The complete first season of Hill Street Blues is due for release on DVD on January 31. On March 14 of this year, the first season of I Dream of Jeannie is also being released on DVD. Arguably, both shows are classics, so that their release on DVD should not be surprising. Indeed, even short lived, cult shows are finding a new lease on life due to DVD. The short lived series Profit, an absolutely brilliant show that ran all too briefly on Fox, was released last August. Nowhere Man, which ran only one season on UPN, was just released last week.
It would seem that any show one wants to see can be found on DVD. Indeed, it is standard practice now to release each new season of a current show to DVD once that season is over. Even shows that debuted before the advent of DVD, such as Just Shoot Me, are being released on DVD. It does not matter if a show was not a critical favourite (Just Shoot Me is the perfect example of this). It doesn't even matter if a show gets low ratings--critical favourite Arrested Development, has never been a ratings winner, yet the series first two seasons are available on DVD. Even recent and current shows that have neither critical acclaim nor good ratings can expect to be released on DVD.
Of course, the sad truth is that many shows that deserve to be released on DVD have not yet been so released. While I've no doubt Arrested Development deserves a DVD release, I have to question why Just Shoot Me was released on DVD. For that matter, I have to ponder why some older shows such as Doogie Houser (which was the target of many jokes when it was on the air) and All American Girl (which lasted all of one season back in 1994), given what is not available on DVD at this moment. The Wild Wild West is a cult classic that performed well in the ratings and had a successful syndication run, yet it is not available on DVD. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ignited an outright craze in its first season and has been a cult show ever since, but it has yet to see a DVD release. Last year it was announced that the classic 1963 anime Astroboy was to be released on DVD, but I haven't seen any more news on it. A short list of classic series not yet on DVD includes The Addams Family, Mission: Impossible, Newhart, and St. Elsewhere.
It would seem that while there is a lot that is available on DVD, there is still a lot that isn't. And it seems to me that there isn't a lot of consistency in what is released and what is not released. Consider this, the Western Branded was a comtemporary of both The Man From U.N.C.L.E and The Wild Wild West. It barely lasted a season and a half. I would dare say it is remembered only by TV historians and fans of TV Westerns. It is on DVD, while neither The Man From U.N.C.L.E. nor The Wild Wild West are.
Of course, I realise that there are sometimes extenuating circumstances which prevent a given show's release to DVD. An example of this is WKRP in Cincinatti. From what I understand, the series made such extensive use of rock music in its soundtrack that it would be difficult to release on DVD--the rights to every song would have to be secured first (personally, I think it would be worth the trouble). In other cases there may be a question of who owns the rights to any given TV series. A DVD release of the classic 1966 series Batman starring Adam West has been held up because of the time it has taken for Fox (who produced the series) and Warner Brothers (who own DC Comics and hence the character of Batman) to sort out the legal issues involved. It probably will be released on DVD eventually, but it might take a while before it is.
Still, I know of no legalities that prevent either The Man From U.N.C.L.E. or The Wild Wild West from being released. The same is true of many other classic shows. That leaves the question of why they have yet to be released, even though many lesser shows are already out on DVD. I don't have an answer for that. It seems to me that it isn't a case of demand, as there is obviously a demand for many of these shows. I suppose it is just one of those mysteries of the entertainment industry.