Is the b&w era of TV on DVD slowly coming to an end?

GMBurns

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Well, 2020 has been a dud of a year for black and white tv series on dvd. Thanks to a bonus from work, I did finally buy seasons 3-5 of My Three Sons, but those were released in 2019, and the prospects for the future are grim.

I have been feeling nostalgic this weekend so I want to give a Shout out (pun intended) to Timeless Media. I was watching an episode of Mr. Lucky and reminiscing (to myself, mainly) about the heady days when TMG was releasing all kinds of b&w tv series. They had a decided reputation for westerns, many of which I have purchased, but they released a lot of dramatic series in b&w also. In addition to Mr. Lucky I have really enjoyed: Medic, Soldiers of Fortune, West Point, Harbor Command, M Squad, Peter Gunn, Johnny Stacatto, The Third Man (10 measly episodes, would have loved more), Coronado 9, Checkmate, 87th Precinct, Going My Way and Arrest & Trial. I think I might have a few others, but those are the ones that come to mind. All great trips down memory lane courtesy of TMG. It was a great ride while it lasted.
 

Jeff Flugel

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Speaking of black-and-white westerns, though not from Timeless...a while back, I had sent an email query to the Warner Archive podcast, thanking them for their classic TV releases, especially their stable of westerns which I have enjoyed very much. Then I asked them specifically about what the hold-up was with releasing the half-hour show, Colt .45. At first I thought it was an issue that they weren't willing to discuss on the podcast. It took a while, but, much to my surprise, podcast host and Warner Archive guru George Feltenstein actually addressed my letter (which co-host Matt Patterson read out in slightly truncated form) in the most recent podcast from October 13th. I had asked, very politely but somewhat incredulously, whether the lack of release of Colt .45 on DVD was due to music rights clearance issues...thinking that a more likely answer was corporate concern about lack of sales for that kind of lesser-known vintage TV show, transfer quality issues, etc. Mr. Feltenstein gave a (perhaps predictable) answer that I nonetheless appreciated.

Basically, the situation with Colt. .45 is two-fold. On the one hand, the episodes need to be mastered. I imagine, though he didn't say so, that Colt .45 hadn't had much in the way of syndication reruns and thus likely hasn't been touched for decades. More specifically, the problem does indeed seem to be the dreaded music rights clearances, which, along with needing to be mastered, is "an expensive proposition." Feltenstein noted that Colt .45, along with the even more desired WB detective series, often used "needle drop cues" from third party music libraries, and that, while they know who owns some of them, for others it's a "quagmire" to track down who owns the music.

Patterson chimed in at one point and said, "Miracles happen," to which Feltenstein agreed and added, "All it takes is someone to be willing to help join in the efforts," which I take to mean these third party music rights owners being willing to come to terms agreeable to both parties.

I think the general takeaway from all of this is that the chances of seeing Colt. 45 (and the WB detective shows) is slim to none...which, frankly, many members here have already accepted as the reality. I remain surprised that WA could clear all those songs Peggy Castle sings in seasons 2 - 4 of Lawman, for example, yet couldn't do the same for Colt .45, which surely had far fewer songs incorporated into the episodes. This is only speculation, of course, not having seen any of Colt .45, much as I'd like to. I've no doubt that Lawman having a substantial repeat run over the years certainly factored into things.

Finally, judging by Warner Archive's meager output of classic television over the past several years, as well as the drying up of similar offerings from the other studios and boutique labels, we are certainly, as Gary OS said, in the final death throes of pre-1960s (heck, even pre-1980s) content released on physical media.
 
