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The best cult TV shows on DVD

From ”Chappelle’s Show” to ”Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” here are the much-loved, fringe TV shows to make part of your DVD collection

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Dave Chappelle
David Chappelle: Danielle Levitt

The best cult TV shows on DVD

Unrated, 4 hrs., 43 mins., 2003 (Paramount)
Sure, season 2 gets all the glory, what with ”I’m Rick James, bitch!” and the killer featurette that retrofitted Wayne Brady with thug cred and pimp-daddy swagger. But it’s the first season that laid the groundwork for Dave’s sophomore high. Right from the start he hit his mark with the genius blind-black-white-supremacist sketch, and later evergreens like crackhead Tyrone Biggums and comedian Paul Mooney’s ”Ask a Black Dude” Q&A sessions on all things Afrocentric. EXTRAS Even the faithful haven’t heard much from Dave’s partner, writer Neal Brennan, who joins Chappelle on some commentary tracks as they riff on their favorite vignettes. Also included: unaired Mooney footage and nonsensical bloopers, in which Dave finds his own body parts highly amusing and battle-raps in his 8 Mile spoof, ”Spaghetti, spaghetti, spaghetti…pasta!” —Alynda Wheat

Linda Cardellini, Freaks and Geeks

Unrated, 24 hrs., 1999-2000 (Shout! Factory
An eight-disc, 18-episode set complete with a snazzy full-size yearbook may seem excessive for a TV show that was canceled in the midst of its first season, but you know what? It’s not. Freaks and Geeks (which told the story of circa-1980 stoners and sad sacks) was the greatest coming-of-age show ever and deserves every second of what may amount to the finest DVD treatment of the year. EXTRAS Twenty-nine commentary tracks, 60-plus deleted scenes and outtakes, and hundreds of painfully hilarious moments that recall the best and (mostly) worst times of the horror that was high school. —Dalton Ross

My So-Called Life
Image credit: Everett Collection

Unrated, 15 hrs., 1994-1995 (BMG)
The cult of ABC’s short-lived gem — TV’s most ”real” depiction of the teen experience since, like, ever — is neither freakish nor geekish but rather a melting pot for whom the show was some kind of wonderful howl. MSCL exposed the lie of the ”high school outcast.” The girl next door, the stud, the brain, the boy in the closet — all were ”different,” all hopelessly misunderstood, all the same. Born late in the grunge era, the 19 finely crafted episodes contain some of that moment’s best raw poetry. Creator Winnie Holzman’s words were notes from the teen underground; the articulation in speech and gesture by Danes was honest, unforced, and urgent. EXTRAS None, but the show speaks for itself. —Jeff Jensen

Paul Reubens
Image credit: Pee Wee’s Playhouse: Brian D. McGlaughlin/CBS

Unrated, 18hrs., 23 mins., 1986-1990 (Image)
You don’t need to know the secret word to appreciate Pee-wee Herman, Reubens’ stridently nerdy man-child. Innocent enough for kids, whacked-out enough to enrapture adults, these two sets of his late-’80s variety show present Saturday-morning TV at its surrealistic peak. The program showcased emerging talent like a pre-SNL Phil Hartman, a pre-Laurence Larry Fishburne, a pre-Wallace & Gromit Nick Park, and, of course, Lynne Stewart’s increasingly trampy Miss Yvonne. With its bent sensibility and splashy visuals, Playhouse offered up a delightfully cynical celebration of boyhood. EXTRAS Eight never-aired episodes include Sandra Bernhard as a flirtatious phone operator and the exuberant high-heel ”Tequila” dance made famous in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. —Bob Cannon