Thursday, December 7, 2017
By Lynn Elber
AP Television Writer
Give the binge-watching a rest, please, and play thoughtful Santa for the fellow TV addicts in your life.
Peak TV makes peak gift-giving easy. Whether inspired by newcomers including “Stranger Things” and “This Is Us” or golden oldie “The Twilight Zone,” possibilities abound.
There are outstanding series soundtracks to be had, and enough TV-centric trinkets to allow busy elves to take time off from the factory. Books destined for the small screen make thoughtful presents, which also could be said of a streaming stick with kid-friendly fare.
Here’s a selection to consider, with prices as found online and a friendly nudge: Search out discounts.
“Big Little Lies” soundtrack (CD or MP3, about $8 to $9). A playlist that draws you back into the series’ dark world, with song titles that tell the devil-made-them-do-it tale: Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart,” Charles Bradley’s “Victim of Love” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by Ituana.
“This Is Us” season one soundtrack, (CD or MP3, about $6 to $11). Break out the tissue box as you summon memories of your introduction to the Pearson family, with Labi Siffre’s “Watch Me,” Bryan Tyree Henry’s “We Can Always Come Back to This” and the seasonal “O Tannenbaum.”
“The Vietnam War” companion soundtrack, (CD or MP3, $14 to $18). The sweep of the Ken Burns-Lynn Novick series is matched by the music – evocative for those who lived through it, a revelation for those unaware of how deeply artists engaged with the era’s tumult. The 38 tracks on two CDs include Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”; “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” Pete Seeger; and “Backlash Blues,” Nina Simone.
“The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2018” ($20 and up, America’s Test Kitchen). Searching online for reliable recipes is tricky, while this compendium is anything but with more than 1,000 chef-proven ones for the Test Kitchen’s “best” version of a given dish. Techniques and tips about ingredients and equipment are included, along with a behind-the-scenes peak at how the kitchen lab functions.
“Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone” by Mark Dawidziak ($26.99, Thomas Dunne Books). Veteran TV critic Dawidziak pays tribute to Rod Serling’s 1959-64 series by mining self-help lessons from such memorable episodes as “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” in which neighbors suspect each other of being invading aliens, and “To Serve Man,” a reminder that judging a book by its cover is risky.
For those who like to read a story before seeing it adapted, consider these works (available digitally or in paperback for $10 or less each): “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson, already the basis of two movies and now due on Netflix; Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death,” a post-apocalyptic novel set in Africa and optioned for a HBO series; Sarai Walker’s “Dietland,” a blast against society’s weight and beauty expectations coming to AMC.
THE MERCH AND MORE
“Stranger Things” is hot and has the show-inspired tchotchkes to prove it. Collectible figures include Eleven in a hospital gown or clutching the Eggo waffles she so loves, and Mike as a Ghostbuster (Pop! Television by Funko, around $10). There’s also the Eggo Card Game ($15 and up) in which players attempt to escape from the Upside Down. Or maybe something more useful, say “Stranger Things” mugs in more than a dozen designs and all with the familiar quote, “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation” ($10 and up, Etsy.com).
PBS Kids Plug & Play TV streaming stick, ($49.99), gives children age 3 and up their own bright-green remote control and the promise of entertainment with education. The device is pre-loaded with 100-plus hours of sing-alongs, games and other content that’s available without WiFi; when connected, it includes free access to PBS Kids’ round-the-clock channel and on-demand videos. When new content is released, there’s no additional cost.