The 8 best box sets for Christmas

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Ben Walsh puts aside the popcorn and picks his standout highlights from this year’s blockbuster film and TV releases

1. James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray (PG)

James Dean specialised in highly strung teens who slouched, drawled and kicked the dust, abstractedly. Method acting, of course, and Dean remains a compelling, scene-stealing presence in East of Eden, Giant and Rebel Without A Cause.

How much: £22.25

Where from:

2. Parks and Recreation: Seasons 1-3 (15)

“I think I need to call child services and have Leslie taken away from herself,” quips Ann (Rashida Jones) to camera. Please don’t. Amy Poehler’s confused, unlucky-in-love Leslie is adorable in this excellent US sitcom set in Indiana.

How much: £45.10

Where from:

3. Peep Show: Series 1-7 (18)

It’s still the best thing David Mitchell and Robert Webb have ever been involved in and it’s probably, along with Father Ted, Channel 4’s funniest sitcom. The more radically the duo fail, the more poignant Mark and Jeremy’s dysfunctional relationship becomes. It’s probably time they split up.

How much: £41.40

Where from:

4. The Returned - Series 1 (18)

It’s to do with the stillness, the camera angles, the use of mirrors… and, of course, the mysterious, mute little boy. The Returned, set in an Alpine village, is terrifying: far subtler and scarier than any of the usual slashers regurgitated by US cinema of late.

How much: £22.62

Where from:

5. Merlin: Comp lete Boxset - Series 1-5 (12)

There’s much to recommend about this mythical hokum – from John Hurt’s dragon to Katie McGrath deliciously wicked witch – but it’s the droll, sweet love story between Merlin and Arthur that compels in the BBC’s excellent fantasy series.

How much: £74.99

Where from:

6. Girls: Season 1 and 2 (18)

Lena Dunham directs, produces, writes, stars and sheds her clothes quite a bit in these tangy adventures of four twentysomething New Yorkers. It’s HBO television at its most intoxicating, funny, poignant, original and dangerous.

How much: £16.75

Where from:

7. Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Definitive Collection (15)

Savour 25 glorious years-worth of deadly accurate sleuthing and tisanes, concluding with Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case. David Suchet has been superb as the Belgian detective in this classy series.

How much: £89.99

Where from:

8. Horrible Histories: Series 4 (PG)

CBBC’s wildly inventive, frequently funny and crude sketch show, which has a mission statement of “making history look less crap”, succeeds in making the past as accessible and enjoyable as possible for children.

How much: £6

Where from:

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