Friday, August 22, 2008

I’d buy that for a dollar 2.0

Way back in August of 2004, I stitched together a quick Top Ten list of vintage television programs that, at the time of that posting, had not been released on DVD. Since that first post, I’ve added an additional Top Ten each year (well, except for 2005, which for some unknown reason I skipped). I guess now is as good a time as any to revisit the lists from the past and offer up another brand-spanking-new tally.

But I’m going to do something a little different this time, because of the programs on the original 2004 list, I’m pleased to report that nine out of the ten shows have seen some DVD action:

1) The Rockford Files
2) The Fugitive
3) The Invaders
4) Get Smart
5) The Wild Wild West
6) The Odd Couple
7) St. Elsewhere
8) The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis
9) The Phil Silvers Show
10) F Troop

Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, The Odd Couple and F Troop have all gone “the distance” with every one of their seasons released (Couple’s final season will be out in November). Rockford has a season to go, as does The Invaders—and as to the future of The Fugitive, well…CBS-Paramount has pretty much screwed the pooch on that one. St. Elsewhere is, sadly, “one and done”…and while I’m hoping someone at CBS-Paramount will awaken one day from a deep slumber and reach an epiphany that The Phil Silvers Show is so friggin’ funny the entire series needs to be released on disc…I’m not putting any notions like that into my hope chest anytime soon.

So that leaves Dobie as the only series without a DVD release (though, technically, there are a few scattered episodes available at Nostalgia Family Video). Therefore, I’m going to retire the 2004 list (with the exception of Dobie and Maynard) and move on to 2006:

1) My World and Welcome to It
2) Route 66
3) Newhart
4) The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
5) The Patty Duke Show
6) The Real McCoys
7) McHale’s Navy
8) Car 54, Where are You?
9) The John Larroquette Show
10) The Defenders

I’m five out of ten on this one; Route 66, Newhart, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Real McCoys and McHale’s Navy have all been released on DVD in various stages of completion (Navy will see its final season hit the streets on November 18th). So I’ll remove these series from this list and add five more boomer series to be considered:

6) The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis – Moved from original 2005 list.

7) Our Miss Brooks – A sitcom that I have mentioned many times on the blog, always with a plea for season sets.

8) The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – This continuation of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (from 1962-65) has been getting a lot of play on our RTN affiliate lately, and the show is every bit as memorable as when it was a staple of USA Network’s programming.

9) Bonanza – Why this popular Western—which runs in perpetuity on TVLand—hasn’t been released on DVD (save for the thirty public domain episodes) is still a mystery to me, though I suspect it probably has something to do with DVD’s bête noir, copyright issues. (From what I’ve been told, six or seven seasons’ worth are available on Region 2 in Germany.)

10) Dragnet – With the reemergence of the “hip” 1967-70 version on RTN, it would be good news to hear that Universal decided to continue releasing the rest of the show’s seasons from the 1960s after just a singular “one and done” set. (Hey—they went back to the Adam-12’s, didn’t they?)

This brings me to last year’s list. Since this list is still pretty fresh in everyone’s minds (and besides, only two candidates have been approved for box set releases, My Three Sons and M Squad) I’ll leave this one alone for the time being:

1) Maverick
2) He & She
3) December Bride
4) Dennis the Menace
5) My Three Sons (set due to be released September 30th)
6) Mayberry R.F.D.
7) Twelve O’Clock High
8) Run for Your Life
9) Room 222
10) M Squad (set due to be released November 11th)

And without further ado (which would suggest that this is nothing but ado to start with), the “I’d buy that for a dollar” candidates for August 2008:

1) The Detectives starring Robert Taylor – Confession time: I think Taylor was one of the most wooden actors in the history of the silver screen…but for some reason, TV seemed to work for him. This show, which ran three seasons (1959-62) on both NBC and ABC, occasionally would show up on TVLand but to obtain the copies that I have (and badly blurred ones at that) I had to mingle with the denizens at Still, it’s a good, solid cop show.

2) East Side/West Side – One of the few TV series to challenge FCC Chairman Newton Minow’s “vast wasteland” observation; it starred George C. Scott (yes, that George C. Scott) as a NYC social worker who dealt with what at the time were controversial issues (which would probably seem tame today). A fascinating television time-capsule (I caught a few episodes when it ran on Trio’s Brilliant But Cancelled) with outstanding supporting work from Elizabeth Wilson and Cicely Tyson.

3) The Farmer’s Daughter – Everybody remembers the 1947 movie comedy that won Loretta Young an Oscar as Best Actress but the television sitcom (1963-66) adapted from that film seems to have fallen by the wayside. I’m a sucker for anything Inger Stevens ever appeared in, and the always reliable William Windom does great work as well. I’d even buy the third season, even though the producers of the show sabotaged the series by marrying the two leads. (This one was a staple of my TV-obsessed childhood…I think it was on more often than The Lucy Show or Hazel.)

