Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is (not) your FBI

I don’t know why knowing that the Warner Archive will be releasing the inaugural season of TV’s classic The F.B.I. to DVD on May 24th of this year as a MOD (made-to-order) 4-disc set has got me so riled because I mentioned that the Warner folks had planned to do so last November 30 when I gave the show’s star, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., a birthday shout-out (he was turning the ripe old age of 92 that day).  The only possible explanation for my ire might be that WA is putting a double whammy on the show’s fans by turning Season Numero Uno into the bane of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s collectible TV-on-DVD existence: you guessed it, the split season.  According to the website, the first sixteen episodes of the greatest recruiting tool the Federal Bureau of Investigation ever knew can be had for the “we’re-giving-it-away” price of $39.95.  (Well, if you pre-order the sucker, you can save 10% and it will only cost you $35.95.)

I know, I know—I’ve heard all the arguments: "we have to do it this way because of the downturn in the economy, and the public won’t support classic television on DVD releases, and we have to sell x amount of sets to break even, blah blah blah"…but seriously, people—do you honestly mean to tell me that you can’t offer something like this at a more affordable price?  There could be a market for sets of this nature if a bit more effort was put into reaching into TV’s rich past and showing more of its programming heritage instead of expending all that energy into creating “new” series with people like Betty White (yes, TVLand—I’m talking to you!).  I may be wrong but I don’t think the way to get people to buy releases of this nature by jacking up the price of a set that’s really not any better quality than just recording it off a TV broadcast with a DVD recorder (I offer these two sets as Exhibits A and B--$31.45 apiece for split seasons of a show that only cranked out twenty episodes that year?).  Why not just hand the project over to an outfit like Timeless Media Video, who doesn’t seem to be the teeniest bit timid about making obscure shows accessible to consumers with a little gitas to spend?

The Archive is also planning to release the first and only season of TV’s The Yellow Rose, a boob tube oater that many people had hoped would revive interest in TV westerns but because the series premiered on ratings cellar dweller NBC (in the fall of 1983, before the network lucked onto The Cosby Show) it went belly up.  Rose featured an impressive cast of TV and movie veterans: Cybill Shepherd, Sam Elliott, Deborah Shelton, David Soul, Susan Anspach, Edward Albert, Ken Curtis, Noah Beery, Jr., Chuck Connors—hell, I’d get the set just to watch those last three actors alone.  But not for $39.95 (again, $35.95 if you pre-order) I won’t…though you have to admit you’re getting a slightly better deal here than on the The F.B.I. set.

Now here’s some Warner Archive news to make my friend Kliph Nesteroff at Classic Television Showbiz happy: according to, WA has a release of the Saturday morning cartoon fave Frankenstein, Jr. & the Impossibles in the hopper.  I don’t get as righteously indignant about the cartoon shows being released as MOD by the Archive as I probably should because a good many of them—like recent releases Jabberjaw and Valley of the Dinosaurs—aren’t really my meat; I prefer the older Hanna-Barbera material like Huck and Yogi and Queekstraw to the later 70s stuff.  That having been said, I wouldn’t object to winning a DVD copy of something like Jabberjaw and even though this might jeopardize my chances of snagging a freebie I’ll point out to interested parties that Marc Eastman at Are You Screening? is giving one away and all you have to do to enter is enter a comment.  (At the time I was writing this, I appear to be the only one who’s entered…I can’t be the only one who finds a shark that sounds like Curly Howard amusing.)

Is there any good news on the classic TV-on-DVD horizon?  Well, there’s a good-news-bad-news scenario in store for Rawhide fans courtesy of CBS DVD-Paramount come June 7th: the pleasant news being that the company has jump-started the season-by-season releases of the legendary TV oater starring Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood with a Season Four offering scheduled for June 7th—the last time we saw Gil, Rowdy, Wishbone and the rest of the drovers was in December 2008.  The bad news is…well, I can see some of us have already skipped ahead in the book; it’s a split-seasoner, kids—fifteen episodes for a SRP of $39.99 (Amazon has a pre-order listing of $27.99).  (When I mused out loud on Facebook to Cultureshark’s Rick Brooks of how I envisioned a world where CBS-Paramount repented for their past DVD sins by putting an end to split-season releases he channeled his inner Florence Jean Castleberry by retorting “When donkeys fly!”)

And finally…it may have come to an end last August but to paraphrase a line from Casablanca, “We’ll always have reruns.”  Another Last of the Summer Wine release is due out from BBC/Warner Home Video on July 12th and will feature all ten episodes from Series 12 (the release is titled Vintage 1990) including the Christmas cracker “Barry’s Christmas.”  The two-disc collection has a SRP sticker of $34.98.  (Pretty pricey wine, wouldn’t you say?)

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Laura said...

Wow, that's fabulous news about THE YELLOW ROSE. I can finally get rid of my Beta tapes of a few episodes. Loved that show. Kinda soapy but a great cast!

Thanks for the tipoff!

Best wishes,

Stacia said...

I'm with ya on the rant, Ivan. For a couple of years I've been increasingly irritated with MST3K sets which have quality issues. The company says it's "tape hits" from the master tapes degrading, but I'm not convinced. Anyway, they insist that they can't make money on the sets if they restore or fix the errors, yet they manage to spend money for extra packaging, figurines, insert artwork, and intro menus that took more than a couple of minutes to slap together. But it's all about the Benjamins, and I'm sure someone at all of these companies has discovered that MOD disks, half seasons, no restoration, and high price tags equals bucks in the pocket.

There are so many vintage TV shows I'd buy if the prices were reasonable, and I can't be the only one.

Brent McKee said...

I have a more fundamental rant about Warner Archives and that is that, like you my friend, they only ship to the United States. Canadians can go perform a physiologically impossible act to themselves. And unlike you Ivan, they can't exactly cry poor when you ask them why they won't ship to Canada. I won't say that it makes no sense, just that it makes no sense to me.