DVD Tuesday: Marcus Welby, M.D., Honeymooners Specials

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 Tuesday of May and today from Shout! Factory, for the first time in any home video format, comes Marcus Welby, M.D. – Season One. The popular medical drama starring Robert Young began as a made-for-TV movie broadcast on ABC in March of 1969 and a weekly series premiered in September of that year. It would remain on the air for seven seasons and 169 episodes, ending its run in July of 1969. This set includes the original pilot telefilm and all 26 episodes broadcast during the 1969-1970 season.

Also available today, from MPI Home Video, are a pair of Honeymooners specials starring Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Jane Kean. ABC broadcast four hour-long Honeymooners specials between 1976 and 1978 and the two out today are “The Honeymooners: Second Honeymoon” (originally broadcast February 2nd, 1976) and “The Honeymooners: Valentine Special” (originally broadcast February 13th, 1978). I believe this is the first time either of these specials has been made available. The other two specials, including the very last Honeymooners production, which aired on December 10th, 1978, may find their way to DVD at a later date.

BBC Video is releasing three Doctor Who serials today: Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon (story #61), Doctor Who: The Monster of Peladon (story #73) and Doctor Who: The Masque of Mandragora (story #86). The first two star Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor while the third stars Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. Finally, Acorn Media Group is releasing On the Road With Charles Kuralt: Set 2, containing 18 episodes made up of between three and five “On the Road” segments, which were originally broadcast as part of The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite between 1967 and 1980. The first set was released in October of 2009; a third set comes out in October of this year.

8 Replies to “DVD Tuesday: Marcus Welby, M.D., Honeymooners Specials”

  1. No one at ABC had any sense of what a breakout hit ‘Marcus Welby, M.D’ would become when its backdoor pilot aired on Wednesday March 26, 1969 garnering an acceptable 19.6HH/33%, which ultimately led to its pick-up to series and its placement on the fall sked in the Tuesday 10-11 pm timeslot, a time it occupied for its entire seven season run.

    In its premiere season, ‘Marcus Welby, M.D.’ averaged a 23.6HH, ending up in eighth place amongst all series that season. While ‘Marcus Welby, M.D.’ did well amongst A18-49s, it excelled at pulling in the W18-49 demographic…I think due to Mr. James Brolin, who became its breakout star. It was the number one W18-49 series in its first season, averaging a whopping 21.7, and edging out the number one show on tv in households, ‘Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In’, which averaged 20.4 in W18-49 that season.

    I am also thrilled to see that two of the four ‘Honeymooners’ specials have been released. These specials were ordered up and hit the air during Mr. Silverman’s tenure at ABC, and he scheduled both of them masterfully during the February Sweep, bringing in blockbuster ratings for the reprise of a then twenty-year old series. I haven’t seen them anywhere since their original broadcast, and always wondered why they weren’t chopped up into half-hours and mixed into the syndicated runs of ‘The Honeymooners’.

    ‘The Honeymooners’: “Second Honeymoon” broadcast on February 2nd, 1976 averaged a 24.8HH/45%, while ‘The Honeymooners’: “Valentine Special” broadcast February 13th, 1978 garnered a 24.4HH/35%.

    I lament the virtual disappearance of these type of reunion shows, which the networks used to sked as specials during Sweep periods. I don’t know why they disappeared as they were always big ratings gatherers…remember the ‘Happy Days’ anniversary reunion a few seasons ago?…it was the last major reunion show to grace broadcaster primetime, and it got a 12.5HH/19% with 19.9 million viewers watching back on February 3, 2005.

    Besides, cast reunion episodes also make for interesting extras to package into DVDs. Today, I suppose we must be thankful for cast reunions on ‘Good Morning America’ or ‘Entertainment Tonight’, although I doubt we’ll ever see them show up on a DVD.

    I’m not sure if anyone at the networks will read this, but here are some hit series in need of a well-deserved reunion special, especially before the demise of their casts and/or creators. I’ve omitted series like ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ or ‘The Mod Squad’ that have already had reunion specials, and excluded post-1980s series. And as much as I’d love to see a reunion of the surviving cast of ‘When Things Were Rotten’, I’ve excluded mention of some of the lower-rated series thinking that if it couldn’t make top 30 then, no network would greenlight a reunion today:

    -> ‘Alice’ (CBS) – perhaps Tommy going back to the diner with his mom, and humourously reflecting on all the changes time has wrought.
    -> ‘Barney Miller’ (ABC) – perhaps Mr. Hal Linden and Miss Barbara Barrie with the surviving precinct cast members looking at an old photo album that segues into highlights from the series.
    -> ‘Eight is Enough’ (ABC) – there are eight potential storyline tangents to build a special around.
    -> ‘M*A*S*H’ (CBS) – they could tie the series over to the Vietnam war much more poignantly than ‘Trapper John, M.D.’ did.
    -> ‘Mork & Mindy’ (ABC) – just to see Mr. Robin Williams as Mork one more time.
    -> ‘One Day at a Time’ (CBS) – it would be interesting to see the young Romano women grown up with their own kids.
    -> ‘The Partridge Family’ (ABC) – NBC tossed around the idea of a reboot this year; why not a reunion instead?
    -> ‘Police Woman’ (NBC) – as a retired Chief of Police consulting back on a cold case.
    -> ‘Rhoda’ / ‘Phyllis’ (CBS) – joy for Miss Valerie Harper, Tony Award nominee announced today.
    -> ‘Soap’ (ABC) – this could serve as a bittersweet comedic goodbye to the dying genre of daytime (and perhaps nighttime?) serials.
    -> ‘Taxi’ (ABC) – this could be very funny as most of the cast members are still alive and still have a very sharp comedic tack.

