunn wraps up cases. (They're a surprisingly "adult" couple in their 3 a.m. assignations.) All 114 black-and-white "noir" half-hours are here in superb quality, much improved from previous releases. Three season sets in separate cases come inside a slipcase that also includes a bonus soundtrack CD of composer Henry Mancini's Grammy-winning bestseller. –DW


$135 DVD for 20 discs, Anchor Bay ($94 at Amazon)

Okay, so this one probably isn't for you. But it could be for your son, brother or other giftee. You know, the guy who can't get enough of the mixed martial arts action staged in a chain-link cage. It's UFC's annual collection of top fights — 50 hours of 200 title bouts, upsets and otherwise notable events (June 2011-June 2012), as seen on Fox, FX, pay-per-view and other outlets. They're all on 20 discs inside a double-width box so hard, you'd need Anderson Silva or Jon Jones to damage it. –DW


$200 DVD for 18 discs, Acorn
(177 at Amazon)

$250 Blu-ray for 13 discs, Acorn
($220 at Amazon)

All in one set: 45 mysteries starring David Suchet as author Christie's Belgian detective. Devotees may own these 1989-96 outings already from separate releases of Poirot Series 1-6 on DVD or Blu-ray. For mystery mavens still lacking such a library, this set of those half-dozen (collected in an outer slipcase) makes a compact treat. The Blu-ray set would also be welcomed by fans who have only recently upgraded to Blu-ray, and can now enjoy Suchet's sleuthing remastered in high-definition full screen (4:3, not 16:9). –DW


$100 Blu-ray for 6 discs, Team Marketing
($55 at Amazon)

$50 DVD for Vol. 1 or 2, or $100 total for 12 discs, Team Marketing
($60 total at Amazon)

These 30 documentaries made by acclaimed directors for ESPN's 30th anniversary are a surprisingly smart, satisfying and varied group of films — even if you're not into sports. They're stories of human tragedy and triumph, social statements, strange confluences, small incidents and overarching trends. This year's Blu-ray box comes with the ESPN baseball cap first seen in last year's DVD Limited Edition Collector Set (now hard to find). Or you can get the films in compact cases without it. Either way, it's a must-buy for anyone who's into quality entertainment, and enlightenment. –DW


$80 for 3 Blu-ray 3D discs, A&E
($70 at Amazon)

Got a new 3D TV but don't know what to watch on it? With so many 3D feature films going for action/gore, the tube now offers some smarter options. This lenticular-cover box contains three separate Blu-ray 3D documentary releases. WWII in 3D surprisingly delivers the real deal — 1940s footage shot in 3D by German tech innovators, some of it used to "virtually" train soldiers, along with stereo photographs taken in war-era Europe. Titanic 100 Years in 3D goes under the Atlantic Ocean to record the 1912 wreck dimensionally. And History of the World in Two Hours in 3D gives depth to computer imagery creating an engaging and illuminating digest of the past 14 billion years. –DW


$80 for 3 Blu-ray 3D discs, A&E
($40 at Amazon)

Some fans of History's galactic series fave already have 7 Wonders of the Solar System on 3D Blu-ray. Now there's this boxed set of three more Universe hours: How the Solar System Was Made, Nemesis: The Sun's Evil Twin and Catastrophes That Changed the Planets. (Ignore Amazon.com users claiming different content. We've actually *seen* the set, so we know what's on it.) You can watch in either 3D or regular 2D high-def, either format using NASA footage, expert interviews and computer-generated imagery of asteroids flying, planets taking shape, volcanoes erupting and other elements of natural creation/destruction. Nice way to get your kids (or yourself!) interested in science. –DW