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Category: Comedy DVDs

Hot Fuzz (2 Disc Special Edition) [2007] (buy now)

A major British hit, a lorryload of laughs and some sparkling action? We'll have some of that. It's fair to say that Hot Fuzz proves that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's brilliant Shaun Of The Dead was no one-off, serving up a superbly crafted British homage to the Hollywood action movie.

Deliberately set in the midst of a sleepy, quaint English village of Sandford, Pegg's Nicholas Angel is sent there because, bluntly, he's too good at his job, and he's making his city colleagues look bad. The proverbial fish out of water, Angel soon discovers that not everything in Sandford is quite as it seems, and joins forces with Nick Frost's lumbering Danny Butterman to find out what's what.

Hot Fuzz then proceeds to have a rollicking good time in both tipping its hat to the genre films that are clearly its loving inspiration, and coming up with a few tricks of its own. It does comedy better than action, with plenty of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, but it's no slouch either when the tempo needs raising. One of the many strong cards it plays is its terrific cast, which includes former 007 Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy, Bill Bailey, Paddy Considine, Edward Woodward and Jim Broadbent.

Hot Fuzz, ultimately, just falls short of Shaun Of The Dead, but more than does enough to warrant many, many repeat viewings. It's terrific fun, and in the true hit action movie style, all-but-demands some form of sequel. That said, with Pegg and Wright now with two excellent, and suitably different, genres ticked off, it'll be interesting to see what they do next. A period drama, perhaps...? --Simon Brew

Price: £13.98

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Little Miss Sunshine [2006] (buy now)

Pile together a blue-ribbon cast, a screenplay high in quirkiness, and the Sundance stamp of approval, and you've got yourself a crossover indie hit. That formula worked for Little Miss Sunshine, a frequently hilarious study of family dysfunction. Meet the Hoovers, an Albuquerque clan riddled with depression, hostility, and the tattered remnants of the American Dream; despite their flakiness, they manage to pile into a VW van for a weekend trek to L.A. in order to get moppet daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Much of the pleasure of this journey comes from watching some skillful comic actors doing their thing: Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette as the parents (he's hoping to become a self-help authority), Alan Arkin as a grandfather all too willing to give uproariously inappropriate advice to a sullen teenage grandson (Paul Dano), and a subdued Steve Carell as a jilted gay professor on the verge of suicide. The film is a crowd-pleaser, and if anything is a little too eager to bend itself in the direction of quirk-loving Sundance audiences; it can feel forced. But the breezy momentum and the ingenious actors help push the material over any bumps in the road. -- Robert Horton

Price: £5.98

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Scrubs - Series 5 [2006] (buy now)

"I'm gonna have a good year, aren't I?" J.D. (Zach Braff), now an attending physician at Sacred Heart Hospital, asks in the fifth season's opening episode. All vital signs are good (the series did receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy), but longtime Scrubs fans may be forgiven a sense of déjà vu, from J.D.'s whimsical reveries to Dr. Cox's (John C. McGinley) increasingly tiresome rants. The series itself acknowledges the palpable sense of been there, seen that with the clever episode "Déjà vu, Déjà vu." But don't pronounce Scrubs dead just yet. Directed by Braff, "My Way Home," the series' 100th episode, is a brilliantly conceived homage to The Wizard of Oz with J.D. and company finding their hearts, brains, and courage. Another powerful episode that shows a welcome maturity is "My Lunch," in which J.D. at last has lunch with his reluctant mentor, Dr. Cox, in the wake of a patient's death (happily, the music rights were secured for the DVD release so that the Fray's "How to Save a Life" is playing on the soundtrack when Dr. Cox has his own tragic setback), and the follow-up episode, "My Fallen Idol."

While Scrubs has a tendency this season to get "more ridiculous" (in one episode, Neil Flynn's Janitor defies Ken Jenkins' Dr. Kelso to secretly keep a crow in the hospital), the scalpel-sharp writing affords Braff moments that are, in his character's own words, "classic Dorian." In the episode "My Half Acre," he mixes his sports analogies to tell Elliot (Sarah Chalke), "What's waiting for me in my room is what's known, in football terms, as a slam dunk," as he mimes hitting a tennis ball. Mandy Moore, displaying a surprising knack for physical comedy, follows Tara Reid and Heather Graham as a fleeting love interest for J.D. Other character milestones include pregnancies for Carla (Judy Reyes) and two other characters best left a surprise. Good for whatever ails season 5 are this set's extras, including an entertaining series retrospective, featuring interviews with the cast and creators, as well as commentary by Braff for an extended cut of "My Way Home." --Donald Liebenson

