Why Are These Not on My Shelf? (Mania.com)

By:David Michael Wharton
Date: Monday, October 24, 2005

Has there been a better time to be a TV-on-DVD fan? As I was sliding my newly purchased DVD set of David Greenwalt's short-lived PROFIT onto my shelf a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that they really do seem determined to put every damn show in history on disc ASA-freakin'-P. Just recently, AMERICAN GOTHIC, EARTH 2, the 1990s revival of DARK SHADOWS, and SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND -- shows I long considered lost to the mists of memory and bootlegging -- have all found their way to the posterity of DVD. Over the next year, releases are slated or rumored for such cult favorites as ALIEN NATION (January 3rd, 2006), THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR. (a 2006 release is rumored), SEAQUEST DSV (December 26), and THE FLASH (January 10).

But I'm still not satisfied. Call me greedy, call me unreasonable, but I still have quite a few flash-in-the-pan oddities that I want to add to my collection, and I don't think I'm along on that. So while I'm tickled pink that MURDER ONE adorns my shelf in its stylish yellow-and-black finery, I'm still quite dismayed that none of the following are taking up space next to it.

VR.5
Premired: March 10, 1995 on Fox
One of the earliest casualties in Fox's decade-long massacre of genre shows of every stripe, VR.5 was a show aptly described by the word "trippy." Sydney Bloom, sporting the moniker six years before Miss Bristow made it synonymous with high-kicks and fetishware, was the sort of ridiculously cute hackerette that only exists in movies and erotic William Gibson fanfic. She inadvertently discovers that she has the ability to pull others into virtual reality along with her, which is only as fun as it sounds until you spend 36 hours trapped on goatse.cx. In the process of toying around with her newfound abilities, she brings herself to the attention of a covert organization named "The Committee," and all manner of conspiracies unfold.

I'm not sure how well VR.5 has aged, since it's a product of a time when the whole internet thing was still relatively new to the general populace, and a lot of people seemed to be convinced we'd all be spending the bulk of our free time strapped into the virtual reality helmets by now. Of course, the more realistic narrative path wouldn't have been as satisfying, since there's only so much storyline potential for having Sydney discover she can yank people into her Myspace account.

Thirteen episodes were filmed. Anthony Stewart Head was a regular and sported an earring. And hey, that Lori Singer chick (sister of the Beastmaster!) was a cutie. What the hell ever happened to her?

Lucky
Premiered: April 8, 2003 on FX
Otherwise known as "That Show Nobody Watched That David Won't Shut the Hell Up About Already." You're damn right. I'll shut up when the bloody DVDs are on my shelf, and not until. Hitting during the early surge of FX's renaissance, LUCKY just couldn't find an audience as a lone sitcom (and a thoroughly atypical one at that) amongst a crowd of hour-long dramas (and the usual FX glut of COPS reruns, of course). It was the story of Michael "Lucky" Linkletter (John Corbett), a Vegas card sharp who won $1 million at a casino, then proceeded to squander every penny. After making a promise to his now-deceased wife, Lucky gave up the gambling, but his lack of marketable skills and mounting pile of bills force him to return to the table. Populating his odd world of high stakes and neon shadows are mobsters, femmes fatale, and ineffectual con artists such as Lucky's two buddies, Vinny and Mutha.

The truly annoying thing is that LUCKY is exactly the kind of sitcom that critics have been hailing as the salvation of a dying format this season. With its off-kilter style and its deft mixture of pathos and hilarity, LUCKY would fit in perfectly amongst the likes of THE OFFICE, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, or MY NAME IS EARL. Plus, it gave us "Something for Everyone," an Emmy-quality episode set on the anniversary of the suicide of Lucky's wife, Sarah, that perfectly demonstrated how effectively this show could make you laugh while simultaneously breaking your heart.

John Corbett was a charming, likeable lead. Dan Hedaya was a hairy, amusing nemesis. At one point Lucky pursues a new career: selling meet. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but I wish it would find its way to DVD while doing so.

