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Classic "Molly Dodd" Series Remains Locked Up, Awaiting 'Bail'
September 3, 2010  | By Tom Brinkmoeller  | 109 comments

Rare snippets of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, like the opening sequence above, can be seen on YouTube -- but for those who would love to see that classic TV sitcom again in its entirety, I have some not-so-good news...

days-nights-molly-dodd-cent.jpgAny of you who fondly remember The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd already know what a great TV series we're discussing here. But for those TVWW fans who may be too young to remember a series that premiered 23 years ago, please read the following:
Do a Web search for The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and you get more than 80,000 returns. Do the same search for this brilliant late-'80s half-hour series, and add the name "Bianculli," and you get nearly 70 returns.
Click on this TV WORTH WATCHING internal link, to the MORGUE collection of some of Bianculli's favorite newspaper columns, and you'll see another reason why I won't have any trouble getting this story posted here. The guy who drew many of you to this site loves this series, uses it in his Rowan University TV History and Appreciation courses, and called it "too good for me to leave out" when he wrote his Dictionary of Teleliteracy.
And, should you still not be convinced I'm writing about one of the best comedies ever to appear on television, go to the website of Richard Lawson, who played one of the series' key characters, Det. Nathaniel Hawthorne (seen here, at left, with series star Blair Brown and fellow supporting actor David Strathairn).
Watch three classic clips from the show with Lawson and Brown, who played the title character. Please, take a taste of this really smart, way-ahead-of-its-time TV classic, by visiting Lawson's site HERE. It's SO good.
And now the bad news. This series has the slimmest of chances of ever appearing in home-video form. More than 60 episodes of brilliant writing, acting, storytelling, directing -- it seems they are lost forever. Last seen in 1991, when it ended a run on Lifetime (the network that rescued it from originating network NBC's blatant neglect), it's locked in a Burbank vault (at least figuratively), and there's no early release or parole on the horizon.
"We still own the series, but we currently have no plans to release at this time," was the response from the Warner Bros. executive who last took the series' pulse.
Though she gave no reason, it seems music, and the rights to reuse it, is the huge boulder in the road to a DVD set we can't buy. When the series was in production, rights for music use weren't secured for future home-use release. Molly Dodd is one of many, many TV series that were produced without the foresight to predict where technology would take entertainment options over a pretty spectacular quarter-century of invention and adaptation.
"Who would have thought back then that we'd be able to watch TV on a hand-held phone?" asks Shane Miller, an executive with EMG, a company that works to clear copyright use in situations such as this.
"It's gibberish to me, the reasons for all of this," says Jay Tarses, the executive producer, creator and creative powerhouse behind Molly Dodd. "It's all very, very labyrinthian."
Tarses would love to see the series reappear for its fans, but he's seen this same thing happen before. Buffalo Bill, starring Dabney Coleman as an abrasive TV personality, was another of Tarses' ahead-of-its time, boldly artistic series. In order to release the series on DVD, Tarses says, they had to eliminate some songs entirely. And though Warner Bros. owns the rights to The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and could make a DVD release happen, Tarses isn't optimistic.
"Warner Bros. told us they deficit-financed the series and, according to them, they never made the money back," he says.
About two years ago, producer Kenneth Kaufman, with the blessing of Tarses, tried to make a DVD deal similar to the ones he'd made for Alf and Buffalo Bill. Kaufman said he got approval from Warner Bros. to try to make a deal with another company, but no one was interested in buying in.
Three factors stood in the way, he said. Sales of DVDs have decreased to the point they often lose money. The music-rights and conversion costs are substantial. Finally, collectors "want new content on the DVDs they buy," and producing this kind of supplemental material also is costly.
"As hard as I tried, I wasn't able to do any deals," Kaufman says.
Tarses, Kaufman and the show's many fans are frustrated by all these obstacles, just as art lovers would be if museums had to lock up and keep from public sight their best paintings. Add to that list of frustrated enthusiasts the actress who played Molly Dodd, and who now is a supporting player on Fox's Fringe.