Price: £24.98

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The Catherine Tate Comic Relief Special - Limited Edition (Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk) [2007] (buy now)

Price: £5.00

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Music and Lyrics [2007] (buy now)

Music & Lyrics is frothy and sweet, like the top of a perfect cappuccino shared a deux. Hugh Grant is a self-professed "happy has-been," playing his befuddled, adorable persona more spot-on than he has since Four Weddings and a Funeral. As Alex, former member of an '80s pop band who years later is playing at water parks and high school reunions, he's settled into a life of lesser expectations. Drew Barrymore, quietly radiant, is Sophie, the underachieving girl Friday who arrives to water--make that overwater--Alex's plants--and to explode him out of that comfy rut. If the plot's a bit farfetched, it matters not, since the two lead characters are so likable--and make such beautiful music together. Big bonus: the supportive role of Kristen Johnston as Rhonda, Sophie's older sis (and longtime Alex fan) whose hilarious performance threatens to steal the show whenever she's onscreen. (The owner of a chain of successful weight-loss centers, Rhonda tries to comfort a rattled Sophie: "Want to do some stress eating?") The film also marks the remarkable debut of Haley Bennett, who plays a pop star of Britney/Cristina proportions with deadpan sincerity radiating through her skimpy outfits and mega-extensions. As Alex and Sophie work on crafting musical magic, something else is taking hold. It's music to the ears of anyone needing a sweet romantic comedy that hits all the right notes. --A.T. Hurley

Price: £8.97

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Peep Show: Series 1-3 Box Set (buy now)

Price: £17.98

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Frasier - Season 7 (buy now)

Price: £34.98

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Goodbye Lenin! [2002] (buy now)

Contemporary comedies rarely stretch themselves beyond a bickering romantic couple or a bickering couple and a bucket of bodily fluids, which makes the ambition and intelligence of Goodbye, Lenin! not simply entertaining but downright refreshing. The movie starts in East Germany before the fall of communism; our hero, Alex (Daniel Bruhl), describes how his mother (Katrin Sass), a true believer in the communist cause, has a heart attack when she sees him being clubbed by police at a protest. She falls into a coma for eight months--during which the Berlin Wall comes down. When she awakens, her fragile health must avoid any shocks, so Alex creates an illusive reality around his bedridden mother to convince her that communism is still alive. Goodbye, Lenin! delicately balances wry satire with its rich investment in the lives of Alex, his mother, and other characters around them.

On the DVD: Though the DVD extras for Goodbye Lenin! include a detailed featurette on the digital effects used in the movie (particularly intriguing because they had to be completely invisible--many viewers won't realize there were digital effects until they see this featurette) and a convivial cast commentary (in German with English subtitles) with Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass, and Alexander Beyer, the star of the DVD is director Wolfgang Becker himself. Not only is his commentary rich with historical information and thoughtful notes about the making of the movie, for the deleted scenes (including two lovely scenes that expand on the relationship between Alex and his girlfriend Lara) he and Tom Tykwer (director of Run Lola Run and part of the X Filme collective that produced Goodbye Lenin!) have an insightful conversation about the editing process, storytelling, and the essence of watching a movie. Utterly fascinating, and invaluable to any aspiring filmmaker. --Bret Fetzer

Price: £2.97

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Spaced - Definitive Collectors' Edition (buy now)

Spaced is a sitcom like no other. The premise is simple enough: Daisy (Jessica Stevenson) and Tim (Simon Pegg) are out of luck and love, so pretend to be a couple in order to rent a flat together. Downstairs neighbour and eccentric painter Brian suspects someone's fibbing, and almost blows their cover with their lecherous lush of a landlady, Marsha. Fortunately he soon falls for Daisy's health-freak friend Twist, while Daisy herself goes ga-ga for pet dog Colin. Tim remains happily platonic with lifemate Mike; a sweet-at-heart guns 'n' ammo obsessive. The series is chock-full of pop culture references. In fact, each episode is themed after at least one movie, with nods to The Shining and Close Encounters of the Third Kind proving especially hilarious. Hardly five minutes goes by without a Star Wars reference, and every second of screen time from Bill Bailey as owner of the comic shop where Tim works is comedic gold. The look of the series is its other outstanding element, with slam-zooms, dizzying montages, and inspired lighting effects (often paying homage to the Evil Dead movies). It's an affectionate fantasy on the life of the twenty-something that's uncomfortably close to the truth.

