Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reader mail: TV shows not on DVD & reality show teases

Another reader mailbag column today, with questions about why "Ed" and "LA Law" aren't out on DVD yet, and why reality shows seem to recycle the same clips over and over in an episode.

43 comments:

srpad said...

Reading the mailbag, I am curious if you have any ideas as to why TV on DVD sales are down. If it has been a few years now it probably isn't the economy (although I am sure that is part of it).

Matt said...

One factor is probably that so much old stuff is now available on Hulu, though some stuff continues to sell VERY well. "True Blood: Season 1" sold over million copies to date.

For "Ed," music rights are going to be tricky, because it's not going to be easy to just replace songs.

PlusDrew said...

I've been curious about this "Not on DVD" question regarding "Boston Public" for awhile. I'm sure it's another music issue, but I'd hope that it can eventually be overcome. I really liked that show.

J said...

Ugh, the after-commercial recaps on reality or light doc programming drives me insane. The first place I noticed it was VH-1, back in the original "Behind the Music" days. I initially wondered if they were so aware of the ADD audience their sister channel had created that they felt they had to constantly reiterate information for it to stick. But then it became obvious how easy it was to jump in the middle of an all-day marathon and feel superior everything they recapped for the n00bs.

@srpad, I think last I read DVD sales have plateaued or dropped across the board, and that bunches of reasons were touted: Perceived title saturation, store shelf/home library space, the rise of rentals and online streaming, consumer hesitancy created by the Blu-Ray/HD format wars.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see "China Beach" on DVD-- it's been 20 years, fer cryin' out loud.

Alanna said...

One of the reasons I stopped watching ER years ago was that I was so tired of how every episode was touted as "the most amazing, tragic, thrilling, and/or heartwarming episode EVER!!!!" My annoyance at the melodrama and hyperbole -- both in the promos and the show itself -- surpassed my interest in the plotlines and the characters.

Eyeball Wit said...

Three words: Thief on Hulu.
Never read Alan's take on this six-episode Andre Braugher show, but it's one of my all time favorites.
I never figured it would make DVD, but held out hope for Itunes.
Just looked. It's on Hulu.
If that opening scene in Episode one doesn't hook you hard....And love his black GTO. The only worthy post-Homicide vehicle for Essex County's own AB.

Brandy said...

I've bought more stuff on Itunes/Amazon On Demand of late since it doesn't take up storage space. No special features which is a bummer but the storage space is an issue at my house.

AwesomeRococo said...

Have been waiting for this one for years, but with the recent death of David Carradine, it makes me wonder even more if/when it will make it to DVD, the WB series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. The original series made it to DVD several years ago, and I was hoping to see the spin-off make it shortly after, but so far, not a peep...

Robert said...

By far my least favorite tease/recap is "previously on 24" in front of the second hour of a two hour episode. Do you really think we forget that quickly?

rkex said...

I, too, was a big fan of "Ed" and have the series on VHS! I also made my own soundtracks, as "Ed" was really a groundbreaker with use of music. I'd be a customer if the series ever comes out on DVD, but I doubt there's a big market for it.
Looking back at the cast, it introduced some fine talent: John "Mad Men" Slattery, Julie Bowen (Boston Legal), Justin Long ("I'm a Mac"), etc.

Tracey said...

In addition to Hulu for old TV, don't forget Veoh! (http://www.veoh.com/), which I am forever grateful to because they had the short-lived quirky romantic comedy Committed, which will never be rebroadcast, is not available by Bittorrent, and will never get a DVD.

Jay said...

Whatever happened to the original Ed pilot - the one glossed over in five minutes in the aired pilot where we see Ed get fired, catch his wife cheating on him, and his actual return to Stuckeyville?

Was it ever aired anywhere or was it just manufactured to be the first five minutes of the aired pilot?

Bix said...

The original "Ed" pilot made was when the show was going to be a half hour show called "Stuckeyville" and yes, it provided the flashback footage at the beginning of the "Ed" pilot. It's never surfaced anywhere as far as I know.

h said...

Shows I really want to come out on DVD (any hope for any of these?): Mysterious Ways, the USA version of Touching Evil, The Unusuals

Robert Cervantes said...

I think the music rights are the biggest reason a great show like The Wonder Years is still not on DVD. It's a damn shame because it's one of those show where I can watch forever.

rhys said...

Premium cable shows generally sell huge on DVD because, generally, the only other option was to subscribe to the channel.

Otherwise buying TV shows on DVD is viewed as kind of a luxury item. You are talking usually 40-60 bucks per season, and then multiple seasons. I really want the Shield, loved the show. But I'd want the whole thing and seven seasons is a little pricey.

