There has never been or will never be anyone else like Pee-Wee Herman, the most animated human to ever grace Saturday morning TV. The ingenious creation of comedian and writer Paul Reubens, man-child Pee-Wee Herman appealed to both kids and adults. Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series (Shout Factory), which premiered on CBS in 1986, running for five years, was like watching all previous kids’ show hosts, such as Captain Kangaroo, Soupy Sales and Shari Lewis on an acid trip. Pee-Wee shared his playhouse with a variety of puppets, as well as live characters including Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne), Captain Carl (the late Phil Hartman), postal employee Reba (S. Epatha Mrkerson), Miss Yvonne, the most beautiful woman in Puppetland (Lynne Marie Stewart) and the usually shirtless Playhouse lifeguard Tito (Roland Rodriguez), who brought more than a little homoerotic tension to the show. The show also made good use of claymation and featured vintage cartoons. The digitally re-mastered eight-disc Blu-ray set includes brand-new interviews with members of the cast and crew.
Newly reissued and expanded in a 50th anniversary collector’s edition, the 1964 Rankin/Bass stop motion animation classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Classic Media) includes a “Holly Jolly Sing Along,” a video “Pop-Up Book” and more, among its bonus features. The show itself features seven songs by Johnny Marks, with narration by Burl Ives. A favorite of outcasts around the globe for its representation of the misfit triumph of radiant reindeer Rudolph (voice by Billie Mae Richards) and “different” elf Hermey (voiced by Paul Soles), Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is the kind of gift of which Santa would approve.
Cartoon Network: Holiday Collection (CN/WB) is comprised of four holiday-themed cartoons, plus two bonus episodes. The two-part “Holly-Jolly Secrets” episode of Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time, featuring Finn the human (voiced by Jeremy Shada), Jake the dog (voiced by John DiMaggio), Beemo the electronic device (voiced by Niki Yang), the Ice King (voiced by Tom Kenny) and others, attempts to explain the history of the winter holiday season. Revenge-seeking elf Quillgin (voiced by Thomas Haden Church) tries to kill Santa Claus (voiced by Ed Asner) who put the kibosh on the dark magic gift he invented resulting in the end of Christmas forever in JG Quintel’s Regular Show episode “The Christmas Special.” The DVD also includes the “Christmas” episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, the “Monkey Broom Wizard” episode of Clarence and Steven Universe’s “Together Breakfast” episode.
The Sight and Sound of Music
The 2013 Swedish film We Are The Best! (Magnolia), written and directed by Lucas Moodysson, is set in Stockholm during the early 1980s. The film stars Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne as Bobo, Klara and Hedvig, respectively, three adolescent girl misfits, who want to form a all-female punk band as a way to express themselves and give meaning to their changing lives. In Swedish with English subtitles, the DVD contains no bonus material.
Hosted by Richard Pryor, the May 1983 NBC broadcast of Motown 25: Yesterday·Today·Forever (StarVista/Time-Life), featured performances by Michael Jackson (and the debut of his trademark moonwalk dance moves) solo and with his brothers, Diana Ross (solo and with the Supremes), Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Four Tops and others. Tacky choreography by The Lester Williams Dancers aside, the music lover on your list will dig the three-DVD Motown 25, including rehearsal and reunion discs.
The six-DVD set The Midnight Special (StarVista/Time-Life) compiles almost 100 live performances by a mind-blowing array of musical superstars, from its 1972 pilot to early 1979. Hosted for many years by Helen Reddy, and featuring the voice of Wolfman Jack, the program presented multiple queer performers, and several acts with queer appeal, such as Village People, Janis Ian, Blondie, LaBelle, Rufus with Chaka Khan, Neil Sedaka, Linda Ronstadt and Aretha Franklin. The set includes more than an hour’s worth of bonus material, such as artist interviews, as well as a few featurettes.
If you only know the late Merv Griffin as a TV talk show host, then you don’t know Merv Griffin. Griffin had a recording and singing career, in addition to hosting and creating game shows. The 12-disc set The Merv Griffin Show: 1962-1986 (Reelin’ In the Years/MPI) features numerous musical performances by the guests on Griffin’s popular talk show, including Dionne Warwick, Lionel Hampton, Everly Brothers, Isaac Hayes, Staple Singers, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, June Carter Cash, Carole King and Whitney Houston. Griffin, whose sexuality remains a topic of debate, had numerous queer and queer-friendly guests on his show including Andy Warhol & Edie Sedgwick, Roddy McDowall, Tallulah Bankhead, Moms Mabley, Rex Reed, Clive Davis and Joan Rivers.