The second series finds the gang at 23 Meteor Street a little older, but definitely none the wiser. Tim's career is hampered by severe hang-ups over The Phantom Menace. Daisy's career is just plain non-existent. There is still a spark of sexual tension between them, but it's overshadowed by Brian and Twist getting it on. Propelling the seven-episode series arc is the threat of Marsha discovering that none of the relationships are what they seem, Mike's increasing jealousy and a new love interest for Tim. That's the basis for a never-ending stream of in-jokes and references that easily match the quality of the first series. Tim has a Return of the Jedi flashback, then déjà vu in reliving the end of The Empire Strikes Back. There are spoofs of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Robocop, The Sixth Sense and comedy rival The Royle Family. There are guest spots from Bill Bailey, Peter (voice of Darth Maul) Serafinowicz and The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith. Every episode is packed with highlights, but this series' guaranteed geek pant-wetting moments have to be the mock gun battles, slagging off Babylon 5 and learning that "The second rule of Robot Club is: no smoking." Jessica Stevenson won a British Comedy Award for this year. It deserved a whole lot more. --Paul Tonks

On the DVD: This three-disc collector's edition contains all the extras from the previous DVD releases, plus a host of brand new features including music promos, cast interviews, and an in-depth and specially filmed documentary featuring interviews with cast members including Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Nick Frost, cameo actors (Bill Bailey, David Walliams, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith) and journalists. It also includes a tour made by Simon, Jessica and Edgar of different show locations with clips of archive footage from the very first programmes Simon and Jess appeared in together.

Price: £14.98

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Shaun Of The Dead [2004] (buy now)

It's no disparagement to describe Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's zombie-rom-com Shaun of the Dead as playing like an extended episode of Spaced. Not only does the movie have the rather modest scope of a TV production, it also boasts the snappy editing, smart camera moves, and deliciously post-modern dialogue familiar from the sitcom, as well as using many of the same cast: Pegg's Shaun and Nick Frost's Ed are doppelgangers of their Spaced characters, while Jessica Stevenson and Peter Serafinowicz appear in smaller roles. Unlike the TV series, it's less important for the audience to be in on the movie in-jokes, though it won't hurt if you know George Romero's famous Dawn of the Dead trilogy, which is liberally plundered for zombie behaviour and mythology.

Shaun is a loser, stuck in a dead-end job and held back by his slacker pal Ed. Girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) is exasperated by his lack of ambition and unceremoniously dumps him. As a result, Shaun misses out on what is apparently the end of the world. In a series of beautifully choreographed and edited scenes, including hilarious tracking shots to and from the local shop, he spectacularly fails to notice the death toll and subsequent zombie plague. Only when one appears in their back garden do Shaun and Ed take notice, hurling sundry kitchen appliances at the undead before breaking out the cricket bat. The catastrophe proves to be the catalyst for Shaun to take charge of his life, sort out his relations with his dotty mum (Penelope Wilton) and distant stepdad (Bill Nighy), and fight to win back his ex-girlfriend. Lucy Davis from The Office and Dylan Moran of Black Books fame head the excellent supporting cast. --Mark Walker

Price: £5.97

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Grey's Anatomy - Series 1 [2005] (buy now)

Just when you wanted to say "Oh no, not another hospital drama," Grey's Anatomy turns into one of the most addicting series on television. With no big stars and no hype, the ABC series debuted last spring as a mid-season replacement and became a bonafide smash in its nine-episode season.

The series, a hybrid of House's medical detectives and Dawson's Creek's hormones and catchy pop-rock soundtrack, follows five competitive surgical interns at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital. There's optimistic ex-model Izzie (Katherine Heigl), bumbling do-gooder George (T.R. Knight), competitive glacier Cristina (Sandra Oh), cocky womanizer Alex (Justin Chambers), and the show's namesake, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), whose medical career is complicated by her famous surgeon mother who now lives with Alzheimer's, and her frowned-upon relationship with another surgeon, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey, enjoying the best career revival since Rob Lowe). The doctors juggle romance and foster friendships while trying not to stab each other in the back over surgeries.

Grey's Anatomy's first season, while entertaining, went a little far trying to find its groove, overdosing on Meredith's overly simplistic voice-overs ("At the end of the day... faith is a funny thing"), and musical montages. It has the usual trappings of a hospital drama (unusual cases, such as the patient with the 70-pound tumor, and trysts in the on-call room), but with more warm fuzzies and light touches.

