Streaming video has a lot of advantages. It doesn’t take up any space in your home. You can watch it any time, anywhere, on any device that can access the internet. But there are disadvantages too, as we’ve all learned over the past few years: prominent among them the fact that a platform that’s been hosting a show can remove said show without notice, and that we don’t really own the movies and TV that we buy in digital form. If you want access to your favorite shows, the only sure way to keep it is to buy them on home video formats.
For some, this is an unappealing, retrograde prospect. But executives at the studios that control these rights know that most people will default to the (usually) frictionless streaming option, and have therefore assembled DVD/Blu-ray sets that justify your shelling out for shows that you might already be able to access on a service you subscribe to. That’s what this list is all about: alerting you to the TV comedy releases that are worth owning in hard copy form.
A few notes on this list:
- Links are to the retailer that has the lowest price as of this writing; comparison shopping is strongly advised.
- Attempts to broaden the diversity represented here were often stymied by availability. For example, as far as I can tell, Black-ish, A Different World and Insecure only got DVD releases for their first seasons, not their complete runs; shows like Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air didn’t publish their special features on the available databases or shop sources; the complete series box set of Everybody Hates Chris is out of print; and The Wonder Years (2021-2023) didn’t get a physical release at all. It’s not that surprising that studios would sideline titles about characters from historically marginalized groups, but it’s disappointing to see.
- Lots of other titles I was curious about didn’t list their special features. Maybe The Mary Tyler Moore Show set has a thrilling list of extras. If so, Fox doesn’t want to tell the internet about it. If I couldn’t confirm what extras were available, that show didn’t make the list.
- I didn’t include any shows that are still airing new episodes, since complete series box sets are, by definition, not available. But I do recommend seeking out DVD sets of your favorite (probably early) individual seasons The Simpsons and Futurama, which have entertaining and informative commentary tracks on every episode.
With those caveats: here, in alphabetical order, are the TV box sets you should either buy for the comedy fan on your holiday shopping list, or ask to be gifted yourself.
What It Is: Some customers pass through the titular Boston bar; others just stay, to banter with each other, or with retired pitcher turned bartender Sam (Ted Danson).
Noteworthy Extras: An interview with Danson about the show; featurettes on Diane (Shelley Long), Cliff (John Ratzenberger) and others; a gag reel; and an interactive trivia game.
Can I Just Stream It?: Raise your glass, because it’s widely available.
What It Is: Sports writer Ray (Ray Romano) may have had expectations about what his life as a husband and father would be like. Those went out the window when he bought a house directly across the street from his parents, who come over constantly.
Noteworthy Extras: Blooper reels; deleted scenes; audio commentaries on 39 episodes; and a reproduction of the series finale script, autographed by all its writers.
Can I Just Stream It?: It’s nearly as inescapable as Ray’s parents.
What It Is: Judd Apatow and Paul Feig joined forces to create this period dramedy, in which lifelong geek Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) tries to change her public image; her brother Sam (John Francis Daley) is happy as he is.
Noteworthy Extras: Though it’s also available on the visually superior Blu-ray, the DVD set linked above comes in a handsome faux yearbook with tons of photos; there’s also a panel featuring the show’s cast and creatives from the Museum of Television & Radio; original cast auditions; and deleted scenes.
Can I Just Stream It?: You can stream it, but only if you made like a mathlete and crunched the numbers on this.
What It Is: The titular Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele perform comedy sketches about current events, racial insensitivity (or worse), and college football players’ names, among many other topics.
Noteworthy Extras: Audio commentary by both stars; clips of them performing live; webisodes of characters (Peele and Key) offering critiques to improve the show; and interviews.
Can I Just Stream It?: No need to contact your anger translator: it is available to stream.
What It Is: Late-night talk show host Larry (Garry Shandling) tries to make a good show with the help of his invaluable producer Artie (Rip Torn), and some hindrance from his sidekick Hank (Jeffrey Tambor) and the fractious celebrities who pass through, playing “themselves.”
Noteworthy Extras: Multiple episode commentaries; deleted scenes for some of the most beloved episodes; outtake reels; and a full-length documentary on the show.
Can I Just Stream It?: You think Artie wouldn’t make sure it was as widely available as possible? Yes, you can stream it.
What It Is: Before there were Broadway musicals spun off from madcap movies, there was this sketch show, featuring some of the most highly educated men in Britain doing some of the stupidest things BBC viewers had ever seen.
Noteworthy Extras: A staggering amount of filmed and studio outtakes, extended animation sequences and interviews.
Can I Just Stream It?: No need to have an argument about it with anyone, professional or otherwise: you can.
What It Is: The staff at New York City radio station WNYX try to report and broadcast the news despite the roadblocks presented by one another’s quirks, and the whims of billionaire station owner Jimmy James (Stephen Root).
Noteworthy Extras: Gag reels; featurettes on the episodes “Space” and “Mistake”; and dozens of episode commentaries from cast and creatives.
Can I Just Stream It?: This just in: yes.
What It Is: A (generally) unseen documentary crew films the goings-on at the Scranton, PA office of the Dunder-Mifflin paper company, with special focus on annoying manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell).
Noteworthy Extras: Episode commentaries; deleted scenes and extended episodes; acclaimed webisodes; and the series finale table read.
Can I Just Stream It?: If you don’t want to buy a DVD player and then watch its logo fly around your TV in screensaver form: yes, it is streaming on several platforms.
What It Is: The Naked Gun movies spun off from this short-lived show, in which Detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) bumbles through crime solving, with extremely slapstick results.
Noteworthy Extras: Commentaries on fully half the episodes (sure, there are only six, but still!); casting tests; an interview with Nielsen; and a production memo listing cuts producers had to make at the direction of network censors.
Can I Just Stream It?: Not legally, which makes this set all the more worth acquiring.
What It Is: Four British university students share a house and get into surreal situations, often involving hot music acts of the day.
Noteworthy Extras: A making-of documentary; interviews with other performers on the show’s influence; a featurette on the show’s place in the punk scene; and full episodes of Bottom and Filthy Rich & Catflap, starring Young Ones alumni Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall.
Can I Just Stream It?: Tell all your housemates that yes, you can.