Three years ago, I did a piece for Bullz-Eye entitled “TV (No-)Shows On DVD,” where I took a look at the top 15 shows that the Bullz-Eye staff had wanted to see released onto home video in full-season or complete-series sets. From the series cited on that list, we’ve gotten “Newhart: The Complete First Season,” five seasons of “Family Ties,” seven seasons of “Beverly Hills 90210,” and “WKRP: The Complete First Season” (a laughable title, given how much was excised from the original episodes), with “The State: The Complete Series” scheduled for release on July 14. We’ve also been pleased to see that a couple of the kids shows we cited – “Groovie Goolies” and “Josie and the Pussycats” – have made it into stores, and we were beside ourselves at the emergence of a couple of our pipe-dream series, including “Quark,” “Fastlane,” and “Andy Richter Controls the Universe.”
I’ve got to be honest with you: I loved that show with a passion when I was seven years old, but not in a million years would I have bet on that series ever coming out on DVD, and yet you can order a copy from Amazon at this very moment. That’s what led me to compile this A-to-Z list of shows that I’d like to be able to experience again…or, in some cases, for the first time. Yes, some of the series on this list are obscure, and it’s likely that almost none of them will ever make their way to home video, but I felt the same way about “Quark” three years ago, and…well, look what happened there. I’m sure you’ve got your own favorites, and I’d love to know what they are, so please feel free to leave your picks below. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my list…and the accompanying YouTube clips, too.
A. “AfterM*A*S*H” (1983 – 1985): Given that all of the seasons of the original “M*A*S*H” series have long since made it to DVD and proved to be a rousing success, it’s a little surprising that we haven’t seen the release of the post-war exploits of Sherman Potter, Max Klinger, and Father Francis Mulcahy. Few would claim that the show ever lived up to its predecessor, but there were only 31 episodes produced; you’d think that a complete-series set would be a no-brainer, since the diehards would surely snap it up, what with the additional guest appearances by Col. Flagg and Radar O’Reilly. Indeed, should such a collection ever come to pass, let’s hope someone also thinks to tack on the failed pilot for “W*A*L*T*E*R,” where Radar moves from Ottumwa, Iowa, to St. Louis, MO, in order to become a police officer. And, yes, I’m serious.
B. “BJ and the Bear” (1979 – 1981): Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I just can’t imagine that there’s not a connection between the fact that, in December 1978, a movie about a trucker with a monkey (“Every Which Way But Loose”) was a huge success, and in February 1979 this series – which is about a trucker with a monkey – premiered. Some may say that Greg Evigan’s most lasting pop culture footnote is co-starring with Paul Reiser on “My Two Dads,” but he’ll always be B.J. McKay to me.
C. “CPO Sharkey” (1976 – 1978): With the amount of appreciation Don Rickles has gotten in recent years, most notably with “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project,” it’s hard to believe that no-one’s tried to make a buck or two by offering up the release of this series. Maybe it’s because Rickles’ comedy in the series wouldn’t exactly come across as politically correct nowadays. Sharkey’s company consists of an African-American, a Polish-American, a Jewish-American, an Italian-American, and a Hispanic-American, and…well, suffice to say that he probably didn’t need nearly as many hyphens within his preferred choice of terms for them. Frankly, though, I just want to see the episode which features a guest appearance by the Dickies!
D. “Darkroom” (1981 – 1982): Remember this series? Probably not, given how short its run was. Anthology series were pretty much dead when the 1980s rolled around, but ABC nonetheless gave this one a try, signing up James Coburn to introduce each week’s creepy tales. Had it emerged a few years later, it might’ve lasted longer, but even though it only survived for seven episodes (some sources refer to 16 eps, but I’m pretty sure it was 16 stories told during the course of seven episodes), it still made a serious impression on me. Of course, I was 11 years old and easily frightened…and, yet, I watch this opening sequence, and the chills immediately start up again.
E. “Eight Is Enough” (1977 – 1981): Okay, here’s my theory, and you may feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but…if a show was successful enough in its time to warrant a reunion move a few years later, then surely it’s worthy of scoring DVD release. Plus, the series was re-run on Pax not so terribly long ago, so it’s been back in the public eye enough to refresh the memories of the sentimentalists who’d be most interested in purchasing it.
F. “Flying Blind” (1992 – 1993): A lot of people only remember this show as a footnote, because it gave Téa Leoni her first real break. Personally, what I remember is my jaw hitting the floor on repeated occasions because of how inconceivably gorgeous she was (and how well she wore the short, tight skirts that her character preferred), but the series was consistently hilarious as well. Leoni played Alicia, who had inexplicably fallen for Neil (Corey Parker), a guy who was in no way in her league; as a result, it often like he was living through “After Hours” every single time he went out with her.
