In the past, I’ve mentioned the two online services—Hulu and Fancast—that often present classic movies sometimes too elusive to catch on TCM or FMC, and have also pointed out that they showcase vintage television shows as well. Though I don’t think I’d be willing to part with the voluminous TV-on-DVD collection that comprises a goodly portion of the material stored in the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives, every now and then it’s nice to catch one of these old programs…particularly if they haven’t made their way to DVD yet.
What put me on this course of thinking was reading a blurb at Rick Brooks’ award-winning* blog Cultureshark, in which he pointed out that the newly titled WGN America offers what the station calls an “Outta Site Retro Night Sunday” on the day of rest, and that they had added Barney Miller reruns to the lineup. (This “Retro” thing, by the way, includes introductory bumpers from DJ/former Solid Gold host Rick Dees, who apparently has stopped getting his Disco Duck royalty checks.**) My father, at a point in his life when he still laughed at sitcoms, was a big fan of the police squad room comedy and since he ruled the prime-time television kingdom with an iron fist back then I would have to pretty much watch what he wanted. (As such, this turned out not to be a bad thing, because I think Miller is a bona fide TV classic.)
So, Sunday night, I decided to tune into WGN because—let’s face it, TCM fans—there’s only so many Elvis movies a man can take. Both episodes were a genuine surprise in that the series was still as fresh and funny as I remembered. Now, back in January 2004 Columbia/Sony released the first season of Barney Miller to DVD…and then announced that because it didn’t sell like hotcakes, that was pretty much it. The company soon had a change of heart and released the second season to disc four years later in 2008. This, however, didn’t do me a heckuva lot a good because by that time I’d already sold my first season copy on eBay. But since the third season arrived on DVD a year after, it looks as if Sony might make a commitment to putting all of the seasons on disc (give them credit—they went all the way with Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie) and so after seeing the show and enjoying it so much, I made an impulse purchase at Amazon.com and snapped up all three seasons. (Walmart.com actually had the shows priced less, but I was going to have to pay a whopping s&h charge in addition to sales tax so Amazon seemed the smart way to go.)
After making the purchase, I skated over to TV.com to look at what episodes were featured during each season, and I see that the series is available to watch online. How cool is that? So I spent last night—in between TCM’s showing of Portrait of Jennie (1948)—catching up on some of the first season entries, and having an enormously good time in the process.
This experience set me to thinking again. Would it not be helpful if there were someplace…say, for example, a highly-respected weblog that covers classic film, radio and television…where an enterprising young individual (with a bit o’ free time on his hands) could link to the various classic television shows available for online viewing at both Hulu and Fancast? (Strictly as a public service, you understand.) I hope you’ve answered yes, because that is just what I have done—in the sidebar to your right…no, your other right…you’ll find a list of some of the best (as determined by me, naturally) and classic programs the cathode ray tube has to offer. Keep in mind that I’ve merely just tapped the tip of the iceberg—and that some of these shows (Nanny and the Professor being a primary example) aren’t necessarily my cup of Orange Pekoe but I’ve included them because they may not be on DVD as of this writing. In particular, I was jazzed to see that series like Bat Masterson and Sea Hunt are available—selected episodes of these series have appeared on disc but they’re usually those that have achieved public domain status. (The fact that Sea Hunt is online means that the
*In all fairness, I don’t think Rick has won any major awards—but his daughter laughs and claps at his blog, and that’s close enough for government work.
**This is also meant to be a joke. Please don’t go on and on about how wonderful a human being Rick Dees is in the comment section. I’m sure he’s a prince of a fellow.