Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The TV-on-DVD gods answer our prayers

Yes, the sounds erupting across the blogosphere are those of champagne corks popping and general merriment…because according to TVShowsOnDVD.com, Warner Home Video will at long last be releasing the first season of the classic TV western Maverick to DVD on May 29th.  And this will not—I cannot stress this highly enough—be a MOD Warner Archive deal, but a top-of-the-line Cadillac release: a 7-DVD set containing all twenty-seven episodes of the series’ freshman season (1957-58).  Furthermore, the SRP on this bad boy is $39.98, so you might be able to poke around for a better deal online…and as the copy in the press release trumpets, “just in time for Father’s Day gift giving”—which is perfect, because as luck would have it…I just so happen to have a Dad.  (By the way, the second I found this announcement in my e-mailbox I “fast” forwarded it to the biggest Maverick fan I know, Laura at Miscellaneous Musings, and to the dean of 1950’s movies oaters, Toby at 50 Westerns from the 50s…and as you can witness for yourself, they are positively giddy at the news.)  As for me—I didn’t think it was ever going to happen, but I’m ever so pleased that it has come to pass…so I hope nobody from WHV has been reading the nasty things I’ve said about them from time to time in the past.

So now that I’ve got the grand news out of the way, as Red Skelton observes in my favorite of his feature films, A Southern Yankee (1948): “It’s nice to be back among the magnolias again.”  I know the blog has been running on fumes for the past couple of weeks, but I hope to get up a full head of steam now that my outside project is finished (more on this later) and all obligations finalized.  I’ve got a classic movie/TV/OTR itch that desperately needs scratched because part of my hiatus was spent fooling around with a laptop out in the living room, where my parents watch mind-numbingly awful things on TV that I can’t describe in deference to the younger TDOY readership.  So I figured it would be keen (as those same younger readers say…don’t they?) to get caught up with some of the classic TV-on-DVD announcements that have been bookmarked in my browser for the past couple of months.

I made myself a promise a while back that I was going to limit my spending on TV-on-DVD sets to $25 a collection…I won’t be paying any more than that (though I did make one exception, but that’s a later post) and in fact I was sorely tempted to violate this rule when I spotted that The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series box set over at DeepDiscount.com last week for thirty-nine bucks and change.  But I held firm, and…okay, what actually happened is that by the time I got some funds into my bank account to grab it the price shot back up to $47, so I missed out on the deal.  Nevertheless, I have made some crafty purchases of late—I bought The Donna Reed Show: Season 4 from an Amazon Marketplace peep for $21.99, found Hazel: Season 2 (due out February 21st) at DVD Pacific.com for $21.18 and picked up Here’s Lucy: Season 5 (which will be released February 28th) for $21.99 at Amazon.com.  (You can actually buy this last set cheaper at DeepDiscount.com—where it’s $19.38—but I paired the Lucy set with Tales of Wells Fargo: The Complete First and Second Seasons, which was marked down to $24.49.  I presented this latter set to my mom as a token of my esteem, and she was floored to get it.  My father, on the other hand, reserved comment.)

Sometimes, however…I am not so lucky.  The Laramie: Season 2 collection that came out from Timeless Home Video on February 7, I was able to get from Barnes & Ignoble for $21.77…and then the other day I saw Amazon.com was selling it for—wait for it—$18.99.  (Swine e-tailer…)  But I now own all four seasons on disc, and since I now have the free time I’m going to have a look at some of the shows one weekend and issue a full report.

Timeless Media Video has announced that the next releases of Wagon Train (season five on 10 DVDs) and The Virginian (season six, a 9-DVD set) are scheduled for May 1st of this year, and on April 10th the company continues the Gene Autry Show sets with a 4-DVD collection that will feature both the third and fourth seasons (both of these seasons had thirteen shows each, which is probably why they decided to combine them).  But the big news is that Timeless will introduce another TV rarity in a 6-DVD collection entitled Cimarron City: The Complete Series, due out on March 6thCity was a short-lived western that starred movie cowboy George Montgomery as the mayor of an Oklahoma oil boom town, and featured John Smith as the sheriff (Smith would later go on to star in the previously mentioned Laramie the following season) and TDOY fave Audrey Totter as the proprietor of the town boarding house and Montgomery’s main squeeze.  I’ve only seen one episode of this show—I talked about it in a previous post about a Timeless box set of westerns—and while I don’t like to make judgments based on only one airing I’m not sure I’d care for City simply on the basis that in the episode I watched Totter didn’t get much to do, which is a crime as far as I’m concerned.  (Bonanza fans might be curious to check it out for Dan “Hoss” Blocker’s early stint as “Tiny,” the town blacksmith.)  The show has already seen a little disc action in the form of a “Best of” collection that was released by the company back in 2007, but this set will contain all twenty-six episodes of its sole season, with a SRP of $39.98.