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ClassicTVMan1981X

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Speaking of black-and-white westerns, though not from Timeless...a while back, I had sent an email query to the Warner Archive podcast, thanking them for their classic TV releases, especially their stable of westerns which I have enjoyed very much. Then I asked them specifically about what the hold-up was with releasing the half-hour show, Colt .45. At first I thought it was an issue that they weren't willing to discuss on the podcast. It took a while, but, much to my surprise, podcast host and Warner Archive guru George Feltenstein actually addressed my letter (which co-host Matt Patterson read out in slightly truncated form) in the most recent podcast from October 13th. I had asked, very politely but somewhat incredulously, whether the lack of release of Colt .45 on DVD was due to music rights clearance issues...thinking that a more likely answer was corporate concern about lack of sales for that kind of lesser-known vintage TV show, transfer quality issues, etc. Mr. Feltenstein gave a (perhaps predictable) answer that I nonetheless appreciated.

Basically, the situation with Colt. .45 is two-fold. On the one hand, the episodes need to be mastered. I imagine, though he didn't say so, that Colt .45 hadn't had much in the way of syndication reruns and thus likely hasn't been touched for decades. More specifically, the problem does indeed seem to be the dreaded music rights clearances, which, along with needing to be mastered, is "an expensive proposition." Feltenstein noted that Colt .45, along with the even more desired WB detective series, often used "needle drop cues" from third party music libraries, and that, while they know who owns some of them, for others it's a "quagmire" to track down who owns the music.

Patterson chimed in at one point and said, "Miracles happen," to which Feltenstein agreed and added, "All it takes is someone to be willing to help join in the efforts," which I take to mean these third party music rights owners being willing to come to terms agreeable to both parties.

I think the general takeaway from all of this is that the chances of seeing Colt. 45 (and the WB detective shows) is slim to none...which, frankly, many members here have already accepted as the reality. I remain surprised that WA could clear all those songs Peggy Castle sings in seasons 2 - 4 of Lawman, for example, yet couldn't do the same for Colt .45, which surely had far fewer songs incorporated into the episodes. This is only speculation, of course, not having seen any of Colt .45, much as I'd like to. I've no doubt that Lawman having a substantial repeat run over the years certainly factored into things.

Finally, judging by Warner Archive's meager output of classic television over the past several years, as well as the drying up of similar offerings from the other studios and boutique labels, we are certainly, as Gary OS said, in the final death throes of pre1960s (heck, even pre-1980s) content released on physical media.
So if not only if they won't release it on DVD, then it will not be available for streaming, either? This means whatever is not released is also "censored" from further reruns.

~Ben
 
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bmasters9

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So if not only if they won't release it on DVD, then it will not be available for streaming, either? This means whatever is not released is also "censored" from further reruns.

~Ben
That would seem to be about the size of it-- if it's not the short, 10-episode seasons (or "limited series") of today, it doesn't seem to make much money for the studios these days.
 

Jeff Flugel

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So if not only if they won't release it on DVD, then it will not be available for streaming, either? This means whatever is not released is also "censored" from further reruns.

~Ben
They said nothing about streaming, Ben...I know that packages of several episodes for most of the detective shows were on the Warner Archive Instant streaming service a few years back. I wouldn't completely rule out something similar (perhaps an "Archive" section of HBO Max?) happening at some stage...though, as Ben M. states, the level of perceived interest might be considered low by the studios.
 

ClassicTVMan1981X

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They said nothing about streaming, Ben...I know that packages of several episodes for most of the detective shows were on the Warner Archive Instant streaming service a few years back. I wouldn't completely rule out something similar (perhaps an "Archive" section of HBO Max?) happening at some stage...though, as Ben M. states, the level of perceived interest might be considered low by the studios.
Jeff,

This means there may still be hope for some of these to be out on DVD, because not all of us believe in having to pay monthly for a streaming service to see stuff like this.

~Ben
 
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Jeff Flugel

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Jeff,

This means there may still be hope for some of these to be out on DVD, because not all of us believe in having to pay monthly for a streaming service to see stuff like this.

~Ben
Well, Ben, I admire your optimism! You never know, we might get lucky and get some more cool vintage stuff to come out at some point in the future. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy all the goodies we were fortunate enough to have seen released by Timeless, CBS/Paramount, Shout!, TGG, ClassixFlix, Warner Archive and others.
 