Pompeo, who can sound just like Renee Zellweger if you close your eyes, is likeable but not strong enough of a presence compared to her co-stars. Luckily the quirky dialogue and stellar acting by the ethnically diverse cast, particularly by Chandra Wilson (Dr. Bailey, aka "the Nazi") and Oh, who won a Golden Globe for best supporting actress, more than make up for it. --Ellen A. Kim

Price: £20.97

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Marilyn Monroe - The Diamond Collection [1951] (buy now)

Released to mark the 40th anniversary of her death in 1962, The Diamond Collection brings together all of Marilyn Monroe's films for 20th Century Fox. This handsome box set stands as a salutary reminder of the considerable achievements of an actress who still reigns supreme as the greatest screen goddess of them all.

The uninitiated might be surprised at the versatility of someone whose legend is founded so much on her image as a sex symbol. In particular, her touching performance as the abused second-rate bar singer Cherie in Bus Stop (1956) is a rounded study of a woman still capable of dreaming when life has done everything to dull her. The box set as a whole offers plenty of evidence that while she certainly specialised in a unique and complex variation on the blonde bombshell stereotype--embodied in her timeless performances as Lorelei Lee (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and short-sighted Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire, both 1953--she could certainly diversify.

The documentary, Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days, provides a sympathetic take on the troubles and behaviour which led to her being sacked from her final picture, Something's Got to Give. The presentation of the restored footage from that movie is less successful, though, as the glimpses of Monroe's incandescent screen presence, belying her illness and depression, leave a palpable sadness in their wake. Better by far to focus on her earlier work. Whatever the role, her luminous beauty and statuesque figure, combined with an unselfconsciously joyful sexuality and an on-screen vulnerability, were always at their best under the careful guidance of directors like Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger. These qualities continue to give her an enduring appeal.

On the DVD: The Diamond Collection has been digitally restored using, for the most part, the original negatives, making this a sumptuous package for any Monroe fan. Niagara and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes are both presented in standard 4:3 ratio but the rest--filmed in Cinemascope and presented here in letterbox format--are certainly better-served by widescreen viewing. The colours, like Monroe, come alive. The sound quality is crisp and Monroe's singing--she had limited but genuine musical talent--has polished up well. Multiple extras include before-and-after restoration comparisons, trailers from various countries, stills and posters, and newsreel footage. Eleven discs of Marilyn in one box, this is a veritable feast indeed. --Piers Ford

Price: £55.99

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Black Books Complete Box Set (buy now)

One of the few genuinely outstanding British comedy shows of the past decade, Black Books unites excellent comedic performances, very funny scripts, and plenty of rewatch value.

The concept is simple enough. Bernard (expertly played by Dylan Moran) runs a bookshop. The only problems are he can't stand people, hates customers, and would far prefer to be barking out cutting remarks and drinking wine. Still, it's after drinking much of the aforementioned wine that he offers Manny (Bill Bailey, again in terrific form) a job. Manny accepts, and finds his daily life involves taking abuse from Bernard, while remaining strangely and resolutely upbeat. Fran (Tamsin Greig) meanwhile also likes her wine, and finds herself stuck between the two of them, with a few odd encounters of her own thrown in too.

So far nothing particularly out of the ordinary, right? Well, mix in some of the creative force behind Father Ted, combine those aforementioned performances, and simmer to the point where episode after episode garners a cocktail of sniggers and belly laughs, and you have something really rather special. Like many of the best shows, the curtain has come down on Black Books after only three series. But the long-lasting legacy are episodes that are set to be enjoyed for a long, long time to come. --Simon Brew

Price: £15.97

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Edward Scissorhands [1991] (buy now)

Edward Scissorhands achieves the nearly impossible feat of capturing the delicate flavour of a fable or fairy tale in a live-action movie. The story follows a young man named Edward (Johnny Depp), who was created by an inventor (Vincent Price, in one of his last roles) who died before he could give the poor creature a pair of human hands. Edward lives alone in a ruined Gothic castle that just happens to be perched above a pastel-coloured suburb inhabited by breadwinning husbands and frustrated housewives straight out of the 1950s. One day, Peg (Dianne Wiest), the local Avon lady, comes calling. Finding Edward alone, she kindly invites him to come home with her, where she hopes to help him with his pasty complexion and those nasty nicks he's given himself with his razor-sharp fingers. Soon Edward's skill with topiary sculpture and hair design make him popular in the neighbourhood--but the mood turns just as swiftly against the outsider when he starts to feel his own desires, particularly for Peg's daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Most of director Tim Burton's movies (such as Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Batman) are visual spectacles with elements of fantasy but Edward Scissorhands is more tender and personal than the others. Edward's wild black hair is much like Burton's, suggesting that the character represents the director's own feelings of estrangement and co-option. Johnny Depp, making his first successful leap from TV to film, captures Edward's child-like vulnerability even while his physical posture evokes horror icons like the vampire in Nosferatu and the sleepwalker in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Classic horror films, at their heart, feel a deep sympathy for the monsters they portray; simply and affectingly, Edward Scissorhands lays that heart bare. --Bret Fetzer

