I’ve said it many times before. One of my favourite aspects of the DVD phenomena is how those dead TV shows that barely lasted for 6 episodes soon get a super-special edition DVD boxed set preserving the series for the fans that became so dedicated to it. This is starting to become an accepted practice, as many studios see it as a way of recovering losses from a failed TV show. I, too, have fully embraced this practice, and have bought many DVD boxed sets that have the subtitle “the complete series.” So, I’m going to take a minute to rattle them all off and recommend them to you.
‘I’m talking about the one that was always low in the ratings, barely managed to survive for two years, but developed a small band of rabid fans’ First, I guess I should elaborate by what I mean by a “dead TV show.” You know, it’s NOT one that was on for 10 successful years. I’m talking about one that was always kind of low in the ratings, barely managed to survive for two years (tops) but yet developed a small band of rabid fans. Got it? That’s why you won’t find Star Trek: The Next Generation on here. So, let’s get to it!
Show premise: Based on the Kevin Smith movie of the same name, Clerks followed the adventures of Randall, Dante, Jay and Silent Bob as they worked in the QuickStop and navigated their way through a myriad of pop culture references. Adapted for television by Kevin Smith himself. Oh, and it was a cartoon.
Episode that best sums up the series: Episode 5. When Dante is ignored by the high school baseball team at the class reunion, he finds a chance for redemption by coaching little league. Meanwhile, when Randall gets the top score at a video game dedicated to pushing around heavy stone blocks, he gets abducted by a shadowy organization and is put to work…pushing around heavy stone blocks.
Why I Love this Show: Besides being a huge fan of Kevin Smith’s work, you mean? This show is just funny. Unlike, say, Family Guy, where the pop-culture references are just dropped in to be a joke, the pop-culture references in Clerks naturally evolve from the plot before turning into an almost Mel Brooks-style parody. Highly recommended.
Trivia Note: Many DVD enthusiasts look at this as being the first dead TV show to get a super-special edition DVD release.
The Tick: The Entire Series
Show Premise: Based on the classic Ben Edlund comic book and cartoon, The Tick gave us the adventures of a dim-witted big blue superhero and his meek, long-suffering sidekick Arthur. Adapted for television by Edlund himself, and executive produced by Barry Sonnenfeld (the Men In Black movies, Get Shorty). Sonnenfeld also directed the pilot.
Episode that best sums up the series: The Funeral. When the world’s best-known superhero, the Immortal, dies in the throes of passion with Captain Liberty, it’s up to the Tick and Arthur to conceal the true nature of the Immortal’s death. Meanwhile, this leads the Tick to ponder the nature of life and death.
Why I Love this Show: It’s just funny. Funny funny funny. Patrick Warburton was just made to play the Tick.
Trivia Note: This is the fastest-selling DVD in Sony Entertainment’s history.
The Critic: The Complete Series
‘Looking it at now, The Critic is the missing link between The Simpsons and Family Guy—it has characters and a storytelling style similar to The Simpsons with the excessive pop culture gags of Family Guy.”
Show Premise: An animated series, from Al Jean and Mike Reiss, long time writers and producers of The Simpsons. It followed the life and loves of Jay Sherman, a New York film critic who seems to be the universe’s whipping boy.
Episode that best sums up the series: Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice. When Siskel and Ebert break up (special guest voices Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert), each one woos Jay to be their new partner. In the end, though, Jay realizes that Siskel and Ebert belong together and sets out to reunite the couple.
Why I Love This Show: Looking it at now, it’s like The Critic is the missing link between The Simpsons and Family Guy. It has a characters and a storytelling style similar to The Simpsons, but it has the excessive pop culture gags of Family Guy. And, given the main character’s profession as film critic, the movie spoofs and jokes don’t seem forced or out of place. Plus, it had some solid characters.
What I Wish was Included on the Set: The Simpsons episode “A Star is Burns.” Jay Sherman heads to Springfield to judge their first-ever film festival, and begins a rivalry with Homer Simpson.
Wonderfalls: The Complete Series
Show Premise: Jaye Tyler comes from a family of overachievers, and seems content to be all angst-ridden and cynical as a clerk in a Niagra Falls gift shop. But, her life is turned upside down when the various knickknacks in the shop start speaking to her and urging her to commit random acts of kindness. Created by Bryan Fuller (a former Star Trek Voyager writer) and Todd Holland.
Episode the best sums up the series: Cocktail Bunny. Jaye misinterprets the latest message she’s given, and starts to believe that her boyfriend is going to be murdered by his ex-wife! Meanwhile, a therapist begins studying Jaye, as this doctor thinks she’s nuts.