days_nights_molly_dodd2.jpg"Molly Dodd should absolutely be released on DVD," Blair Brown told me when contacted for this story, "if for nothing than to give Jay Tarses the credit he deserves for creating a quality show with wonderful characters that was so ahead of its time, possibly even now.
The series, she went on, "was before (CBS's) Murphy Brown and (Fox's) Ally McBeal, and Molly was this character who was just a person. She had no plot for her life, she just lived. She hit her stumbling blocks, like illegitimate pregnancy, and dealt with it.
"Other people often get credit for these forward-thinking ideas, so it should be remembered that it all goes back to Jay Tarses.

strathairn-emmy-smaller.jpg"Plus, in revisiting the series, viewers would get to see a young David Strathairn, Lewis Black, Nathan Lane, John Benjamin Hickey, John Glover, Victor Garber, etc., and that's always fun." [Strathairn just won an Emmy, his first, for his supporting performance as an inspirational teacher in HBO's Temple Grandin.]
One possibility rescue scenario remains. Shout! Factory is a company that has packaged videos of many other singularly good, cult TV series. In theory, it could do for The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd what it previously did for such "lost" series as NBC's Freaks and Geeks. Company officials said they have a policy of not discussing possible acquisitions, and, as a result, won't talk about any property they don't own.
Yet if there is a white knight that will save Molly Dodd, history points to Shout! Factory as a leading candidate. The cost for any DVD set would be higher than normal because of music-clearance costs. Would you be willing to pay a little more than the average DVD boxed-set price to finally be able to see this wonderful series again? Let us know.
Very visible fan support can work wonders.
Ask Betty White...


jan said:

Yes, I'd pay more to see the real thing.

Comment posted on September 4, 2010 9:28 AM

pattybee said:

Since I understand nothing about reissuing for home video, this may be a naive question, but why can't the show be sold strictly as a video download, thereby eliminating the costs involved in printing, packaging, distributing, etc.?

Comment posted on September 4, 2010 1:55 PM

Tausif Khan said:

Is there anyway we could get captions for the pictures that accompany the articles?

[At THESE prices? I'll take it up with management. -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 5, 2010 1:00 AM

Tom Brinkmoeller said:

Pattybee: Though downloading would (and does) reduce mechanical costs, the largest bite comes from compensating artists for using their work. It can be substantial. Kenneth Kaufman gave an example: The "Buffalo Bill" episode called "Hit the Road, Jack" contained the use of that song. It had to be eliminated on the DVD. He explained: "There's no amount of money that could have gotten us the rights to that song." The music used in "Molly Dodd" probably aren't in that league, but unless Warren Buffett is a fan of the show, a solution isn't easily found.
Jan: Unless others join you, me and David B, we don't have a much of impressive snowball of support building. Do YOU know Warren Buffett? -- TB

Comment posted on September 5, 2010 9:35 AM

Tausif Khan said:

Does TVWW have a legal consultant? Because I was wondering what the legal and business ramifications would be if a judge were to declare that if a show purchases the rights to music for the on air broadcast it also owns the right to the song for any other media related production involving the show. I imagine this ruling would impact some legal understanding of property law. But I would be in favor of such a ruling only if it does not hurt the people who make the art.

[As it happens, TVWW DOES have a legal consultant. My daughter, Kristin, is an attorney. But I don't even need to call her for this one. The only rights granted under contract are the rights specifically defined IN a contract. No wishful, all-inclusive, future thinking allowed. Nice try, though. As for hurting people who make the art -- well, we already have the Internet for that. As I tell my radio/TV/film students all the time: Why and how are you hoping to make careers out of making movies or music or TV, when all the stuff you watch or hear, you download without paying for it? -- David B.]

Comment posted on September 6, 2010 1:09 AM

Laura Loewen said:

Yes, I'd pay more. I loved the series. I have a lot of them on video, but no vcr to play them on! Oh, I hope it somehow comes out on dvd!

