Thursday, July 19, 2012


Checking my e-mail last night, I received the best news I’ve heard all week: according to, this September 11th Shout! Factory will release a DVD set entitled The Jack Benny Program: The Lost Episodes.  The information on this collection is still a bit sketchy; a member of the TSOD faithful spotted the listing at DVD Empire (it will retail for $39.97 and contain 660 minutes of material) along with the above cover art…the scuttlebutt is that this set will consist of episodes not already on those cheap PD sets or the current Benny syndication package formerly showcased on RTV and now being run ad nauseam on Antenna TV (the guests listed at Empire would seem to suggest this).  At least I’m hoping this is the case, anyway…and I’ve already alerted the parental units that this is a must-own (I will be celebrating a birthday around that time frame, so it’s fortuosity in the first degree).

I mentioned back in May that the two kings of classic-television-on-DVD, Shout! Factory and Timeless Media Video, finally made the whole thing legal by merging (like, link us) and that one of their first projects was going to be a 12-disc set containing all 114 episodes of Peter Gunn (1958-61)…conveniently titled Peter Gunn: The Complete SeriesTSOD now has information on when to expect this set: its street date is October 23rd, and will have a SRP of $99.98 (it will also contain a bonus CD of music from the show, composed by none other than Henry Mancini).  TSOD’s David Lambert says there’s 115 episodes on the set, so I don’t know if they’re also throwing in the 1967 theatrical feature film (Gunn) or whether he’s just lousy at math—but I do know that I am finally able to answer a query from longtime TDOY reader Barry when he asked back in May if any part of any episode of Peter Gunn episode ever took place during the daytime?  The answer to this is yes; I saw an episode on Me-TV several weeks back entitled “The Hunt” (02/15/60), in which about 2/3 of the installment involves a fight between our hero (played by Craig Stevens) and a hired killer (Gordon Oliver) at an abandoned mill in broad daylight.  So…there ya have it.

But one week before the release of the complete Gunn, Timeless Factory Video (my new name for the company) will release Blake Edwards’ other contribution to the small screen: the complete run (all 34 half-hours) of Mr. Lucky, a series loosely based on the popular 1943 film starring Cary Grant.  In the Grant role was Cary-look-a-like John Vivyan, and playing the part of his sidekick Andamo was Ross Martin, several years before he sidekicked again…this time beside Robert Conrad in the 1965-69 cult spy western The Wild Wild West.  I’ve never seen any episode of this series (Lucky, I mean), but the presence of Martin makes it a must-purchase in my book; the show was a big hit for CBS in its initial season, ranking #21 in the Nielsens, but the show’s sponsor, Lever Brothers, wasn’t too keen on the slightly shady nature of the titular character (Lucky started out running a floating casino and then switched to a floating restaurant mid-season) and refused to sponsor the show after its first year.  (And back in the day, if you couldn’t find anybody to pay the bills they’d cancel your ass regardless of how well you were doing in the ratings.)  N-E-wayz, this 4-disc set will be released on October 16th and retail for $34.93 (a bonus CD of Mancini’s music for the series will also be included).

Also in the hopper for release is a 6-disc set containing the complete run (47 episodes) of The Lawless Years, a 1959-61 series that predated the better-known The Untouchables (Years premiered in April of 1959, Untouchables in the fall) and starred TDOY fave James Gregory as NYPD detective Barney Ruditsky, a real-life cop who walked a similar beat like Eliot Ness in “the roaring 20’s.”  Timeless Media—before the Shout! Factory marriage—released the first season of this show on a set back in 2006, so I guess the announcement that the whole enchilada is headed for stores on September 25th (at a SRP of $49.97) wins the “Longest Wait for the Other Shoe to Drop” Award this week.  I’ve only watched a handful of Lawless Years episodes and while Gregory is always worth tuning into I may wait until this one hits the bargain bins.

The overwhelming response to the company’s release of last year’s The Ernie Kovacs Collection in April (“curated” by Facebook pal Ben Model) has prompted the Factory to start work on a sequel: The Ernie Kovacs Collection, Volume 2.  This press release at TSOD will give you a rundown on what to expect from the set that will be released on October 23rd in a three-disc collection that will retail for $29.93.  (One of the goodies on this set is an unaired TV pilot entitled Medicine Man, which features TDOY god Buster Keaton.)

