Lost courtesy Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
With gas and airline ticket prices on the rise, and no let-up in sight, we keep hearing it again and again on the news: people are trading in their summer vacation travel plans this year for a "stay-cation": staying at home during their time off.

Still, many of us wish we could escape to the beach this summer, and you're probably no different. What to do? Well, for less than the cost of an SUV's full tank of gas, you can get a season set DVD from one of your favorite beach-side TV shows, and enjoy the summer experience vicariously!

Lots of shows, in different styles, take place on the sand. If you're into crime-busting, for example, you can enjoy DVD releases of old classics like Hawaii Five-O or newer fare such as C.S.I.: Miami. Of course, many guys (and gals) are interested in the surfside eye candy, and nothing fits that bill more than one of the guiltiest pleasures every made for the small screen: Baywatch!
Buy Hawaii Five-O - Season 1 on Amazon.com
Buy C.S.I.: Miami - Season 5 on Amazon.com
Buy Baywatch - Season 1 on Amazon.com

For those of you who prefer the soapier side of the life on the beach, nothing beats The O.C.! Created by Josh Schwartz ( Chuck, Gossip Girl), this primetime soap takes place in Orange County, California (which is nestled along the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Diego). Benjamin McKenzie stars as Ryan, a troubled young man adopted by the wealthy Cohen family (Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan, Adam Brody), who makes friends in the Newport Beach community and has an on-off relationship with gorgeous neighbor Marissa (Mischa Barton). The O.C. is available as four separate season sets, or as a complete series DVD release.
Buy The O.C. - The Complete Series on Amazon.com

For all the appeal of the beach, but with a dramatic and mysterious bent to it, it's hard to find a show more intriguing than Lost. After Flight 815 breaks up in mid-air over the South Pacific, over forty survivors find themselves on a seemingly deserted island. Strange things start to happen almost immediately, and they realize that they're not alone after all. The show's 4th season wrapped not too long ago, and it's coming to DVD and high-def Blu-ray Disc on December 9th. The first three seasons are all on DVD already, and the 3rd season is also on Blu-ray as well. The stories (especially Season 2) flow even better on DVD, and the beauty of the scenes in the 3rd Season Blu-ray Disc (at a higher level of hi-def than the show's HD broadcasts) defines the reason to own a Blu-ray player in the first place: it's simply gorgeous!
Buy Lost - Season 3 (DVD) on Amazon.com
Buy Lost - Season 3 (Blu-ray) on Amazon.com

If you're looking for the lighter side of the surf, then you should check out Son of the Beach. This Baywatch parody was produced by the Howard Stern Production Company, and ran on the FX cable network for three seasons. A few years ago Fox released the first season-and-half on DVD with Son of the Beach - Volume 1, and it still holds up hilariously today. Aging lifeguard legend "Notch Johnson" - played by show creator Timothy Stack - leads Shore Patrol Force #30 on adventures at the beaches of the fictional California town of Malibu Adjacent. Notch's "SPF-30" unit includes Kimberlee Clark, B.J. Cummings, Chip Rommel and Jamaica St. Croix. Constantly getting in the way are the bureaucratic machinations of Mayor Anita Massengil. Johnson's unit may not be the biggest, but it's the best! And no worries about getting the rest of the series on DVDShout! Factory now has the rights for home video, and will bring out the remaining episodes before the end of the year.
Buy Son of the Beach - Volume 1 on Amazon.com

All that may be a bit much for the younger crowd, though. For more family-oriented TV-based fun in the sun, you can go with the ABC Family series Falcon Beach, whose first season released on DVD in the USA last year by BCI Eclipse. The show was actually shot at Winnipeg Beach in Manitoba, Canada. Each episode produced was actually made in two versions: one with Canadian references, and one with USA-based references instead. So don't worry; you'll feel right at home! Think of it as a teen-aged version of The O.C. and you'll get the idea.
Buy Falcon Beach - Season 1 on Amazon.com

Aiming for even younger kids ('tweens, roughly) is the Discovery Kids series Flight 29 Down. Both seasons of the show, plus the feature-length finale "Hotel Tango," are all available on DVD. The show is sometimes compared to Lost in terms of it being about a plane crashing on a deserted island, but there aren't any strange goings-on. The drama comes from the kids (left alone when the pilot takes off through the jungle to search for help) must learn to survive with the resources they have, to get along with each other and figure out how to resolve problems and conflicts. Although the show is aimed at kids, I must admit that I was riveted to the screen (by the storyline, as well as the awesome cinematography!). The cast is great, too: look for familiar faces like Hallee Hirsh (Dr. Greene's daughter in ER and a recurring role in JAG) and Corbin Bleu (from the High School Musical films).
Buy Flight 29 Down - Season 1 on Amazon.com

None of this is a replacement for a real vacation, of course. But if you can't get away for fun in the sun, you might as well bring the beach to you! And you'll have a good time along the way. Of course, if you ARE able to head to the beach for the summer, you can still enjoy these great shows via a portable (or car-based) DVD player, and get warmed up along the way. And you can watch these again in the winter, when you'll be longing for a glimpse of the sun again! - David Lambert