Wednesday, August 12, 2009

“You’ve been out with that social networking website again, haven’t you?”

The above cartoon is just about the best way to explain my continual absences from the blog over the past several days—while it is amusing, it’s also undeniably true. I would like to point out, however, that not all of my spare time was spent listening to the siren song of Facebook; I completed another project of liner notes for Radio Spirits, and took some time to write this piece for Edward Copeland on Film which acknowledges the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz (1939).

With most of the heavy stuff out of the way, I’m hoping that this will give me the opportunity to return to regular posting here at TDOY—and I thought I’d kick things off with some up-and-coming announcements of some classic television releases courtesy of the go-to website for all TV shows on DVD…well, namely The esteemed Mr. David Lambert gives collectors of vintage Yuletide-themed TV episodes a heads-up by announcing that Shout! Factory plans to release on November 3rd Merry Sitcom!—a collection of situation comedy episodes centered around Christmas that will include installments of That Girl, Father Knows Best, McHale’s Navy, Bewitched, The Flying Nun and The Donna Reed Show. Both Bewitched and Nun have seen season box sets (Bewitched went the entire eight-year-run) previously released by Sony, so what I’m curious to know is whether or not the Factory is going to finish out The Flying Nun by releasing the third and last season to disc (if they decide to do so, kudos to them). The Donna Reed Show is also in a current state of releases courtesy of Virgil Films and Entertainment (season two arrived at Rancho Yesteryear yesterday, as a matter of fact).

If you’ve already purchased all or any of these previously-released sets (I think I’m the only one raising his hand here) you might not want to do any “double-dipping” but Shout! is adding an extra enticement in including “Christmas Memory,” a holiday-themed episode from Window on Main Street, the short-lived series starring Robert Young after he left FKB. (Several of these episodes have been included in the FKB season releases.) I’ll probably wait and see the pricing on this before making a decision—right now the SRP is $12.99, which doesn’t seem too bad.

CBS DVD-Paramount has announced a release date for the seventh and final season of the classic espionage favorite Mission: ImpossibleMission: Impossible – The Final Season will hit the streets on November 3rd as well. Completists (there I go with that hand again) will no doubt snap this one up, and maybe with Impossible out of the way the company could return to finishing out some series they’ve abandoned…I can’t think of any right off the bat *cough* Have Gun – Will Travel *cough* but if any come to mind, I’ll be sure to take copious notes. A week later, CBS-Paramount will release The Untouchables: Season 3, Volume 2 to stores (which is amazing in that Volume 1 isn’t even out yet—that won’t happen until the 25th of this month) which means another dent in the TDOY treasury (I miss the Untouchables repeats that they used to show on our RTN affiliate before their contract with Viacom ran out).

CBS-Paramount will also release one of those collections that is certain to cement their exalted position in the Weasels Hall of Fame: November 10th will see the release of a big honkin’ box set entitled Hogan’s Heroes – Kommandant’s Kollection: The Komplete Series. Yes, they’ve repackaged all six seasons of the wacky POW kamp komedy…sorry, they’ve got me doing it…camp comedy and are reselling it with the enticement of a “bonus disc” that is, according to the company, “packed with never-before-seen special features of this television gem!” As for those of us fans who ponied up the scratch to buy the six single season releases, do you suppose there’s a chance that they could make this bonus disc available for demonstrating our loyalty and supporting the individual sets as a stand-alone deal? (Yes, I know—I’ve been out in the sun too long.)

The BBC and Warner Home Video are announcing a repackaged release (yes, they call it “remastered”—only because “leftovers” doesn’t test well in consumer groups) of the complete four series of The Black Adder, which starred the very funny Rowan Atkinson (unless he’s playing Mr. Bean, then the “funny” adjective need not apply). Between 1983 and 1989, the character of the Black Adder was featured in a sort of continuous mini-series made up of The Black Adder, Blackadder II (my personal favorite), Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Forth (my other favorite). All twenty-four episodes from these four series will be included in this set, along with the specials Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988) and Blackadder – Back and Forth: Millennium Special (1999). Now, in all fairness these series have been out-of-print for sometime (and I know this to be so because I sold my copy on eBay and received exactly what I paid for, even though it was used) so I’ll probably give BBC/Warner a pass—but since the SRP is $79.98 I may have to stick this one on my Christmas list.