Spaced
Premiered: September 1, 1999
Unlike the others on this list, SPACED is actually already on DVD, and has been for some time. Never heard of it? Well, it hails from across the pond, another in the long and cherished tradition of the "Britcom," and it's not available on Region-1 DVD, so most of us haven't had the chance to see it outside of BBC America. After being dumped by their respective significant others, aspiring writer Daisy and aspiring comic artist Tim cross each other's path and agree to fake a romantic relationship in order to share a flat that's being rented to "couples only."

Sounds fairly pedantic, doesn't it? So why should you care. Well, you should care because Tim is played by SHAUN OF THE DEAD's Simon Pegg (who also co-writes), and SHAUN director Edgar Wright is at the helm for all 14 episodes of the two available seasons.

Within the relatively simple concept, Pegg, Wright, and co-writer Jessica Stevenson cram more pop-culture references than Kevin Smith on speed and take simple plots such as a party or a paintball game and spin off into absurd corridors of bizarre humor. Tim's gig working at a comic shop opens the way for jokes the vast majority of the Earth's population wouldn't understand, but which will make people such as you and I laugh until we pee. The highest compliment I can pay this show is that there is no chance in hell it would survive on any American network. And that alone is reason enough to merit a Region-1 release. Plus, one episode features a RESIDENT EVIL parody sequence that was almost certainly the germ of the idea that went on to become SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

Buddy Faro
Premiered: September 28, 1998 on CBS
Small-time P.I. Bob Jones (no relation to the University) is hired to track down once-legendary detective Buddy Faro (Dennis Farina), who vanished without a trace in 1978. The job turns out to be a trick to use Jones' sleuthing skills to reveal Faro's location so an old enemy can have him killed. Jones finds Faro drunk off his ass in a Mexican bowling alley in Baja. Jones drags Buddy back to L.A., cleans him up, and the two partner up to solve crimes with style. Buddy is a relic of a bygone time, a time when cats were hip and Tony Bennett was the hippest of said cats, and he's countered perfectly by straight-man Jones. And while I'm certainly glad Dennis Farina is collecting fat LAW & ORDER paychecks, he was perfect in this role, and it's a shame he didn't get to run with it.

BUDDY was the brainchild of TWIN PEAKS' Mark Frost, and it was such an odd duck, both in style, temperament, and sense of humor, that it was doomed from the start. Never mind the fact that it was airing on Friday nights on CBS, for God's sake. BUDDY is yet another show that might well have survived if it had premiered this year. It deserves a second chance on DVD. So commands the Faro.

What about you folks? Which coulda-been classics are you still eagerly awaiting? Drop me a line at tvwasteland@cinescape.com and let me know. Keep your head and hands inside the television, folks…


* * * * *



MONDAY, OCTOBER 24


SURFACE (7 PM CST, NBC) Will tonight really reveal the origins of the creatures, as some of the episode descriptions suggest? And more importantly, who would win in a fight, one of the SURFACE monsters of Godzilla?

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (7:30 PM CST, CBS) "The Slutty Pumpkin." Ted makes an annual pilgrimage to an incredibly dull party where he once met the girl of his dreams (only to subsequently lose her number).

PRISON BREAK (8 PM CST, Fox) "The Old Head." Lincoln's son is threatened and the hunt is on for the murderer of the prison CO killed during the riot.

VERTIGO (8 PM CST, TCM) Jimmy Stewart is suddenly feeling very dizzy.

MEDIUM (9 PM CST, NBC) "Dead Aim." Allison psychics up visions of her boss' impending death-by-gun-wielding-maniac.


TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25


GILMORE GIRLS (7 PM CST, WB) "Twenty-One is the Loneliest Number." Emily throws an elaborate to-do for Rory's 21st birthday.

