Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"You'll meet Fred and Barney too/yabba dabba doo..."

TVShowsOnDVD.com has made quite a few announcements within the last several weeks regarding some classic television programs rumored to be headed for disc. (Once again, most of these shows come straight from the rumor mill—nothing definite has been set.) One such candidate, which I noticed only because it was a favorite in those halcyon cold-cereal-and-footy-pajamas days, is Frankenstein, Jr. and the Impossibles, a popular 1960s Hanna-Barbara Saturday morning hit (1966-68) ultimately yanked from the CBS schedule due to protests from parents who weren’t just satisfied with policing what their kids were watching—they had to monitor other families’ offspring as well. The series was criticized for its allegedly heavy violence content, even though much of the material (as is so often the case) is far tamer than the sugar-bloated kiddie crap programmed on Saturday morning in later years.

I’d like to see Frankenstein, Jr. and the Impossibles on DVD in the same fashion as the recently released Space Ghost and Dino Boy and Birdman and the Galaxy Trio because…well, wallowing in nostalgia is pretty much what this blog is all about. (Though I will say I’d be willing to put Frankie/Impossibles on hold if Warner Home Video would make the much-bandied-about Quick Draw McGraw and Wally Gator projects come to fruition.) A second series on the bargaining table is The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, a charming spin-off from The Flintstones that allowed the progeny of Fred/Wilma and Barney/Betty Rubble to become teenagers and borrow the voices of Sally Struthers (Pebbles) and Jay North (Bamm-Bamm), who everyone remembers as the adorable little moppet, Dennis the Menace (1959-63). (I mean no offense to Mr. North—I’m sure he’s a swell person—but every time I watch a Dennis rerun I can’t help but think of Clifton Webb’s line in Laura: “I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor’s children devoured by wolves.”)

Other shows languishing in the rumor mill include Tales of the Gold Monkey, a short-lived “Indiana Jones”-type adventure on ABC that was frequently entertaining (and was in fact, according to the TVShowsOnDVD blurb, conceived before Raiders of the Lost Ark became a big hit) but only lasted a single season because it kept getting its ass kicked in the ratings by its competitor, NBC’s Real People. The release I’m particularly jazzed about is Father Knows Best, which may be coming some time in 2008 courtesy of Shout! Factory provided the copyright snafu can be untangled. (I did so like the TV series, even though I was more partial to the radio version, where Robert Young’s Jim Anderson was not the wise, omniscient patriarch on TV but a scary individual reminiscent of Terry O’Quinn in The Stepfather.)

Among the definites named by TVShows are Popeye the Sailor – Volume 2: 1938-1943, a follow-up to the first DVD box set released in July (and one of the best releases this year, in my humble opinion), and a second season release of the classic cop comedy Barney Miller from the evil weasels at Sony. If you’ve been wondering why a second season release has been announced after Sony’s been dragging their feet for nearly four years now, it’s because someone who works there was tipped off that I sold my first season copy recently on eBay. (Trust me—it’s the only scenario that makes sense.)

I guess the big DVD announcement this week is the news that the popular Canadian sitcom King of Kensington (starring Al Waxman, familiar to television devotees as Cagney & Lacey’s boss) is coming to DVD November 13th. I’m kidding, of course—I just wanted to see if Brent McKee was reading this. (I’ve never seen Kensington, but a Spanish teacher from college raved about it in such a fashion that you would have thought it was the second coming of situation comedy. It’s made me curious to see it, but since that guy ended up flunking me I’ll take a pass.) No, it’s the news that Newhart—the classic sitcom that ran on CBS from 1982-90—is making its DVD debut, hopefully by the first of October next year.

If I were a ramblin’ gamblin’ man, I’d bet that the idea to bring Newhart to disc is being dictated by the show’s recent rerun success on AmericanLife TV (formerly GoodLife TV—“the place where old TV shows go to die”). I remember being a fan of the series when it first premiered in the fall of 1982 (I was attending Marshall University at the time) and how my roommate hated the show, looking to see if something else was on after M*A*S*H was over. Truth be told, it took a while for Newhart to hit its stride (which might be a bad omen if people decided to wait on later seasons); it was videotaped in its freshman year, wisely choosing to switch to film in the second season—and it often retooled its cast, dropping the more unpopular characters in favor of those who resonated better with the viewing audience. Newhart really became a viewing staple for yours truly when they decided to structure the sitcom along the lines of Green Acres: namely, making Bob Newhart’s “Dick Loudon” the only sane individual in a town populated with lunatics. The funny thing in retrospect is, my father never cared for Newhart (he preferred the comedian’s earlier sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show)…and yet not a day goes by when he’s not referencing the trio of Larry, Darryl and Darryl. (I thought the oddball brothers were funny, albeit in danger of becoming overexposed—they were often greeted with the same tumultuous applause that was the hallmark of the many Miller-Millkis-Boyett productions.) While the Newhart announcement is good to hear, I sort of wish Fox would release the final two seasons of The Bob Newhart Show before starting any more projects.