Comment posted on September 6, 2010 9:50 PM

Dave Peck said:

Yes, I'd absolutely pay more for this series - its excellent writing and acting, at least in my memory, were much better than the more famous "dramedies" that followed. I frankly don't remember that much original music being used in the show; I wonder if anyone at Warner Bros. has done more than the most cursory review. Since they say they deficit funded the show, I'd think they have an incentive to try to extract some more money with a DVD and downloadable release. Does anyone know if Lifetime still has broadcast rights to the series?

Comment posted on November 9, 2010 8:22 AM

Linda said:

Would we pay more?? For us devoted fans of this incredible series, there simply is no price too high. We've waited long enough!

Comment posted on March 3, 2011 6:20 PM

A Charles said:

And still waiting.
I watched this incredible series from beginning to end. Even ran my VHS tapes to the point they would no longer play my old episodes anymore.
Would gladly pay to regain this treasure.

Comment posted on March 15, 2011 9:55 PM

William said:

Would absolutely pay for the privilege of seeing this program from start to finish. Spectacular production in every aspect -- some of the best entertainment I've ever seen.

Comment posted on March 21, 2011 6:11 PM

Max Barrett said:

Absolutely, I'd pay more to see the original series.

After seeing what happened to 'WKRP' and 'Wiseguy' after the original music was removed, I speak from personal experience when I say it's worth the (literally) few extra bucks to have the show 'as nature intended.'

If music clearances really are the only thing holding this up, it makes you understand why the music business has failed so miserably in the last few years... It forgot about its own customers.

Comment posted on March 29, 2011 9:13 PM

B said:

Hell yes! I would pay a premium to see this show on DVD. It is WAY ahead of its time. Ally McBeal and Sex And The City came more than 5 years later and I can't help but think some of the folks involved in those shows got some inspiration from the incomparable Molly Dodd. It is a cultural travesty that this show is sitting in the vault of some souless media corporation.

Comment posted on April 15, 2011 11:40 PM

april finnerty said:

I loved this show and it holds a special place in my heart. I would gladly pay more, 50 dollars a season would be reasonable I think.

Comment posted on April 27, 2011 10:29 PM

Leslie Neilan said:

I would certainly pay a premium for this series.

Comment posted on May 25, 2011 3:47 AM

Launie said:

Yes, I would also pay more to own these DVDs with the orginal music score included!

Comment posted on July 12, 2011 12:00 PM

Jeanne & David said:

We loved this show & watched every episode faithfully. Please bring it back so we, & all its many other fans, can enjoy it again, & so that people who missed it back then can see it. It's the best comedy/drama EVER made for TV! We'd pay any price to see it again.

Comment posted on July 19, 2011 5:49 PM

patti said:

Yes, I would pay more for this series and would also rent it if it were available.

Comment posted on July 30, 2011 12:03 AM

Silvia Curbelo said:

Yes, I would definitely pay a great deal more to own this incredibly groundbreaking and well-written show in its entirety. I don't think we've seen the likes of this show on tv before or since!

Comment posted on August 9, 2011 8:24 AM

Jeff said:

Yes. Add my name to the list of Blair Brown fans and although I never saw Molly Dodd when it aired, I certainly would pay extra to see the entire series.

Comment posted on October 15, 2011 11:21 PM

H. F. said:

I absolutely LOVED this show, and adore Blair Brown! When I lived in New Zealand in the early 1990s, they were just starting to implement cable channels there. One of the first ones was called Orange, and in the afternoons they showed reruns of the entire Molly Dodd series. I made a point of faithfully running home at lunchtime every day to watch! It's a shame that this superb series, one of the best in TV history, was treated so shamefully and kicked around so much by networks who didn't understand it and/or were skittish about its content (yes, I'm looking at you, NBC). It's an absolute crime that Molly Dodd is unavailable on DVD, and yes, like others here, I would pay big money to own the series. "Deficit-financed" my ass! They tried to claim the same thing to Jack Klugman regarding "Quincy" rerun revenue, saying that the show was STILL a money loser for the network after more than 25 years in worldwide syndication - Klugman sued and won, at the same time exposing the network's financial chicanery. Tarses is right - it's all a bunch of gibberish, by greedy, short-sighted TV moneymen.

