Odds and Ends III

November 11, 2010

Last week I goofed briefly on Jean-Luc Godard.  Continuing that theme: as the title of this DVD Talk review (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – 11 – Year Eleven – ’09/’10 Season) suggests, the latest season of the long-running Dick Wolf series is actually a belated and unwelcome sequel to Godard’s 1991 film, Germany Year 90 Nine Zero.  You larf?  Well, one of the guest stars in that batch really is Isabelle Huppert, who starred in Godard’s Every Man For Himself and Passion.

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In other news, the Warner Archive – the “manufacture on demand” division of Warner Home Video that has been releasing a flood of obscure Warner-owned films on cheaply-made, overpriced DVD-rs – has finally begun to turn its attention to series television.  A number of made-for-TV-movie releases apparently did pretty well last year, and so the episodic floodgates are set to open soon.  Most of the titles in contention (such as The F.B.I.) have not been widely circulated, exactly, but they have turned up on cable recently.

However, there is an unexpected and exciting component to this news: Warner Archive will be releasing The Lieutenant (1963-1964) next year.  I’ve been hearing rumors about this for months, but it was confirmed on Warner Archive’s Facebook page this week.  The Lieutenant, of course, was the first series Gene Roddenberry created for television.  It was a show about the peacetime military (although apparently it contained early references to the Vietnam conflict) that defied easy generic classification.  Today, The Lieutenant is probably best remembered because it featured appearances by several actors associated with Roddenberry’s Star Trek; Gary Lockwood (guest star in the second Trek pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”) played the title character, and Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett, and Ricardo Montalban all guest-starred.

Like Dr. Kildare and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (whose star, Robert Vaughn, was the second lead in The Lieutenant), Roddenberry’s creation was an MGM show produced under the banner of Norman Felton’s Arena Productions, which generally guaranteed high production values and compelling stories.  Whether that applies to The Lieutenant, I don’t know.  Aside from TNT broadcasts of  few episodes in the late eighties, The Lieutenant hasn’t been rerun during my lifetime.  Even if it doesn’t live up to the hype, The Lieutenant will be one of the classic TV events of 2011.

(I fully endorse neither the Warner Archive nor Facebook, but take a look if you choose; a tease of “many rare series” has spurred much speculation from commenters.  I am, incidentally, also on Facebook, just in case any of you are interested in my favorite YouTube cat videos as well as my television history work.)

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2 Responses to “Odds and Ends III”

  1. Jeff Wildman Says:

    Call me cynical, but the sudden burst of activity on classic television from the Warner Archive seems questionable. For over a year, rumors have been circulating that Warner was going to get cranking on series television releases via their MOD program. However,for a company that has the best MOD infastructure in place, the only thing they’ve finally produced is a second season of “Falcon Crest” and a somewhat problematic set of “Night Court”.

    Studios are usually very tight-lipped about their release plans until a project is well along in the planning stages, and even then it’s near-impossible to get specific details about future releases until the product is hitting the shelves. I must wonder why suddenly Warner Archive has decided to yap about possible future plans with claims of “opening the vaults” on a trash-laden venue such as Facebook. When has any DVD-producing studio ever shown any interest in reaching out to their customers? I get the feeling that whatever obscure series you asked about would be met with the usual “it’s coming soon” response that seems to get generated by “Warner Archive Collection”. And what about “The FBI”…all 9 seasons of this dreary (yet endorsed by J Edgar himself) series at the top of the list for MOD release…above and beyond dozens of other Warner-owned series that likely have significantly higher buyer interest?? I’m picturing a 19-year-old intern from the publicity department as the face behind the moniker “Warner Archive Collection” on Facebook, who was instructed to “promise them the moon, and keep it perky”.

    I will giver Warner credit for being the only studio to plunge head-first into the whole MOD concept, and they have produced a fairly extensive catalogue so far. But that catalogue has been for movies (theatrical and television) and some miniseries. And we all know that more vintage television product has always taken a distant back seat when it comes to consideration by the studios.

  2. Stephen Bowie Says:

    Jeff, I share your innate skepticism of the Warner Archive … but realize that Facebook was only the second of two independent sources that vouched for THE LIEUTENANT as being in production. So I think there’s definitely cause for optimism, at least.

    If series television has been back-burnered in the Warner Archive — and remember, WB mentioned series like MAVERICK and 77 SUNSET STRIP way back when the MOD business launched — I suspect it’s because of pricepoint. Proportionally, WB can’t charge the same outrageous prices for a 30-hour TV season as they can for a two-hour movie that’s priced at $20-25. Proportionally, it made sense for them to frontload the features. Nobody’s going to pay $300 for a complete set of THE GIRL FROM UNCLE!


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