[Bianculli here: I'm so proud of our TV WORTH WATCHING contributors. Earlier this week, Diane Holloway posted a very comprehensive and helpful initial rundown of the proposed new fall shows, which you can read as a guest entry on Diane Werts' blog by clicking HERE. And today, Tom Brinkmoeller, through a lot of dogged reporting, has news for anyone eagerly awaiting the DVD release of Gary David Goldberg's superb Brooklyn Bridge CBS series. Alas, the news isn't necessarily good...]
Troubled Waters Threaten Fate of "Brooklyn Bridge"
When I was growing up, cool people I tried to hang around with sometimes would tell me, "And if you believe that, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you." The bridge they referred to was in Brooklyn, and the context was that anyone who would buy into the preposterous statement just spoken was dumb enough to think he could buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
Today, a slight twist on that take on gullibility: Twenty years ago, a wonderfully singular television producer named Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties, Spin City, Lou Grant and more) created a series called Brooklyn Bridge.
Based on his growing-up years in that borough in the late '40s and early '50s, it was a beautifully written, acted and produced story of a three-generation Jewish family's simple and credible life together. Marion Ross, previously the white-bread Mrs. Cunningham on ABC's Happy Days, starred, and demonstrated her impressive comic range, as the Jewish family matriarch, grandmother Sophie Berger.
Brooklyn Bridge premiered on CBS in late 1991, and its last episode was shown in late 1993. The series won awards, great reviews and the hearts of many viewers.
And then it disappeared from view, though not from mind. Many people remember it as superior and standout television and would like to have the chance to see it again. And therein lies the big problem:
Goldberg, who doesn't own the series, can't sell Brooklyn Bridge, but wants it shared with its fans. In an interview last week, he told how, on his book tour for his 2008 autobiographical Sit, Ubu, Sit, "The first or second question I'd always get is 'When is Brooklyn Bridge coming out (on DVD)?' " His Web site, garydavidgoldberg.com, has fielded many requests for the same information, according to his office. Amazon has a sign-up option for being notified when the series DVDs go on sale.
CBS Home Entertainment owns the rights to Brooklyn Bridge. The question seems to be when, or if, it will start selling it. That company says it may release the series. Goldberg, who started work with CBS Home Entertainment almost a year ago to make that happen, recently abandoned any hope of that happening and accuses CBS of misleading him and the people who want the series in their homes again.
What started off as a harmonious concerted effort last August, according to him, has turned into a hot war. Goldberg accuses CBS of "misleading me for months." A CBS Home Entertainment executive calls what's going on "dirty pool" and "very bizarre."
A series of e-mails between the two sides, made available by Goldberg, details the meltdown.
In August 2009, Goldberg is told the series will be released in March 2010.
By October, a CBS lawyer's e-mails show her getting legal clearances for parts of the series that included clips of baseball games and TV series of that era.
November e-mails between the lawyer and Goldberg seem to indicate progress on legal clearances, and she refers him to CBS Home Entertainment Executive Vice President Ken Ross as the person who will work with him on releasing and marketing the DVDs. The two men make contact and set up a Nov. 18 meeting at Ross' New York City office. The day after the meeting, Goldberg e-mails the CBS lawyer to tell her it went well, that he was told the DVDs would be released in May, and to thank her for her help. She answers, "That's great news."
In early December, Ross makes arrangements to send a DVD of some Brooklyn Bridge promos to Goldberg's home. In January, Goldberg e-mails Ross and asks, "Anything I need to know or be worried about?" Ross replies: "Only thing for you to worry about is how the Knicks could lose at home to Dallas by 50 points. . . We're back on the Brooklyn Bridge track. Will know something soon."
In April, Goldberg again e-mails Ross: "As May is approaching, any decision on the Brooklyn Bridge DVD release?" Ross answers that "yes we're going to move forward," that he met with an Amazon representative about selling the DVDs through that on-line outlet and he will send an agreement to Goldberg the following week.
Goldberg said he was never sent the promised agreement, and on April 23 forwarded an e-mail to Ross from a Brooklyn Bridge fan who asked if the promised May DVD release was still happening. Goldberg added this note to the forwarded question: "Hi Ken, Been getting a lot of emails like the one below. Can't say I don't share the concern. Thanks, Gary." Goldberg said he never received an answer.
He wrote Ross again on May 10, that "here we are in mid-May without even the slightest word from you." He described the entire process as "the most annoying frustrating and baffling interaction I've ever had" and ended by saying, "I give up." Ross answered that "I have never been more hurt." And Goldberg, in a final e-mail, told Ross, "You've been misleading me for months. I don't know why."
Goldberg says he has no understanding of what happened. He doesn't think it was a money issue, since he said he promised to put up $100,000 of his own money to defray costs, waive any royalties to which he might be entitled, and pay for a public tour he'd make to promote the DVD release.
Ross, reached by phone last week, described what's happening as "dirty pool" and "bizarre," and suggested the sharing of correspondence by Goldberg was "not only unethical but illegal" before refusing to say for the record if the series would be released and what, if anything, has caused its delay. Later last week, a spokesperson for CBS Home Entertainment issued "the only comment we have" on the subject:
"We have never announced a release date for a Brooklyn Bridge DVD. As we do with every title in our library, we have been investigating the feasibility of releasing Brooklyn Bridge on DVD. This process is ongoing and we hope to be able to bring this beloved show to fans in the future."
To which Goldberg responded: "I was told on two separate occasions that there was a release date set for the Brooklyn Bridge DVD. First date I was given was mid-March. That was then pushed back to mid-May. I asked if I should post that on my web-site and was told I should. (The CBS spokesperson) continues down the path of misrepresenting CBS' intentions and misleading fans of the show into believing that Brooklyn Bridge might someday be released on DVD by CBS. I don't think anyone concerned, and certainly not me, believes a single word of what she's saying."
Until all of this is resolved, and right now it sounds as though that's not possible, a bright spot in TV history will stay locked in a vault.
Final question: If Brooklyn Bridge IS released on DVD, will you buy it? Add a comment and let us know.