So with the TMV news out of the way, let’s mosey on over and check out what’s due to roll off the assembly line at the Factory…Shout! Factory, that is.  I mentioned getting a pretty good deal on the second season release of Hazel a few paragraphs back, and I’m also stoked to learn that the company will put out Season 3 on May 15th.  The TDOY faithful are well aware that I’ve made this series a sort of a cause celebre (French for “he won’t stop whining about it”) since Sony first released Season 1 in 2006 and then refused to answer the doorbell when fans clamored for Season 2.  (“Baxters?  No, I think they moved…”)  The fast tracking of this show is reminiscent of the company’s attention to Dennis the Menace, so I’m optimistic that the season-by-season releases will continue and that I won’t end up having to complete my collection by writing a check for that Shout! Select program that I find equivalent to consorting with paid female escorts…if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

I may have mentioned this before, but Shout! Factory is stepping up to the plate to resurrect classic TV series on DVD that have been orphaned by the companies who originally introduced them to disc and then left the show on a park bench while they hauled ass and elbows toward a waiting automobile.  Kojak is a good example of this—the veteran cop show was first “DVD’d” by Universal in 2005, but its second season didn’t turn up in a lineup until six years later (back in September of last year).  Now comes word that Season 3 will be released on March 20th (a 6-DVD set containing 23 episodes), and after that the fourth season will hit the streets the first of May (also a 6-DVD set, with 25 episodes).  I kinda sorta wish I had hung onto my first season set (I bought it with my mother in mind; she was a fan of the program when it was on) but I think I hawked it on eBay when it looked as if it was going to be “one and done.”  But the show is part of Me-TV’s lineup (weekdays at 4pm), so if I’m jonesing for a fix there’s always that…in the meantime, if you’d like a nice critical look at the series I can’t recommend highly enough these observations from Stephen Bowie at The Classic TV History Blog.

In the “longest-wait-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop” department this week, Shout! Factory is going to make good on an earlier announcement that they would finish up the run of the 1970s cop show S.W.A.T. with the second season release on May 29th…nearly nine years after the first season of the show was released by Sony in 2003.  (My reaction to this one, by the way, is “meh”…I don’t think I watched it the first time it was on, though quite a few of my friends did.  It’s on Antenna TV on Saturday nights if I ever get curious.)  But a show I did watch that’s been out of disc action for a long time is Fantasy Island; its initial release (first season) was in November 2005, the Factory will apply the defib paddles to its second season on May 8th with a 6-DVD set containing all 25 episodes.  (Oh, and the company that issued the first season of Fantasy Island?  You guessed it…Sony.  Sony and my nephew seem to have a lot in common, particularly in the area of short attention spans.)

The Factory has also announced that the final (seventh) season of Adam-12 will be released to stores this April 10th in a 4-DVD set containing 24 episodes.  Again, as far as Rancho Yesteryear goes—I had the first set (Universal Home Video release) but when it looked as if it wasn’t going anywhere that puppy was up on eBay faster than you can say “Meg Whitman.”  I don’t dislike the series, but it’s nothing I needed to hang onto…but I’m glad it’s out there for the fans (like Page, for example).

I realize I’ve been singing the praises of Shout! Factory to a large extent…and now I have to sound a discordant note.  The company has announced that this May 22nd a 24-DVD collection entitled Route 66: The Complete Series will be released.  This shouldn’t be too surprising, since the Factory announced back in November it had acquired the rights to the show from the previous owner, Roxbury Entertainment.  The only problem is—Roxbury already released the first three seasons of Route 66 to DVD, and a certain party here in the House of Yesteryear dutifully bought them; but now it looks as if he’s going to have to fork over major simolians for the Factory release if he wants to complete his collection with the final year.

It’s a sore subject with me, to be sure—though in the company’s defense, when I first mentioned the acquisition of the rights to Route 66 on the blog back in November, I mentioned that there were some serious problems with the previous Roxbury releases (many of the show’s fans noticed that a few of the prints used were substandard…there was even an occasion where they had to re-issue sets due to some bad cropping) and that I hoped that Shout! would consider re-releasing them with improved prints.  So technically, I’ve got no kick to rant about this…but I was also gambling that they’d make the fourth season of the show a separate release so that schmoes like me wouldn’t have to double-dip.  It doesn’t appear as if they’re going to do this, and I am a little discouraged; I don’t know who makes the decisions on these matters but the practice seems to be applied arbitrarily in that they nixed the idea on separate seasons for when they acquired Barney Miller but accommodated consumers on Leave it to Beaver and Rocky and Bullwinkle.  I can only speculate that it might be because the fan base is larger in the case of the latter two shows, but I’m simply going to state for the record that I am most displeased at having to buy a huge honkin’ set just to get the fourth season, and sticking an “extra DVD” entitled Great Cars: Corvette is not going to get the job done, SF.

