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DVD UPDATE: Getting lost in the 'Lost' box
August 23, 2010  | By Diane Werts
LOST full series box dvd bluray.jpg

Enough with the wacky packages! Building a TV DVD library is starting to require building special shelving to hold all the strangely shaped boxes, heavy Lucite containers, enormous hardcover "book" sleeves, and "collectible" packaging of jumbo 3D plastic Bender heads and Cylon helmets.

Latest in the good-luck-storing-this sweepstakes is this week's release of Lost: The Complete Collection. My Blu-ray set came inside an 11x13x4 trapezoidal pyramid box that weighs well more than my laptop. To get to the discs entails a dozen steps of stripping away outer boxing, paper promo wraps, stiff board tops and inserts, an episode guide booklet, and yet another sleeve that encases the actual season sets.

That cardboard sleeve is at least shelvable on its own -- though it's still non-standard at about 10 inches high (most DVD boxes are 7 inches high). And if those season sets seem awfully slim inside its sleeve's 2 1/2-inch width, it's because they're cardboard foldouts where the discs are slipped inside those hated slots that scrape against them as they're removed and reinserted.

So here's the ongoing argument -- cool packaging for collectors vs. practical, safe access for people who actually, call me crazy, want to watch the discs they just paid $200 for. And it's not like it's impossible to create a snazzy package while still protecting the program content inside and making it accessible. Homicide's original full-series file drawer with metal handle comes to mind, along with Get Smart's credits-echoing fold-out doors. Even Family Guy's toy-stuffed Freakin' Party Pack holds all its poker chips, cards, and ping pong gear in a plastic lunch-style box that still fits on a normal DVD shelf, and the discs themselves are compactly and safely enclosed in the kind of cloth zip-around case you buy to keep CDs in the car. Seinfeld's oversize full-series refrigerator, for that matter, opens to reveal two small square book-page packages you can easily stow on a DVD shelf while keeping the collectibles elsewhere.

At least my new Lost discs came easily out of their slots, unlike say, The Shield, where more than half of my full-series discs not only had to be pried out of the slots but also cleaned of glue globs from a package that seemed to start disintegrating the moment it left the factory.

battlestar dvd complete.jpg

You'd think pricy, splashy full-series sets would be the place where DVD and Blu-ray distributors would want to showcase their product. But more often than not now, they're flimsy packages that are unwieldy to actually use, at best, and downright damaging to their contents, at worst. The original Battlestar Galactica Blu-ray package remains the poster-boy nightmare here -- designed for a big wow factor at gift-giving time, without really any thought given to storing the enormous cubed box, being able to shelve the seasons separately or, heaven forbid, getting discs in and out of those moving box parts and cheap sleeves to watch them.

A cynical soul might say that's because the studios are "double dipping." They expect diehards will already own the season sets. They want us to buy the "collectible" package, too -- but not to actually use it, which might mean we'd sell our separate seasons on eBay or something, thereby cutting into sales. Better to craft something designed mainly to look swell on the shelf -- if you can find a shelf to fit it -- while encouraging fans to keep those previous sets for actual viewing.

Perhaps the wackiest thing about full-series Lost is that its sole new on-disc content is a bonus disc of truly fine documentaries: Cast and crew emotionally ponder their time together and in Hawaii shooting the show; the prop master walks us through story history by displaying episode elements like Faraday's journal or "the squirrel baby"; and fans around the world are shown embody the global phenomenon. But this bonus disc is nearly impossible to find. It's not in any of the season sets. Or the guide booklet. It's "hidden," and I had to brave "breaking" my package to find it. (Not telling you. Enjoy the cheap thrill.)

How many buyers of this package won't even know the disc is in there? So how crazy is that?

Don't get me started on other "innovative" package ideas -- discs in construction paper sleeves inside the plastic box (at least Wiseguy and other new Stephen J. Cannell releases from Mill Creek boast a wildly low price), or stacked naked on flimsy plastic spindles (Sony complete-series sets like NewsRadio and Soap). Overlapping discs -- like those on Adventures of Superman, Lois & Clark and Smallville (strangely enough) -- also drive me bonkers.

You've probably got your own tales to tell. But we shouldn't have to tell them when we've shelled out hundreds of dollars in tribute to our affection for shows as re-watchable as Lost, The Sopranos, The Shield, Battlestar Galactica or Futurama.

Click for info/purchase options for Lost: The Complete Collection.




tara said:

Thank you for mentioning the insane and ridiculous BSG packaging. I can't find anywhere to hide that gigantic box. It is awful. I wish they would just release things in simple, clean, thin packaging.

And of course now you've got me crazy wondering how I'm going to find the bonus features on the Lost: Complete Collection (which I also don't know where to store). I sold my individual DVDs to get the complete collection but now I'm wondering if that was the best idea. Oh well I guess.

Thanks for the great read. I'm right there with you.

[Diane here: If you reeeeally can't find the bonus disc, let me know. But it's in pretty much the only place it would fit, once you see the package.]

tara said:

Thanks, Diane, for commenting. I will go in search for it tonight. If I can't find it, I may try to squeeze it out of you. I'm so bummed that the LOST packaging couldn't have been better, because I could NOT be more excited about owning them in one sense, but not thrilled in the sense you've talked about here.

Just found your site here today. I plan to visit more often. I like it.

[Diane here: And we like you!]

elyse said:

I only bought one 'special' packaging - all the Jurassic Park films - and was very annoyed when I realized it wouldn't fit properly on the shelf. Sure, the BSG box looks cool but it's so frakkin' impractical. Can I say frakkin'?

[Diane here: Why the frak not?]

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