Wednesday, December 07, 2005

TV Shows on DVD

If, like Ken Levine, you're wondering why random TV shows are showing up on DVD, yet your favorites are not, you're not alone.

Retailers are thrilled to stock crowdpleasers like Family Guy, CSI, 24, The Simpsons, Buffy, The O.C., The Shield, Desperate Housewives, Seinfeld and Lost...

...but not so pleased to open up their Christmas stockings to find lumps of coal like Baa Baa Black Sheep, Emergency!, Too Close For Comfort, The Flash, and Seaquest DSV.

(Now, to be sure, we are deep into YMMV and IMHO territory here. One man's shit is another man's shinola. For instance, I eagerly await and preorder each new volume of Millennium on DVD, a show I recognize might not be to everyone's taste. To each his own.)

And in this age of online delivery and "the long tail" everyone's favorite show should be available in some kind of digital format.

Still, brick and mortar retailers sometimes want to cry out, "No mas!" ... and yet the studios clean out their closets with the zeal of HGTV hosts in April. In fact this year, for the first time, there will be more TV box set DVD's than feature film DVD's. And why not? They're a license to print money.

So why can't you buy your favorite show?

Could be a lot of reasons. Most of them dumb.

Sometimes -- often -- it's about music. When the deals were made to include original music in these shows no one ever anticipated that someday they'd be sold. That possibility opens up whole new legal cans of worms that keep armies of lawyers busy for years. The sane solution is to do what Freaks & Geeks did: simply charge more. Fans supported it. Let's hope that sparks a trend.

Get a Life is a more curious example. There have been rumors of simple heel-digging on someone's part being the reason it's unavailable, even on VHS. But Chris Elliott recently said in TV interviews that he's recorded commentaries, even if it's for boxes that might never happen. Fingers are crossed.

The number one reason, however, for a non-release is usually apathy. Not from fans... never from fans. It's from the studio types themselves. They just haven't gotten around to it. They're busy repackaging the shows they've already sold you.

You try to be sanguine about it. But I have to admit being rankled when I see the number of boxes a show like, say, Space Ghost has gotten, as opposed to a show demonstrably far more popular that's gotten none, like... oh, let's pick a hypothetical example: Duckman?

So we know it has nothing to do with the size of the audience.

It has to do, in part, with the passion of the audience, and how loud and clear that audience can make itself heard. That's where a site like comes in. More than just a clearinghouse for information, it's a site that lets you sign petitions for your favorite shows.

Do the studios listen?

Who knows? But it's better than doing nothing.


Ken Levine said...

Thanks, Mike. Well said. In the case of Paramount not releasing my show ALMOST PERFECT I can't feel too singled out since they also haven't released WINGS (close to 200 episodes) and BECKER (129). Maybe the new regime over there just doesn't realize those are their shows.

Michael Markowitz said...

BECKER?? I think there's a long wait for that appetite to build, unfortunately.

And if the CHEERS and FRASIER sets are any indication, a WINGS box would be so crappy and hastily thrown-together, who'd want it?

Why can't Paramount show the care that Fox does?

Linnet 'innit?' said...

No more than a couple of years ago, the BBC appealed to the public for a loan of any home-taped copies of several MAJOR series. They had recorded over the masters and somehow ommitted to keep copies. In the age of the recordable DVD? Why? To save money that the public are forced to pay them whether they do a good jb or not. Were they short of funds? No, of course not. The money they saved was probably spent on feeding caviar and chmpagne to some brainless bimbo with Sindy doll legs...

Michael Markowitz said...


That is only matched by the insanity of the American system: a show is produced at a financial loss of around 50% in the hopes that after five years there will be enough episodes to sell to local stations. Here, the idea of producing shows for LESS than you're paid and spending the rest on caviar and Page 3 girls would be a burst of reason!

Michael Markowitz said...

By the way, if there ARE any Page 3 girls reading this, I am more than willing to buy you caviar. Or pretty much anything you want.