2005 Gift Guide: TV series on DVD
24: Season 4 ($69.98)
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), the world's most sleep-deprived government agent, must rescue the defense secretary from kidnappers, stave off nuclear meltdown, and stop a terrorist cell from vaporizing Los Angeles - all in one day and without a bathroom break. "24: Season 4," the best yet of Fox's "real time" 24-hours-in-24-episodes series, is not for the squeamish, but rewards viewers with tight plot lines and edge-of-your-seat cliffhangers. In a full disc of extras, see the building of the new counterterrorism headquarters and a short bridging episode to Jack's next harrowing day, which begins Jan. 15.
Battlestar Galactica: Seasons 1 & 2 ($59.98, $49.98)
This is not your father's "Battlestar Galactica." It's not your children's, either. With its sex scenes and violence, this revisionist version of the 1970s show earns its late time slot on the Sci-Fi Channel. In fact, the only reminders of the old series are some of the spaceship designs and the plot about a fleet of humans fleeing their destroyed worlds with their aggressors, the Cylons, in hot pursuit. By shunning the "Star Trek" model (no alien monsters here), creator Ronald D. Moore has fashioned a space drama rather than a space opera. This thoughtful allegory about 9/11 is one of the best sci-fi shows ever. Extras: Moore's erudite commentary on each episode will add mileage to these discs.
The Daily Show: Indecision 2004 ($39.98)
If you're tempted to take politics too seriously, this three-disc, 10-episode set is a reminder that all politics is theater - and hilarious theater at that. Jon Stewart and his Emmy Award-winning cohort from Comedy Central are on hand to cover the Democratic and Republican conventions (and their free spa service), the first Bush-Kerry debate ("The Squabble in Coral Gables"), and election night ("Prelude to a Recount"). If you're worried that your political views will be skewered - they will be. Fake news, real funny.
Gilmore Girls: Season 5 ($59.98)
With the dialogue quicker and wittier than ever, season five is one of the finest for mother/daughter duo Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel). Even as the Dragonfly Inn, Lorelai's dream venture, is up and running, her fledgling relationship with diner owner Luke hits some snags. Meanwhile, Rory has matriculated at Yale, offering a fresh setting after years spent in the mythic town of Stars Hollow. On campus she meets her new love-interest Logan - who nicely fills the void left when, in 2003, Adam Brody left Connecticut for the warmer climes of "The O.C." Extras include a behind-the-scenes look at the 100th episode, in which the Gilmore grandparents renew their wedding vows.
Horatio Hornblower: Collector's Ed. ($79.95)
This edition of A&E's 1999 masterful adaptation of the C.S. Forester books should be received with the same enthusiasm as double rations after a month of hard sailing. Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd's leagues-deep portrayal of the title character takes Mr. Hornblower from green midshipman to decisive officer - noble but with enough flaws to render him believable. Robert Lindsay soars as his mentor and captain, Sir Edward Pellew. Brass-button attention to detail charges up seafaring scenes straight out of J.M.W. Turner paintings. Extras include cast interviews, an interactive 3-D naval cannon, and a guide to royal warships narrated by Prince Edward. A broadside, sah!, that won't miss.
Moonlighting: Seasons 1 & 2 ($49.98)
When "Moonlighting" debuted in 1985, network executives didn't want even a hint of romance - no one would believe glamorous Cybill Shepherd would fall for Bruce Willis. Instead, the attraction between model Maddie Hayes and private eye David Addison became one of the high points of the witty detective series. Twenty years later, Shepherd's wardrobe has aged badly, but the banter is still crisp. Memorable features include guest stars Orson Welles and Tim Robbins, and rhyming receptionist Agnes Dipesto (Allyce Beasley). Extras: Creator Glenn Gordon Caron actually allows a little candor to shine through the episode commentaries.
• Clayton Collins, Gloria Goodale, David S. Hauck, Stephen Humphries, Teresa Méndez, and Yvonne Zipp contributed to this guide.