As of February 1st, Netflix is dropping Doctor Who from its lineup. So many people--your faithful blogger included--stumbled upon the show through their watch instantly service, that I wonder if the growth and continued popularity of the show might suffer in the years to come.
It led me to think of other shows that are trapped in the wasteland of shows not on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Yahoo! Screen (R.I.P.), etc. It used to be such a pleasure to find box sets of beloved shows at DVD stores* and borrowing discs to previously unknown shows. How would any of us have ever watched Arrested Development without DVDs?
Let's take a look into the Party Now, Apocalypse Later vault** for some examples of not-streaming, and partly forgotten TV series.
Serialized storytelling in televised genre entertainment was completely unheard of in the mid-nineties. It's common place now, and depending on whom you ask, J. Michael Straczynski's outer space epic was first on the scene.
Despite the animosity alluded to between this production and the behemoth (at that time) Star Trek machine, Babylon 5 was a flavor all of its own. Yes, the rough similarities between this show and middle-child Deep Space Nine led some to whisper of Paramount stealing the concept of the show for their own purposes. However, its depiction of an epic battle against sometimes good and often evil, political propaganda, and frank depiction of alcoholism and drug abuse could never be touched upon in Roddenberryland.
It's definitely a product of the time in which it was produced. The special effects--especially in the early seasons--could be reproduced now with MS Paint***. Bugs still had to be worked out in the practicality of long-form storytelling. An-ever shifting cast--especially the sudden departure of the lead actor after season one--proved disorienting. Also, the very real possibility of cancellation at the end of season four forced Straczynski and company to wrap up most of their continuing stories at the end of that year. The ensuing fifth season lacks focus as a result.
Still, the disappearance of the show from the eye of modern fandom is a bit of mystery, if it weren't for the fact that it is nowhere to be found in cyberspace. Amazon and iTunes will charge you $1.99 an episode, but the DVD sets can be found at about $15.00 a pop. I've been re-watching it recently, and beyond the mere trip down memory lane, I recommend it immensely!
Why this show isn't being offered a second life on either Hulu or Netlfix is beyond me. It received such glowing love from the Emmys when it aired that its disappearance is perhaps the most perplexing of all the shows included on this list. For those of you who have made The Blacklist such a hit, everything you love about James Spader was perfected on this show. William Shatner plays what I can only hope is himself with a few extra eccentricities added for good measure.
It's a show about the importance of friendship, the issues of the day, and Rene Auberjonois has a recurring role! Its sister shows that premiered in the 2004-2005 season LOST and Grey's Anatomy (still on the air?) can easily be found in an instant, Boston Legal can only be found on disc. Find it now!
I'd lend you my copy of season 2, but it’s signed by William Shatner****. You can look, but don't touch.
Do you like Castle? Still? Well, the show that made Bruce Willis a household name offered equal doses of murder-of-the-week and will-they-won't-they tension and managed to be much weirder in the process.
An entire black-and-white Rashomon-inspired episode features an opening hosted by none other than Orson Welles, in one of his last screen appearances. The second season finale devolves into a chase sequence while the production crew of the show tries to shut down the show for the year. Castle may be the wrong comparison. With its often misbehaving cast and casual relationship to the fourth wall, Moonlighting was Community before Community.
As with all other items on this list, discs are available for those intrepid enough to go hunting. I would recommend bowing out around the third season. When David and Maddie finally "will they", the show is infinitely less interesting, despite its occasional flights of fancy.
The other entries on this list have been available on DVD and/or Blu Ray for a number of years. Until recently, the show that made onomatopoeia a valid editing choice, tried to kill Cesar Romero's mustache (but failed), and canonically established the Dark Knight's favorite drink as milk couldn't even be found on DVD.
Your only option in recent years to find Adam West and Burt Ward was to hope a cable channel started airing them in the wee hours of the morning. These airings were always in standard definition, grainy as the day they aired. Although not on streaming, the entire series is now available in a crystal-clear Blu Ray set. It's almost as if you can reach out touch the obscured whiskers on the Joker's face.
Post Burton and Nolan, the 1960's version of the Dynamic Duo has occasionally gotten a bad rap. The accusations of campy have ignored that at its height the show was the funniest thing on TV. The movie made between their first and second seasons for my money is one of the funniest movies of all time. Taken for its actual intent, and not for what we've now come to expect from Batman, the show is the best.
What other shows have disappeared from the internet, but still hold a place in your hearts and on your bookshelves? Any shows you keep physical copies of, just in case Netflix loses its mind and gets rid of them?
*Kids, ask your parents.
**Really, just a series of plywood bookshelves near my kitchen.
***Believe me, I've tried.
****After a day of signing an endless sea of mint-condition-still-in-the-box Captain Kirk action figures, the once and future TJ Hooker looked at me with a bemused and borderline thankful expression when I came around with such an unusual item.