  2. The Happy Days reunion special was basically a best of clip show.

    Dynasty & Knots Landing did both reunion movies and reunion clip show specials that were produced by Henry Winkler.

    Eight is Enough already did two reunion movies.

    That Mary/Rhoda project wasn’t well received.

    After M*A*S*H killed any chances for a reunion.

  3. DuMont’s comment that “no one at ABC had any sense of what a breakout hit ‘MARCUS WELBY, M.D.’ would become” was certainly on the mark. In its second year, it became the first ABC series to rank number one for an entire season, helped by CBS’ low-rated alternating ‘CBS REPORTS’ /’60 MINUTES’ news hour and NBC’s weak Tuesday movies (which started at 9:00 PM, an hour before ‘WELBY’ began). In addition, Robert Young became the first actor to win a Emmy for lead performer on two different series–one for ‘WELBY’ and two for ‘FATHER KNOWS BEST.’
    As to the comment about ‘AfterMASH’ killing any chances for a reunion, not so: Fox aired a ‘M*A*S*H’ reunion special in February 2002; it featured most of the original cast except for Alan Alda and the late Larry Linville, along with Gene Reynolds, the late Larry Gelbart, and several of the writers. The cast and crew talked about their experiences, in between clips from the show’s 11-year run. But I agree with pBOB that the mediocre ‘MARY & RHODA’ TV movie on ABC in 2000 probably killed any chance of a new series with Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper. And also in February 2002, NBC aired an ‘L.A. LAW’ TV reunion film that brought back most of the original cast. It was better left a pleasant memory–but then, it aired around the time NBC was celebrating its 75th anniversary.

  4. Mike, the 2002 M*A*S*H 30th anniversary reunion special did include Alan Alda. As a huge fan of the show I am glad there was never a reunion movie. Retrospectives are one thing, and both M*A*S*H retrospectives (the first, “Memories of M*A*S*H,” aired in 1991) were quite good.

    I am trying to think of any recent reunion specials that were true scripted made-for-TV movies. There were The Dukes of Hazzard: Hazzard in Hollywood and the aforementioned Mary and Rhoda in 2000. And Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers in 2004. Plus that surreal “The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited” special in 2004, which was a scripted hour filled with plenty of clips.

    The 2005 Happy Days: 30th Anniversary Reunion special was a retrospective, as were The Brady Bunch 35th Anniversary Reunion Special: Still Brady After All These Years and The Carol Burnett Show: Let’s Bump Up the Lights from 2004, as well as The Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back to Mayberry in 2003.

    Wow. There have been quite a few reunion specials/retrospectives in the past decade, though none in the past five years that I can recall off the top of my head.

  5. Recently, there has been an absolute dearth of reunion specials in the last five years, either as scripted telemovies or clip-show/highlight special retrospectives. Suprising because I don’t think they cost that much (especially the highlight shows), and they always get a timeslot winning rating.

    None of the mininetworks have been in business long enough to have a long enough perspective for a reunion show, but that being said, FOX could conceivably do a ‘Married with Children’ retrospective or ’21 Jump Street’ re-union movie.

    Although NBC has the bad luck of not having many pre-1980 series that were hits where the stars are still around, they do have quite a few late ’80s sitcoms that are verging on reunioning…’The Cosby Show’, ‘Family TIes’, ‘Night Court’, ‘Dear John’.

    Furthermore, many of these specials lend themselves to encore airings, especially on the lazy summer Saturday nights where the networks don’t seem to know what to program to attract viewers. It would be a win-win for the studios too, as these reunion vehicles tend to stimulate sales of DVDs, especially for series that have most of their seasons out in box-sets already.

  6. Actually, DuMont, FOX has aired at least two reunion specials/retrospectives: Married… with Children Reunion in February of 2003 and Beverly Hills, 90210: 10 Year High School Reunion in May of 2003.

  7. RGJ, you may be right regarding my comment that Alan Alda did not take part in the M*A*S*H 30th anniversary special. I’ll have to watch my original tape of the special, but I have no reason to doubt your expertise.
    On this we agree: Both retrospectives were quite good. If only we could say the same about ‘AfterMASH’…!

  8. @RGJ Says:
    May 5th, 2010 at 7:27PM
    Actually, DuMont, FOX has aired at least two reunion specials/retrospectives: Married… with Children Reunion in February of 2003 and Beverly Hills, 90210: 10 Year High School Reunion in May of 2003.

    I stand corrected on FOX. However, I think I’m correct that the mininets The WB and UPN never aired a reunion special/retrospective.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see The CW pull together a ‘Felicity’ or ‘Buffy, The Vampire Slayer’/’Angel’ reunion at some point?

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