Besides (I’m going to drop this, just give me a minute)—how can I be expect to pony up the tariff on the Route 66 set when MPI is planning to re-release in its entirety the only daytime soap I ever truly liked, Dark Shadows, in a special 131-DVD collection (!) April 10th?  The company has made this cult series available in a myriad number of collections for many years now (32 sets released between 2002 and 2008), but in Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series you’ll get all 1,225 episodes of the ABC daytime gothic treat that aired from 1966-71.  (I have decided that I must have this…though to be honest, I’m not all that wild about that “coffin” packaging.)  The TSOD blurb reports that there are a couple of fixes that have been made to this new release (including restoring a famous blooper in one episode)—so to those fans who dutifully purchased all the other collections, I feel your pain

Well, after that rant I’ll need some good news to cheer me up…and that will come in the form of the announcement that Shanachie Entertainment and eOne Entertainment will roll out Season 2 of the cult TV classic Car 54, Where are You? on April 10th, a 4-DVD set containing all thirty episodes (in proper broadcast order this time) of the comedy cop sitcom starring Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne.  I have talked about this series on the blog in the past as you well know…and though there’s at least one member of the TDOY peanut gallery who will no doubt receive this news with boundless ennui, the rest of us who cherish and revere good TV will no doubt knock people over to grab this when it hits the shelves (I’m already keeping an eye out for the best price).

Also on my “must-have” list is a sitcom concoction that’s a bit out of the classic TV jurisdiction but I remember watching it when it first aired and enjoying it tremendously.  It’s Bob Newhart’s short lived 1992-93 sitcom Bob, on which he played a comic book artist whose creation was now being featured in a weekly TV series, despite the fact that Newhart’s character had long since left the comic book industry and was making a living designing greeting cards.  The show never garnered the ratings of Newhart’s previous sitcom successes (though the fact that it was originally occupying a death time slot of Friday nights at 9:30pm had a lot to do with it; when CBS moved it to Monday nights later on in its first season the numbers got better) but it got a lot of good critical buzz and the writing was really first-rate (from Cheers alumni like Bill Steinkellner, Cheri Steinkellner and Phoef Sutton)…plus I thought the chemistry between Bob and longtime TDOY fave Cynthia Stevenson was marvelous.  The show got renewed for a second season, but they completely revamped the show and insisted on bringing in Betty White…who may be all that and a bag of chips to a great many folks out there on the Internets but she drove a stake straight into the heart of this show, and it was cancelled soon not long after.  Since another company (*cough* 20th Century Fox *cough*) seems intent on leaving both The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart in DVD limbo, I guess we’ll have to make do with this CBS-Paramount release, due out in a 4-disc set (all 33 episodes) on April 3rd..

And now, a quick look at some other notable TV-on-DVD releases in the pipeline:

The F.B.I., Season 2: Volumes 1 and 2 (available now, 2 sets of 4-discs, $39.95 each) – Fellas, I’d snap up this show in a heartbeat if it weren’t a split-season Warner Archive release…and I’d even be willing to overlook that if the tariff wasn’t so darn high.  Alas, it is not to be…Pasadena.

Lawrence Welk: Classic Episodes, Volumes 1-4 (February 21, 4-disc set, $34.98 SRP) – Film Chest and Synergy Entertainment have put together this “wun’erful, wun’erful” collection of some of the highlights from The Lawrence Welk Show—a TV institution that aired for so many years I actually had to check to see if it wasn’t still on (I think it’s still rerun on some PBS stations).

Night Gallery: Season Three (April 10, 2-disc set, $29.98 SRP) – Yet another one of those Universal Home Video releases that I removed from the dusty Thrilling Days of Yesteryear archives when it looked as if it wasn’t going to move past its initial first season.  (I kind of regret that in retrospect, even though host Rod Serling did refer to Gallery one time as “Mannix in a shroud.”)

Ernie Kovacs: The ABC Specials (April 17, single disc, $14.97 SRP) – Eight TV specials that aired on ABC in 1961 plugging Dutch Masters cigars (talk about the perfect product for the perfect pitchman) and starring one of the funniest men to ever walk the planet.  The perfect compliment to the earlier April 2011 box set release The Ernie Kovacs Collection, which my Facebook pal Ben Model had a hand in.

