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8 Aug, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

TV shows on DVD are certainly a hot category. There's a Web site devoted solely to cataloging the various TV programs that are available on disc, appropriately called TVshowsonDVD.com, that at last count has more than 1,400 titles.

Retailers are anxiously awaiting the HBO Home Video's upcoming release of the third complete season of “The Sopranos,” while the second season of “The Simpsons” remains an exceptionally strong seller, even with all the big theatrical competition.

And my e-mail basket contains a pitch from Columbia House, the mail-order video seller, that is headlined, “Your Favorite Television Series Now Available on DVD or VHS.” There's a hot link to the Columbia House Web site that takes you right to the heart of TV land.

On a personal note, I'm going nuts at home, watching the complete first season of “The Outer Limits,” a Twilight Zone-esque series popular in the middle 1960s. There are 32 episodes, each nearly an hour long, on the four-disc set from MGM. I'm going to watch as much as I can as often as I can until I'm done.

What's behind the sudden appeal of vintage TV shows on DVD? Like music videos, this is a genre that never really caught on in the VHS-only days. But while DVD's superior sound is what did it for music video, it's the format's higher capacity that is making DVD such a natural conduit for TV shows. Our publisher, Don Rosenberg, is a big “Twilight Zone” fan, and he's ecstatic that the series is now available on disc (from Image). “I've got most of them on VHS, but one season takes up a whole shelf,” he said. “There just isn't room.”

I should point out that on DVD, the entire first season of “The Outer Limits” takes up about two inches of shelf space.

TV shows are the comfort food of our generation. We grew up with these shows, and we love them like a cherished friend. We all have our own favorites – me, I can't get enough of “One Step Beyond” (available on DVD through Slingshot Entertainment), “The Outer Limits” (MGM), “The Sopranos” (HBO), “Oz” (HBO), “The Twilight Zone” (Image) and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (Universal).

The problem is, we never had an easy way to access or store them, short of using up gobs of space by collecting the videocassettes and then trying to file them away in some sort of order.

DVDs, on the other hand, are great—particularly those “complete season” packages, or even single discs with four or five episodes.

The technology revolution that's putting all sorts of new devices into our homes—from cell phones and Palm Pilots to DVD players and TiVo – is making our society's space crunch even more pronounced.

When it comes to deciding what to collect, size does matter.

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