Jack P

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Overall I think the ones I regret not having seen emerge from Warner would be Season 2 of "The Eleventh Hour" (there's an interrupted crossover story with "Dr. Kildare" I've never been able to see the finish of!), plus "Cain's Hundred" (since FSM did release the music for that show). "The Alaskans" was really the one remaining Warner Western I would have given a chance. The detective shows would have been nice to see and I regret the issues that caused them to remain in a perpetual black hole. History will record that the lack of foresight on music issues for future formats was the most damaging thing to the long-term history of classic TV preservation.

But at the same time I am happy that I got all of "The FBI", "Dr. Kildare", "The Girl From UNCLE", "Tarzan", "Maverick" and "The Lieutenant". Even some shows that I didn't become overly fond of like S1 of "The Eleventh Hour" and "Sam Benedict" were interesting to go through for the occasional gem that did pop up.
 

Jack P

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And from outside Warner, the failure to see "Burke's Law" completed on DVD will forever remain the biggest blight in my collection as far as B/W shows are concerned. It's the failure to see that completed that I confess makes me resent a bit more the overdoing of lesser known titles from the western genre that we had to see.
 
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LouA

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And from outside Warner, the failure to see "Burke's Law" completed on DVD will forever remain the biggest blight in my collection as far as B/W shows are concerned. It's the failure to see that completed that I confess makes me resent a bit more the overdoing of lesser known titles from the western genre that we had to see.
I watched and enjoyed the Burke’s Law DVD ‘s that we’re released . Too bad the series stalled.
Most of us posting here have certain “grail shows “ we were really pulling for to get a “genuine” release.
For me it would be People’s Choice.
But there were several others .
So while it’s nice to have other favorites , for example , Sea Hunt, Have Gun Will Travel , Abbott & Costello Show, Adventures Of Superman, Father Knows Best ,
it’s frustrating that we have gaps in our collections.
Still you never know.....
 

Neil Brock

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I watched and enjoyed the Burke’s Law DVD ‘s that we’re released . Too bad the series stalled.
Most of us posting here have certain “grail shows “ we were really pulling for to get a “genuine” release.
For me it would be People’s Choice.
But there were several others .
So while it’s nice to have other favorites , for example , Sea Hunt, Have Gun Will Travel , Abbott & Costello Show, Adventures Of Superman, Father Knows Best ,
it’s frustrating that we have gaps in our collections.
Still you never know.....
I filled in those gaps with the tens of thousands of shows recorded off air and from 16mm transfers. Only collecting TV on DVD is the equivalent of only collecting music if it comes out on CD. It eliminates more than it includes.
 
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Neil Brock

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So if not only if they won't release it on DVD, then it will not be available for streaming, either? This means whatever is not released is also "censored" from further reruns.

~Ben
The only reason you saw what you did on Warner streaming is that those shows were mastered to tape when they made a big sale to Good Life TV. Colt .45 wasn't in that package and would require 35mm transfers which are expensive. If a show was never put to tape, then there aren't elements available for it to be seen in any form. That goes for The Alaskans and other WB shows as well. The MGM shows which Warner owns do have tape elements as Ted Turner transferred the whole library to one-inch when he owned the company. That's why they were able to put out something like Mr. Novak. They didn't have to spend a fortune for transfers as they just pulled the 35 year old one-inches off the shelf and put them to DVD.
 

smithbrad

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I filled in those gaps with the tens of thousands of shows recorded off air and from 16mm transfers. Only collecting TV on DVD is the equivalent of only collecting music if it comes out on CD. It eliminates more than it includes.
Same could be said if one is overly focused in one area. I prefer to spread my time across TV series (200+), movies across genre's and decades (3000+), sports (primarily basketball games, 1500+ from 1975 through 2016), film serials, concerts, etc. Combined I have more than I can watch within my lifetime. Regardless what we choose to collect we are always eliminating more than it includes.
 

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