Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the premiere of one of TV’s finest dramatic programs: St. Elsewhere, a medical drama created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey and set against the background of St. Eligius, a fictional teaching hospital in
My good friend and former editor Edward Copeland has written an anniversary tribute to Elsewhere that I cannot recommend highly enough, but the essay also inspired a tangential piece on the state of Elsewhere’s spotty history on DVD and the issue of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s reticence to release more of their television inventory to home video. Fox, which owns the MTM library, released the inaugural season of St. Elsewhere to disc in November of 2006…and for those of you who have been waiting for subsequent seasons, I hope you haven’t left the car engine running. It’s not the first time a studio has done this—and sadly, I fear it won’t be the last—but it’s a frustrating thing for staunch couch potatoes like myself who are passionate about the preservation of classic television shows. It’s an all-too common rant here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, but a majority of both local stations and cable channels would rather fill airtime with mind-numbing talk shows and/or "reality" programming than to introduce new generations of viewers to treasures from the medium’s past.
In the Balcony compadre Laughing Gravy: “People won’t buy a movie in black-and-white unless John Wayne is in it”), Fox Home Entertainment released the second season in two “volumes,” charging the same price for each of those sets as a single set. They repeated the process with the show’s third and final season, and also gave the split-season treatment to their releases of The Time Tunnel (even though this series only aired for one season) and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It took nearly five years for the compete run of Voyage to be released to DVD—even when the actual series only ran for four.
The company also had the DVD rights to The Big Valley (even though that series was produced by Four Star Television), and after putting the first season of the Barbara Stanwyck-starring western on disc, decided they would go the split-season route for the show’s sophomore year. One volume of Season 2 was released in January 2007…and then nothing. It’s not known if Fox will ever finish out the show’s run…or even if they’re going to bother to try. You’d think with the resurgence of the series on TV—it airs prominently on both Me-TV and INSP—and a big screen version coming to theater screens soon they would want to strike while the iron is hot.
Other 20th Century Fox TV shows like My Friend Flicka, Broken Arrow, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Felony Squad, Judd for the Defense, Julia and Nanny and the Professor are still cooling their heels in Fox’s waiting room. Fox did lease two of their shows,
Place and Room 222, to the Shout!
Factory label sometime back—but the company stopped with 222’s second season and
only two volumes of Place (with thirty-two shows each) ever saw DVD action…it looks
as if interest in continuing them is on the wane. (There was at one time a rumor that MPI Home
Video was working on a DVD release of Fox’s 1968-70 sitcom The Ghost and Mrs. Muir…but
that’s another project that seems to have slipped through the cracks.)
I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I have, in the past, dealt with nefarious elements in the dark corners of the Internets to obtain copies of shows long disappeared from television screens. I’ve been chided by close friends for supporting the bootleg trade. But I still vociferously maintain that should a company get off its duff and start poking around in its vaults for the treasures we know to be in there, and give them a proper DVD release (you don’t even have to mess with the bonus extras and all that other foofrah—I’ll take the episodes as they are)…I’d be an all-too-willing consumer. It’s something to think about on a day when one of TV’s best shows remains out of reach for its fans, old and new.