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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

DVD M.I.A.: Shows we miss, boxed sets we want

It used to be that owning entire seasons of your favorite TV show meant one of two things: Setting the tape each week, which of course you would forget to do for that very important episode where, say, Ross and Rachel break up for the umpteenth time. Or, you'd have to buy a VHS collection the size of two or three dictionaries, and even then, unless you were a huge "Babylon 5" fan, the selection was pretty poor.

Thanks to the wonderful DVD, we can own entire seasons — entire series — and re-watch them again and again (and again and again). Shows we never thought we'd see again, shows long since abandoned by syndication and forgotten. Even some shows that make you question who on earth ever watched that in the first place ("Moonlight" springs instantly to mind) see the light of day.

Which got us here at Channel Surfing wondering about some shows conspicuously missing in action from the DVD shelves. They could be shows loved by millions or cherished by a select few. Either way, they're unavailable ... but we want to watch them NOW.


Riddle me this: How is Adam West’s drugged-out rendition of the “Bat-tusi” (it was spiked orange juice, people!) not being enjoyed by legions of “Dark Knight” junkies who love comic books so much, they went out in public dressed as Heath Ledger’s Joker?

Copyright issues between Fox Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. have kept Batman’s ‘60s-era cape and cowl under precious lock and key in a dank Batcave far, far away. And while the show had its syndication hey-day on Family Channel and TV Land, with Bat-mania at its peak thanks to Christopher Nolan’s last two blockbusters, now would be the time to capitalize on some campy Caped Crusader nostalgia. (The fact that I referenced "spiked orange juice" is reason enough to enjoy all the wink, wink buffoonery.)

Among the memorable guest stars posing as nefarious Bat-villains: Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Roddy McDowall, Liberace, Art Carney and Zsa Zsa Gabor. And who can forget Cesar Romero painting over his mustache as the Joker, or best of all, Julie Newmar as the salacious, skin-tight Catwoman? Talk about the purrrrrr-fect introduction to puberty. Whoever is responsible for the bulk of this long-term DVD wrangling definitely deserves a POW, BIFF, ZOKK to the head.

Thomas Rozwadowski,

"Eight Is Enough"

Before Willie Aames was Buddy to the former Chachi on “Charles on Charge,’’ before he entered a 12-step program for drug abuse, before he morphed into superhero Bibleman, before he was on “Celebrity Fit Club,’’ he was Tommy Bradford on “Eight Is Enough.’’

And he was hot. Way hotter than his bro David. Hotter even than his bro-in-law and baseball stud Merle “The Pearl.’’

Tommy was the bad boy of the eight Bradford siblings. He played in a rock band, ran for prom queen, got drunk with his underage buddies and knocked up his girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette).

I miss him – miss the whole Bradford bunch, as a matter of fact. Their family drama was must-see viewing from 1977 to 1981. The story of widowed husband (Dick Van Patten), his new wife Abby (Betty Buckley) and their eight kids (David, Mary, Joannie, Nancy, Susan, Tommy, Elizabeth and Nicholas) was like “The Brady Bunch’’ – except based in reality … at least a little. It tackled all those Judy Blume-type teen issues that seemed so juicy at the time. With eight kids, you could see yourself in at least one of them, whether the brainy Mary or tomboy Susan or artsy Joanie.

The show was nominated for Emmys, but yet, nearly three decades after the final episode aired, still no “Eight Is Enough’’ on DVD. Fans are way overdue for that group hug of the big family football huddle scene in the opening credits. Oh, and the theme song! A full-blown sappy mess sung by none other than Grant Goodeve (David): "There’s a plate of homemade wishes on the kitchen windowsill. And eight is enough to fill our lives with love."

I’m tearing up right now. It’s time to give us our Tommy back — before he donned the Bibleman purple Spandex.

Kendra Meinert,

"Head of the Class"

Even though I watched it all the time as a kid, I don't remember much about "Head of the Class." I recall that it aired in the mid-to-late 80s, was set at a school, featured a pre-Mike Tysonized Robin Givens, and star Howard Hesseman was cooler than Jordache high tops. And, if my memory is to be trusted, it was pretty dang funny.

Research tells me that "HOTC" was set at a fictional Manhattan high school and focused on a special class of smart kids — members of the Individualized Honors Program — along with their new history teacher, an out-of-work actor and, let's face it, hippie. (I mean, c'mon, just look at Hesseman, with his shaggy hair and droopy eyelids. You know they were totally playing off his "WKRP" Johnny Fever persona for this.) He teaches the kids all about the value of thinking for themselves, individuality, and probably how to roll the perfect joint. (Again, my memory is fuzzy.)

