In a busy week for TV on DVD releases, Homeland towers above the competition.
Homeland: The Complete First Season
With Dexter on the wane and few of their other shows penetrating the pop culture consciousness, Showtime has been in desperate need of a buzzy drama to put them back on the made-for-cable map. And they've finally found it in Homeland, one of our favorites shows from last year and a strong contender to do well at the Emmys next month. Any trepidation we felt about the idea of Claire Danes as a CIA analyst was put to rest in the show's killer pilot, which brilliantly set the show's Manchurian Candidate-style storyline in motion. Over the course of 12 exceptionally tense episodes, we were glued to our sets wondering whether Danes's mentally troubled operative Carrie Mathison was right about recently returned POW Richard Brody (the terrific Damian Lewis) actually being a sleeper agent with plans to off the Vice President of the United States. The various plot threads came together in an edge-of-your-seat finale that... no, don't worry, we wouldn't dream of giving it away. But consider this an order: go out and purchase Homeland right now so you're ready for the show's return on September 30. And make sure to clear your calendar of any other commitments, because once you start watching, you're not going to want to stop.
Extras: An audio commentary on the pilot episode, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and a sneak peek at Season 2.
Click here to read our Burning Questions about the Homeland Season One finale
Click here to read our Q&A with Damian Lewis
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Second Season
While Showtime was riding high on Homeland, HBO offered up a strong sophomore season of their current prestige project, Boardwalk Empire. After a rocky first year, the series made some bold, but beneficial choices, shedding some dead weight cast members (smell ya later Paz de la Huerta) and balancing the always-impressive production values with storylines that were actually compelling. We're still not head over heels with Boardwalk the same way we are with Game of Thrones, but at least this period piece is less stale than HBO's other "historical" series, Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom.
Extras: Cast and crew commentary tracks on six episodes, two character dossiers to help you keep track of the giant cast, a handy 15-minute recap of Season One (so you don't have to wade through all 12 turgid episodes), two making-of featurettes, a featurette looking back at the 1920s and an interactive guide to the fashions and fun of the year 1921, when the bulk of the season takes place.
Click here to read our Boardwalk Empire recaps
Sons of Anarchy: Season Four
It was a big year for everyone's favorite California-based motorcycle gang, starting with the release of leader-in-waiting Jax (Charlie Hunnam) and several other SAMCRO boys from prison and concluding Godfather-style with the end of one reign and the start of another. In between that were plenty of double crosses, ambushes, rivalries and the introduction of a new lawman, Lieutenant Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar, previously of FX's beloved series Terriers), who made it his mission to take the gang out. Above all, there's scene after scene of Katey Sagal (wife of the show's creator, Kurt Sutter) absolutely killing it as the group's resident Lady Macbeth and proving why the Emmys need to remember that this show exists.
Extras: Extended scenes from four episodes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and cast and crew commentary tracks.
Click here to read our Sons of Anarchy recaps
The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season
The best thing you can say about Season 2 of The Walking Dead, AMC's blockbuster show set in the wake of a zombie apocalypse, is that it lays the foundation for a great Season 3. Otherwise, the show's sophomore season is largely a wash, marred by shoddy storytelling, bad acting (Jon Bernthal excepted... we'll miss you, Shane!) and a setting (Hershel's damn farm) that got old real fast. Fortunately, the finale burned that place to the ground and set the characters on the road to an all-new location, where some of the most memorable issues of the comic book the show is based on took place. The last episode also offered a tantalizing glimpse of expert zombie slayer Michonne, who could provide the show with the swift kick in the pants it needs to get its undead heart beating again.
Extras: The usual mix of commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Click here to read our Walking Dead recaps
Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season
Along with Revenge, Once Upon a Time was one of the big freshman hits of the previous TV season, tapping into that elusive -- but lucrative when you find it -- family audience, who were likely attracted to its "fairy tales come alive" hook. Jennifer Morrison heads up the sizeable ensemble cast as Emma Swan, a seemingly ordinary young woman who shows up in the small New England town of Storybrooke to reconnect with the son she gave up for adoption a decade prior. Little does she realize that Storybrooke may be a place where the real world and the fairy tale realm collide and that she herself may be none other than the offspring of Snow White and Prince Charming, which means she's the only one with the power to break the curse placed on the town by her parents' nemesis the Evil Queen. If you don't mind the cheesy special effects and occasionally convoluted plotting, Once Upon a Time is decent escapist entertainment. The fact that its success means Morrison won't have time to return to How I Met Your Mother anytime soon is just icing on the cake.
Extras: Bloopers and deleted scenes, commentary tracks, four featurettes and a bonus documentary investigating the origins of some of the world's classic fairy tales.
Click here to read our Once Upon a Time recaps
Jersey Shore: Season Five
Going into Season 5, it looked like this might be the last hurrah for the current cast of guidos and guidettes. Besides the fact that the Italy season pretty much stunk up the joint, the cast members were busy scoring spin-off shows and/or getting knocked up, which seemed to leave little time for their usual hijinks at the shore. But lo and behold, everyone agreed to reunite for a sixth season, which makes this batch of episodes even less consequential than they seemed at the time. From Snooki and The Situation's pointless feud to Vinny's ultra-brief departure and speedy return, Jersey Shore Season 5 was long case of anti-climax. Which, as it so happens, will probably be the name of The Situation's autobiography.
Extras: Uncut versions of the After Hour specials and the Reunion special, as well as deleted scenes and bonus confessionals.
Click here to read our Jersey Shore recaps
Also on DVD:
Ashton Kutcher joined the cast of Two and a Half Men: The Complete Ninth Season and the show didn't miss a beat, churning out the same mixture of half-assed jokes and misogynistic storylines while still scoring improbably high ratings. Maybe they should up the ante this season by replacing Kutcher with a chimp and see if anyone notices. James Purefoy, star of the midseason Fox thriller The Following alongside Kevin Bacon, headlines the British miniseries Injustice as a lawyer who gets caught up in an especially thorny legal muddle. The movie may have been a flop, but Green Lantern is doing quite well on the small-screen, thanks very much. Green Lantern: Animated Series: Season One, Part 1 collects the first half of the Emerald Knight's Cartoon Network series. Speaking of Cartoon Network, the channel has also released 12 episodes from its wacked-out series The Amazing World of Gumball about a blue cat and his best friend, a piece of toast (yes, you read that right). Looney Tunes: The Chuck Jones Collection Mouse Chronicles
collects 19 of the legendary Looney Tunes animator's mouse-centric cartoon shorts. And finally, Karl Malden and Michael Douglas continue to make the Bay Area streets safe in Streets of San Francisco: The Complete Fourth Season. We're still down for that Jonathan Banks/Aaron Paul reboot that we previously suggested, so get on that Hollywood.
Think you've got game? Prove it! Check out Games Without Pity, our new area featuring trivia, puzzle, card, strategy, action and word games -- all free to play and guaranteed to help pass the time until your next show starts.
What are people saying about your favorite shows and stars right now? Find out with Talk Without Pity, the social media site for real TV fans. See Tweets and Facebook comments in real time and add your own -- all without leaving TWoP. Join the conversation now!
MOST RECENT POSTS