Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shout! Shout! Knock yourself out!

Frequent commenter rockfish has posited a series of queries regarding yesterday’s post on Shout! Factory’s brand-spanking-new “Direct-to-Consumer” program that will be unveiled next year (I had planned to address this in the comments but because of my concern that my response may be a bit longer than Blogger’s 4,090 word limit, I decided to do up a second post):
Apparently a big reason for this new method of releasing product is because major stores (and all but specialty stores, i'd bet) showed little interest in putting it on their shelves.
So I'm curious as to why you're less than pleased with this development and a cheerleader for Warners archive?
My only reservation re: the Shout! program is that in making a decision that certain TV-on-DVD box sets will be available from Shout! and Shout! only you eliminate competition, and this sort of puts the kibosh on economical pricing. Shout! Factory has released two TV-on-DVD box sets that I have not yet purchased (but are on my wish list): The Patty Duke Show and Mister Ed. Duke is available at for $32.99; Ed’s asking price is $35.99. But if I do a little comparison shopping (via, I can pick up the horse (of course, of course) for $27.72 at and Patty & Cathy can be purchased for $28.24. That’s a hell of a savings for two sets that are essentially the same product, just priced differently at separate stores. I concede your argument that a good many individuals may be buying sets such as these in major stores where they may not be available—but trends are starting to demonstrate a shift toward more online purchasing, and I think people are going to have to realize sooner or later that Target just may not be all that interested in talking equines or cousins who are two of a kind as they are Ugly Betty or Gossip Girl.
As for being a “cheerleader” for the Archive, I’ll freely admit that I have promoted a good many of their releases here on the blog—but such releases are usually those of a novelty nature, like the Joe McDoakes or Robert Benchley or Our Gang compilations. But I’m not as enamored of Warner’s archive as you’re interpreting: I still think their product is way too pricey, and as such I’ve not bought anything there since May of this year—mostly because many of the movies that I’m anxious to obtain have fortuitously turned up on TCM to where I can save myself the scratch and record it on my lonesome. (I own five Warner Archive titles—and of those five, only one of them has played on the channel in the last six months.) My initial enthusiasm for the Archive stemmed from the fact that the concept of releasing titles requested by fans without having to mass-produce them was and is still relatively novel—Fox/MGM has announced that they are planning to follow suit. Like it or not, this is pretty much going to be the future of classic film on DVD (and it’s not just due to the economy; Jaime Weinman makes a convincing case that classic films on DVD were getting the last rites even before the bottom fell out)—and I’ll certainly concur that there are major issues and problems to be ironed out. The future of classic TV shows on DVD, in turn, is going to resemble Shout! Factory’s plans…and while I think I have a legitimate grumble re: the cost I know it’s not going to matter “a hill of beans” in the long run.
Do you have money invested in dvd-r technology and believe that its superior to standard dvd product? Check reviews on the archive, there are many negative reviews on the product; if Shout! has made no progress in getting better prints (which is partly out of their hands, being as they don't own the original) then you may have a gripe.
Oh, Good Lord, no. I have no money period. I can only speak from experience that for those individuals who are concerned about the shelf life of DVD-R technology (and justifiably so) that standard DVD product is just as susceptible to instability. I have two DVDs sitting on my shelf—The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) and Blue Collar (1978)—that no longer play. Seriously. You put either one of these in the DVD player on my computer and click to see what’s on the disc and there’s no information on either one of them. It’s as if some joker came by and turned on a bulk eraser for shits and giggles. I have no explanation for why this happened, and have asked friends if they have had a similar experience—but they’re just as baffled as I am. In addition, I once sold a copy of The Bedroom Window (1987) to an eBay customer who reported that there was nothing on the disc—and sure enough, he was right…fortunately the film had recently been reissued so I was able to send him a substitute copy, with the money coming out of my pocket. (Hey…you do what you gotta do.)
I do realize that the quality of the prints received by Shout! Factory in putting together their collections is an issue over which they have a lot of control—but by the same token, this still makes them complicit and as Rick Brooks persuasively argues, why is this issue not addressed before the release of such sets? (The apologies—if they happen—more often than not occur after the release of sets like Mister Ed or Rhoda, when they’re already counting the pre-order money.) As for the Warner Archive, I haven’t read many of the reviews (again, because the number of titles I’ve purchased has been minimal) so I can’t comment on that aspect.
It just seems that if you're going to embrace one, wouldn't the other be given -- at least from the onset -- a similar benefit (of the doubt)?

Well, again—I think you’ve mistaken an occasional “Hey! Check out what’s now on DVD!” as my drinking the Kool-Aid. I promote a lot of CBS DVD-Paramount products here at TDOY, even though I loathe and despise their “split-season” policy on some TV-on-DVD sets—I think it’s nothing more than a ploy to gouge those consumers who love classic television but who don’t or won’t purchase any of the newer stuff. DVD companies expect every title to sell in Friends or Seinfeld-like numbers, and I think that’s completely unrealistic—what sets these older shows do sell are for the fans of these shows whose only chance of seeing this material depends solely on its DVD availability (‘cause it sure isn’t going to show up on TVLand anytime soon—there’s no room, what with the movies and High School Reunion and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and all that other useless crap).
A famous quote attributed to economist John Maynard Keynes goes: “When the facts change, I change my mind.” My enthusiasm (such as it was) for the Warner Archive has been tempered somewhat, and my initial take on Shout! Factory’s “Direct-to-Consumer” may also change—though I would like the record to show that I do plan to purchase Room 222: Season 2 despite my reservations over the visual quality and price (which, admittedly, has not yet been announced) because I am a huge fan of the series and would purchase sets even though they may not be as nice as I would like them to be. I guess that’s what it all comes down to when you examine the big picture—everybody has the right to piss and moan...and if necessary, do a right-face.
So allow me to wrap this post up with something completely off-topic as we retreat to neutral corners: NBC ran its yearly showing of It's a Wonderful Life (1946) last night (much to my chagrin—I forgot it was on until halfway-through) and for those of you who either cherish or despise the film (I’m in the “cherish” group) I think you’ll get a giggle out of World O’Crap’s incomparable Scott C.’s take on the film (like I said, I’m a cheerleader for the movie and even I couldn’t stop laughing) here.
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rockfish said...

Thanks as usual for your well-weighted response -- I too typically base a lot of my purchases down the 'is it available somewhere else for less?' but being as the Warnerargh!ive is the new template, overpriced-and-less-filling looks like a new reality, too.
The funny thing is, I can see how the archive system would be ideal for many older tv shows and obscure but loved films, however, they've turned it into the swamp for everything, when they know they could have done some touch-up work on anything with Gable-Cagney-Robinson-Grant level star and done it justice (like in the past) and still made money on it!
Oh, and one last question -- what would you recommend in an audio of the bickersons? I've been a casual fan for a while but other than stumbling across it on late night radio, I don't know if there's a collection that has the best of langford-ameche... thanks!

Stacia said...

Fox/MGM has announced that they are planning to follow suit.

YAAAAAAAAAAYYY!! I get all my news from you, Ivan.

I only have one Warner Archive disk (a 2nd one for Giftmas, if I play my cards right) and there was no quality issue for me, although a LOT of people comment on it. So far, the only commercial DVD I've had problems with was the Season 1 "The Tick" animated series. And no disks have gone empty on me yet, but if one did, I would freak the heck out.

You're right that it's pretty pricey, although I've felt a lot of DVD prices were too much for a couple of years now. I tend to buy used off Amazon, no regrets yet.