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TV DVD: Online Releases to the Rescue!
November 23, 2010  | By Diane Werts

If there's anything TV DVD collectors hate, it's collecting seasons of a series that the distributor discontinues before it's complete.

Hill Street Blues ran 7 seasons, but only 2 are out on DVD. NYPD Blue fans scored 4 seasons on disc, but 12 were aired. At least King of the Hill fans got 6 out of 13. The Donna Reed Show seems stuck on pause after 3 seasons, with only 1 season out for faves like St. Elsewhere, Crossing Jordan and Malcolm in the Middle.

Sometimes the halt is attributed to music rights costing too much or being unavailable. Seems like that's why it's one and done for American Dreams, Murphy Brown and WKRP in Cincinnati.

Other times, DVD sales don't reach a level the distributor demands in order to justify continuing the series. Or they aren't where retailers feel it's worth devoting shelf space to subsequent seasons, essentially telling the distributor no-thanks.


But stores aren't the only place to buy DVDs now. Direct sales to consumers are expanding as more and more TV rights holders try to trim the middleman out of the equation in order to get shows into the hands of consumers itching to buy them.

Mister Ed might have whinnied his last after 3 seasons if Shout! Factory hadn't decided to continue the 6-season show by selling Season 4 online. Thank goodness, too, because the 1963-64 episodes are jam packed with the kind of guest stars that make pop culture-heads swoon -- vintage movie sex queen Mae West, stars-to-be Sharon Tate and Butch Patrick, and '60s baseball names Sandy Koufax, John Roseboro, Willie Davis, Moose Skowron, Leo Durocher and that Energizer bunny of broadcasters, Vin Scully. Shout even throws in the extra of a Mister Ed savings bonds promo.

Click the Shout Select tab at the distrib's site, and you'll find not just Mister Ed continuing but also Raymond Burr's edgy wheelchair cop drama Ironside, whose Season 4 features William Shatner, David Carradine, David "Hutch" Soul and Ed's Christmas episode. These new releases join Shout's online sales of Rhoda Season 4, Father Knows Best Season 5, Simon & Simon Season 5, and subsequent seasons of Small Wonder, Swamp Thing, My Two Dads, Mr. Belvedere, Room 222 and the '60s single-camera innovator The Bill Cosby Show.


Never-released series are also getting a shot at life online. The early-years-of-TV sitcom The Goldbergs, a landmark as a series created by a woman and featuring a Jewish family, finally found its way to the public as a Shout online exclusive, absolutely crammed with amazing extras to honor its place in tube history.

Another early-TV fave, Broderick Crawford's Highway Patrol, is among the Amazon-based online offerings from MGM's TV library, also delivering the long-awaited second seasons of Showtime's sci-fi drama Jeremiah and '60s family fave Flipper.

Falcon Crest is continuing its DVD run online, too, with Season 2 newly available from Warner Archive. (Night Court Season 4 was briefly available, but has been pulled due to manufacturing defects.) Other TV titles recently sprung from the Warners vault for the first time include the animated series adaptations of The Dukes and The Addams Family.


But best of all is Warner Archive's generous new Classic TV Christmas Collection of 10 vintage episodes never on disc, including two true rarities -- a wonderful 1964 Doctor Kildare hour with earnest young physician Richard Chamberlain bringing the spirit of the season to hospitalized skid-row misanthrope Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show), and a warm 1970 half-hour of The Courtship of Eddie's Father, the offbeat single-camera gem starring Bill Bixby as a wise single dad (with 8-year-old Jodie Foster as a guest star!). The eight other '70s-'90s episodes included in this smart set come from Welcome Back Kotter, Eight Is Enough, Alice, CHiPs, Perfect Strangers, Mama's Family, Suddenly Susan and Veronica's Closet.

One last new treat -- Kukla, Fran & Ollie is finally on DVD in its earliest form, demonstrating how even independent rights owners can use the internet's smaller scale to get releases to the public at low cost. Kukla, Fran & Ollie: The First Episodes: 1949-54 is a must-have steal, delivering 20 remastered kinescopes of the pioneering puppet classic on 2 discs for just $15! (This simple show couldn't be wittier or more clever. What a surprise delight!)


Showcasing source material 60 years old, it's not the kind of TV DVD set most stores would stock, so the internet makes its very existence possible.

As it does ours, here at TVWW.

With the holiday buying season ramping up, TVWW will be trying to spotlight more rarities, obscurities and hard-to-find items like these. We hope you'll consider buying them through our site for two crucial reasons.

TV DVD collectors need to support these kinds of releases so the distributors appreciate the fanbase and keep them coming.

And you can support TVWW's efforts at the same time. When you buy after clicking through from a link we've posted, we get a small referral fee. It doesn't change the price you pay, and it contributes to the cost of keeping this website coming, too.




Mac said:

I feel obligated to offer this bit of bargain hunting, but if it interferes with your promoting, I understand.

Big Lots has complete seasons of TV shows for $6 bucks. Odds and ends, sure. Seems like most from Viacom owned material, but include some CSIs, as well as original Melrose Place (music changed) and Cheers. The one I want -Police Squad- is evidently pretty hard to find in the mess, but it has been spotted. Set to go on sale Black Friday, some stores put stock out early (by weeks) and were reprimanded by the company, but even the company expects them to sell out by BF. That is. being wiped out for Sat.

Fortunately, many Big Lots are located in depressed shopping areas that attract no other BF business, so maybe the hassle won't be as crazy as other places.

[Diane here: Thanks for the tip, Mac! We here at TVWW never mind telling our readers about good deals, wherever they are. We wouldn't recommend Amazon if they didn't have great prices most of the time. Whenever you spot something even cheaper, we're glad to pass on the word. We like our readers more than we like money - which is a good thing considering how much we're (not) making!]

Mac said:

I'm a big fan of Shout Factory. The Foos Bros previous company, Rhino Records, was the best while they were still in the office. At Shout, they brought about Herb Alpert's audio catalog and currently have a spectacular Frank Sinatra DVD set with all of the Man & His Music specials as the appetizer. (Santa? Oh,Santa?)

And in praise of Amazon, I gave them a pretty big order Sun. AM (one joy of Amazon, there's no one on the other side of the counter) and decided to open my treasure chest icon (something I usually avoid). Well, how about the seven-show box including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (a $30 list) for $12.49? A no-brainer. This, after finally breaking down and buying Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (available in the box) at a Barnes & Noble store for $7.49.

And I hope I'm not ruining anyone's T-giving by telling them that B&N's 50% off Criterion sale ended Monday. I could only pick one (the rent still has to be paid) - Ace in the Hole, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Kirk Douglas. With mining disasters recently in the news and the media always in the news, Wilder & Douglas tackled these subjects almost 60 years ago with vengeance and vision. It shows up on Turner every so often, largely, I understand, because of the Criterion restoration. As Alvin the Chipmunk says, "Christmas, don't be late."

[Diane here: I wish I'd known about the B&N Criterion sale! Although, considering we've still got a mortgage, too, maybe it's better I didn't . . . ]

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