Friday, September 05, 2008

Complete Bastards

For a long while it has become increasingly obvious that television dramas are best watched from a DVD boxset. That way the narrative isn’t interrupted by commercial breaks for car insurance, hair care products and celebrities bigging up supermarkets. It also means as a viewer you aren’t at the mercy of channel schedulers who either stick the programme into an inconveniently late time slot or disappear it all together.

Of course the drawback is that companies putting out the various shows on DVD aren’t simply doing it just for our benefit. If they don’t sell enough units to receive a decent return, the releases are liable to grind to a halt. Hill Street Blues hasn’t got beyond the second season, Fox have halted NYPD Blue in its tracks at season four, and it doesn’t look like St Elsewhere is going to get beyond its first year, which is a shame.

Still, there’s always a glimmer of hope. Sony left a whole three year gap between the second and third years of The Shield, then hurriedly spat out the further seasons in a bid to catch up. But for fans who doggedly buy a show on DVD, season by season until the very end, it’s got to be particularly galling when the company releasing them then brings out a special complete series set that includes additional extras beyond what was originally offered.

For fans of Seinfeld, Sony again seriously rubbed their noses it in by putting out a 33-disc Complete Collection, that a 226-page coffee table book, right on the back of season nine’s release. Meanwhile Warner Home Video knocked out The Complete West Wing, which contained the Region 1 extras that hadn’t been made available in the individual UK boxsets.

With Christmas soon to be looming on the horizon, Warner are poised to release The Sopranos – Deluxe Edition. Along with all 86 episodes of David Chase’s New Jersey mob family drama, deleted scenes and commentaries, the set includes Alec Baldwin interviewing Chase, cast and crew discussing the series finale over two sit-down dinners, and numerous spoofs and parodies.

It also features “The Whacked Sopranos” panel discussion from March 2007. Held at New York’s Museum of Television and Radio, now renamed The Paley Center for Media, the special event saw actors Steve Buscemi, Drea de Matteo, Vincent Pastore, David Proval and Annabella Sciorra take to the stage to discuss their character’s untimely, and usually bloody, demise.

The previously released individual seasons of The Sopranos weren’t exactly cheap. So this new arrival, along with Deadwood: The Complete Series, which is coming out on Region 1 DVD in December and trumpeting a bonus disc of all new material, has really got to stick in the craw of anybody who has already forked out for them.

It’s bad enough that various movies are re-released on Special Edition or Definitive Edition discs, but if companies like Warner and Sony are going to take up this practise of bringing out better packaged editions of particular television dramas long after their initial costly release, what are we expected to do? Ignoring the original releases and waiting to see what eventually comes out seems to be a plan.

But if nobody takes any interest to begin with the company may think there simply isn’t an audience out there. While we twiddle our thumbs in anticipation, they cut their losses by simply knocking it on the head and then nobody gets to see it. There are times when capitalism really sucks.


At 10:14 pm, Blogger Ian said...

Complete bastards isn't the half of it. The Sopranos had three cracks at boxsets as I recall. First individual volumes. Then big ugly boxes for the first two seasons which just took the individual volumes and put them in a box with a pull-tag on, then reissued again in proper digipacks to match the rest of the seasons.

The cure is simple (although it's taken me ten years to suss it) - just stop BUYING DVDs. Screw the companies the way they're screwing us. Purchased DVDs just take up too much space (and at London rents for space...) and are rarely worth more than a single watch. If you really need a second or third viewing rent them at the time you're ready for that viewing - cheaper than wasting storage space.

I'm using LoveFilm now. They even do Blu-Ray and if I don't mind paying extra I can have a new DVD every day if I send them back quickly enough.

At 1:42 pm, Blogger rob said...

I still can't believe they stopped at series two of Hill Street Blues; although they still haven't released the second series of Twin Peaks so it shouldn't be such a surprise.

That can't be right, can it? I mean, you can buy eight series of Murder She Wrote if you have a mind to...

At 4:12 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


Yeah, the first couple seasons of The Sopranos had a pretty weird release didn’t it? Wasn’t season two broken in individual discs with a couple of episodes on?

That may have been because initial sales of the first season weren’t so great. I remember having a chat with the PR for DD about the release of Secret Army some years back. Because they didn’t expect massive sales the first couple of series went out as bare-bones releases. When more units that expected sold they got cast members together and the interviews went out with the third and final year.

Obviously the companies have to take initial expenditure into consideration to make sure they get a worthwhile return but it’s still a fucker for fans interested in having the new extras.

Back in 2001 A&E released the 16-disc boxset of The Avengers - The Complete Emma Peel Megaset. Five years later they released a 17-disc version that included a bonus disc with close to four hours that included various documentaries and promotional items and, rather bizarrely, some of the recently discovered first-season Ian Hendry episodes. Because fans had already bought the initial set, the company also released the bonus disc as a separate item. Shame other companies don’t follow their practice.

Stopping buying DVDs is a good idea, and would save money, but I’ve become very selective anyway. I only buy discs I know I’m going to watch again and again.


Last year in the US they brought out Twin Peaks - The Definitive Gold Box Edition with the first and second seasons and all the requisite bells and whistles. Whether it eventually reaches these shores is anyone’s guess. I’m surprised Playback haven’t released the second season, even if it was one of their usual, stripped-down, bare-bones sets.

I’m really pissed about Hill Street Blues not continuing. If I had the full series of that and thirtysomething you wouldn’t hear anymore moaning from me.

It is strange wandering around HMV or wherever and seeing absolute tommyrot like Murder, She Wrote or Home Improvement. Actually, it’s bloody annoying.

At 5:15 pm, Blogger John Soanes said...

Agree completely - so many versions, with the intriguing extras often only in the later-released ones.
And I have a horrible suspicion that they're already working out some way to do the same multi-offering with Blu-Ray. Pah.


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