Unwrap a box set this Christmas
All obsessive TV fans know that Christmas is the perfect time to indulge in a box set binge, especially if theres mince pies and leftover turkey sandwiches involved. Whether you've seen these brilliant shows before or they've been on your to-watch list for months, now's your chance to see complete seasons back-to-back. If thats not festive bliss, I dont know what is.
Whether these TV box sets are on your Christmas wish list, or you want to give one as a gift, or you just want to become an unashamed couch potato for a few days over the Christmas break, here's our picks of the best TV box sets available to buy now. You're welcome.
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Sherlock: Season 1-3
We desperately wanted Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce to be our Sherlock and Dr Watson forever, but Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have swooped in and snatched the titles from them. Weve been introduced to killer taxi drivers, mind palaces, death by bonfire (almost) and the nation was perplexed for months by a death-defying leap of faith. Oh, and lets not forget the brilliant wedding episode, which firmly cemented BC as actor extraordinaire.
Fans of the show are expected to wait years and we mean actual years for cliff-hanger resolutions and new episodes, which is why were big advocates of the full seasons one to three box set. Theres a special Victorian London-inspired episode due on New Years Day, but can anything beat "The Reichenbach Fall"? Well reserve our judgement until January.
Vikings: Season 1-3
If Spartacus had a love child with Game of Thrones youd probably end up with something resembling Vikings. Created by the Michael Hirst of The Tudors fame, Vikings is surprisingly well researched, with (supposedly) real Norse figures and tales playing key roles in shaping the action.
Fans of unusual romantic leads will probably fall head-over-heels for Ragnar Lothbrok (played brilliantly by Travis Fimmel) and his sheildmaiden wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), who add a bit of spice to the show. But if youre looking for an Outlander substitute look away now theres far too much bloody gore and violent battle for Claire Fraser cheerleaders.
Breaking Bad: Seasons 1-5
Everyone knows Breaking Bad was a TV game-changer, which is why its absence from our TV schedules is hitting us hard. Fortunately, we can have a Walter White love-in thanks to the complete series box set. Hurrah!
Season one may start the show as an off-kilter black comedy drama, but the deeply nuanced, slow-burning character arcs and spiraling - but utterly logical and coherent - narrative threads soon turn it into one of the finest-crafted and compelling works ever committed to TV.
Gotham: Season 1
We cant be the only ones who wondered whether the guy from The O.C. could play a young version of Gary Oldmans Jim Gordon in a Batman origins story. Fortunately, we cast our concerns aside when Gotham first aired in 2014, and were equally riveted by season twos villainous streak.
Season one did have its ups and downs, but seeing some of our favourite DC universe characters in new guises (Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, and even a young Bruce Wayne) has made this box set a must-buy. Once youve devoured the pilot, youd be forgiven for jumping straight to episode six ("Spirit of the Goat") and episode seven ("Penguins Umbrella") both are proof that Gotham has what it takes.
Game of Thrones: Seasons 1-4
Season five may have swiped the smug faces off everyone whos read the books (yeah, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff caught up with you, George. Get a move on!), but that certainly didn't put a dampener on the action. The Jon Snow cliffhanger has fans on edge, but its whats going on with Sansa, Theon and Daenerys that really has us counting down the days until season six airs next year.
In the meantime, we recommend turning your favourite seat on the sofa into your own Iron Throne for a seasons one to four marathon. Its almost impossible to highlight our favourite bits (its all pretty good), but were going with head full of gold, death by eye gouging, and purple king... you know what we're talking about.
Sons of Anarchy: Season 1-7
Perhaps one of the most underrated shows on TV, Sons of Anarchy's dirty motorcycle drama may not scream Christmas TV viewing, but nothing will cut through a Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special like Charlie Hunnam in leathers.
With the complete box set just a few clicks away, we recommend turning your phone off for season four, episode eight, "Family Recipe", and a shout-out must also go to season one, episode twelve, The Sleep of Babies", which sets the plot for the next few seasons in motion. Its all very gripping stuff.
The X-Files: Seasons 1-9
Now weve finally stopped shouting The X-Files is coming back in JANUARY 2016!!! we can get on with the job of watching all nine of the original seasons over Christmas. Sometimes creepy, sometimes spooky and sometimes plain terrifying, The X-Files has been the stylistic precursor to so many great shows - Fringe immediately springs to mind.