On the DVD: Tim Burton is famed for his visual style not his ability as a raconteur, so it's no surprise to find that his directorial commentary is a little sparse. When he does open up it is to confirm that Edward Scissorhands remains his most personal and deeply felt project. The second audio commentary is by composer and regular Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, whose enchanting, balletic score gets an isolated music track all to itself with his remarks in-between cues. Again, for Elfman this movie remains one of his most cherished works, and it is a real musical treat to hear the entire score uninterrupted by dialogue and sound effects but illuminated by Elfman's lucid interstitial remarks. Also on the disc are some brief interview clips, a "making of" featurette and a gallery of conceptual artwork. The anamorphic widescreen print looks simply gorgeous. --Mark Walker

Price: £2.97

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Family Guy - Series 1 To 5 - Complete (buy now)

Price: £99.98

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Police Academy : The Complete Collection (7 Disc Box Set) [1984] (buy now)

Price: £18.97

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The Holiday [2006] (buy now)

As a pleasant dose of holiday cheer, The Holiday is a lovable love story with all the Christmas trimmings. In the capable hands of writer-director Nancy Meyers (making her first romantic comedy since Something's Gotta Give), it all begins when two successful yet unhappy women connect through a home-swapping website, and decide to trade houses for the Christmas holiday in a mutual effort to forget their man troubles. Iris (Kate Winslet) is a London-based journalist who lives in a picture-postcard cottage in Surrey, and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) owns a movie-trailer production company (leading her to cutely imagine most of her life as a "coming attraction") and lives in a posh mansion in Beverly Hills. Iris is heartbroken from unrequited love with a cad of a colleague (Rufus Sewell), and Amanda has just broken up with her cheating boyfriend (Edward Burns), so their home-swapping offers mutual downtime to reassess their love lives. This being a Nancy Meyers movie (where everything is fabulously decorated and romantic wish-fulfillment is virtually guaranteed), Amanda hooks up with Iris's charming brother Graham (Jude Law), and Iris is unexpectedly smitten with Miles (Jack Black), a super-nice film composer on the downside of a failing relationship. --Jeff Shannon

Price: £5.98

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Seinfeld - Season 8 [1996] (buy now)

After seven seasons of groundbreaking comedy, what could possibly be left to accomplish in Season 8 for Seinfeld and company, especially in this, the first season without co-creator Larry David at the helm? Plenty, as it turns out. This is the season that gave us some of the most memorable episodes in the entire series, including "The Muffin Tops," "The Bizarro Jerry," and "The Yada Yada," the episode that proved you can "yada yada" anything in life. Fortunately by this point in the series, the comic formula that sustained the show throughout its run had not yet begun to get tired, and the writers proved that they could continue to pull a whole lot of something out of the show about nothing. Case in point: "The English Patient," where they created an entire story line out of Elaine's hatred for the award-winning film. In "The Chicken Roaster," one of Seinfeld's most under-appreciated episodes, Kramer switches apartments with Jerry and wages a one-man crusade against a Kenny Rogers' Roasters, only to become like Jerry and become undone by Newman. George continues to, well, be George. He habitually shoots himself in the foot as he continues life without Susan, only to find out marrying her would have made him rich ("The Foundation"). And Elaine gets her kicks, literally, horrifying her co-workers with her terrible dancing, spinning moves so bad they've actually become one of the show's most popular punch lines. Season 8 also continues the Seinfeld tradition of loading up the DVD sets with plenty of special features, including an illuminating documentary detailing how Jerry juggled his act as star and show-runner after Larry David's departure, and all new interviews with the cast. All in all, it's good stuff for fans, and there's plenty here for the casual viewer to enjoy as well. --Daniel Vancini

Synopsis
Jerry Seinfeld is back in the title role, and joining him are his neurotic ex-girlfriend, Elaine; his chronically lazy pal, George; and Cosmo Kramer, a person who takes the weird neighbour character to impressive new heights.