Eight is Enough: The Complete First Season (April 17, 2-disc set, $24.98 SRP) – Here’s the thing: I remember this show—I had to have watched it, because it was the lead-in to Charlie’s Angels, a series my sister Debbie never missed for fear of major tantrum retribution—but I couldn’t remember a single solitary episode or plotline if you held a gun to my head.  But kudos to Warner Home Video for releasing this one; there are other people out there who have fond memories of it (and are even able to tell the difference between Dick Van Patten and Tom Bosley).

Vega$: The Third Season, Volume 1 (May 8, 3-disc set, $36.98) – Another split-seasoner (seriously, CBS-Paramount—you have to break these up into 11-episode collections?)…though I probably wouldn’t purchase this one even if they did make it available in one package (which they have since done with the first two seasons).  I prefer watching Robert Urich investigate around Boston, if you want to know the truth.

On the cold-cereal-and-footy-pajamas front, TSOD has a blurb that speculates (nothing definite, just gossip) on a possible DVD release of The Jackson 5ive, the 1971-72 Rankin/Bass cartoon series that cashed in on the teen music phenomenon of Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon and Michael…badly written and animated as it was.  (And that laugh track…oy!  The R-B people also did a series based on the Osmonds in 1972—they ought to release both shows in one set.)  However, a Saturday morning favorite that is making its way to DVD (street date is March 6th) is the 1972-73 series Around the World in 80 Days, a show that I remember quite fondly as a young coach potato even though it’s even money it’s probably not as good as I remember.  The series has seen previous DVD action (it was released in Canada in 2008 through VEI) but will make its way south in a 2-disc collection (all 16 episodes) with a none-too-stingy SRP of $7.98.  (This show shouldn’t be confused with Around the World in 79 Days, a reworking of the Jules Verne classic that was one of the segments on Hanna-Barbera’s The Cattanooga Cats between 1969-71.)

The big cartoon news, however, is the announcement that come March 6, Shout! Factory will compliment its Underdog: The Complete Collection release (due February 21) with Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales: The Complete CollectionHot cookies, Agnes!™  When I first mentioned the Underdog box set on the blog I was a little disappernted that Tennessee Tuxedo, one of my cartoon heroes (“Tennessee Tuxedo will not fail!”) wouldn’t be included but helpful TDOY commenter Vinnie of the inestimable TeamBart (I’m pretty sure it was Vinnie) pointed out that although Tennessee and Chumley were featured on The Underdog Show when it was in syndication they weren’t present during its original network run.

So on the Tuxedo 6-disc collection you’ll get not only the adventures of everyone’s favorite penguin-and-walrus team but the segments Klondike Kat (I actually had as a tadpole a toy Klondike whose tail would spin around when wound up—damn, I wish I had kept that), Tooter Turtle and—perhaps Kenny Delmar’s finest moment in cartoondom—The Hunter.  Here’s the thing though: those last two features may have been on Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales when it premiered over CBS on September 28, 1963…but they were originally supporting segments on the first series that came out of the Total Television stable, King Leonardo and His Short Subjects.  (“The King and Odie” segments will also be on the box set, according to the info at Amazon.com.)

One final note: I have been overwhelmed by the response to the Our Miss Brooks: Boynton Blues giveaway—I think I’ve received more entries for this contest than any of the others I’ve held on the blog save for the Johnny Dollar: Confidential giveaway back in April 2011 (and I had J. Kingston Pierce beating the bushes over at The Rap Sheet for that one, which explained the impressive turnout).  The deadline for entering the OMB giveaway is 11:59 EST this Thursday (February 16); Friday morning I will pick a winner and mail that sucker…so send your entry to igsjrotr(at)gmail(dot)com with the subject header “Boynton Blues” for a chance to win.

6 comments:

Laura said...

Thanks again for sharing the great news so fast -- it totally made my day -- week -- month -- you get the idea! :)

Best wishes,
Laura

Brent McKee said...

Great news about Maverick. Maverick made me into the demon(ically bad) Poker player I am today!

I was always a fan of "Vega$". It had gorgeous women, even better looking cars, and Tony Curtis. What's not to like!

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Maverick made me into the demon(ically bad) Poker player I am today!

They even named one of them after you! :-)

Stephen Bowie said...

Thanks, as always, for the plug, Ivan. I was waiting for more complaints on the ROUTE 66 front; usually, the HTF crowd goes bonkers over re-buying issues, but not this time. Whine fatigue, I guess. Myself, I'm hoping CBS gets the FUGITIVE box set reissue right mainly so I don't have to ream them ... again.

Evan Lewis said...

Sheesh! That Maverick set is long, long overdue. I was afraid I was going to have to watch it from beyond the grave.

Gilby37 said...

Awesome post! I love James Garner and he was great as Maverick! My hubby and I catch Lawrence Welk on PBS so that's for the heads up about the DVD collection. Now if we can get Van Williams as Green Hornet that will really make me happy!