18 February 2009

TV Series on DVD: Yay or Nay?

As of this moment, Amazon has sold out a limited number of That 70s Show: The Complete Series for $81.99.  It's a show I've enjoyed (though I think they should have ended the series at least one season before they did, if not two), and that is less than half the list price.  Other than being flat broke, why couldn't I have pulled the trigger on such a deal?

I think it's a psychological barrier I have toward owning TV series on home video.  You kids of the DVD/download generation won't understand, but I grew up in the VHS era.  Only a handful of TV series were ever released on VHS.  Primarily, these were golden age classics like The Andy Griffith Show or I Love Lucy; documentaries like Ken Burns's Civil War; animated children's fare like Transformers or sci-fi shows with cult followings like Star Trek.  Even at that, most of these home video releases contained a mere two episodes per tape and cost as much as movie.  In the case of the Star Treks, they held one episode per tape, though they were generally priced around $15 apiece whereas the feature films were priced around $20.

I can already hear you asking why, in an era of an entire season of a show for the price of a couple of individual episodes, I would still resist buying a TV series on DVD.  I think it has to do with buying habits.  Mine in regards to home video were formed at a time when TV shows just weren't something that we as a society were all that into owning.  When you've gone for so long not doing something, it's hard to get used to doing it.

I think another barrier for me is the idea of re-watchability.  Now, in all honesty, I can debunk this myself.  Truthfully, I rarely re-watch very many movies we have in our library, and I've probably sat through far more re-runs on TV than I ever watched first-run airings.  And yet, there's an idea that if I had a TV season, I would only watch it on DVD once.  I'm not saying this is rational, mind you.  I'm just saying these are the hold-ups for me when it comes to buying a TV series on DVD.

Still, I've recently become more open to the idea.  Mostly, this is because I've been reflecting on the 1980s as a consequence of having read President Reagan's memoirs recently.  At some point, it occured to me that some of the cartoons I loved as a kid are rarely aired on TV anymore; certainly, not when I'm awake and looking for something to watch.  I got to thinking of such series as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; Transformers, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and ThunderCats.  I've researched them, and discovered that there were only two seasons of He-Man and ThunderCats, each spread across four volumes of DVDs.  There are another three volumes of She-Ra, Princess of Power.  Transformers and G.I. Joe were edited for their DVD release with new sound effects that no one seemed to have liked.  Hasbro re-acquired the rights to these series last year, though to date no re-issues have been announced.

Then, there's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which first aired in 1987 and wrapped up in 1996, by which point I had long since abandoned them.  Were I to add this series to our library, where would I stop?  I don't remember myself when I definitively quit watching the Turtles, and it may well be that I would enjoy the later seasons today.  It's hard to know with something like that.

Anyway, here is the tentative list of series I enjoyed enough over the years that I would consider owning on DVD.  Some of these are already out in their entirety, some are stuck in rights limbo, and many are somewhere between.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force (I have the first three volumes, and I love the randomness of this series)
  • Batman Beyond (not a huge fan, but it has a place in the Bruce Timm DC Universe I love so much, and Kevin Conroy continues to voice Bruce Wayne, so there's that)
  • Batman: The Animated Series (a cheat, since I actually already have all four volumes)
  • The Boondocks (hands down, one of the greatest shows ever to appear on [adult swim])
  • Burn Notice (the best show on TV today)
  • Cheers (my gold standard for a sitcom)
  • Dallas (I watched it as a kid with my parents, each on their weekend; I re-watched the series in its entirety in '96 on TNN and was completely addicted)
  • The Dukes of Hazzard (I cried from my playpen when an episode would end; along with Dallas, a staple of TNN in '96)
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (my brother and I loved the animated series and the action figures; I also read and loved the comic book, scripted by Larry Hama)
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (the first animated series of my generation, as far as I'm concerned)
  • Homicide: Life on the Street (I wish I'd bought the complete series file cabinet when it was in print)
  • House, M.D. (my wife loves it as a medical drama; I love it as a comedy, and we already have the first three seasons on DVD)
  • Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (to be honest, I wasn't a huge fan, but it's the final act, it seems, of the Bruce Timm DCU)
  • Muppet Babies (the greatest Saturday morning cartoon of all time, bar none)
  • Psych (maybe not great, but certainly one of the most enjoyable shows I've ever seen; I already have the first two DVD releases)
  • Robot Chicken (as someone who bought the very first Winter Special edition of ToyFare, I can't help but love this series)
  • Seinfeld (the definitive 90s sitcom; I'm not sure about it, though, because I've found re-runs rarely make me laugh they way the episodes did the first time around)
  • She-Ra, Princess of Power (knock it all you want, this extended the He-Man universe and I enjoyed it for doing so)
  • Sherlock Holmes [1954-1955] (a friend lent this to my wife and me recently, and we completely fell in love with it)
  • The Sopranos (I'm content owning the individual season releases and will likely not upgrade to the complete series boxed set)
  • Star Trek (another cheat, as I already own all three seasons)
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (the greatest of all the Treks; would love a complete series boxed set)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (I already have the first two seasons)
  • Superman: The Animated Series (because I love what Bruce Timm did for the Man of Steel)
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (though, as described above, I don't know where to stop)
  • The Tick [animated] (I actually got up on Saturday mornings just for this series)
  • Transformers (Optimus Prime and Grimlock will never not be cool)
  • The Venture Brothers (possibly the finest of the [adult swim] series)

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