Clea Lewis (“Ellen”) and Michael Tucci (“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”) were part of the ensemble, and Peter Boyle turned up a couple of times as Alicia’s dad. It even had a David Byrne theme song, for God’s sake! And, yet, it never took off. On the up side, however, creator Richard Rosenstock went on to write for “Friends” and “Arrested Development” and is now part of the “Big Bang Theory” family. Arguably the most amazing thing about it, though, is that there isn’t a single clip of the show on YouTube.
G. “Get A Life” (1990 – 1992): It’s pointless to try to sell this show to anyone who doesn’t already appreciate Chris Elliott’s sense of humor. All I can tell you is that R.E.M. doesn’t loan out their songs to just anyone, so the fact that “Stand” ended up as the show’s theme song ought to tell you that it’s not your ordinary sitcom, but the fact that Bob Odenkirk and Charlie Kaufman were writers on the show may reveal even more.
H. “House Calls” (1979 – 1982): Wayne Rogers played Trapper John, MD, on the first few seasons of “M*A*S*H,” but when they made a series out of the character, they hired Pernell Roberts to play him. Perhaps sensing that it probably still couldn’t hurt to play off people’s memories of him, however, Rogers ended up taking on the series adaptation of the 1978 Walter Matthau film about a bunch of doctors and their daily trials and tribulations at Kensington General Hospital. The chemistry between Rogers and his co-star, Lynn Redgrave, was great, and the other primary members of the ensemble – David Wayne, Ray Buktenika, and Mark Taylor – were all extremely funny, but Redgrave was fired from the series following the birth of her daughter, and despite Sharon Gless’s attempts to fill the hole left by Redgrave, “House Calls” never recovered. Still, it’s hard to imagine that “Scrubs” fans wouldn’t enjoy the show, if only they were given the chance.
I. “It’s Your Move” (1984 – 1985): Somewhere, there is an alternate reality where “Arrested Development” was the most successful sitcom in the history of television, and in that reality, someone said, “Hey, you know, we really should get in on some of those Bateman bucks and release ‘It’s Your Move: The Complete Series’ on DVD.” I want to go to there.
J. “James at 15” (1977 – 1978): Based on the novel by James Wakefield and preceded by a TV movie which shared its title, “James at 15″ was the story of James Hunter, whose college-professor father uprooted the family and moved them from Oregon to Boston. Poor James had a rough time of it, finding it hard to fit into his new surroundings, and thus a series was born. Critics loved it because it was the closest thing to a realistic teen drama that TV had seen at that point, but the show courted controversy when James lost his virginity to a Swedish exchange student (we should all have that great a first-time story), and the writers and producers constantly battled with the NBC brass. In the end, the show may have survived a name change to “James at 16,” but it still only lasted a single season.
K. “The Knights of Prosperity” (2007): Damn you, Mick Jagger. If you’d only had the sense of humor to maintain your association with this series and allow it to keep its original title, “Let’s Rob Mick Jagger,” then maybe it would’ve lasted more than 13 episodes. Actually, that wasn’t its original original title – before Jagger, it was Jeff Goldblum – but it’s the one that it held when ABC officially picked up the series. The show had tremendous positive buzz in Fall 2006, but the network foolishly decided to hold off from premiering the series until January 2007 because of the success of “Dancing with the Stars,” and even when it finally hit the air, they never seemed to be behind it as much as they should’ve been. Every episode I saw of the series was hilarious, however, and it’d be nice to be able to watch them in the comfort of my own home.
L. “L.A. Law” (1986 – 1994): Not obscure at all, but certainly as inexplicable an omission from DVD shelves as I can think of. This series combined humor, drama, and the law in a way that only “Boston Legal” has managed to match, plus, it had that great Mike Post theme song. Seriously, is there any valid explanation as to why this show isn’t out yet?
M. “Manimal” (1983): The only ’80s series that matches it as a punchline is “Misfits of Science,” but despite the fact that I’d love to see both series again mostly to gauge how badly their special effects – which weren’t even very good in ’83 – have aged, I’m giving this one the edge because it had voiceovers from William Conrad. Also, as of this writing, it only takes one quick trip over to eBay to score yourself a “Manimal” t-shirt. That spells fan dedication, people, and that means there are people out there who wouldn’t hesitate to buy a complete-series set of this show.
