Thursday, September 30, 2010

“We have the technology…”

I’m sure to a good many fans out there this is old news, but for those whose newsletter didn’t arrive in the mail or wound up stuck to the Domino’s Pizza coupon circular and is unreadable, one of the Holy Grails of television shows not released to DVD is finally getting the royal treatment from Time Life this coming November 23rd…according to this announcementThe Six Million Dollar Man, that Velveeta cult classic that attracted millions of viewers to ABC like flies to you-know-what from 1973-78.

Now, I could tell you that I never watched Man in an attempt to haughtily dismiss the plebeian tastes of those who did….but I’d be lying my ass off. Hell, every school kid worth his milk money watched every week as Steve Austin—an astronaut whose legs, right arm and left eye had been replaced by atomic-powered mechanical devices after cracking up an experimental space vehicle in the desert, making him a human cyborg—would kick ass and take names in “bionic” fashion against the bad guys…and doing those cool sound effects along with him (ay-yang-yang-yang…ay-yang-yang-yang…). Man was the show that started ABC’s meteoric rise to the position of number-one television network in the mid-70s under über president Fred Silverman, and during its five-season run produced a spin-off: The Bionic Woman, which chronicled the tales of lady cyborg Jamie Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), an old flame of Steve’s who was critically injured in a skydiving accident.

The Six Million Dollar Man’s delayed debut onto DVD was due apparently to that old bugaboo of copyright problems, but Time Life is apparently doing this up right with a honkin’ big box set crammed with bodacious extras. The only flaw in the set—and you can read further about it here—is that one of the episodes, “Welcome Home, Jamie – Part 1,” will appear on the set in its syndicated version because the original master couldn’t be located by the company…Universal didn’t have it, and even an inquiry to the Library of Congress turned up bupkiss. Still, you have to give Time Life credit for at least informing potential consumers of this beforehand…but it’s also sort of sad in that it casts a new light on how a lot of media that you just assumed would be around forever is in danger of disappearing through loss and neglect (this article, pointed out to me by Facebook compadre Doc Quatermass, is an essential read on how our old-time radio legacy is starting to shrink).

Time Life has released several classic TV series to DVD, notably Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and really know how to do these shows up right (I think the Smart set is one of the best TV-on-DVD collections ever put out) so I know Six Million Dollar devotees are going to enjoy this collection when it hits the streets in November. I can’t consider myself fan enough to make the investment (even though I watched it as a kid, I rolled my eyes like crazy whenever Lee Majors’ character would encounter individuals like Bigfoot), however…and besides, I’ve still got Thriller: The Complete Series to buy.

One TV-on-DVD release that I do think I’ll be purchasing is The Lucy Show: The Official Third Season, which according to TSOD will be out November 30th (I still have Season 2 to add to the voluminous and dusty TDOY archives, but I hope to rectify that situation soon) and will contain all twenty-six episodes from the classic sitcom’s season numero tres. This season would be the last one for Lucy’s longtime sidekick Vivian Vance; the season afterward they relocated Lucy to San Francisco (I always thought it peculiar that Gale Gordon’s Harrison J. Mooney ended up making the same move, and both of them wound up working at the same bank—it’s kismet!) and I think that was also about the time her daughter vanished (I can’t remember if she went to college or entered a convent). She had a new best friend in Mary Jane Lewis, played by OTR veteran Mary Jane Croft—and because Croft had previously played Lucy’s nemesis Audrey Simmons in the first two seasons of Lucy Show it always confused me…couldn’t Lucy figure out it was the same person only with a new identity? (Croft also played Connie Brooks’ rival, Daisy Enright, on Our Miss Brooks—that woman was pure dagnasty evil.) And to confuse things further, when Lucy started doing Here’s Lucy, the Mary Jane Lewis character turned up on that as well—so you’d think that Mary Jane would think: “Hey…this Lucy Carter person sure looks a lot like that Lucy Carmichael character I used to know. She’s changed her identity just as I changed mine. Mwha-ha-ha-ha-ha…” (They christened Croft’s character with the last name of “Lewis,” by the way, because that was in fact her married name—Croft wed “Mr. Radio,” Elliott Lewis, in 1959.)

