Monday, June 18, 2012

Where are the Lost Classics?

With the advent of the summer TV rerun season -- I don't have cable -- I've turned more and more to stations that air either shows from cable or classic TV.  It's not like I watch a LOT of TV, but I like to crash occasionally, especially in the evenings, and watch some good TV that'll captivate me for an hour or two.  I have loved to see especially the classic shows of the late 1950's (I Love Lucy) and 1960's.  They just do not make them like that anymore.  Maybe the production values are better now, but not necessarily the stories and the writing, not to mention the acting.

"12 O'Clock High"
Out of curiosity, I decided to see if any DVDs were available.  Some were on DVD, but not 12 O'Clock High.  I was shocked.  This show is about the 918th Bomber Squadron (fictional) based in England during World War Two, led by General Frank Savage (Robert Lansing left) in season one.  The writing is superb, the acting exceptional.  I would have thought that WW2 and aviation buffs would love it.  ABC let the 3 seasons of this show go into the public domain.  Fortunately, I found a website that sold DVDs of all three seasons of the show.  The DVDs had been put together with a lot of love and care.  I'm quite happy with the DVDs I purchased from the site:

My experience with 12 O'Clock High made me curious about other shows from that same time period.  What was on DVD and what was lost?  So far, I've found two series that I loved that are not on DVD: Dr. Kildare, The Man Who Never Was, and T.H.E. Cat.  Will I find others?

Where are these lost classics and why aren't they available on DVD?

Is one reason like what happened to 12 O'Clock High"?  That is, the show failed to reach the magic 100 shows mark, wasn't syndicated, and who knows where the original masters of each episode are.  I had not known that a TV show could end up in the public domain, either.  That means the copyright holder didn't want to renew the copyright.

"Dr. Kildare"

And that may be a reason for classic TV shows missing in action as DVDs.  The copyright holders do not want to proceed with issuing DVDs.  Too expensive?  Maybe the masters need too much work before transferring them to digital format.  Or maybe the copyright holders believe the market doesn't exist for these shows.  Money always talks the loudest in these situations.  Marketing costs might be too high compared with potential sales.

Another issue perhaps: we now have so much material to put on DVD from TV shows, movies, and documentaries, why offer classic TV shows that may not sell the way more recent shows will sell?

I suppose with the economy wobbling the way it is, the presidential campaign starting to gain momentum, and the summer starting off with serious wildfires in the west and deluges in the east, classic TV shows wouldn't be terribly high on anyone's priority list.  But I say, wherever we can find comfort and inspiration is worth the time and effort.  And the bucks.

Like the adventures of Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat.....


Anonymous said...

Robert Loggia was T.H.E. Cat! and look, Robert Duvall appeared.

Gina said...

I wish this show had lasted longer than one season! The fact that Robert Duvall appeared in it for 2 episodes just underscores how good it was.

Thanks for your comment!