Everybody has their favorite TV shows that are maddeningly not available on DVD. Or, they’re out of print and one would need to sell a kidney to afford to buy a copy on eBay.
Here are some of my favorite shows currently unavailable or out-of-print:
1. Cindy – Originally broadcast on ABC in 1978 (I believe it was rerun only one time since on the Disney Channel), Cindy is a musical version of the Cinderella tale (sort of) set in World War II-era Harlem, featuring an all African-American cast. It stars Charlayne Woodard as Cindy and was Nell Carter’s television debut (she plays one of the stepsisters).
I recently found it online on YouTube, and it’s not as good as I remembered–it’s about A HUNDRED TIMES BETTER than I remembered. Cindy comes up from the South to live with her father and stepmother in Harlem. The stepmother and stepsisters hate her on sight and of course plot to keep her from a ball they are all preparing to attend.
There’s no magic or prince in the usual sense. The “prince” is a war hero, there are sneakers instead of glass slippers, and while it has a happily ever after, it’s not QUITE the same as in the original tale. It also breaks the “fourth wall” by having a band of jazz musicians show up whenever the characters sing a song.
My favorite scene of all is when Cindy is taken to church and told she can’t sing hymns with the same joy and enthusiasm as she did in her Baptist church back home. She just can’t help herself, and soon she has the staid city churchgoers signing Gospel with the same verve along with her.
Re-imagined versions of fairy tales are all the rage now, but this was one of the first, and in my opinion, one of the best. It is more than deserving of a DVD release so more people can enjoy it with a good quality print.
2. Made In Canada (aka The Industry) – This comedy show stars Rick Mercer as a Machiavellian-esque aspiring television executive who ruthlessly climbs the ladder of a Canadian film and television production company.
Having once worked for an American film and television production company, I can attest that this pretty much nails what it’s like to work in this sort of environment. It’s almost scary. I’ve often wondered if Mercer (also one of the creators/writers) had our office bugged. The only major difference is the Canadian accents.
The show, which ran for five seasons between 1998 – 2003 (it was broadcast here in the U.S. on A&E under the title The Industry), pokes fun not only at the entertainment industry in general, but at popular syndicated Canadian shows of the time, like Xena and Hercules (called Damacles here) and feel-good folksy shows like Little House On The Prairie and Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.
This is another show that breaks the fourth wall, with Mercer speaking directly to the audience about his nefarious plans. What I like most about the show is his character is not always infallible and sometimes finds himself in humiliating situations, like creating a cheap cable show or being exiled to Columbia because he was caught having sex with his boss’s daughter.
The first season was released on DVD (I bought a copy years ago for only five dollars). It’s now out of print and you have to pay through the nose to get it. The other seasons have never been released at all. Why, I have no idea, but it really deserves to be seen again.
3. When Things Were Rotten – Most people are familiar with Mel Brooks‘ movie spoof Robin Hood: Men In Tights, but don’t know that he did another Robin Hood spoof for TV called When Things Were Rotten.
This show only lasted 13 episodes in 1975, but I remember it was very funny. Robin Hood was played by Dick Gautier, and he and his band of Merry Men were a bunch of screw-ups who only prevailed because King John and the Sheriff Of Nottingham were even stupider.
Made at the height of Brooks’ most successful period in the mid-70s, it certainly deserves to be a part of his fans’ DVD collections.
4. Batman – Holy crying shame, Batman!
O.K., I get that we’re only supposed to see Batman now as the angst-ridden anti-hero of Christopher Nolan’s films, but come ON. The ’60s series is a classic–yes, a camp classic, but still a classic. When I was a kid, my friends and I considered it our favorite show. Give us a break and put it on DVD so we can have some WHIZZ-BAM-POW fun again.
5. Later seasons of WKRP In Cincinnati – Like Made In Canada, WKRP In Cincinnati only got a DVD release for its first season, which is CRIMINAL. Part of the problem may be music rights (fans were appalled when the release of the Season 1 videos and DVDs had many of the songs removed, which might explain why they didn’t bother with the other seasons).
The good news is that Season 1 includes one of the greatest Thanksgiving-themed sitcom episodes of all time, Turkeys Away. It’s very unusual for a TV series to produce an iconic episode so early in its first season, but WKRP did just that.
Still, I would love it if they would release the other seasons, which would include other classic episodes, such as Filthy Pictures, Parts 1 & 2, when the staff of WKRP tries to get back some nude pictures of receptionist Jennifer before they can be published. This is one of the great work-place comedies and the entire series should be available for all to enjoy.