Saturday, December 12, 2009

“Yoo hoo! Is anybody?”

Hey—it’s the weekend, and what better way to kick back and recharge the old batteries by taking a look at some new TV-on-DVD announcements? (If you have other plans…well, away with you, then. I’m not budging from this comfortable chair…particularly since I have leftover chili.)

Stephen Bowie had the original heads-up on the news that one of television’s genuine sitcom classics—the 1949-56 series The Goldbergs—was headed toward a DVD release soon but has picked up the ball and run with it, doing a little investigative digging and revealing that the show will indeed see DVD action next year in a box set from Shout! Factory. The release date is still unknown as of this posting, and the sketchy info reveals only the following (via Bowie’s The Classic TV History Blog):

This Goldbergs release will be a “complete” series set, compiled by a well-known DVD producer and distributed by another label that specializes in classic television. “Complete” appears in quotation marks because The Goldbergs was, of course, staged live during all but its final season, so many of the episodes no longer exist. But the DVD set will gather all of the surviving kinescopes from the series’ various incarnations – it had runs on CBS, NBC, and DuMont, with a number of cast changes along the way – as well as all thirty-nine segments shot on film for the show’s last season. I don’t know the exact tally, but it will be over sixty episodes.

The 1950 feature film version of The Goldbergs (a Paramount property) will not be included. But the DVD set will contain some segments from the radio version of The Goldbergs, which ran on NBC and CBS for nearly twenty years, as well as the pilot for Berg’s next series, Mrs. G Goes to College.

Nice to see the radio version—which originally premiered on NBC Radio November 20, 1929 as The Rise of the Goldbergs—get a bit of attention here, as well as creator-star Gertrude Berg’s short-lived 60s sitcom (originally titled Mrs. G Goes to College, but renamed The Gertrude Berg Show), which was telecast on CBS-TV from 1961-62. (While I have heard a snatch or two of the radio Goldbergs I must confess I’ve never had the opportunity to look at the TV series.) As TSOD also points out, Timeless Media Group did do a smaller release of Goldbergs episodes last year: ten installments culled from the series’ 1955-56 syndicated run. It was TSOD who learned that Shout! was doing the set, as part of a “Direct-to-Consumer” program the company will unveil in 2010.

So how will this program work, I can hear you asking. (Well, I hear somebody saying something—and the voice doesn’t sound like any of the ones in my head…) Rather than emulate the Warner Archive (which release manufactured-on-demand titles), Shout! Factory will sell these collections (factory-produced) only on their website—which will kind of put the kibosh on hunting around online for the lowest-priced deals. They will do these with titles that, according to TSOD, “have much smaller fan bases, and for which most major retailers have resisted carrying any follow-up DVD releases.” Among the shows to receive this treatment will be Mr. Belvedere and My Two Dads.

Okay, I’m fighting back the urge to say something really snarky here but since several classic television shows have been also been selected as candidates for this program I shall reserve comment. Particularly since the Factory will finally get around to letting the other shoe drop and release the second (and final) season of The Bill Cosby Show—the 1969-71 incarnation whose inaugural season was released on disc in August 2006 (I swear it seems longer). Another participant will be Room 222, whose first season sales were apparently not much to write home about (much to my and Rick Brooks’ chagrin). Unlike Goldbergs and Cosby, 222 does have a definite release date (albeit no list price): January 19th of next year (you’ll be able to pre-order the title on Factory’s website December 17). Like my friend at Cultureshark Tower, I am anxious to obtain additional 222 episodes despite the fact that many of the installments from Season 1 were in less-than-pristine condition (honest to my grandma—they looked like the same prints they used to run on the USA Network twenty years ago). (Hey—maybe that’s why the sales were so disappointing…ya think?) Though I was disappointed with the set’s quality it wasn’t a particularly bitter pill to swallow because I lucked onto an glitch that let me purchase it for $11.99. As for release numero dos, Shout! is on record as saying that the collection was “created from the best surviving video masters available to Shout! Factory.” (Loosely translated, this means Room 222 fans are boned.)

The other notable “Direct-to-Consumer” release will be the third season of Ironside—the 1967-75 crime drama starring Raymond Burr as the wheelchair-bound chief of detectives with the San Francisco Police Department. I was surprised to learn via TSOD that the sales of the first and second season releases of this classic series were pretty dismal but—to Shout! Factory’s credit—they are continuing to press on with the season-by-season releases in response to fans’ demands (although it would seem that there aren’t quite as many Ironside fans as one would believe). Like 222, Ironside: Season 3 will be ready to ship on January 19, so if you’re a dedicated fan of the show you might want to think about setting aside a few extra pennies to get a copy. I will readily admit that I have mixed feelings about this “Direct-to-Consumer” program but since I am a Room 222 devotee I think I can bite the bullet and buy direct in order to ultimately obtain (knock wood) a complete set of the series. (“I’ll even eat a bug!”)

Not all of Shout! Factory’s offerings will be subject to this treatment, however: TSOD has announced that the Factory will be getting out Emergency!: Season 6 some time next year (no official release date as of this post), which I’m sure will come as good news to Laura. (As to whether the company will release the six post-series TV-movies telecast intermittingly between 1978 and 1979—that’s still up in the air.)

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Laura said...

Yay! My boys have been anxiously awaiting the EMERGENCY! release. They've even got the neighbor boy from across the street watching that show with them. :)

Now if only they'd release Season 2 of BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP/BLACK SHEEP SQUADRON...

Best wishes,

rockfish said...

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? 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. 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)?