Price: £26.98

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American Dad : Volume 2 (buy now)

The "Laugh Alert" level is elevated with the release of this second volume of episodes that chronologically span seasons 1 and 2. You know the "there" that people talk about when they say, "Don't go 'there'?" Seth MacFarlane's American Dad leaves "there" in the dust. Take the holiday--excuse me, Christmas--episode, "The Best Christmas Story Never," which somehow melds Charles Dickens with a Ray Bradbury-esque cautionary tale of tampering with the past. CIA Agent and true patriot act Stan Smith (voiced by MacFarlane) loses the spirit of the season in a blizzard of PC secularism in which even the fugitive "Christmas rapist" must be referred to as "the holiday rapist." In the "is nothing sacred" world of American Dad, Christmas can only be saved by Stan accompanying the Ghost of Christmas Past (Lisa Kudrow) back in time to (don't ask) kill Jane Fonda (or Donald Sutherland), take over the direction of Taxi Driver from a drug-free Martin Scorsese, and shoot Ronald Reagan. The Smith family--wife Francine, geeky son Steve, and "peace-pusher" daughter Hayley--is still not as vividly drawn as the Griffins on MacFarlane's Family Guy (even Klaus, the talking German-accented goldfish admits in one episode that his "fish shtick" is getting thin), but one can't help salute the audacity of the oft-inspired writing. In "Stannie, Get Your Gun," Stan becomes a National Gun Association spokesperson after being accidentally paralyzed by his anti-gun daughter. "The American Dad After School Special" has an A Brilliant Mind-like twist as Stan battles an eating disorder brought about by Steve's new overweight girlfriend. In "Helping Handis," Steve becomes the big man on campus after he develops steroid-enhanced breasts.

Two episodes are standouts for their animation. "Dungeons and Wagons," as did South Park with "Make Love, Not Warcraft," creates a video game universe in which Steve rules. Near the end of "Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option," the screen adjusts to widescreen format, and the saga of the golden turd, begun in the first season episode, "Homeland Insecurity" compellingly continues with the jewel-encrusted oddity becoming the last temptation of an honest cop (Beau Bridges). American Dad is, as should be apparent, not for all tastes (or more sensitive viewers--the episode "Tears of a Clooney" drops some unbleeped F-bombs), but fans of the series are rewarded with this three disc-set's prodigious extra features, including rowdy, chaotic commentaries for all the episodes, a wealth of hit and miss deleted scenes, and a segment devoted to the production of "Dungeons and Wagons." --Donald Liebenson

Price: £16.98

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Jeeves And Wooster - The Complete Series (buy now)

Price: £28.97

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Extras - Series 2 [2005] (buy now)

Attracting yet more star names, while wisely moving the narrative on, the second series of Extras really finds the show maturing nicely, and unsurprisingly, cleaned up more awards in the process.

That said, it remains a far more divisive programme than its forerunner, The Office. Written by, directed and featuring Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, its appeal is more concentrated and less broad, following Andy Millman on his progression from background artist to his own TV show. At times, for a programme frequently billed as a comedy, there's a melancholy tone, although that's not to say it doesn't deliver its fair share of laughs in the process.

Many of those laughs are oiled by the seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of big names who take part in the show. Extras's first season attracted the likes of Kate Winslet and Samuel L Jackson, but this time, the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Sir Ian McKellen and David Bowie are quick to join in. There's, er, Barry from EastEnders, too, who adds to the fun.

And fun is, ultimately, what Extras serves up, albeit laced with a depth and occasional bout on introspectiveness. As with the first season, it's Ashley Jensen who steals the show from underneath Extras' cavalcade of star names, with a terrific portrayal of Maggie Jacobs.

Yet this second series feels and is superior to the first, and already, its creators have announced that they're putting the brakes on the show, save for one final special to sign off with. And it'll be sad when it all ends. For while Extras takes a little time to get to love, it's likely to be held in similar regard to the aforementioned The Office in the years to come. --Jon Foster

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Seinfeld : Season 7 (buy now)

By the time Seinfeld reached Season 7, it was already firmly established as one of the top shows on TV. But Jerry Seinfeld and series co-creator Larry David still had plenty of stops to pull out to keep the show at the top of its form. This is the season where George--yes, George (Jason Alexander)--gets engaged. Elaine (Julia Louis Dreyfuss) judges her dates to see who is "sponge-worthy." Jerry deals with low-flow showerheads, buys Chinese gum, and tries to date Debra Messing. And Kramer (Michael Richards) solidifies his own essential Kramer-ness by putting a hot tub in his living room, going around town in Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, buying jeans so tight he can't take them off, and taking advice on court strategy from his caddy. If there is a unifying theme in this season, it would be growing up (or rather, futile attempts to grow up), as Jerry whines to George right off the bat, "What are we doing? What kinds of lives are these? We're like children, we're not men." As a result, marriage emerges as a theme, and George proposes to Susan (Heidi Swedburg) in Episode 1. And because George is, well, George, things inevitably go downhill from there.

