The curious case of the missing DVDs


A few years ago, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment started releasing DVD sets of “The Bob Newhart Show,” one of the best sitcoms in television history. Airing from 1972-78, the series starring Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette had a clever and incisive wit and featured an ensemble of classic eccentric characters. In fairly quick succession, Fox released the first four seasons, to the great pleasure of the show’s fans across the country.

But then season five didn’t appear. Fans wondered what was happening. They appealed to Fox to release the show’s final two seasons. Fox gave them the cold shoulder.

If you go to Amazon.com and search for “The Bob Newhart Show Season Five,” a page comes up with the prominent statement, “Sign up to be notified when this item becomes available.” Amazon has a process where you can sign up to be alerted via e-mail when an item becomes available.

I’ve not received that e-mail.

The Amazon page contains 38 customer reviews of this anticipated DVD set, all of them urgent pleas to Fox to release season five. Here are some excerpts:

• “I've written Fox Home Video a few times after I heard they planned NOT to release the final seasons on DVD,” writes “fullyalive76.” “I was even more depressed about it when they e-mailed back saying, ‘You have heard correct, we will not be releasing season five or six on DVD." UGH!!! I assume it didn't sell as well as expected but they clearly sold enough to make a profit, so just print up as many copies as you think will sell while making the fans happy. I would gladly pay double for each set just to get them all. Please, Fox, do the right thing.”

• “Some of the best episodes of this excellent series are in season five,” writes Rob Keil. “This classic show deserves to be released in its entirety on DVD. I have seasons one through four and would gladly part with my cash for seasons five and six.”

• “WHAT is your deal, Fox, with partial releases?” writes E. Comb. “You go all the way releasing stupid shows, but won't simply put out two lousy seasons of one of the greatest shows ever? PLEASE!!!!!!!!! My favorite episode is on season six, as is one of the defining moments of television. PLEASE!!!!”

It is perfectly reasonable, I think, to expect that if DVDs of a popular television program are going to be sold, the entire series will be released. Fox is a private company and can do whatever it wants, but the bad PR from this arrogant and thoughtless decision certainly can’t be seen as a wise business move.

By the way, the same thing appears to be happening with Newhart’s second sitcom, “Newhart.” The first season was released last year but there is no sign of season two, even though it is widely acknowledged that “Newhart” got considerably better after the first season. Same producer, Fox, so who knows whether they will follow through on this one either.