The force will be with them. Always.
30 Rock: Season Seven
Fringe: The Complete Fifth Season
Private Practice: The Complete Sixth Season
Three long-running series departed the airwaves this past season, two going out on creative highs and one signing off by the skin of its teeth. After two uneven years, Tina Fey hit the ground running in 30 Rock's shortened seventh season, paying off several long-running storylines (including Liz's relationship with James Marsden's Criss, which climaxed with a memorable wedding) while also finding fresh comedy beats for the cast to play and building to a series finale that managed to be both sarcastic and sweet. All told, 30 Rock went off to the TV graveyard in the ideal way: leaving the audience satisfied, but also wanting more. Season 5 of Fox's perpetually on-the-bubble sci-fi series pulled off a similar trick, bringing the season-long arc involving a dystopian future in which Earth is ruled over the Observers to an emotional (if slightly hand-wavy) finale. Always a series that stayed strongly connected to its passionate fanbase, Fringe continued to make longtime viewers happy by calling back popular characters and keeping a close eye on its internal continuity. Surely, the fact that Fox allowed the writers to tell a complete story over five low-rated seasons makes up for the Firefly debacle, right? Last and certainly least, Shonda Rhimes's Grey's Anatomy spin-off Private Practice didn't so much leave the air as limp away from it. With Tim Daly already gone and Kate Walsh set to leave anyway at the season's end, ABC decided to cut its losses -- a decision made easier by the way that Rhimes's newest series, Scandal, had started to take off. Those viewers who did invest six seasons worth of time in Practice at least were treated to happy endings for most of the characters, with Addison getting hitched to Jake, while Sam and Naomi prepared to welcome another baby into the world. And hey, now Kate Walsh is freed up again to return to Grey's Anatomy... although a change of profession (and scenery) is probably more what the doctor ordered.
Extras: 30 Rock includes a commentary track from Fey, Jane Krakowski and Tracey Wigfield, animated webisodes, deleted scenes and a retrospective featurette focusing on the series finale. Fringe comes with a gag reel, a producer-led commentary track, finale-themed featurette and footage from a 2012 Comic Con panel. Private Practice features yet another farewell feturette, plus deleted scenes and outtakes.
Click here to see what other shows can learn from the 30 Rock finale
Click here to read our full recaps of Fringe's final season
Click here to read our full recaps of Private Practice, Seasons 1-3
China Beach: The Complete Series
K-9: The Complete Series
For years one of the most requested shows to turn up on DVD, the 1988-1991 Vietnam series China Beach finally scored a complete series box set last month courtesy of StarVista Entertainment. Better still, all the classic rock music that the show used on a regular basis and which seemed too expensive to license (the same problem facing The Wonder Years) is intact on all 62 episodes. Although the set-up -- American doctors toiling in an evacuation hospital nearby the battlefront -- is similar to M*A*S*H (with Vietnam subbing in for Korea), China Beach quickly established its own identity, taking big chances with the traditional primetime drama format. That flair for experimentation kept it from becoming a breakout hit, but won it a substantial fan following, who will almost certainly be adding this 21 disc set to their library. The kid-friendly Doctor Who spin-off K-9 doesn't pack the same cultural currency as China Beach, but it's an offbeat addition to the Who-vian universe. The title character is none other than the Doctor's robot mutt, which first appeared on the series in the late '70s. After a failed 1981 pilot and a stint on the series The Sarah Jane Adventures (which wrapped its run in 2011), K-9 got a 26-episode solo series, which ran from 2009-2010, and found the cyberdog traveling back in time to a dystopian 21st century London, where he befriends two teenagers and a scientist to overthrow the yoke of a fascist police force. As cute a TV companion as K-9 is, the current Doctor (Matt Smith) can at least rest assured that he won't be replaced by a robotic dog anytime soon.
Extras: China Beach comes packed to the brim with bonus features, including commentary tracks, new interviews, a cast reunion, deleted scenes and featurettes, plus a set of dog tags. K-9 is measly by comparison, only offering a making-of documentary and an unenlightening interview with the show's titular star.
Witness: A World in Conflict Through a Lens
HBO's vital documentary unit offers up a 4-part miniseries that invites viewers to witness the danger photojournalists put themselves in in order to expose crimes ranging from greed and corruption to genocide and starvation. Michael Mann serves as the executive producer on the series, which zeroes in on three photographers in particular, operating in such dangerous regions as Libya, the South Sudan and Juarez, Mexico. Next time you curse your own day job, just remember what these guys do everyday.
Also on DVD:
Speaking of well-liked shows enterting their final seasons, the Canadian cop drama Flashpoint: The Fifth Season wrapped up its run in December 2012, which U.S. fans can catch up with on disc in case they missed it during its run on Ion last fall. The most recent season of another Canadian police drama Rookie Blue: The Complete Third Season, also arrives on disc as the fourth year prepares to debut on ABC on May 23. Finally, summer must be truly just around the corner, because USA is putting another season of Royal Pains: Season Four on disc, in preparation for the start of the fifth season on June 12.
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