Some of the reality show previews are worse then others. With shows like Ice Road Truckers, very little actually happens during the show. So the only clips they have are of pretty much the only significant things that happen in the episode. Drove me crazy during the Will Ferrell Man vs. Wild episode, because Ferrell was relatively serious during the show and only a handful of times was he particularly funny, and usually only briefly. So of course every commercial break previewed his next one-liner, and since they were one-liners it constituted the entire scene.

It's not as bad with shows like Survivor, or other manufactured reality competitions, because they manufacture a lot of activities for them to do.

kim said...

My guess for why TV on DVD sales might be down would be how they release DVDs after a show has ended. I was so angry after buying all of Homicide on DVD, then they released the big filing cabinet box set with extra features. Ugh! I didn't buy The Wire on DVD until it was all over because I didn't want to find out later it was released with a special box set.

DJR said...

Count me in as one who would buy the "Ed" DVDs as soon as they came out. Kind of hard to believe that at the time of the series, they didn't figure out that music rights for DVD would be key. They even changed their theme song in the second season because NBC wanted to own rights to all of their theme songs (and changed it back to Foo Fighters for the 3rd season).

The whole music rights thing seems like another case of shortsightedness on the part of the music industry. As rkex said, "Ed" (like so many other shows) introduced people to a lot of great music. It could still be doing that on DVD, if they'd just clear the rights, already.

Adam said...

There's a site called TVshowsonDVD.com that does a pretty good job of tracking status, and will even send you an e-mail if there's a development regarding a show in which you've expressed an interest. I asked there about the British version of Life On Mars and got a note when they finally worked out their music-rights issues.

Jennifer said...

Well, Netflix lets you watch the seasons on DVD for a decent price, so that's what I do. I BUY the shows that I am pretty sure I'd want to keep forever, but I don't feel obligated to plunk down $40-60 for a show that I turn out not to like all that much in the end, just because it was on cable and I am curious about the premise.

Also, the sci-fi shows tend to be really effing expensive to buy in DVD sets.

alynch said...

Looking at what happened to the DVD releases Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, it really is kind of a miracle that all seven seasons of Homicide managed to be released on DVD. I never would've guessed that Homicide would sell better than those two much more popular and equally adored series.

pgillan said...

I don't watch a lot of reality TV, but I occasionally catch an episode of Mythbusters, and the pre- and post-commercial wrap of what the current myth is, what they've already done, and what they still plan to do has to account for at least 10% of total running time of the show. At first I assumed it was filler, but it doesn't seem to depend on the complexity of the myth. Maybe all these shows have a contract with the announce for a certain number of "voiceover" minutes?

Eric said...

I wonder if music rights holders will ever figure out that 50% of their initial asking price + sales from exposure > 0% of replacement music.

TC said...

My TV on DVD hobby horse is "The Chris Isaak Show" from Showtime. I can't imagine it'd be hard to get the music rights to that one. Right?

Anonymous said...

I also hate those VH-1 reality shows where they try to take 20 minutes of actual footage and stretch it out to an hour. The most awful one, that a friend of mine recently made me watch, was Celebrity Rehab. The same teasers repeated over and over before each commercial break. Not one interesting thing happened in that show. Theory is a long drawn out process and should be private, not broadcast to millions.

Miranda said...

My holy grail of TV on DVD is "Daria." I'm guessing the problem there is music rights; the show used a lot of music.

Craig Ranapia said...

As Alan touched on in the column, I feel kind of sorry for reality show editors because even sociopathic attention-seekers are pretty boring 99% of the time, and never more so than when they're playing up for the camera.

Anonymous said...

The holy grail of TV on DVD is the Wonder Years. That show used not just a lot of music, but probably the most expensive music on the planet as far as licensing goes.

Army said...

My wife told me she was a fan of The John Larroquette Show from before we were married so I decided to purchase it for her as a birthday gift a few years ago. It was never released on DVD so I found it @ one of those bootleg outfits and it took about 8 weeks to get the DVDs. We now have every aired episode in poor to average quality with, in some cases, advertisements left inserted.
You can tell some rabid fan taped them on VCR and then the company transferred them to DVD.
We don't regret buying them because there literally was no other outlet. And the show holds up. But we won't use that service again.

Craig Ranapia said...

