Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brilliant but DVD’d

About three years ago at the old Salon Blogs neighborhood, I did a write-up on a TV-on-DVD collection entitled Brilliant but Cancelled: Crime Dramas—a single disc containing four shows that were featured on the Brilliant But Cancelled series telecast on the cable network Trio a good while back. The programs (in order of their original network/cable runs) were Johnny Staccato, Delvecchio, Gideon Oliver and Touching Evil.

Delvecchio was an early Stephen Bochco effort from 1976 starring Judd Hirsch that has been rerun on RTV (so Rick Brooks tells me), and Oliver starred Louis Gossett, Jr. as an anthropology professor forced to solve crimes in attempt to obtain tenure. Okay, I’m slightly kidding about that—but the main interest in unearthing this show for Brilliant is that it was created by Law & Order überproducer Dick Wolf in his salad days (the show had a brief run in 1989 as one of the segments on ABC’s Monday Mystery Movie)…who might have had more success if he had titled the show Law & Order: Publish or Perish. As for Evil, it popped up on USA’s schedule briefly in 2004; an adaptation of a successful British series that aired from 1997 to 1999.

These three shows were okay to watch, but the fourth one, Staccato, is the detective show that really made me sit up and take notice—so much so that I ponied up the scratch for an (ahem) unauthorized edition of all twenty-seven shows from an overseas dealer. Staccato, which starred future cinematic cult figure John Cassavetes as a jazz pianist who moonlighted as a private dick for grits and groceries, premiered on NBC in September 1959 and lasted only a brief season before being axed after Cassavetes antagonized the network and the show’s sponsors about a controversial episode involving drug addiction that NBC ruled would not air. (Staccato later turned up briefly on ABC’s prime-time grid shortly afterward, though those shows were just the ones that had previously aired on NBC.)

All of this is a long-winded way of announcing that Timeless Media Group—who, in my opinion, have knocked off all competing companies to become King of the Classic TV-on-DVD Hill—will be releasing the entire run of Staccato in a three-disc collection due out October 12th, according to If you had told me when I wrote the original post on Staccato that this would someday be available in an authorized collection I would have laughed myself silly—so from the company who brought us the complete runs of M Squad and Checkmate…congratulations, Timeless. You are classic television gods.

Another entry in the “Seriously?-This-is-coming-to-DVD?” sweepstakes is a release from Canada’s Visual Entertainment, Inc. (VEI) that will spotlight The Snoop Sisters, one of the rotating series from NBC’s Wednesday Night Mystery Movie during its second and final season in 1973-74 (the Wednesday night lineup never managed to duplicate the success of the original Sunday night wheel). Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick starred as Ernesta and Gwendolyn Snoop (in Gwen’s case, Snoop-Nicholson, because she had been married), two elderly sisters who channeled their inner Jane Marple and solved crimes in their copious needlepoint-occupied free time. The show also starred Tattletales host Bert Convy as their nephew and contact on the police force, Lt. Steve Ostrowski and future TV director Lou Antonio as Barney, an ex-con who worked as their chauffeur. (Elderly women not behind the wheel of a car? Obviously this show did not take place in Florida.) Because it rotated with the returning Banacek and two new series, Tenafly and Faraday & Company, Sisters only telecast four episodes before being cancelled at the end of the season…but all four of these installments and the original 1972 pilot will be available on a three-disc collection due to be released (according to TSOD) in the first quarter of 2011. (Why do I get the feeling that Linda at Yet Another Journal is going to do cartwheels when she hears this news?)

Season 4 of Rhoda—which will be available as part of the diabolically evil Shout! Select online-sales-only program at Shout! Factory—has a release date of September 21st. The price on this one is $29.99…which is not too shabby compared to the price tags on some of their other Select products. If I were festooned with oodles and oodles of cash I might consider an investment in Rho but as I have stated here in the past Valerie Harper’s classic character stopped being funny when she got married. (Then again, this is from Ms. Morgenstern’s divorce years so I could change my mind. I like the green on the packaging, if that’s any help.)

Finally, CBS-Paramount looks as if they’re going to let the other shoe drop on November 2 with the release of the fourth and final season of the classic television drama The Fugitive…In Color! as they used to say back in the day. Yes, the completist in me will probably add this one to my collection even though it’s (groan) one of those split-season sets (my TV-on-DVD bête noire) and has probably had its original music replaced with a kazoo orchestra. (Okay, I’m just joking. Though a development like this would certainly not surprise me.) No, the reason why I’m cracking wise is that one of the extras on this set is a featurette entitled “Season Change: Dominic Frontiere” which just goes to show that irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.

And here’s a quick postscript…CBS-Paramount has whipped up a stocking stuffer in T.V. Sets: Christmas Treats, a sequel to their T.V. Sets: Holiday Treats DVD that was released back in 2008. This single disc collection will spotlight Yuletide-themed episodes of Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, The Odd Couple, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, The Lucy Show and Cheers—and though a list of the episodes was not available at the TSOD announcement as sure as stale fruitcake the shows will probably have been recycled from previous DVD releases. (This set is also due out November 2.) I’m pretty excited about this one because I have so many fond memories of sitting down to watch the Mork & Mindy Christmas episode, which was as traditional as How the Grinch Stole Christmas at my house. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic—must be my impending natal anniversary, which is next week. Stay off my snow-covered lawn!)

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