Another TV-on-DVD collection that is looming on the horizon (and which will be released the same day as Lucy 3) is Have Gun – Will Travel: The Fifth Season, Volume 1. I’ll spare everybody my usual “split-season” rant but will mention that even though I recorded the bulk of the show’s fifth season episodes from my new BFF, Encore Westerns, I’ll still pony up to buy this set. I’ve always been a fan of the show but revisiting it through EW has just reinforced my admiration for a show that would get my vote as the dean of half-hour westerns (while I remain a Gunsmoke aficionado, I think the TV version worked better in its hour-long format). Since HGWT’s fifth season produced thirty-eight episodes, there’ll be nineteen on this set and nineteen on Volume 2; one of my favorites of the series, “The Hanging of Aaron Gibbs” (11/04/61) will be on the first volume—a ripping good yarn starring African-American actors Odetta and Rupert Crosse (from The Reivers)…and the baddest serial baddie of them all, Roy Barcroft, is in it, too.

Another Encore Westerns staple, The Virginian, will see its second season released on December 7th courtesy of Timeless Media Group; I know the show’s sophomore year has been available on DVD for quite some time (Timeless’ website offered it, and someone mentioned to me seeing it at a Sam’s Club store) but this is a bit more affordable collection and in one of those “collectible tins” to boot. You can usually find out what’s going to be playing on Encore Westerns in the coming months by checking out the schedule at the site—and what I discovered that’s interesting is that the last of the eighth season episodes, “The Gift” (03/18/70), will be shown on EW on November 15th…and then they go right back to the inaugural season the following day with “The Executioners” (09/19/62). So for some odd reason, the last season (when Stewart Grainger owned the ranch as “Colonel Alan McKenzie”)—which is better-known as The Men from Shiloh—has been surgically removed from the syndication package. Whether or not it will eventually be released to DVD is a good question—my understanding when Timeless acquired the rights to the series for release was that all nine seasons of the show would eventually make it to disc. I was sorry to hear about the exclusion of Season Nine from Encore Westerns only because I’ve really been enjoying the show (I have very dim memories of the program, save for the opening theme and the shots of Lee J. Cobb striding majestically on his horse and Roberta Shore and Randy Boone pickin’ and grinnin’)…though I would remiss if I didn’t point out that The Virginian’s last season featured Doug McClure with that horrible mustache—the worst one since Gregory Peck’s duster in The Gunfighter (1950).

While I’m on the subject of boob tube oaters, CBS-Paramount is going to release the second season of Bonanza a week after the third season Lucy Show release (Bonanza: The Official Second Season, Volume 1 is scheduled for December 7th); the company released the show’s inaugural year on two split-season sets a little over a year ago so it’s nice to see them continuing on even though Bonanza was never a favorite of mine (I considered purchasing the first season set, and then talked myself out of it). I’d be a little more stoked if the company would start back up with Rawhide DVD releases, but I’ve heard word that those have been stalled and probably won’t come back to life barring a miracle.

But there’s good news on the crime drama front—Hawaii Five-O: The Tenth Season is apparently on CBS-Paramount’s drawing board; the details are still sketchy but this TSOD announcement says to expect it sometime around March of 2011. I’m a bit behind in collecting the Five-O’s but Barnes & Noble has currently got Season Eight at a good price so I may snap that up when my stipend comes. While I’m on this subject, will be awarding a copy of Five-O’s ninth season to some lucky winner in a giveaway you can enter here—I have my fingers crossed. Shout! Factory has announced that Ironside: Season 4 will be released to DVD on a more definite date of October 19th. While I’m glad to see the Factory continue with these releases I just wish they didn’t cost much wampum (the set is part of that infuriating Shout Select program.)