N. “The Norm Show” (1999 – 2001): No one ever said that Norm MacDonald wasn’t an acquired taste, but the ones who’ve acquired it just can’t get enough of the sarcastic, cynical bastard, and I’m one of them. (I stand by my opinion that “Dirty Work” is an underrated comedic classic.) The fact that the incredibly hot Nikki Cox and the incredibly funny Laurie Metcalfe were part of Norm’s ensemble is just gravy; the real star here is Mr. MacDonald and his unmatched comedic delivery.
O. “Open All Night” (1981 – 1982): There’s probably less chance of this short-lived sitcom about a guy who owns a 24-hour convenience store coming to DVD than anything else on this list. It didn’t last long, there’s no one in the cast of note, and the reason most people remember it is because it featured a slightly surreal guest appearance by David Letterman. Still, the British series which inspired it just earned a release, so you never know.
P. “The PJ’s” (1999 – 2001): Granted, this Eddie Murphy Claymation project never hit the heights that everyone hoped it would, but it’s virtually the only animated series from the Fox archives that hasn’t yet made it to DVD. You’d think Murphy’s name alone would be enough to get it onto shelves. Maybe they’re waiting for him to find his way back into another successful film before they spring it on the marketplace. If that’s the case, then it’s a crap shoot as far as when we can expect it, but all we’re saying is that greenlighting “Beverly Hills Cop IV” might help its chances considerably.
Q. “The Quest” (1976): Since “Quark” was released, there just aren’t many that series starting with a “Q” that I have any interest in seeing on DVD, but when I read about this western starring Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson, my curiosity was piqued. The storyline goes like this: brothers Morgan and Quentin Bodine are seeking the whereabouts of their long-lost sister, Patricia, who’s being being held by the Cheyenne Indians. Morgan himself was a captive of the Cheyenne for eight years, so he’d have an interest in seeing her freed even if she wasn’t his sister, while Quentin is a young physician from San Francisco; together, the pair cross the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains in search of Patricia. The good news: western fans loved the show, and it earned an Emmy for its costuming. The bad news: the show was canceled before Morgan and Quentin found their sister. But surely they did find her. Right? Right?!?
R. “Remote Control” (1987 – 1991): Yeah, we know, the cost of licensing of this show would be hellish, but, man, it was so great. It would be legendary if had done nothing but bring the phrase “Dead or Canadian” into the popular lexicon, but it also introduced the world to Adam Sandler (The Studboy!) and Colin Quinn, let us see Denis Leary’s Andy Warhol and Keith Richards impressions, and allowed us to gaze longingly at Kari Wuhrer without forcing us to endure her attempts at acting. There was Ken’s cousin Flip, who laughed his way through various TV themes, and Ranger Bob, who gave questionable camping tips. And let’s not forget such great question categories as “Brady Physics” and “Inside Tina Yothers.” Classic, classic stuff.
S. “Stark Raving Mad” (1999 – 2000): Between Tony Shaloub’s success on “Monk” and Neil Patrick Harris’s comedic renaissance via “How I Met Your Mother” and the “Harold & Kumar” flicks, it’s amazing no-one’s bothered to issue this short-lived series on DVD, particularly given the fun coincidence that Harris’s character on the show shares a trait with Shaloub’s current character: he’s a germophobe with obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
T. “Tales of the Gold Monkey” (1987 – 1991): Here’s proof positive that, when you get an idea for a piece, you need to turn it around as quickly as possible. The original draft for this feature offered up “thirtysomething” in this spot, but before I could finish writing all of the entries, I got word that Shout Factory was finally going to make the DVD release of that series a reality. As a result, I fell back on this semi-classic, which – along with “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” – emerged in 1982 as the broadcast networks attempted to reproduce the success of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on the small screen. Ironically, though, creator Don Bellisario (“Magnum PI,” “NCIS”) had actually pitched the idea a few years earlier and had it shot down because the execs didn’t think viewers would want to watch a show set in the 1930s.
U. “Unhappily Ever After” (1995 – 1999) – Okay, I think we all know that this was, at its worst, the most overt “Married with Children” rip-off of all time, but it had at least two things going for it…and, no, I’m not going with the obvious punchline of “Nikki Cox.” Oh, wait, yes, I am, actually. (I know I’m a complete pig, but, seriously, guys, watch the below clip of her bouncing up and down on her bed and tell me the joke didn’t have to be made.) But I’ll even throw in a third thing and note that having Bobcat Goldthwait provide the voice of a smoking, drinking, and perverted stuffed bunny was so bizarre that it warranted a certain amount of laughter on general principle.
