So, "Downton Abbey" fans, still reeling from last week's shocking turn of events? No worries, we're not going to get into specifics -- but if you have managed to remain spoiler-free up till now, let us just tell you that the shocks, they are still a-comin', including one in the Christmas special that qualifies as a game changer.
And while three episodes of the current third season have yet to air on PBS -- the finale is scheduled for Feb. 10 -- fans can pick up a copy of the new "Downton Abbey: Season 3" Blu-ray boxed set and watch the entire season, including that Christmas special, weeks before the season wraps.
In addition to the "Journey to the Highlands" Christmas ep, the more than two hours of bonus material in the boxed set include the featurettes "Downton Abbey: Behind the Drama," "Shirley MacLaine at Downton," "Downton in 1920," "The Wedding of Lady Mary," and "Behind the Scenes: Journey to the Highlands," which covers that dramatic end to the season.
Meanwhile, for those viewers whose appetite for British TV drama has only been whetted by their embrace of "Downton" drama, a roundup of other recent DVD releases that might make the wait for "Downton Abbey," Season 4 (scheduled to begin production in February), more bearable:
"Agatha Christie's Poirot & Marple: Fan Favorites" (Acorn Media)
The collection of two "Masterpiece Mystery!" entries introduces viewers to two of Christie's best characters, Belgian detective Poirot (David Suchet) and the sweet (but too clever to be underestimated) Miss Marple (Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie), in 11 great stories (16 hours' worth). The 11 installments were voted on by Poirot and Marple fans as the series' best, so the collection serves as a good primer on how much fun the shows are (and yes, there is plenty more of both detectives if this set hooks you).
"Wodehouse Playhouse: The Complete Collection" (Acorn Media)
Real-life marrieds Pauline Collins and John Alderton star in this six-disc set that unfolds 20 tales of hilarity from humorist P.G. Wodehouse (the creator of Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves). This new collection of the series, which aired on PBS from 1975 through 1978, also includes a bio of Wodehouse (who co-wrote the original book for "Anything Goes"), photo galleries, subtitles, and notes on the short stories adapted in the series.
"Misfits: Season Two" (BBC Home Entertainment)
So you say you want a high-concept British dramedy? Try this: A group of rebellious teens sentenced to community service (complete with hideous orange jumpsuits) gain supernatural powers during an electrical storm. In this season, the teens discover they're being stalked by a masked man, then learn they can sell their powers. But, as always in TV land, British or American, be careful what you wish for … those superpowers might be a blessing, after all. The boxed set includes behind-the-scenes featurettes for all seven episodes, including the Christmas special. Two additional seasons of the show have aired, with Season 4 wrapping in December 2012, so again, dive in with the knowledge that there's more to watch if you like the show.
"Waking the Dead: Season Seven" (BBC Home Entertainment)
A British take on the police procedural, focusing on cold cases. The show won an International Emmy in 2004 and sparked its own spinoff series, and with nine seasons in total (the show ended its run in 2011), "Waking the Dead" is a worth a look for fans who enjoy the "ripped from today's headlines"-type current events topics favored by so many American crime dramas.
"Midsomer Murders, Set 21" (Acorn Media)
The four movie-length stories in this collection have never been aired in the United States, meaning it's the first chance for U.S. fans to see DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) in action. He and his new partner tackle murder cases in the idyllic but dangerous Midsomer County, including a gruesome death at a classic car show, a series of copycat murders, and a New Age cult. The series, which premiered in England in 1997 and is still in production on new episodes, is a favorite of Johnny Depp and the queen of England.
"Red Dwarf X" (BBC Home Entertainment)
Commentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a new documentary supplement this, the first full season of the sci-fi sitcom "Red Dwarf" since 1999. The six episodes reunite the original cast and end with the fate of the crew depending on -- uh oh -- Rimmer (Chris Barrie).
"Twenty-Twelve: The Complete Series" (BBC Home Entertainment)
Hugh Bonneville stars in (and David Tennant narrates) this mockumentary about the planning team behind the London Olympics. What could possibly go wrong when Head of Deliverance of the Olympic Deliverance Commission Ian Fletcher (Bonneville) has all the time in the world, as well as 9 billion pounds, to plot the 2012 Olympics Games? Lots. Lots.
"House of Cards Trilogy: The Original UK Series Remastered" Blu-ray (BBC Home Entertainment)
Before the Netflix remake -- starring Kevin Spacey -- premieres on Feb. 1, check out the original political thriller British miniseries about Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson), the manipulative politician who will do anything to become the head of his party and the country. The show's first release on Blu-ray includes audio commentaries by Richardson, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and an interview with writer Andrew Davies.
Watch a trailer of the "House of Cards" Netflix remake:
Noteworthy new TV DVD releases this week:
"Femme Fatales: The Complete First Season" (Entertainment One)
Here's Cinemax's take on a sexy anthology series, with a stronger focus on giving the naughty romps an actual narrative. The three-disc boxed set is a complete intro to the series, with audio commentaries for each of the season's 13 episodes, as well as deleted and alternate scenes, a blooper reel, and featurettes on the series' Comic-Con panel, "Creating Femme Fatales," "The Making of Season One," and "The Anatomy of a Sex Scene."
"Pan Am: The Complete Series" (Sony)
Despite the fact that the show about the early years of commercial air travel won the Best Series statue at the Rose d'Or awards, the equivalent of the Emmys in Europe, it lasted just 14 episodes on ABC. All 14 are collected in this set.
"Night Court: The Complete Eighth Season" (Warner Bros. Home Video)
Part of WBHV's made-to-order series (and available only at the WB Shop website), the eighth season -- the Harry Anderson comedy's penultimate -- found Judge Harry and Christine finally fessing up to some extracurricular feelings for each other, while Bull slept with Dan's sister and bought a toupee (the "Shatner 2000"), and Harry, with the help of Mel Torme, imagines what the courtroom would have been like if Dan had become the judge instead of him.
"The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley: The Complete Series" (Warner Bros. Home Video)
Another made-to-order release from WBHV, this set collects all 13 episodes of the animated series starring Martin Short's classic overexcitable, cowlick-sporting, Pat Sajak-loving, triangle-playing nerd character from "Saturday Night Live" and Second City. Sample episode plots: Ed gets in the wrong line to return library books and ends up enlisted in the Army, and later, caught in the same tornado as Dorothy from Oz, ends up on the farm with Aunt Em.
"Hey Arnold: Season 3" (Shout! Select)
Available exclusively at the Shout! Factory website, the third season finds Arnold getting trapped on a roller coaster, being the best man at Coach Wittenberg's nuptials, and putting his friendship with Iggy at risk when he accidentally reveals Iggy's deep, dark secret: He wears pink bunny jammies!
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