Taking a glance at today’s new DVD releases (as we do on many a groggy Tuesday morn), we noticed the continuation of a disturbing pattern. Happily Divorced: Season One. The New Adventures of Old Christine: The Complete Fifth Season. Transformers Prime: Season One. “Fan Favorite” collections featuring the “best” of Hogan’s Heroes and Macgyver — since every season of those shows has already been released. And the question we ask (aside from “who the hell is buying this stuff”) is this: How is it that we get every single episode of Fran Drescher’s new TV Land sitcom a mere seven months after they aired, but we’re still waiting for our Wonder Years DVDs?
After the jump, we’ll take a look at a dozen great (or at least interesting) TV shows that are inexplicably unavailable on DVD, and try to figure out why.
The Wonder Years
ABC’s six-season coming-of-age-in-the-’60s story, starring Fred Savage as sweet little Kevin Arnold, regularly tops polls and articles concerning shows that should be on DVD but aren’t, and for good reason: it was a warm, funny, frequently heartbreaking piece of relatable television (particularly for those of us who were adolescents when it first aired). But it’s never been officially released on DVD in full-season format, for one simple reason: music. The series was scored with wall-to-wall period songs, and the trouble is, when the show first aired (1988-1993), DVD was still years away and TV shows were seldom released on VHS. So the music licensing agreements the show made with music publishers and performers only gave them the right to use those songs for television airings. (These days, most of those agreements have language that extends rights to any future media.) So that leaves the show with two options: either re-purchasing rights to all of those songs (which would prove prohibitively expensive), or replacing all of the music, as they did on the Best of ‘The Wonder Years’ and Best of the Christmas ‘Wonder Years’ compilation discs (and as WKRP in Cincinnati did for its sole full-season release to date), which is tremendously unpopular. So The Wonder Years may very well never hit DVD — though the show is available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon. There’s a catch: some (though not all) of the music has been replaced — including the Joe Cocker Woodstock version of “A Little Help From My Friends” during the opening credits.