It was never considered a top-tier sitcom, and probably benefits from the same rose-colored nostalgia that makes me revere "Perfect Strangers" so damn much. But that doesn't explain the lack of a DVD set, in a world where even "What's Happening Now!" has gotten it's due. Perhaps if it had a Rerun or Urkel-esque breakout character, it would be higher on the release schedule. What it did have, however, was an episode where the class puts on a school production of "Little Shop of Horrors," and, lacking proper funding, are reduced to using a sock puppet for the killer plant. THAT I remember, and would sure like to see again.

Adam Reinhard,

"So You Think You Can Dance"

Yes, I am very aware that if "SYTYCD" was available on DVD, I would most likely be the only person to purchase it. That said, it seriously needs to be on DVD already. While most reality television plays to shock and awe factors — rendering most repeat viewings useless — this show is different.

A dude spins on his head for two minutes straight and you're telling me that you wouldn't want to see that again?! Or what about Crazy McCrazerton -- known to his fans simply as "Sex" -- are you saying that you wouldn't watch his failed attempt at dancing during the auditions at every family gathering?

Youtube-ing videos of my favorite dances used to be part of my pastime. Albeit, a very lame part, but thanks to copyright infringement, all my favorites have been deleted, forcing me to get back to work. No more "Sexy Back" dance, no more Travis Wall and no more Wade Robson routines.

So c'mon Fox, you love to make some dinero, so what gives? They go as far as hosting a tour from the show that includes favorite dances from the season, so why not put it all on DVD? It's just good business sense. So to all the Fox producers still not convinced, I have just two words: "Cha-Ching." (OK, so that's a one-word hyphenate, the point is you'll be crapping money, so just do it.)

— Sara Boyd,

"The Wonder Years"

I hated Winnie Cooper.

I’m sure it had something to do with that inexplicable crush on Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), but to this day, I find Danica McKellar’s Winnie Cooper selfish, annoying and just too frickin’ perfect. But I do wonder if I’d be more sympathetic to Winnie now that I’ve gotten over my retrospectively depressing crush. Let me pull out my “Wonder Years” DVDs to find out… oh wait… I can’t because there aren’t any.

The greatest coming-of-age drama ever to grace the small screen could be stuck in not-yet-out-in-DVD limbo for eternity, thanks to an unwinnable battle over entertainment rights. “The Wonder Years” used more than 300 tracks of music – including the signature opening track of Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” – and it’s doubtful all of those rights will be released. The Web site has “Wonder Years” listed as the second most requested show on DVD and a used copy of the “Best of the Wonder Years” DVD is selling for $76 on A USED copy! (Buyers beware: There are a thousand bootleg copies of the show being hawked online but the official version of the complete series has yet to be released).

As much as I’d love to see this show on DVD, I don’t want the “WKRP in Cincinnati” version (“WKRP” was famously released on DVD after a battle over music rights with most of the original music dubbed over).

Would the “Wonder Years” bring us as much nostalgic wonder as the show did when it first aired without the music of the 60s and 70s it represented? Would Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss – set to “When a Man Loves a Woman” (Percy Sledge) – mean as much? Would the tearing down of the tree at Harpers Woods be as sentimental without the Judy Collins cover of the Beatles’ “In My Life” setting the scene? Hell, would the “Wonder Years” be the “Wonder Years” without Joe Cocker singing the opening credits?

Until the music industry gets its collective head out of their rears and the series is released as it originally aired, I’m perfectly willing to continue hating Winnie Cooper.

Malavika Jagannathan,

Have a favorite show that you're still anxiously awaiting on DVD? Or maybe there are a few seasons missing from your collection that have yet to be released. Drop us a comment and let us know, and they may end up on a future DVD M.I.A. post.

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Tommy, knows that I would go out and buy the Batman DVD collection the second its available. Roddy McDowell as the Bookworm was one of my faves.

By Blogger Antony, At January 28, 2009 at 3:55 PM  

About SYTYCD: I think they would get lots of takers, and I can't imagine it would be too difficult to put everyone's favorite routines on there, but I think they might have to release it pretty quick after the season ended. Sort of throw it in with the tour. I mean, I would really have considered buying one. I went to the tour, which was a big step for me, clearly SYTYCD was calling me in ways other shows haven't. Calling me with pure, unadulterated joy.

By Blogger Eileen, At January 28, 2009 at 9:46 PM  

Wonder Years - brilliant! Back when they used to cast kids in the kid roles instead of twenty-somethings (I'm talking to you CW).

I'm waiting for Charlie's Angels.

By Blogger Ms. Quarter, At January 29, 2009 at 11:58 AM  

Two words: "Muppet Babies."

By Blogger Andy Behrendt, At January 30, 2009 at 10:30 PM  

Hopefully the "rights' dispute with Muppet Babies will get corrected and we can get that DVD set. The Tick was finally settled so let's keep those fingers crossed.

By Blogger Antony, At February 1, 2009 at 8:59 AM  

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