Now for the dirty little secret in Timeless Factory Video’s closet.  October 30th will usher in a honkin’ big box set (28 discs, retailing for $199.99) entitled All in the Family: The Complete Series—a collection that will contain all 213 episodes of the 1971-79 series that changed the face of situation comedy as we know it.  The history of All in the Family on DVD is an interesting one; the first six seasons of the series were released on disc by Sony Home Entertainment from 2002-2007…and then Sony became distracted by a shiny object, necessitating leasing the rights to Shout! Factory in 2009 who finished out the releases beginning in 2010.

The sad thing about the Complete Series collection is that it will contain a fistful of bodacious extras that to my knowledge were not present on the individual releases: the premiere episodes of AITF spin-offs Archie Bunker’s Place, Gloria and 704 Hauser Street, not to mention the first two pilots for the show, And Justice For All and Those Were the Days.  (I think these last two were on that “Norman Lear Collection” set Sony tried to scam people into buying.)  There will also be a couple of documentaries and a new interview with creator Lear (no doubt taped while he was counting the money he made off that Sony collection)—so if you went out and bought each set individually and are ticked about missing out on the extras…well, welcome to the Wide Wonderful World of TV-on-DVD, friends and neighbors. 

Shout has only recently started screwing over its customer base (with the complete Barney Miller and Route 66 collections, for example) but the folks at CBS DVD-Paramount have made an art out of it for sometime now, and show no signs of stopping with an announcement that the fifth season of Rawhide will be released this September 18th…in split-season sets, the bane of my existence here at TDOY.   Now in complete editorial fairness: CBS-Paramount didn’t originate this split-season nonsense…that idiotic idea first came from Fox Home Video, bummed because their Lost in Space: Season One collection didn’t do Friends-like numbers.  But the people at CBS-DVD have raised the split-season to heights of absurdity with shows like Cannon and Vega$...and here’s what I don’t understand: the idea with these sets is to release one volume, and 4-6 months down the road, release the second volume, presumably after a customer has emptied the change in the jar sitting on the dresser.  But the Rawhide Season 5 volumes are both coming out at the same time—why not just release them as one complete set?  Well, they will be available in what TSOD’s Lambert is calling a “shrink-wrap bundle”…but it you think they’re going to offer any kind of special pricing on that, you need to move out from that loft above the candy store.

CBS-Paramount is also doing the same thing with the fourth season of TV western perennial Bonanza; Volumes 1 and 2 will be available October 2nd, either to purchase separately or in that “shrink-wrap bundle” referred to earlier.  I know, I know—I harp on this all the time and when I do, someone tries to hose me down by explaining that I don’t understand the DVD business works.  I certainly won’t quarrel with that; all I know from years of being a DVD purchaser that if you put out an attractive product at a fair price and not try to dick folks over you’d be amazed at the number of units you’ll move.  (This probably explains why I’m not serving as an economic advisor to either of the two Presidential campaigns.) 

In other classic TV news, Image Entertainment is announcing that they’ll be bringing Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s favorite sitcom of all time, The Dick Van Dyke Show, to Blu-ray come October 30th as a complete collection (with a SRP price tag of $349.98).  I’ve been told by more than a few people who know more about this than me but…since I have the series already in DVD and do not own a Blu-ray player, there’s really no need for me to rush out and purchase it again.  And even if I could, I’d probably be a little pissed because according to the announcement at TSOD, the Blu-ray collection will contain all 157 episodes on 15 discs…when there’s actually 158 episodes in the series.  (I’m glad I never looked off Lambert and Lacey’s papers in math class…though in fairness that boo-boo was present on the PR release.)

Speaking of the former chairman of Nick at Nite, Dick Van Dyke’s 1976 comedy-variety series Van Dyke and Company is finally getting that long-awaited release that was hinted at back in December 2009.  The collection will be released on September 25th in a 5-disc set that will retail for $24.98 SRP (not too shabby).  This series was a particular favorite of a friend of mine in high school, who really enjoyed the improvisational portions of the show.

The Warner Archive has been pretty busy of late with some TV-on-DVD MOD releases; a good many people to which I passed on the information about the release of Harry O: The Complete First Season.  It’s out, and fans of the short-lived but revered crime drama starring David Janssen can pick up the series’ inaugural season in a collection containing 22 episodes plus the original telefilm pilot “Such Dust as Dreams are Made On”  (The second Harry O pilot, Smile Jenny, You’re Dead, has already been released on MOD DVD.)  The collection’s stiff price tag is $49.95, and for the time being if you’re one of our neighbors to the north (Canada) you can only look wistfully across the border into our living room windows and observe us watching the show on our home entertainment setups (but hopefully that will change when the collection becomes available through Amazon’s CreateSpace).