Why I Love This Show: Compelling characters, witty dialogue, and just a unique premise make it something special.
Trivia Note: Though set on the American side of Niagra Falls, it was all filmed on the Canadian side.
The Lone Gunmen: The Complete Series
Show Premise: A spin-off from the The X-Files, The Lone Gunmen followed the adventures of the trio of computer hackers that Mulder frequently called upon for advice, as they journeyed across the USA, blowing the lid of conspiracies and gathering news for their underground newspaper.
Episode that best sums up the series: Tango des los Pistoleros. In order to stop an illegal arms deal from going down, the Lone Gunmen must infiltrate…a tango competition.
Why I Love this Show: The Gunmen were always my favourite recurring characters on The X-Files, so I just truly geeked out about seeing them in their own show. It had a sense of humour to it that The X-Files seriously lacked sometimes.
What I Wish was Included on the set: Two Lone Gunmen-centric episodes of The X-Files: “The Unusual Suspects,” which chronicled the origins of the trio, and “Three of a Kind,” which was the unofficial pilot for the show. (However, they did include the X-files episode “Jump the Shark,” which is the unofficial final episode of The Lone Gunmen)
The Flash: The Complete Series
Show Premise: Based on the classic DC comic character of the same name. Barry Allen, police forensic scientist, has an accident in the lab one night and is gifted with super-speed. So, he becomes the superhero the Flash, defender of Central City!
Episode that best sums up the series: The Trickster. The Flash must face-off with one of the first of his rogues gallery, the psychotic murder James Jessie, who, inspired by the Flash, has now donned coloured tights and is calling himself the Trickster.
Why I Love This Show: It debuted hot on the heels of Tim Burton’s Batman, and did a fairly good job of recreating that film on a weekly basis. I was 13 years old when it was on, and I thought it was the best show ever. It’s still pretty good.
Trivia Note: Back in 1990, this was the most expensive show on TV.
But wait! There’s more! Despite what you may think, there are still a lot of dead TV shows that I love that I don’t own yet. Here are some great birthday present ideas…the dead TV shows I love, but don’t own yet.
Sports Night: The Complete Series
Show Premise: The behind-the-scenes workings of a sports news show on a cable sports channel. Created by Aaron Sorkin, the TV genius who gave us The West Wing. And, just like The West Wing, Sorkin himself wrote just about every episode.
Why I Love It: Some of the most brilliant dialogue and most compelling characters you’ve ever seen on TV.
Harsh Realm: the Complete Series
Show Premise: Lt. Thomas Hobbes, a highly decorated soldier, is sent on his final mission: to go into a virtual reality training simulation called “Harsh Realm” and unseat the corrupt general who has become a dictatorial ruler. When he arrives in the program, Hobbes discovers that he is just the latest in a long line of highly decorated soliders who’ve been given this task, and that he’s trapped in the program until the general can be overthrown. And, throw in the fact that many believe Hobbes to be “the one” who can actually do this. Very loosely based on the comic book of the same name; adapted for television by Chris Carter (creator of The X-Files).
Why I Love It: Hot on the heels of The Matrix, it seemed to explore avenues that The Matrix didn’t go down.
Space: Above and Beyond – The Complete Series
Show Premise: The adventures of a squadron of Marines on the front lines of Earth’s first war with an alien race. Created by Glen Morgan and James Wong, a duo of X-Files writers who have now given the world those Final Destination movies.
Why I Love It: Very unusual (at the time) for a show set in space. It focused more on the military aspects than the sci-fi aspects. Again, some strong characters and a good mythology.
Firefly: The Complete Series
Show Premise: Created by Joss Whedon, Firefly was his space opera, showing us the crew of the cargo ship Serenity, as they did a lot of barely-legal jobs, eking out a living in the distant future.
Why I Love It: Good characters, good dialogue, and a sharp sense of humour.
What’s this? There’s even more? Despite this trend, there are still a lot of dead TV shows that I loved that haven’t gotten a DVD treatment yet! I will not rest until I get DVDs for:
The Weird Al Show – “Weird Al” Yankovic’s short-lived Saturday morning sketch comedy, where he learned life lessons from all sorts of wacky characters.
Andy Richter Controls the Universe – Andy Richter played Andy Richter, a struggling writer who pays the bills by writing instruction manuals for a faceless corporation. He narrates each episode like it’s a story he’s writing, and he frequently punctuates each tale with asides and daydreams.
Now and Again – When a man is killed in a subway accident, he awakens to find his brain has been transplanted to a genetically engineered “perfect body,” and begins a new life as a secret agent. Meanwhile, his former wife and child begin rebuilding their lives after his death.
And that’s enough for that rant.