Finally, in the “What the f**k?” department, the aforementioned Virgil Films and Entertainment will release the Saturday morning sitcom classic Big John, Little John to DVD October 13th. I don’t know if anyone besides me will remember this chestnut, but it starred Herb Edelman as a high school science teacher who “finds” the legendary Fountain of Youth during a trip to Florida and, after drinking deep from its waters, finds himself transformed into a twelve-year-old version of himself (played by Robbie “Cousin Oliver” Rist). The series (which produced a total of thirteen episodes) beat this thin premise to death as “Big John” found himself changing into “Little John” and vice versa—supposedly he was working on finding an anecdote but of course, like a certain bumbling first-mate on an uncharted desert isle, had he done so the show would have gone kaput. And if you’re wondering why I make mention of the TV icon known as Gilligan, it’s because Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz (whom Hal Kanter once remarked had a name that sounded like Robin Hood’s rabbi) was responsible for Big John as well, in addition to other off-the-wall classics like It’s About Time and Dusty’s Trail. I had an opportunity to see Big John, Little John again a few years back and I want to warn you…it has not aged well. But if you’re curious, the SRP on this baby is $29.99. (Incidentally, Joyce Bulifant was in this one, too—she played Mrs. John—in case you were wondering if she ever did anything outside of Match Game.)


Linda said...

Well, yeah, of course, she played Murray's wife... :-)

They're doing a DVD of BIG JOHN, LITTLE JOHN and we can't get REMEMBER WENN? Curse you, AMC (even more than usual)!

So which BEWITCHED Christmas episode will we get: Billy Mumy meeting Santa or Tabitha and her friend with spots? Possibly both? Sounds like a perfect buy for me.

Linda said...

Never 170 minutes we only get seven shows, so it's only one BEWITCHED. Probably the Mumy, which is okay with me.

BTW, which anecdote is Edelman going to tell to cure his problem? It's not the one about the queen and the elephant, is it? :-)

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Well, yeah, of course, she played Murray's wife... :-)

...and I must have had one massive "brain fart" to have forgotten that. Thanks for keeping me honest, Linda.

I also know better than to assume that I'm the only one whoever watched any of these shows. ;-)

VP81955 said...

I was all set to mention Joyce Bulifant played Mrs. Murray Salughter, but since someone beat me to the punch, I'll mention this instead: What do you think of the announcement that a feature film will be made of "Gunsmoke," supposedly a prequel explaining how Marshal Dillon, Chester, Doc Adams and Kitty ended up in Dodge City. If the writing is character-based and doesn't descend into a graphically violent shoot-'em-up horse opera,, it will evoke the classic radio and TV series. If not, Norman MacDonnell, William Conrad and a number of other ghosts are going to haunt the people who make this.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

If not, Norman MacDonnell, William Conrad and a number of other ghosts are going to haunt the people who make this.

And that is as good a point to make as any. I know that my knee-jerk reaction to "remakes" is usually pretty negative (in fact, I discussed this the other day with Toby O'Brien re: AMC's planned Prisoner revival in November) but my reasons for giving this a thumbs-down is that I don't think this can be accomplished without the contributions of Norm, John Meston, Les Crutchfield, Kathleen Hite and all the other writers/producers that made Gunsmoke a joy to behold.

Your point about "descend[ing] into a graphically violent shoot-'em horse opera" is also solid; in a culture where movies seem to be made only to "blow things up real good" and keep stuntmen employed (not that there's anything wrong with this) I don't think Hollywood could produce anything approaching the original sensibility of the radio or TV series. They'll reach for the lowest common denominator, because money talks and nobody walks.