4) Felony Squad – I wrote an essay on this show back in January 2007 and a commenter remarked how much he’d enjoy seeing it on DVD. I second that emotion; I love watching old pros like Howard Duff and Ben Alexander work together, and it’s a definite relic of its time when cop shows could get the job done in half-an-hour.

5) The Millionaire – Every now and then, some modern TV series will make a reference to “John Beresford Tipton” and it ends up cracking me up. Tipton was a guy loaded with loot who each week instructed flunky Michael Anthony (Marvin Miller) to give a selected individual a check for $1,000,000 (places pinky to corner of mouth) provided that lucky duck didn’t reveal where he got it. (I guess Tipton had a printing press in the basement.) In light of Donald Trump’s magnanimous gesture to let Ed McMahon stay in his house (I’m sure Ed’s gonna be doing a bit of yard work, though…heyyyyyo!) wouldn’t it be great to go back to a simpler time and watch a rich guy actually be nice to people?

6) The Mothers-in-Law – A neglected sitcom that run from 1967-69 that lets Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard strut their stuff, Lucy-style (the show was created by longtime Lucy scribes Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Pugh-Davis and produced by Desi Arnaz). (Linda at Yet Another Journal argues that replacing Roger C. Carmel with Richard Deacon in the second season hurt the show, but I love Deac so much I’m willing to overlook it.)

7) Mr. Novak – Here’s one from the memory vaults: James Franciscus plays an idealistic young English teacher learning the ropes in a series that, while it may not have had a lengthy run (1963-65) was popular enough to be spoofed in MAD Magazine. A longtime favorite of television show collectors.

8) N.Y.P.D. - Another half-hour crime drama in the mold of Felony Squad, this gritty, realistic series remains entertaining despite its slightly dated elements. (There are also top-notch performances from leads Jack Warden, Robert Hooks and Frank “Coronet Blue” Converse—in addition to future stars like Al Pacino, whose “Deadly Circle of Violence” remains his only TV series work to date.) I’ve got a bunch of these purchased from various and sundry places and hope to have an essay up on the show very soon.

9) Thriller – Despite its schizophrenic nature (the show’s creators never could decide if it was to be a horror or crime-mystery series), this 1960-62 anthology hosted by TDOY fave Boris Karloff still makes for great viewing. It had a long run on the early days of the Sci-Fi Channel, but it really does deserve the DVD treatment.

10) Wagon Train – Again, its exposure on RTN (we get two episodes back to back, on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 1pm) might mean that one of television’s classiest westerns could come to a DVD box set near you.

As always…comments, observations and plain ol’ “You honestly like that show?” rejoinders are welcome. And as a sidebar, any studio willing to tackle finishing the yet-uncompleted releases of The Flying Nun, Have Gun – Will Travel, Hazel, Leave it to Beaver and Naked City would receive a certificate of undying gratitude from this weblog.


Bobh said...

"Bonanza" did have one official U.S. DVD release (above and beyond the public domain releases). It was from Artisan and was a 2-DVD, 8-episode set that did not include any of the PD episodes. It's still available at Amazon under the title "The Best of Bonanza, Vol. 1" and, no, there has never been a follow-up.

"Wagon Train" is one of those rumored titles being worked on by Timeless Media, but I have to believe it would be a collection of episodes rather than season sets. And, of course, there are the three PD episodes that show up on just about every TV western compilation.


Chris Riesbeck said...

I always had Thriller on my DVD want list, but having caught a number of episodes on the Chicago equivalent of RTN, I'm not so sure now. Most of what I've seen seem like half-hour episodes padded out to an hour. Haven't yet seen "The Cheaters" which was the episode that gave me nightmares as a kid.

Rick Brooks said...

Looks like a great list to me. Unfortunately, most of these are shows I've never seen. It's amazing how many great shows are out there that one really has to make an effort just to see them.

Thank goodness for companies like Timeless (and to a lesser extent S'mores) for releasing plenty of series that have had little or no exposure in recent years.

Sam said...

Okay, I got a few shows I wanna see and have to have...

The Green Hornet: I know all about the fight between Warner and Fox for the video rights to Batman, but only Fox owns the rights to the Hornet, I believe. Slap on a Bruce Lee Documentary and commentary from Van Williams, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarintino and it's a hit.

Captain Nice: I have a bootleg DVD with four episodes and they were actually not too bad. William Daniels does a good job in a Get Smart for super heroes.

Coronet Blue: Just so everyone can try and figure out just what the heck "Coronet Blue" was in the first place.