It’s almost inexcusable that “China Beach” remains unavailable on DVD. The series, which was set at a military hospital/R&R station during the Vietnam War, was in many ways a quiet landmark of the late 1980s: women-centric, unafraid to experiment with narrative structure and quietly willing to subvert television conventions like the presumed invulnerability of cast members. (In terms of storytelling and dramatic approach, actually, it could be viewed as a direct antecedent to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”) Over the course of its four seasons, it racked up 25 Emmy nominations, including wins by current “Desperate Housewife” Dana Delany and, years before she ever set foot in a forensics lab, Marg Helgenberger. So why hasn’t it seen the light of day? The most likely reason, even if it’s not a good one, involves complications with music clearances from the era-appropriate pop and rock songs the show used quite liberally. Whatever the holdup, someone needs to fix it, and soon.
“Parker Lewis Can’t Lose”
One of Fox’s more hilarious tendencies as a broadcast network is to check out its competitors’ slate of projects and then pump out a quickie copy as soon as possible. (See: NBC’s “The Singing Bee” v. “Don’t Forget The Lyrics,” ABC’s “Supernanny”v. “Nanny 911,” etc.) It’s not a recent phenomenon, though; just look back to the fall of 1990, when Fox rolled out “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” a mere week after “Ferris Bueller” debuted on NBC. But in a strange and wholly unexpected twist, “Parker Lewis” turned out to have everything that “Bueller” lacked: wit, warmth and, yes, vision. For three seasons, Santo Domingo High was the cartoonishly cracked battleground between student-on-the-make Lewis and expulsion-obsessed principal Grace Musso (and her proto-Schrute flunky Lemmer), simultaneously exploiting and satirizing the quick-cut velocity of commercials and MTV. Show creator Clyde Phillips currently enjoys the prestige of helming “Dexter.” Maybe it’s time to reintroduce the world to his first baby.
This cultishly adored show — about a man who claimed to be the famed god of love, exiled from Mount Olympus until he successfully brought together 100 couples, or who was possibly just a crazy person — was the first television series by “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas. It also starred Jeremy Piven before “Entourage” nabbed him both a cultural-saturation catchphrase (“Hug it out, bitches”) and two Emmys (so far). And “Cupid” itself is being rebooted with Bobby Cannavale and Sarah Paulson in the next year or so. It seems like the ideal time for it to come out on DVD, but Thomas admits on his Web site that he had to purchase a pirated set on eBay, since there are no immediate plans for a release. Maybe if you’re nice, he’ll burn you a copy.
The series that confirmed Steven Bochco’s status as a major force in television, rather than someone who simply struck gold once with “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” won four Emmys for best drama series (three of them in a row) and shares the record for the most acting nominations by cast regulars in a single year. And unlike every other show on this list, it was actually popular, one of only three shows to anchor NBC’s coveted 10:00 p.m. Thursday timeslot since “Hill Street” debuted in 1981. Yet the only place you can see the lawyers of McKenzie, Brackman on DVD is the 2002 reunion movie, which is a bit like letting the Beatles catalogue fall out of print but keeping stores stocked with Wings albums. “L.A. Law” (along with the equally inexplicably unavailable “thirtysomething”) may have embodied much of the yuppie culture of the 1980s, but this is history we’re talking about.
“Andy Richter Controls The Universe”
Abandoning the safety of Conan O’Brien’s couch, Andy Richter’s first starring vehicle saw him playing an office drone surrounded by wacky friends, and it immediately upended sitcom formula by making the weird guy basically pretty nice, making the too-handsome guy basically pretty nice and both addressing the spectre of sexual tension between Andy and best friend Jessica (a marvelous Paget Brewster)and immediately shutting it down in a plausible, real-life manner. The show’s fantasy sequences were less fanciful and yet somehow more surreal than those on “Scrubs”; when he complains that he didn’t see any coffee at a sensitivity training that Jessica’s pissed she has to attend, she empties her cup into his face and hisses, “Do you see it now?” (And that’s not even the punchline.) In a universe where the entire run of “My Big Fat Greek Life” can be had by those who want it, Andy Richter deserves a DVD set of his own.