And something else that might be holding some shows off DVD... I've got a restored edition of the BBC's 1996 'Pride and Prejudice', and there's an interesting special feature on the restoration -- I wasn't aware how complicated, and expensive, a process it was scrubbing up the image for HD/Blu-Ray. Probably a no-brainer for a massive hit like P&P -- or Paramount determinted to wring every penny out of the Trek franchise --, but I can see a lot of shows where satisfying a more tech-literate (and demanding) market could be a very marginal proposition indeed.

Dan said...

I seem to remember Quantum Leap being a nightmare to get on DVD because of music rights issues. Is it still unavailable, or is there a complete set now?

Beth said...

Still waiting for I'll Fly Away (Regina Taylor & Sam Waterston), which was re-broadcast on PBS once, then never seen again.

Pandyora said...

Speaking of music rights, The "WKRP in Cincinnati" DVDs are nearly unwatchable because of the absence of the original tunes. Dr. Johnny Fever does not rock out to musak...

So does this mean the remaining Hill Street Blues seasons will never get a proper DVD release? Amazon was selling the season three episodes individually in their on demand service, but I was holding out for a proper release.

Tracey said...

Actually, the show that was a nightmare on DVD because of music rights was The Muppet Show. As I recall from my childhood, half of the show (the best half) was Muppets doing popular songs of the time. Because it was a sketch show, they were able to simply cut out the bits that gave them problems with the rights, but you get a very strong sense of something missing throughout. They added additional material from other sources to fill out the shortened episodes, but it just wasn't the same. I bought the first season DVD, but I don't think I would buy any others. What's the point of watching The Muppet Show if you don't get to see Viking pigs singing "In the Navy"? Or birds on a telephone wire singing "Take a Chance on Me"? ("if you're all alone when the pretty birds have flown...) Or Scooter struggling to play Harry Chapin's Six String Orchestra?

Anonymous said...

I would snap up "Ed" DVD's in one hot minute. Also, Daria was one of my favorite shows back in the day. And why was Season 1 of Huff released but not Season 2?
I, too, only buy show DVD's that I know will forever remain my favorites.

Jim said...

I was a big LA Law fan, but I caught a rerun on cable about a year ago and it was kind of funny and kind of painful to watch, so dated and soap opera-y. The only episodes that stand out now are from the Rosalind Shays arc.

Shari said...

The worst "reality show" about recaps is House Hunters. After each commercial, the host does a recap of why the person wants to move, what they want to get and what they've already seen. The recap just keeps getting longer and longer. Does she think that the audience has all had lobotomies during the commercial break?

Lisa said...

Ditto what Beth said. I would love to see "I'll Fly Away" on DVD.

Baylink said...

The Muppets would indeed be no fun with all those bits cut, but I agree: the real abortion is WKRP.

And to make it *6* times worse: the episodes that have been airing on Retro Sunday Nights on WGN?

The original syndie package. Original music.
Uncut from network air, as near as I can tell.

*That's* gonna help the DVD sales, yeah buddy.

Thanks to my sis for DVRing them and burning them (manually, because I can't get her slightly older MythTV box to build working DVDs directly, darnit).

Graeme said...

Having seen what they did with WKRP and Quantum Leap on DVD-- both of which had music replacement so heinous that I ended up paying the extra money to buy the Region 2 DVDs which still had them-- I'd much prefer that they not release Ed on DVD until they can guarantee the music is intact. I love Ed but I couldn't imagine it without the soundtrack, right down to Yo LA Tengo's "My Little Corner of the World" during the last three minutes of the series finale.

But this does bring up to me an interesting point about the paradigm for TV on DVD. Maybe it's time we had something like Criterion does for film releases-- a (much more) expensive than mass market DVD release that releases it in original format with a raft of good extras. It means selling it to a more niche market, but perhaps there is enough people who would spend, say, $75-$90 for a DVD Box set of Ed (or Quantum Leap or Northern Exposure) with full music plus great extras. (Or do it like Benjamin Button and have a 'Criterion' version and a mass market version.

To a certain extent Shout Factory and Acorn are doing that (and as a result we're getting thirtysomething on DVD which I gather has minimal music replacement) but I wonder if they should be going even more nichey and pricing it accordingly.

Anonymous said...

TVshowsonDVD has some news that indicates Daria might, in fact, be released on DVD in 2010: http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Daria-DVDs-Planned/12236

The real Holy Grail of Unreleased TV shows? Max Headroom, of course.

--a fan

Anonymous said...

Many people in here are referencing music rights as the reason why Ed is not on DVD. While there may be some difficulties there, it has been said frequently that the real reason why it is not on DVD is that there are legal wranglings over who retains the rights to the show, World Wide Pants, NBC, or some other production company which I believe is now defunct.