Comment posted on March 3, 2012 10:14 AM
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This series is excellent. Thank you for taking the time to write this up
Nov 26, 2023   |  Reply
This series has the slimmest of chances of ever appearing in home-video form
May 12, 2023   |  Reply
I really don't understand this music rights BS. I can see copyright owners getting a percentage based on the number of DVDs sold that shouldn't break the bank on these, and I don't understand why copyright owners continue to stand in the way of making some money from these for songs they don't even play on the radio anymore. I understand that Blair Brown sang of these songs, and that she of course wants her "cut."
Dec 18, 2022   |  Reply
Rudy Castro
Molly Dodd..was one of those classic TV shows that left an indelible print..it must be allowed to return in any format..but a show like this doesn't happen again..yes I would pay extra and extra for Tarsus and Molly ( Blair Brown)
Apr 30, 2022   |  Reply
So, it's 2021 and considering we are in the time of COVID19, and we are far beyond the need for DVD's or CD's and that NETFLIX and PRIME are 'a thing' .... seems that someone could unlock the vault and put this gem in the hands of viewers! #DaysAndNightsOfMollyDodd
Feb 20, 2021   |  Reply
Nicolle Wilfenger
I totally agree. This was one of my favorite shows, especially when I was divorced/single.
May 16, 2021
Rick Douglas
I absolutely would pay a premium to b able to secure "Molly Dodd" on DVD.
Dec 22, 2020   |  Reply
Lori Nance
I would absolutely pay top dollar to be able to watch this fantastic series again. Please make this happen! Molly Dodd is one of television's finest shows.
Dec 21, 2020   |  Reply
Mark Bruhns
still waiting and willing to pay top range for dvd or streaming
Jan 18, 2020   |  Reply
Susan McBride
I don't think anyone will bite on making DVDs. Netflix is focused on original projects. Amazon might bite if enough people request it. Best bet might be IMDb Freedive. Let's start trolling!
Apr 14, 2019   |  Reply
If not the Series of it's time,,,,,, who's kidding who, It was! there are a few Thousand waiting for It's release on DVD!!!!
Jan 4, 2019   |  Reply
Definitely!!! LOVED this series.
Nov 7, 2018   |  Reply
Agree completely! :)
Aug 4, 2019
E cuidet
I am old and would love to see those episodes again.
Sep 2, 2018   |  Reply
Laura Aguirre
Absolutely would pay more to see one of my all time favorite series..I loved, loved, loved this show and all the characters in it..I miss it..
Aug 7, 2018   |  Reply
I have a theory about TV. If I like a show, it's good. If it's good, it goes off the air.
May 10, 2018   |  Reply
I know I’m very late finding this, but I loved this series and yes, I’d pay a premium for it. It’s such a shame we can’t just stream it on Netflix. Ditch the music if you need to. It was great.
Mar 27, 2018   |  Reply
Kim H
Yes, Please! Whatever it takes!!
Jan 17, 2018   |  Reply
Mike Ramsey
Yes get it back out there! I don't recall a lot of pop music in the show but it's been awhile. Maybe Fred Dodd is a Kenny G like superstar in a different dimension.
Jan 10, 2018   |  Reply
Robert Sholis
In a word00 YES!!
Nov 4, 2017   |  Reply
Laura Aguirre
Come on guys, I'm in my late 60s..the clock is ticking..I want to be able to see my favorite, one of them, series of all time again before I kick..geez, it's not too much to ask from fans is it?
Oct 2, 2017   |  Reply
Laura Aguirre
Yes I would pay more to be able to see one of my all time series again.
Oct 2, 2017   |  Reply
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