The best TV DVD boxsets for Christmas 2013
DVD highlights include The Escape Artist, Dexter Season 8 and Dead of Night
As the winter nights draw in, it’s the perfect time to catch up on the telly you missed. Henry Northmore and Brian Donaldson check out some of the best new DVD boxsets
David Tennant is hot right now, especially after a magnificent return as the Time Lord in Day of the Doctor and his subtle performance in Broadchurch. In three-part thriller The Escape Artist ●●● he plays a defence lawyer who gets embroiled in murder after defending the wrong man (a wonderfully sinister Toby Kebbell). It’s entertaining enough but gets steadily more implausible with every episode. Things get even darker in Dexter Season 8 ●●●● as the serial-killer drama bows out with its final ever series. Michael C Hall has done the impossible and made you care about a mass murderer (that he operates to a strict moral code and only kills the guilty makes him slightly more palatable). It’s a suitably bloody send off as Dex attempts to leave all the death behind, but first he needs to catch the Brain Surgeon. It never reaches the heights of Season 4 (John Lithgow was spine-chilling as Trinity) and the story stumbles a few times along the way, but it all comes to a fittingly grim end.
Author MR James was behind the tradition of supernatural yarns for the festive season and Ghost Stories for Christmas ●●●● is a compilation of the BBC’s classic supernatural tales from the 70s (plus a few modern additions). The bulk of these 12 stories are James adaptations, and with readings (by Christopher Lee, Robert Powell and more) and plenty of extras, this is the perfect chilling Christmas experience. If you want more old-school horror, the three surviving episodes of BBC series Dead of Night ●●● have been collated on to one disc. The sets and direction can be a bit creaky at times, but you can’t fault the disturbing atmosphere (particularly on ‘The Exorcism’, which is set on Christmas Day).
Steven Toast is surely the role Matt Berry has been building up to play for the entirety of his comedy career. Toast of London ●●●● features a pompous, divorced, cursing, theatrical luvvie, whose vast ambitions are thwarted by a lack of genuine talent, making ends meet by recording soulless voiceovers and performing in a ‘shit play’ that everyone hates. Toast’s agent does little to help him, he tries to dodge a mortal enemy in fellow thesp Ray Purchase (Harry Peacock), and he’s routinely mocked by young media types straight out of Nathan Barley. The set-ups are surreal, the running gags are such fun, and Berry’s fruity way with words is a delight (check out his pronunciation of ‘blood pressure’ and ‘voiceover session’).
If you loved the first two series, then the third lot of Miranda ●●● will hold few shocks. She falls over a lot, has public humiliation thrust upon her on a regular basis, and has created a show in which almost every character has a catchphrase. Former Lady Garden sketch team member Jessica Knappett appears to have studied Ms Hart to the nth degree while creating her foot-in-mouth central character in Drifters ●●. This one about three very different twentysomething females (the feckless one pals around with a posh one and a slutty one) was dubbed, for many good reasons, the female Inbetweeners, but it never hits anything like that show’s gruesome highs and worrying lows.