My blogging compadre Rick Brooks has frequently discussed at his Cultureshark weblog how much he’d like to see MPI re-release the “Lost Honeymooners” material they have the rights to in a much-improved set of collections…and it appears that the company takes perverse delight in ignoring him, because the only Gleason they currently have on tap is an upcoming release entitled The Honeymooners Christmas Special, originally telecast in 1978 and one that will be out just in time to stuff a loved one’s stocking on December 14th. Now, you folks know I’m not one to complain (stop that snickering)…but I’m starting to sympathize with Rick (not that I haven’t from the get-go)—how many more holiday Honeymooners shows can they put out? (“From MPI in June 2011: The Honeymooners Labor Day Special—the gut-busting classic where Ralph and Ed attempt to cook steaks inside the Kramdens’ apartment…and much hilarity ensues.”)

Frequent commenter/TDOY pal hobbyfan has a weblog devoted to those halcyon cold-cereal-and-footy-pajamas days entitled Saturday Morning Archives, and I bet he’ll be tickled to learn about a couple of animated shows being released to disc starting with The Addams Family: The Complete Series, an October 19th release of the 1973-75 NBC series that featured original cast members Jackie Coogan and Ted Cassidy voicing Uncle Fester and Lurch, and also included Lennie Weinrib (Gomez) and OTR goddess Janet Waldo (Morticia). Jodie Foster, when she wasn’t toiling in the Disney salt mines or exploiting her brother’s connections on Mayberry R.F.D., was one of the voice actors on this program as Pugsley—the Academy Award-winning actress also worked on one of my favorite Hanna-Barbera shows, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.

There was an announcement from the Warner Archive on Twitter that an MOD release of Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space was in the works but the date on that has been pushed back and now resides in that oh-so-familiar haze known as “indefinite.” I mentioned this only because when my niece Rachel (a.k.a. “Peanut”) was down this way in July she and I caught a few episodes of the series (along with the Josie and the Pussycats original) via Boomerang. (Rach thought it amusing that I liked Melody’s voice so much; she’s not old enough to understand that I’ve had a lifelong passion for actress Jackie Joseph.)

Another cartoon series that will making the MOD rounds is Thundarr the Barbarian…in fact; it was made available on Tuesday (September 28th), with all twenty-one episodes of the cult cartoon classic to be released on a 4-DVD set. Mark Evanier at newsfromme has a few recollections about his involvement with the show (I really liked Thundarr, and was floored when it got the heave-ho so quickly, which Mark covers rather nicely)—my favorite is how they were inspired to call Thundy’s hairy buddy Ookla after the California institute of higher learning (UCLA).

Finally, though it bowed out this year after a phenomenal run of thirty-seven years as the longest running sitcom in TV history, Last of the Summer Wine continues to make its presence known on DVD (though if you have a all-region DVD player you’d be better off buying the Region 2 releases). Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1987 will be released on January 18, 2011 by BBC/Warner Home Video, and will contain all twelve episodes from Series Nine and the 1986 New Year’s special “Uncle of the Bride.” (Again, I already have this one but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pick one up if you don’t own it.)

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Wings said...

OMG! I have to find out more about this. Steve Austin was my hero as a kid. I have waited so long to see these again. O.M.G!!!

Wings said...

Thanks for posting about this, btw!

mndean said...

Hm, $6MM kinda passed me by. I think raging puberty and not enough hot women in the cast made me indifferent to its peculiar charms. The Bionic Woman at least had Lindsay Wagner to drool at.

Rick Brooks said...

Regarding the 'Mooners, it gets even "better": There is another Christmas special, one said to be superior (I haven't seen it), from a year or two earlier, but is MPI combining both specials to add value to this release? Nope, which means it's probably holding it back to milk the fans for yet another purchase next year. It's great MPI is releasing this stuff, but it could have done so in a cool "Later Honeymooners" box instead of in drips and drabs, with each DVD costing more, relatively speaking, than a mere bag of shells.

Randy Johnson said...

Yea, I'll admit watching Steve Austin's adventures. At least the early years. I'd already read Caidin's Cyborg, making me hopeful for something good. I was partially right. When ole Bigfoot showed up, I started to pull back a bit.

Laura said...

Thanks for the VIRGINIAN/Encore info. That's too bad...for some reason I never saw the Stewart Granger year and I'm a big Granger fan.

Best wishes,