Television networks have recently discovered a quick and easy new way to make money. Fans of classic television shows will pay through the nose to snap up complete seasons of television series that were once aired for free as reruns. Dig up a few behind-the-scenes extras on anything from “The Simpsons” to “Sanford and Son” and the fans will flock to it. Fading are the days of syndication, rising are the days of the DVD box set.
Here are just a few of the hot classics and canceled-
How come the live-action movies were never as good as this dark and serious cartoon series by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini? Twenty-eight episodes of the Emmy-winning series on four discs, plus audio commentary on a handful are more than enough to make fanboys slaver. Essential viewing!
This three-disc set features all 14 episodes of the 1976 debut season. Pilot episode has commentary by star Lynda Carter and producer Douglas S. Cramer. There's also a retrospective documentary. The show is pretty cheesy, but watching Lynda Carter tie up Nazis while wearing a gold bustiér has only gotten better with time.
This hilarious “Seinfeld in Spandex” superhero series was canceled after only eight episodes. On this double-disc set, you get to experience all eight episodes (plus one that never aired) along with commentary by producer Barry Sonnenfeld and creator Ben Edlund. There's also a DVD-ROM link to an interview with star Patrick Warburton which should have just been slapped on the disc.
If I'm a dork for loving “Wonder Woman” and “The Tick,” what does that make fans of this timelost Tony Danza sitcom? Three discs span all 22 episodes in the first season. Seven short documentaries cover the assorted characters in the series, including—yes—the underage Alyssa Milano.
Even if you have fond memories of watching this when you were 8 years old, I'm pretty sure watching it as an adult will only cause embarrassment. Twenty episodes on four discs, plus interviews with the cast and crew, plus two full hours of the “Punky Brewster” cartoon. Still, it's a testament to the power of TV on DVD. If they can put this out, can “Animaniacs” be far behind?
This raw, honest high school-set drama/comedy got a lot of critical acclaim, but couldn't survive the prime time airwaves. Here, you get all 18 episodes plus the director's cut of the original pilot on six jam-packed discs. There are deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes and commentaries by “actors, writers, directors, network executives, parents of cast members and obsessive fans.” Buy it on the website (www.freaksandgeeks.com) for two extra discs (!) with so many extras I can't even list them. This is the ultimate DVD for the ultimate fan. Something for all TV on DVD sets to aspire to.