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Wishing for some new 'old' TV-on-DVD sets

Thursday, August 25, 2011

As a TV consumer with both a long memory and a varied, yet voracious, appetite, I'm never surprised to find myself remembering pleasant viewing experiences from the past. Some of them are fuzzier around the edges, sure (and occasionally in black-and-white), but these memories of programs past are sure to remind me of two things: 1) I have watched/am watching/will continue to watch a great deal more television than most anyone I know, and 2) I kinda wish that more of these shows were readily available for viewing today.

The DVD series box set is a fantastic thing. I cannot express how much delight I experience while gobbling up set after set of my favorite shows. Being able to pop in a disc of favorite "Columbo" movies or episodes of the witty and wonderful 70s sitcom "The Bob Newhart Show" or whatever else I might want to re-watch on a whim is one of the greater joys of the home video age, at least for me.

Finding a show again on DVD is another happy event. Recently, I purchased box sets of a couple of shows that I had enjoyed years ago, but hadn't seen in some time. One was the Canadian/U.S. co-production "Due South," the story of a Mountie who, while investigating his legendary father's murder, teams up with a not-so-clean-cut Chicago detective. After looking for the discs off and on for several years, I stumbled across the first two season sets at a Target store, on sale for $5 a piece. It was a no-brainer of a purchase.

But I had a nagging fear. Would the show be as good as I remembered?

One viewing of the pilot convinced me that I shouldn't have worried. Written by Paul Haggis, who would go on to write some very successful major motion pictures, the "Due South" opener remains a crisp, funny and genuinely exciting piece of made-for-TV filmmaking. Paul Gross (as the extraordinarily polite and capable RCMP Constable Benton Fraser) and David Marciano (as the much looser-spirited Detective Ray Vecchio) make for a great pair, an action-oriented "Odd Couple," if you will. The best news, however, was that the series beyond the excellent pilot remained every bit as good as my memories had made it out to be. An update of this show isn't in the works as far as I know, but it still retains a freshnes nearly 20 years after it initially aired on CBS in the United States (and on CTV in Canada). Frankly, if someone had any interest in remaking this series - say, TNT or USA - I'd be interested in watching it.

While "Due South" was initially released to disc some years ago, as I mentioned before, many older series are just now being released to disc, which is good news for people whose memories are like mine, but for all the shows that are finally seeing the light of day, there are more than few that are sitting around gathering dust in a vault somewhere, perhaps never to see a release.

Two in particular spring to mind. The first is a very cool science-fiction/comedy/ action/romance hybrid called "Now and Again," which aired for one season on CBS in 1999-2000. Created by Glenn Gordon Caron, the writer of "Moonlighting" and "Medium," the show told the tale of an insurance salesman named Michael Wiseman who was killed by a subway train, then forced to become a secret agent for the government. (Yep, in that order.)

Witty, fast-paced and just plain fun, "Now and Again" featured terrific performances from actors Eric Close, Margaret Colin and - in a role far, far away from being the reassuring face and voice of Allstate Insurance - Dennis Haysbert, all at the service of a season-long overarching plot about a man who, after getting a second chance at life, simply wants to go home to his wife and daughter, but must save the world instead. I'm sure there are numerous reasons why this isn't on DVD - but I've yet to hear one. (And in case you're wondering, I've looked for clips of the show on YouTube, and only found the opening credits, featuring the show's cool, R&B-flavored theme music.)

The other show might be even more obscure, even though it (technically) had a two-season run. Originally airing on ABC, 1995's "The Marshal" was the continuing adventures of Deputy U.S. Marshal Winston MacBride, played by Jeff Fahey, who most recently had a two-season run as the shaggy-bearded pilot Frank Lapidus on "Lost."

Fahey's clean-shaven here, though, as a thoroughly dogged manhunter who would also rather talk his fugitives back into custody rather than draw his weapon - and at the end of the day, leaves his work at the front door of the quiet suburban house he shares with his wife and two young daughters. It was a great role for Fahey, a genuinely interesting actor who is too often seen in less-than-great projects (mostly because Fahey has no interest in the trappings of stardom, preferring to spend much of his time and money on philanthropic pursuits). Again, there are no DVDs of this series anywhere that I can find, and no plans to release any. (A YouTube search turned up a few short clips, which reminded me why I liked the show so much to begin with.)

But "The Marshal" is a show worth putting out on DVD. I can imagine that perhaps it's tied up in some legal mumbo-jumbo, and since it wasn't exactly the biggest hit of its time, there's no clamor for it to be released, but I know that I'd buy it - and right away, too.

Well, maybe not right away. But eventually. Heck, you get the idea.

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I subscribed to the NETFLIX streaming service several months ago. They have lots of choices but my two favorites have been WAGON TRAIN and GUNSMOKE. I have watched an episode of one or the other of these two great shows every day for weeks now. It will take at least one year of viewing every day to see the NetFlix archive of these two truly great shows. The best $7.99/month I have ever spent.(NetFlix does need a fast connection).

-- Posted by Big Chief on Fri, Aug 26, 2011, at 11:53 AM

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Jeremy Blomstedt
The Entertainment Center