SUPERNATURAL (8 PM CST, WB) "Hook Man." I thought the "Bloody Mary" ep was as urban legend-y as this show could possibly get, but now they're tackling the classic campfire tale that was ineffectively ripped off for I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. (Hopefully this episode won't reveal the killer to be the Gorton's fisherman in the last act.)

AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON (8:30 PM CST, Sundance Channel) Featuring perhaps the finest performance ever by a young Arsenio Hall.

BOSTON LEGAL (9 PM CST, ABC) "Men to Boys." Assorted sexual indiscretions catch up with assorted lawyers.

NIP/TUCK (9 PM CST, FX) "Frankenlaura." Sean and Christian lend their scalpels to the case of a nutjob who built a woman from corpse bits.


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26


VERONICA MARS (8 PM CST, UPN) "Blast from the Past." Veronica's investigation of the bus crash takes a newly illegal turn when she bugs the sheriff's office.

MAKING OF 'SAW II' (8:45 PM CST, HBO) How about a "making of that crappy last-minute twist in the first one"? Maybe a "making of Cary Elwes stupendous overacting abilities"?

INVASION (9 PM CST, ABC) "The Hunt." A family of Cuban refugees have a run-in with the strange lights while trying to reach America, and one of the survivors of that encounter crosses paths with Russell.

OVER THERE (9 PM CST, FX) "Follow the Money." Lt. Underpants puts the team in danger as they try to escort a convoy through dangerous territory. No word on the whereabouts of Captain Underpants.


THURSDAY, OCTOBER 27


ALIAS (7 PM CST, ABC) "Out of the Box." So who's in the box? Rambaldi? Vaughn? Alvar Hanso?

SMALLVILLE (7 PM CST, WB) "Thirst." Lana joins a vampire sorority (which is sure to throw the slash-fic subculture into overdrive) and Carrie Fisher guests as the Daily Planet's pre-Perry White editor-in-chief.

EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (7 PM CST, UPN) "Everybody Hates Halloween." Always with the hate on this show. Why so negative?

HELLRAISER (7 PM CST, AMC) I'd like to party with that Pinhead guy. I've heard he loves getting hammered.

NIGHT STALKER (8 PM CST, ABC) "Malum." Kolchak investigates violent deaths at a school.

FRAILTY (10:30 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Bill Paxton murders folks who may or may not be demons with the help of his two boys and his magic God-axe.


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28


ROUTE 666 (6 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Where you can get your kicks-kickstee-kicks.

GHOST WHISPERER (7 PM CST, CBS) "Homecoming." This was rated as one of the most family-appropriate shows on television by the Parents Television Council, which would be reason enough for me not to watch, even if I had even the remotest interest.

MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE (7:30 PM CST, Fox) "Halloween." Hal is alarmed when he learns that the family home has a history of murder most foul.


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29


100 Scariest Movie Moments (6 PM CST, Bravo) Part one includes interviews with Stephen King, Rob Reiner, Rob Zombie and Lance Heinriksen. Parts two through five follow.

VERONICA MARS (7 PM CST, UPN) " Same episode as Wednesday, but now you have no excuse not to watch.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (7 PM CST, FX) I'll take "Movies That Haven't Aged Well" for $500, Alex.

CERBERUS (8 PM CST, Sci-Fi) Where does the giant, three-headed canine guardian of the Greek underworld sleep?

MASTERS OF HORROR (9 PM CST, Showtime) "Incident on and off a Mountain Road." BUBBA HO-TEP's Don Coscarelli directed and co-wrote this first installment in Showtime's new series with Stephen Romano. In it, a deformed serial killer menaces a young woman.


SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23


AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (6 PM CST, AMC) I'm a Pepper, you're a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too? (This blurb brought to you by Obscure Pop-Culture Reference Weekly.)

THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK (6 PM CST, HBO) Take heart, Browncoats, at least SERENITY wasn't this movie.

CHARMED (7 PM CST, WB) "Kill Billie: Vol. 1." You gotta watch our for that five-point-palm exploding-heart technique.


This concludes our broadcast.