Serious About Series
Created by openly gay, award-winning writer/director Alan Ball, True Blood has been one of the queerest shows on TV since it premiered on HBO in 2008. To the dismay of its loyal followers, the series came to an end as you can see in the Blu-Ray disc True Blood: The Complete Seventh Season (HBO Home Entertainment), the bloody perfect gift for anyone who can’t enough of the Stackhouse sibs, queer Anna Pacquin as Sookie and flawless Ryan Kwanten as Jason, as well as the rest of the residents, alive and undead, in their Southern Louisiana hometown.
The Mad Men (and Jon Hamm) fans on your holiday list have plenty of time to catch up with the triple disc DVD+Digital Mad Men: The Final Season Part 1 (Lionsgate) before the second set of final episodes begin airing on AMC in the spring of 2015. The show has had its share of queer characters over the years (remember gay actor Bryan Batt’s Sal Romano?) and now that the swinging ‘60s are central to the story perhaps there will be more of a gay presence on the show, especially with the Stonewall Riot looming in the distance.
Regarded by many to be one of the most important and influential cable series of all time, David Chase’s The Sopranos made a huge star of the late James Gandolfini (in the lead as Tony Soprano), gave a massive boost to the career of Edie Falco (as his long-suffering wife Carmela), and brought the mob into the 21st century. The 26-disc, 86 episode The Sopranos: The Complete Series (HBO) brings all six season to Blu-ray+Digital HD for the first time and includes a new 45-minute bonus feature.
Co-created by openly gay Sex and the City mastermind Michael Patrick King, 2 Broke Girls: The Complete Third Season (Warner Brothers), has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most risqué sitcoms on CBS. The story of struggling Brooklyn waitresses and roommates Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs), 2 Broke Girls regularly pushes the limits of sexual innuendo and good taste. Co-star Jennifer Coolidge, as zany neighbor and friend Sophie, steals every scene in which she appears. If the show wasn’t so funny, thanks to the lead actresses, it might be offensive. DVD special features include unaired scenes and a gag reel.
Long before Golden Globe Award-winner Steve Buscemi was the ruthless and corrupt New Jersey politician Enoch “Nucky” Thompson on Boardwalk Empire, he played the unforgettable Nick, a gay man with AIDS in the late Bill Sherwood’s groundbreaking 1986 film Parting Glances. Currently, Boardwalk Empire is wrapping up its final season on HBO, but if you missed anything previously or have someone on your holiday list who would appreciate a memento of the show, Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO Home Entertainment) is available in a four DVD set.
The CW network has a long history of featuring exceptionally handsome men in their TV series, including Tom Welling as Clark Kent in Smallville. The network has continued that tradition over the years. In Arrow: The Complete Second Season (WB), on Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD, star Stephen Amell (who previously appeared in an episode of Queer As Folk) spends a lot time in and out of clothes that flatter his fit physique. Ian Somerhalder, who is an It Gets Better Project participant and played a queer character opposite James Van Der Beek in The Rules of Attraction, has been starring as Damon in The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fifth Season (WB). As brothers Sam and Dean, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, are two of prime time’s sexiest siblings on TV and Blu-ray+Digital HD in Supernatural: The Complete Ninth Season (WB).
By Gregg Shapiro
Photo Credits: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series courtesy of 42 West; Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer courtesy of MPRM Communications; We Are the Best! courtesy of Magnolia Pictures; Motown 25: Yesterday•Today•Forever and The Midnight Special courtesy of Foundry Communications; The Merv Griffin Show: 1962-1986 courtesy of Reel in the Years; Mad Men: The Final Season Part 1 courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment; True Blood: The Complete Seventh Season courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO; The Sopranos: The Complete Series courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn/HBO; Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season courtesy of Christopher Saunders/HBO; 2 Broke Girls, Arrow: The Complete Second Season, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fifth Season courtesy of Warner Bros;