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THE MORNING BUZZ: DVD: The Ultimate Edition Not Only of Feature Films But of Episodic TV

3 Sep, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

DVD has become the ultimate director's medium for feature films. Buena Vista Home Entertainment positions its special edition Vista series DVDs as “definitive” versions of those films, and New Line Home Entertainment ‘s extended edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring could likely become the definitive version of that film, as the alternate ending laserdisc of The Abyss became the preferred edition of that James Cameron film for many fans.

But, unlike laserdisc or VHS, DVD is also a handy and preferred storage medium for episodic television, which is becoming less episodic — with a beginning, middle and end in each installment — and more like a serial novel. The perfect example of this is the new series “24,” which hits DVD Sept. 17. The concept of that series – a collection of one hour periods told in real time in the life of a counterterrorist agent (Kiefer Sutherland) – lends itself to DVD unlike any other. It's almost easier to watch the series on DVD, in its proper order, than it is on television. If you miss an episode on TV, you can fall behind despite the quick rehash of past events that occurs at the beginning of each show. In an apparent nod to this phenomenon, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is releasing the season one DVD collection before the new season starts on television, allowing viewers to catch up on disc.

“24” isn't the only TV series like this. “The Sopranos” is also best watched in episode order. Indeed, my husband, an avid fan of the show, said he would not watch the third season DVD set before he's seen the first two seasons in their entirety. Retailer Best Buy has picked up on this and is offering big discounts of up to $40 when consumers purchase previous seasons in addition to the third season collection. I've had to recount many an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to friends who were puzzled by a development in the weekly series after missing an earlier episode. With DVD, they need only watch the series in order to understand.

It almost seems as if studios are making television with DVD in mind, and if they weren't up to this point, they certainly will in the future. Fox exec Peter Chernin noted in a recent earnings call that the studio earned $100 million from TV shows on DVD in the last year. One can envision a TV series made to reap DVD millions with less emphasis on its advertising take.

Yet again, DVD is proving its stripes as an improvement over VHS, not just in picture and sound quality, but in other ways as well.

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