But it's not all navel-gazing. After all, this is the season that gave us "The Soup Nazi," and years later, "no soup for you" is a still a pop culture touchstone. Other classics include "The Calzone" where Jerry points out that Elaine's boyfriend never asked her out; "The Bottle Deposit," featuring Kramer teaming with Jerry's nemesis, Newman (Wayne Knight), to make millions out of a bottle deposit scheme; and "The Cadillac," where Jerry's gift of a Cadillac to his parents inevitably leads to trouble, to name just a few. In due course through the season, all attempts to grow up inevitably, and hilariously, fail. That seems to be the world of Seinfeldian existentialism. Seven seasons in, who wants to see these characters actually change anyway when it's so much more fun to watch them flail in their own skins? --Daniel Vancini, Amazon.com.

Price: £16.97

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Frasier Season 6 (buy now)

Price: £15.97

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The Devil Wears Prada [2006] (buy now)

This clever, funny big-screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's best-seller takes some of the snarky bite out of the chick lit book, but smoothes out the characters' boxy edges to make a more satisfying movie. There's no doubt The Devil Wears Prada belongs to Meryl Streep, who turns in an Oscar-worthy (seriously!) strut as the monster editor-in-chief of Runway, an elite fashion magazine full of size-0, impossibly well-dressed plebes. This makes new second-assistant Andrea (Anne Hathaway), who's smart but an unacceptable size 6, stick out like a sore thumb. Streep has a ball sending her new slave on any whimsical errand, whether it's finding the seventh (unpublished) Harry Potter book or knowing what type she means when she wants "skirts." Though Andrea thumbs her nose at the shallow world of fashion (she's only doing the job to open doors to a position at The New Yorker someday), she finds herself dually disgusted yet seduced by the perks of the fast life. The film sends a basic message: Make work your priority, and you'll be rich and powerful... and lonely. Any other actress would have turned Miranda into a scenery-chewing Cruella, but Streep's underplayed, brilliant comic timing make her a fascinating, unapologetic character. Adding frills to the movie's fun are Stanley Tucci as Streep's second-in-command, Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love) as the overworked first assistant, Simon Baker as a sexy writer, and breathtaking couture designs any reader of Vogue would salivate over. -- Ellen A. Kim

Price: £6.98

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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan [2006] (buy now)

It takes a certain kind of comic genius to create a character who is, to quote the classic Sondheim lyric, appealing and appalling. But be forewarned: Borat is not "something for everyone." It arrives as advertised as one of the most outrageous, most offensive, and funniest films in years. Kazakhstan journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen reprising the popular character from his Da Ali G Show, leaves his humble village to come to "U.S. of A" to film a documentary. After catching an episode of Baywatch in his New York hotel room, he impulsively scuttles his plans and, accompanied by his fat, hirsute producer (Hardy to his Laurel), proceeds to California to pursue the object of his obsession, Pamela Anderson. Borat is not about how he finds America; it's about how America finds him in a series of increasingly cringe-worthy scenes. Borat, with his '70s mustache, well-worn grey suit, and outrageously backwards attitudes (especially where Jews are concerned) interacts with a cross-section of the populace, catching them, a la Alan Funt on Candid Camera, in the act of being themselves.

Early on, an unwitting humour coach advises Borat about various types of jokes. Borat asks if his brother's retardation is a ripe subject for comedy. The coach patiently replies, "That would not be funny in America." NOT! Borat is subversively, bracingly funny. When it comes to exploring uncharted territory of what is and is not appropriate or politically correct, Borat knows no boundaries, as when he brings a fancy dinner with the southern gentry to a halt after returning from the bathroom with a bag of his feces ("The cultural differences are vast," his hostess graciously/patronisingly offers), or turns cheers to boos at a rodeo when he calls for bloodlust against the Iraqis and mangles "The Star Spangled Banner."