In closing, a follow-up to something I posted back in July regarding some TV-on-DVD releases from Timeless Media Video (which were supposed to be launched on September 18th but were moved up to October 30th). Checkmate, Cimarron City, Laredo, Restless Gun, Riverboat and The Tall Man have been joined by two other obscure television oddities (and I mean that in a good way). One of them is Tate, a short-lived western series (telecast on NBC in the summer of 1960) that featured David McLean as a Civil War veteran forced to take up gun fighting since his left arm had been shattered by an explosion during his service. (Tate, which replaced The Perry Como Show during the summer along with a sitcom called Happy, is unusual in that it was videotaped—perhaps the only example of a western telecast in that fashion.) The other is Arrest and Trial, a 1963-64 precursor to Law & Order starring Ben Gazzara as dedicated cop Nick Anderson (who would arrest perps in the show’s first 45 minutes) and Chuck Connors as defense lawyer John Egan (who spent the rest of the three-quarter hour getting them off the hook).


Kliph Nesteroff said...

I personally would be thrilled to see Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles on DVD. It's one Hanna-Barbera cartoon that remains elusive on the YouTube and my Frankenstein Jr. "Big Little Book" just doens't cut it.

Bobh said...

RE: The new releases from Timeless

A post over at the Home Theater Forum from someone who purchased both "Tate" and "Arrest and Trial" indicates that "Tate" looks very good while "Arrest and Trial" is soft and frayed looking. Still, "Arrest and Trial" will be the first of the new Timeless releases that I will be picking up because of its comparative rarity and unusual running time (made for a 90 minute time slot). During the 1960s, "The Virginian," "Cimarron Strip," and "Wagon Train" had 90 minute timeslots and I suppose you could say that they paved the way for later series like the "NBC Mystery Movies" and the "ABC Movie of the Week" in the sense that TV audiences were accepting of longer format shows.

Incidentally, my understanding on these new releases from Timeless (at least those produced under the Revue Studios/Univeral Studios banner) is that Universal is only licensing the use of the titles to Timeless and are not providing Timeless with cleaned up or remastered prints. Timeless is going to the collectors market to obtain prints. For videophiles this is going to be problematic, but for those of us used to watching less than stellar 16 mm prints from the likes of Alpha Video, Mill Creek Entertainment and others, we'll be right in our element.

Brent McKee said...

I certainly wouldn't call King of Kensington the second coming of situation comedy but it was generally an enjoyable show. The first season really pushed the multi-ethnic cast - an Italian cab driver, an Afro-Carribean Canadian mail man, and the little guy who helped out in the shop rather more than subsequent seasons. In fact most of these characters wouldn't survive past the second season of the show. My personal impression is that it wasn't as good as the best of the American shows of the same period (and they really bungled Fiona Reid's departure as Larry's wife at the end of the third season) but it was better than a lot of the "average" shows of the period and certainly better than a lot of the American shows that we'd see in later years.

I always liked Tales of the Gold Monkey but it was doomed by being perceived as an attempt to imitate Indiana Jones even though Bellisario first tried to get the series made years before Lucas and Spielberg had their "brilliant" idea.

Now when can we expect to see Maverick on DVD?

Bpbh said...

For Brent:

"Maverick" did get an abbreviated, single-disc, three-episode release from Warner a while back under the banner of "Televsion Favorites." Supposedly, it was used to gauge consumer interest in season sets. Unfortunately, this was released two years ago and there's been nothing since. Another Warner TV Western, "Cheyenne," had a similar release and that did result in a season one release for that series, but there's been no follow-up since.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

For videophiles this is going to be problematic, but for those of us used to watching less than stellar 16 mm prints from the likes of Alpha Video, Mill Creek Entertainment and others, we'll be right in our element.

I know this has been a point of contention for some folks, the fact that the material isn't as pristine as other TV shows being brought to DVD. My take on it is, the sheer novelty of having these shows on disc (sure, I once mentioned how nice it would be to have a DVD release of Checkmate--but I never dreamed it would actually happen) justifies a purchase...at least for a classic TV fan like me.