If youve been living in a pop culture bubble for the last 20 years, allow me to introduce you to FBI special agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. Shes a super clever scientist and cynic, and hes a gun-first believer in all things alien and supernatural together they investigate inexplicable, often long-abandoned cases known as... well, you can probably guess what they're called. Now go forth and enjoy!
Mad Men: Seasons 1-7
Very few shows are consistently good, but Mad Men managed to avoid any major shark-jumping moments in its seven season run. Fans tend to point to season three of the 1960s advertising drama as a general highlight, but with such a fantastic ensemble cast its hard not to love the lot. Plus, Peggy, Betty and Joan are such fantastic female characters, were surprised more showrunners aren't using Mad Men as a guide to good TV.
Youve got two options here; you could buy the complete collection box set for a friend or family member, force them to watch it, and then talk about the show in minute detail for the rest of 2016. Or, you could buy it for yourself and relive all the best bits with mince pies and leftover port. Well go with the latter
Boardwalk Empire: Seasons 1-5
HBOs very stylish crime drama was all we could talk about when it aired from 2010 to 2014, and a large part of that was down to the talents of Steve Buscemi, Michael Shannon and Kelly Macdonald, who between them should have won a cabinet full of awards. If youve never even seen the opening credits heres what you need to know: its 1920 Atlantic City on the eve of Prohibition and Enoch Nucky Thompson is the part politician part gangster in charge of the whole scene. Also, it's brilliant.
Boardwalk Empire is packed full of great moments, but wed recommend watching out for "Chalkys bookcase", the fight between Nucky and Eli in season two, episode five, "Gimcrack & Bunkum" and the discovery of whats inside the box in season three episode 10, "A man, a plan".
Line Of Duty: Seasons 1-2
The first series of Line of Duty was good. The second was a phenomenon a true water cooler titan on par with Breaking Bad and the first season of True Detective. Technically you could skip to season two (the confusion will make the tension all the more fascinating), but those first five episodes are more than just watchable. Trust us.
As the police corruption squad try to work out whether officer Lindsay Denton a mighty performance from Keeley Hawes is involved in the death of three cops and a witness, the good guys reveal dishonest sides of their own and the bad guys' motives become less black and white. Denton is either running rings around everybody, or at the centre of the most subtle conspiracy ever. If you like twists, youll love this.
Person Of Interest: Seasons 1-3
This Jonathan Nolan-created crime series continues to improve season-by-seasons. On one level, its a superhero show with no superheroes, exploring how Batman might operate if he went to action in a sharp suit. He has a Batcave, Bat-gadgets, sidekicks and recurring villains with strange MOs. On the other hand, Person of Interest is a show about the extent that digital technology has invaded our lives for better and worse.
The show may have just rounded out its fourth season, but we recommend hitting the box set hard at season three where the middle episodes are so good, youll think youre watching a season finale. Season three also sees Amy Ackers Root join the main cast, which is reason enough to buy the box set alone.
The Flash: Season 1
The Flash excelled in its first season, which is why well be speeding (sorry, we couldnt resist) to the nearest store/computer to ensure the DVD box set is under our Christmas tree this year.
The Flash embraces all the crazy, comic book elements that fans love; from giant gorilla monster Grodd, to Captain Cold and Heatwave. Its tough to pick our favourite moments, but the temporary death of Cisco and his recurring nightmares about the incident are up there. But what about The Arrow crossover, too! We give up, its too tough to choose.
Twin Peaks: Seasons 1-2
You may just about remember who murdered Laura Palmer (or maybe you dont it did become very convoluted), but that shouldnt stop you rediscovering the quirky joy of David Lynchs deeply weird serial noir. Really, this show was never about the murder it was about David Lynch seeing how far he could push TV drama. It was about log ladies, evil spirits, cross-dressing DEA agents, nightmares about dancing dwarves speaking backwards, and damn fine coffee.
The Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery box set is great for fans and newcomers alike as it includes all 30 episodes plus the prequel movie, Fire Walk With Me (though watch that after the show). Theres also tons of great extras to add to your couch time, and with David Lynch working on a revival of the show right now, there's no better time to catch up.
Peaky Blinders: Seasons 1-2
Peaky Blinders has managed the impossible its made the Birmingham accent achingly cool. Imagine The Godfather in the Midlands in the aftermath of World War One, and youre getting close to the money. Couple this with the real-life aspect of the gritty urban drama (the Peaky Blinders were an actual gang who sewed razor blades into their caps for use as covert weapons) and youve basically got yourself a damn good TV show.