Success, John F. Kennedy once said, has a thousand fathers. A paternity test on Borat might reveal traces of Bill Dana's Jose Jimenez, Andy Kaufman, Michael Moore, The Jamie Kennedy Xperiment, and Jackass. Some scenes seem to have been staged (a game Anderson, whom Borat confronts at a book signing, was reportedly in on the setup), but others, as the growing litany of lawsuits attests, were not. All too real is Borat's encounter with loutish Southern frat boys who reveal their sexism and racism, and the disturbing moment when he asks a gun store owner what gun he would recommend to "kill a Jew" (a Glock automatic is the matter-of-fact reply). Comedy is not pretty, and in Borat it can get downright ugly, as when Borat and his producer get jiggly with it during a nude fight that spills out from their hotel room into the hallway, elevator, lobby and finally, a mortgage brokers association banquet. High-five! --Donald Liebenson

Price: £8.97

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Anchorman - The Legend Of Ron Burgundy [2004] (buy now)

Will Farrell followed up his star-making vehicle Elf, which matched his fine-tuned comic obliviousness to a sweet sincerity, with a more arrogant variation on the same character: Ron Burgundy, a macho, narcissistic news anchor from the 1970s. Along with his news posse--roving reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd, Clueless), sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner), and dim-bulb weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell, Bruce Almighty)--Burgundy rules the roost in San Diego, fawned upon by groupies and supported by a weary producer (Fred Willard, Best In Show) who tolerates Burgundy's ego because of good ratings. But when Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate, View from the Top) arrives with ambitions to become an anchor herself, she threatens the male-dominated newsroom. Anchorman has plenty of funny material, but it's as if Farrell couldn't decide what he really wanted to mock, and so took smart-ass cracks at everything in sight. Still, there are moments of inspired delirium. --Bret Fetzer

Price: £4.48

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Hairspray [1987] (buy now)

Price: £5.98

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My Name Is Earl: Season 1 [2005] (buy now)

The most original comedy since Arrested Development, My Name is Earl marked the launch of a lovable new loser. Earl Hickey (Jason Lee) sleeps all day and drinks all night. The pattern ends when he buys a scratch card--and wins $100,000. Seconds later, he's hit by a car and loses the ticket. While in the hospital, wife Joy (Emmy nominee Jaime Pressly) leaves him for Darnell the Crab Man (Eddie Steeples). Doped up on morphine, he's watching TV when Carson Daly says something about karma. Earl decides that's his problem: bad karma. He resolves to spend the rest of his life making up for all the harm he's ever done. In the pilot, Earl and brother Randy (Ethan Suplee) start by picking up litter around their motel (Joy got the trailer). While they're at it, Earl finds the lost ticket and collects his bounty. The plan is working! Along with comely maid Catalina (Nadine Velazquez), they set off to right more wrongs. Created by Greg Garcia and teamed with The Office, My Name is Earl put NBC back on the must-see comedy map. Unlike most sitcoms, it drops the studio audience in favor of flashbacks, freeze frames, first-person narration, and extensive So-Cal location work. A soundtrack heavy on blue collar favorites, like Lynyrd Skynyrd, completes the picture.

Throughout the season, Earl gives an old girlfriend self-respect ("Faked My Own Death"), plans his ex-wife's big day ("Joy's Wedding"), and makes up for the birthday he ruined ("Monkeys in Space"). First year guests include Brett Butler ("White Lie Christmas"), Juliette Lewis ("The Bounty Hunter"), and Emmy nominee Jon Favreau ("O Karma, Where Art Thou?"). Giovanni Ribisi and Beau Bridges also stop by as, respectively, Earl's pal Ralph and father Carl. Speaking of originality, "Dad's Car," which takes place during Mother's Day, features commentary from the mothers of Lee, Suplee, Garcia, and director Marc Buckland. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Price: £23.98

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Father Ted : Complete Box Set [1995] (buy now)

Father Ted is one of those rare sitcoms that defies categorisation--it owes as much to Flann O'Brien and Samuel Beckett as it does to Monty Python--and its blend of satire, character comedy and anarchic surrealism has made it a cult favourite around the world. Exiled to remote Craggy Island, Father Ted shares a house with the breathtakingly stupid Father Dougal Maguire and the constantly inebriated Father Jack, who has a small vocabulary and a taste for furniture polish. Their housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, takes care of them with a never-ending supply of tea and sandwiches: "Go on now, Father, won't you try one? They're diagonal." Together they fight boredom by dressing up as Elvis, startling ducks at the fair and provoking nuns. This set compiles the entire three-year series. --Simon Leake

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Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (buy now)

Price: £7.97

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