WA is also planning to release the Saturday morning kidvid favorite Shazam! to MOD DVD come September 18th; a set you can pre-order at their website for a mere $34.95 for three discs (hey, fellas—why are you wearing those kerchiefs around your faces?).  I can definitely wait for this one.  There was also an announcement by the archive at this year’s Comic-Con that Gene Roddenberry’s first TV series, The Lieutenant, will also be coming to DVD…but the details on that are still sketchy at press time.

Treasury Men in Action, the 1950-55 TV series starring OTR veteran Walter Greaza as the head of the U.S. Treasury Department (whose budget was so tight Greaza couldn’t afford a name—he was referred to only as “The Chief”), has been floating around in various PD collections for a few years but Bridgeport, CT company Film Chest is going to release a 3-disc collection of the show (under the title Federal Men) on July 31st that has a nice price tag of $24.98.  Sixteen episodes of the series will be showcased on the set, all from the final season of the series (the first four seasons were done live, and no surviving kinescopes are known to exist).  Might be worth a look.

Finally, TSOD has a press release on TimeLife's Carol Burnett Show collection that will be out on August 6, announcing a few extras not mentioned in previous news blurbs (including two lengthy interviews with regulars Tim Conway and Harvey Korman, one together and one featuring Korman solo).  All of the pertinent information can be found here.


M. Bouffant said...

Boy, was I disappointed at the limited number of Jack Benny episodes that are on Antenna TV again & again & ... I remember when Comedy Central (was funny, ha ha) ran Jack Benny; they certainly had more episodes than Antenna does. That may be a birthday purchase for me too.

There's a Peter Gunn episode that mostly takes place at a convent that has quite a few daytime scenes.

M. Bouffant said...

Of course, 660 mins. works out to only 26 25-min. shows. IMDb indicates 255 episodes, but the NBC ones may be a different package.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Boy, was I disappointed at the limited number of Jack Benny episodes that are on Antenna TV again & again & ... I remember when Comedy Central (was funny, ha ha) ran Jack Benny; they certainly had more episodes than Antenna does.

As usual, I’m relying on an imperfect memory—but I believe the Benny syndication package numbered about 104 episodes…so if Antenna TV runs them back-to-back, they’ll probably go through them rather quickly. I first saw the Benny TV program on a WV public TV station back in the seventies and it was only once a week, so you could go through about two years without seeing a repeat.

I’m convinced that the episodes on this collection are ones not in the syndication package, only because a glance at the “guest stars” lineup at the listing mentions Mike Wallace, who was the guest of a 1960 episode in which Jack is given the third degree on Wallace’s interview program, Night Beat. I know of this episode only because I read a description of it sometime back in a book I had on Benny; many of his telecasts were done live and exist only in kinescope form so I believe that’s one reason why there’s been a reluctance to put together a proper set. Also, during the 1950s Benny was only on every other week, alternating with such shows as Private Secretary, Bachelor Father and The George Gobel Show.

But by the 1960s, Benny was on every week and those are the shows I wish someone would seriously consider releasing to DVD in season-by-season sets. Cliff Weimer of In the Balcony and I had a Facebook exchange the other day in which he expressed a desire to see again the episode that features Raymond Burr as guest star…which is the first episode of the Benny TV show I ever saw on public TV. I don’t know if it’s still in the syndication package or not; I told him I’d keep an eye out for it if I saw it.

During the summer of 1976, CBS showed four episodes of the series (from the 1960s) that I don’t believe have been seen since then—I only got to see two of them; one of them involved a visit to Jack’s vault (which I thought was funny, though not nearly as funny on radio) and the other has the theft of his Maxwell being investigated by the Beverly Hills police. (The latter is a reworking of a show they previously did in the 1950s, because the 50s show is available on one of those PD collections.)

Stacia said...

I wonder what Benny shows were on PBS back in the 1970s; whatever series that was, it was the one my parents were most familiar with, and I'd probably recognize it again if I saw it.

A lot of these releases are dragging me down Memory Lane. We watched Harry O (which I, as a li'l tyke, confused with mom's O Henry books on the shelf), Van Dyke & Co, Archie Bunker's Place and Shazam. Well, *I* watched Shazam. Dad hated all kid's shows except the "Mathnet" part of Square One. If there was a Dragnet parody around, my dad found it.