V. “Vengeance Unlimited” (1998 – 1999): There is absolutely nothing that I can say about this show’s absence from the DVD market that its star, Michael Madsen, didn’t say better when I interviewed him.
“It’s a big mystery to me why ‘Vengeance: Unlimited’ hasn’t been released on a DVD set like every other fucking television show that’s ever been produced in the history of the world. You can walk into Tower Records and buy these great disc sets, these really cool, great shows like ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Have Gun, Will Travel’ and ‘The Rifleman,’ and all these great TV shows. I mean, you can buy ‘em now, a full set of every episode…and where is ‘Vengeance: Unlimited’? Where in the hell is it? Why is Warner Brothers not releasing it? Why? And no one can answer that question. Even (executive producer) John McNamara can’t tell me why. That was a great show. It had a huge following. You tell me, what was the mentality of the network executive who took that thing off the air? That thing was a great show, and a great character. If they just would’ve given it one more season, it would still be on. I know it would.”
See? I told you. And he’s right: it was a great show. If they put it out on DVD, I guaran-damn-tee you that talk of a “Vengeance: Unlimited” revival would start up immediately…and you can damned well bet that Madsen would jump at the chance to reprise his role as Mr. Chapel.
W. “When Things Were Rotten” (1975): This Robin Hood parody came to us courtesy of Mel Brooks, starting with the premise that the good Mr. Hood was a complete idiot and that his Merry Men weren’t many IQ points away from achieving the same status. Lots of notable ’60s and ’70s names were in the cast, including Dick Gautier (Hymie on “Get Smart”), Dick Van Patten (Tom Bradford, the patriarch on “Eight Is Enough”), Bernie Kopell (Doc from “The Love Boat”), and Misty Rowe, who was one of the so-called “Hee Haw” Honeys, and it seems as though everyone who ever saw the show during its brief original airing thought it was hilarious…or, at least, that’s the vibe you get when you read the comments over at IMDb.com, anyway.
X. “Xavier: Renegade Angel” (2007 – present): I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, even with the proliferation of Adult Swim shows coming to DVD, this one still hasn’t made it to stores. It’s more surprising that it ever made it to air in the first place, really, given that its co-creator, Vernon Chatman (“Wonder Showzen”), called the show “a warning to children and adults about the dangers of spirituality.” I mean, right there, you’re guaranteeing yourself a cult audience at best. Actually, Chatman revealed to The Onion A.V. Club that plans are indeed afoot to make fans’ dreams come true, assuring them that Seasons 1 and 2 are forthcoming in the near future, but ever since we got burned by the interminable wait for “The State” on DVD – a wait that is finally almost over, thank heavens – we have to treat these things as pipe dreams until we actually get a press release from the studios that makes the release official.
Y. “You Can’t Do That On Television” (1979 – 1990): This show’s absence is as big a mystery as anything on the list. I guess we should’ve figured that if former cast member Alanis Morissette’s international success couldn’t even get it released, then nothing was going to be able to accomplish it. We were teased with the possibility a couple of years ago, when TVShowsOnDVD.com heard rumblings that it might finally emerge; sadly, however, it came to naught – possibly (but not definitely) because of the Viacom restructuring back in 2006, and nothing’s been heard about a reversal of fortune for the show since then. Come on, Nickelodeon, would you go ahead and slime us already?!?
Z. “Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane” (1999 – 2000): Truth be told, the chances of this show seeing release shot up dramatically…well, y’know, relatively speaking…when one of its stars, Selma Blair, scored the high profile gig as one of the title characters in NBC’s remake of Australian sitcom “Kath & Kim.” Unfortunately, once the show premiered and people started to realize that it wasn’t nearly as funny as it should’ve been, those chances plummeted back to their original depths. Now that I think about it, the fact that another of its stars played Lex Luthor for multiple seasons on “Smallville” (Michael Rosenbaum) didn’t help it escape from the vaults, either. Weird. I remember it as being pretty funny.
Tags: AfterM*A*S*H, BJ and the Bear, CPO Sharkey, Darkroom, Ed, Flying Blind, Get A Life, House Calls, It's Your Move, James at 15, Kaz, L.A. Law, Lobo, Midnight Caller, Open All Night, Remote Control, Stark Raving Mad, Tales of the Gold Monkey, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, The Norm Show, The PJ's, The Quest, Unhappily Ever After, Vengeance Unlimited, W*A*L*T*E*R, When Things Were Rotten, Xavier: Renegade Angel, You Can't Do That On Television, Zoe Duncan Jack & Jane