DVD Tuesday: Nothing This Week

Every Tuesday I take a look at obscure and/or classic television programs, specials, miniseries or made-for-TV movies being released on DVD. For the record I consider anything broadcast prior to 1980 to be classic or else there wouldn’t be much to discuss. The releases referred to in these posts are encoded for Region 1 use in the United States and Canada.

It’s the first week of April and there are no releases of interest for fans of classic television. The earliest season set out today is the fourth season of Simon & Simon, broadcast during the 1984-1985 season. But there have been a lot of recent announcements through TVShowsOnDVD.com, chief among them the news that both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman will finally be coming to DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, perhaps in conjunction with Time-Life. Nothing definitive has been announced but all signs point to uncut, remastered episodes with bonus features, with a release date of Fall 2010 or perhaps sometime in 2011. A bit more information is available at Kenneth Johnson’s website.

Other announcements include the unreleased 1953 I Love Lucy movie and other “rarities” in a single DVD; the movie and other features were originally released as part of the complete series in in 2007; an abridged version of Irwin Allen’s 1978 The Return of Captain Nemo miniseries through Warner Archive; the third season of The Patty Duke Show and the fifth season of Adam-12.

And look forward to an abundance of classic and even relatively rare/obscure releases later this month.

3 Replies to “DVD Tuesday: Nothing This Week”

  1. On the subject of unreleased materials of Mr. Irwin Allen, I would like to put in a kind word for a DVD release of ‘Irwin Allen’s Swiss Family Robinson’, a fondly remembered series from the seventies.

    Mr. Allen had scored at hat trick for the Alphabet in the ’60s with three hit young adult series: ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’, ‘The Time Tunnel’ and ‘Land of the Giants’ (also ‘Lost in Space’ for the Eye). As his sixties series fell to cancellations, Mr. Allen wrote, directed and produced CITY BENEATH THE SEA, a backdoor pilot for NBC that was praised but went nowhere.

    Mr. Allen then turned his attentions to feature film, directing two mammoth blockbusters, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO that made his brand golden in Hollywood.

    Based on these huge theatrical successes, coupled with his sixties series triumphs, Mr. Allen was highly coveted by the networks to ply his magic again for the tube, and he was subsequently signed up to produce a couple of backdoor pilots. ADVENTURES OF THE QUEEN was written for CBS which aired on February 14, 1975, garnering an awful February Sweep rating of 13.0HH/23%; CBS never returned calls about that series.

    Then on Tuesday April 15, 1975, in a special two-hour ‘ABC Tuesday Movie of the Week’ (pre-empting ‘Happy Days’), THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON backdoor pilot aired and got a commanding 22.5HH/37% rating in the Nielsens, crushing THE VIRGINIA HILL STORY on the ‘NBC World Premiere Movie’ (12.8HH/20%) and besting CBS’s powerhouse ‘Good Times’/’M*A*S*H’/’Hawaii Five-O’ lineup.

    About a month later at upfront, ABC announced that ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ would go to series and lead off Sunday nights. In the fall of 1975, the networks were given back an hour from prime access and could go four hours on Sunday nights as long as the first hour was devoted to family-oriented programming, which was later defined to also include sports, news/documentary, telemovies/theatricals and variety series/special programming.

    There was much anticipation for the series, and the earliest wave of ABC’s “Welcome to the Bright New World of ABC” promo bumpers heavily featured the new series, built around Mr. Milner fresh from ‘Adam-12’ and Mr. Allen, who brought you THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO.

    Then, in June 1975, Mr. Fred Silverman was recruited by ABC to jump over from CBS. Mr. Silverman, a legendary master of scheduling, knew where CBS was weak (he had put together their schedule), and he shifted ABC’s strategy for the fall of 1975, playing up ‘Happy Days’/’Welcome Back, Kotter’, ‘Baretta’/’Starsky & Hutch’ and the big theatricals coming to ABC that fall. Promos for ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ became scarce (and I seem to remember consigned mostly to Saturday kidvid), as the Alphabet turned all their promo efforts towards the series Mr. Silverman thought could strike Nielsen gold.

    Mr. Silvermans instincts were proved right, but it led to ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ preeming weaker than expected, and not really showing much growth thereafter. The only other new fall ABC program that Mr. Silverman tried to salvage was Fridays ‘Mobile One’, which swapped time periods with ‘The Barbary Coast’ in October.

    Through the fall, ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ performed respectfully, averaging a 16.1HH for the fall episodes vs. a 17.6HH for NBC’s ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ and a 8.7HH for CBS’s ‘Three for the Road’ which was cancelled.

    At midseason, CBS brought ’60 Minutes’ back from Sunday afternoons, and it doubled up on its predecessor with a 17.9HH second season average vs. 18.0HH for ‘Wonderful World of Disney’ and a 13.0HH for ‘Swiss Family Robinson’.

    In the second season, ABC (Mr. Silverman really), had lost faith in ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ and it got pre-empted for half the February Sweep, but not before airing a highly-promoted two-parter about Mr. Jean Lafitte, which I believe was pitched to spinoff-obsessed Mr. Silverman as a pirate-adventure series if it had rated well enough, which it didn’t.

    ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ got only a few more airings before the season ended and ‘Swiss Family Robinson’s’ 15.2HH season average (69th out of 97 series airing that year) didn’t make the ABC cutoff that year as it was cancelled. By the time of the May Sweep, ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ had finished its run of 21 episodes and was replaced with a shortflight series ‘The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau’ which ran into the summer season.

    All this a rather long-winded call-out to the folks at 20th-Television to round out the libraries of those who have collected the works of Mr. Irwin Allen by releasing this worthy series, which might have been a rather nice time period hit for ABC had Mr. Silverman stayed put at CBS…I cannot imagine him, ever, moving ’60 Minutes’ into primetime. I remember Miss Cher LaPiere was hugely displeased with getting a newsmagazine as a lead-in to her January 1976 midseason re-union variety show ‘The Sonny & Cher Show’ which replaced her cancelled ‘Cher’ series from the fall of 1975.

  2. It’s a bit of a shame that Irwin Allen’s last couple of TV sci-fi projects didn’t get off the ground. When I spoke with him in 1980, there had been plans afoot for two pilots, one called The Hunters and another called The Time Project. TV Guide mentioned them very briefly as being in the works, but Allen only liked to discuss what he was producing and promoting at the time, namely the Code Red series. The Hunters would have been pretty strange and atypical for IA, as was his later TV movie, Outrage.

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