Shot with cinematic flair, full of violent (often slow-mo) action, boasting an A-list cast (Sam Neill, Cillian Murphy), and given a stylistic boost by some anachronistic, but oddly-fitting modern music, Peaky Blinders is effortlessly stylish. And just when you think it cant get any better, Tom Hardy shows up as a brutal and very odd Jewish gang boss. Seasons one and two are ready to binge, and season three is expected in 2016.
Attack On Titan: Parts 1-2
So you think you dont like anime? Burgeoning global phenomenon Attack on Titan should change your mind. Its the fresh, visually-stunning and best of all easily accessible anime with serious crossover potential, championed by people who would never normally get to grips with international cartoons.
The arrival of man-eating giant has forced humanity to withdraw inside medieval-style citadels. This status quo survives for 100 years until some even bigger colossi arrive and start destroying humanity's strongholds. While its action-packed and spectacular (and largely free from the kind of Japanese cultural baggage that makes anime inscrutable to some) theres also a lot of good human drama as mankind is toppled from the top of the food chain.
Hannibal: Seasons 1-3
This deliciously grotesque TV prequel to the Hannibal movies, starring Mads Mikkelson as the most well-mannered Dr Lecter yet, has almost unbelievably managed to out-gross, out-weird, and out-twist everything else in TV land. It said its final bloody goodbye at the end of season three, and were already flicking through other shows wondering if anything can top its excesses.
All three seasons of Hannibal are bizarre, baffling and unique, with some extraordinary production design and a soundtrack of incessant low level white noise that half the time convinces you that you may be going mad. Who doesnt want that on Christmas morning?
Fargo: Season 1
Scriptwriters and directors often claim that when it comes to adapting material from one medium to another, its capturing the spirit of the original thats the key, not slavishly replicating all the details. Thats certainly the case with the TV series of Fargo. Plot wise it has very little to do with Joel and Ethan Coens 1996 film (other than the name and a smidgen of a B-plot) and yet it manages to perfectly reproduce the flavour of the film, with its small-town eccentrics involved in crimes and circumstances that take on a life of their own.
Now, to say we enjoyed the first season of Fargo with Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton, is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year, but we have to admit Kirsten Dunst is doing a brilliant job of sustaining the crazy in season two. Enjoy it back-to-back if youre a fan of deadpan, dark comedy with a violent twist. Also, Bruce Campbell. Never understate the importance of Bruce Campbell.
True Detective: Season 1
Season two may have been a bit meh when it aired earlier this year, but season one is undoubtedly a masterclass in TV brilliance. When Breaking Bad came to an end, we wondered (like the rest of the world) what the next Breaking Bad would be. Just as we were about to pin the shiny badge of honour to True Detective, its creators announced that the show would follow the anthology path like American Horror Story and Fargo. Gutted. But the first season remains clear testament to exactly why we were so certain.
Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) are a pair of mismatched, oddball detectives trying to solve a southern noir serial killer murder mystery. In the present, theyre being interviewed about a crime they investigated in 1995, which may help shed light on a current investigation. Its weird and it gets weirder. It's deep and it gets deeper. It's baffling and it gets really obscure. But its also witty, mesmerising and visually stunning. What are you waiting for? Watch season one now.
The Strain: Season 1
The Strain is Guillermo del Toros TV version of the book series he co-wrote with Chuck Hogan, in which America becomes infected by gross vampire-like creatures who suck with their tongues instead of their teeth. Intrigued? You should be.
With two top quality seasons under its belt, The Strain doesnt win in the character stakes (think slightly hammy humans straight out of a tele-fantasy stock cupboard), but its representation of grizzly vampires, gothic horror and disturbing monsters makes for brilliant viewing. With just 13 episodes in the first season, we recommend starting at breakfast and rounding off just after the Christmas Day episode of Doctor Who.
The Walking Dead: Season 1-5
Right now were knee deep in season six, but that doesnt mean a Christmas binge of seasons one to five isnt just what the (twisted) doctor ordered! Going against the flow of most TV shows these days, The Walking Dead is gaining viewers every season and somehow managing to turn a limited concept into some of the most compelling human drama weve ever seen.
More importantly and somewhat mindbogglingly its still managing to come up with inventive new ways of dispatching zombies. Our highlight is season four, which experiments with individual episodes concentrating on small groups of characters (rather than intercutting storylines as is usual with long-running dramas). Lots of regular characters die in shocking ways and there's one episode based around two young survivors which is one of the most harrowing things weve ever seen. Fact.