Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What's Missing on Disney Plus

OK, we've all had a chance to download and explore the new Disney Plus streamer, and we have given it plenty of time to prove itself--over a full day! As exciting as this new streaming video service is, it's time to look at what's not on there. While it's great that there are hundreds of things to watch, including some nice surprises (more classic animation shorts than I expected), I'd like an explanation why these 1970s and 1980s TV hits are not available:

1) The Muppet Show: To me, this is the biggest omission. It's a big chunk of the Jim Henson/Muppet legacy and should be the flagship of a property Disney keeps reviving again and again. The original series should be available to keep the characters vital. Maybe there are music rights precluding a streaming deal, but I have a hard time believing that it's not possible since the first several seasons of the show came out on DVD before Disney just gave up on it with no official explanation.

2) The Incredible Hulk: Some of my personal highlights in the Disney Plus library are the older Marvel Comics cartoon shows--not just Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but lesser-known efforts like the 1981 Spider-Man and 1979's DePatie-Freleng Spider-Woman. So where, then, is the 13-episode Hulk series that was paired with Amazing Friends for a while on NBC?

I can't figure out why this one is abset. Wikipedia indicates it got a UK video release, but it never made it to DVD in the States. It's frustrating because Disney used the show to do "wacky" Marvel Mash-Ups years ago on Disney XD to complement contemporary Marvel 'toons.  So the footage is there, it's presumably all clear. What's the hold-up?

And while you're at it, Disney, how about the 1970s Fantastic Four cartoon, the 1967 Spider-Man, and of course the 1960s Marvel shorts with the awesome theme songs? And I don't see the harm in releasing the live-action 1977 Spidey show with Nicholas Hammond.

See, the more you look into some of this, the more you realize how much more is in Disney's archives.

3) Star Wars: Droids: Speaking of animation, where is this short-lived 1985 ABC cartoon show? This and Ewoks have been AWOL for years, with no legitimate DVD release. I'm not enough of a Star Wars fan to know if everyone is embarrassed by these as they are the Holiday Special (which I won't even bother to list).  As far as I know, this hasn't been drummed out of canon. It's short, inoffensive, and I remember the advertising but very little of the actual series. Why not throw it on Plus?

4) Room 222: OK, this is a super long shot, but let this be a representative for the vast amount of Fox television shows Disney now owns--shows I fear will languish in the infamous Vault that Disney said it was unlocking with the creation of Plus.  The Simpsons is all well and good (though apparently in the wrong aspect ratio right now), but it's one measly show out of the huge Fox back catalog. Room is a series we have talked about in our Facebook group. It's family friendly "vintage" programming that would boost the old-school TV live action category on the channel, one of the weakest areas at launch.

Here are some other programs that meet that criteria but have the following strikes against them: they are "old" but not Disney-branded like, say, movies like The Barefoot Executive:
*The Ghost and Mrs/ Muir
*Nanny and the Professor
*Small Wonder
*Mr. Belvedere

OK, I may be pushing it now, but I'm not even asking for Trapper John M.D. There may be licensing deals blocking some of these shows, but not all of them, and Disney could throw up more Fox shows. What worries me is that it doesn't consider them "worthy" unless it can remaster them for HD presentation.  As much as I wish Disney would take a Prime Video approach and throw up whatever it has even if it looks funky, I don't know that that's gonna happen. But there are hours of family-friendly programs on hand.

5) The Wonderful World of Whatever in Color: Over the years, Disney has had multiple anthology programs on all the networks. Much of the featured programming is on Disney Plus, but wouldn't it be great to see the old intros and outros as they originally aired? While poking around, I saw a Disneyland TV special from the 1960s, but there is so much more. Even if you ignore the episodes that "just" presented an old Disney movie, there are lots of documentaries and theme park specials to show, and some of them have already been available on streaming and DVD. Make them available on Plus!

6) Mousterpiece Theater: Longtime Disney Channel observers will remember this charming series in which George Plimpton introduced classic Disney animated shorts, and he did it exactly the way you would envision and hope he would. I'd love to see this again. Come to think of it, there is a lot of programming from the "premium channel" days that would supplement the Plus catalog.  Remember Duck Presents? Shows like this offer nostalgia for adults and the opportunity to provide--here;s that word I generally dislike--curation for people who don't want to wade through the service for classic shorts.

7) National Geographic Explorer: I admit I don't know a whole lot about this, but it's been on for over 30 years, and there are  lots of Nat Geo TV specials in the vault, too. One thing that stands out when you look at Disney Plus today is how paltry the National Geographic section is. Not all of us are put off by non-fiction programming made before 2010, but I fear the attitude is that we are.  i'd rather see some cool old science specials than current episodes of the likes of Dr. Pol.

8) Empty Nest: You know, it's kind of crazy that I am advocating for Fox and Nat Geo library shows when Disney is sitting on all the Touchstone shows like The Nutt House and Mama's Boy and...

OK, they're not all winners, and I know The Golden Girls is locked in at Hulu (though, wait, Disney now runs Hulu...). I'm not even a fan of Empty Nest, but I have to say it's odd that a series that ran 7 seasons and 170 episodes from a high-profile production company (the same team as Golden Girls) is relegated to runs on diginet Laff and has never received a home video release nor a streaming run.

9) ABC Circle Films: This outfit was folded into ABC proper and may own the rights to Moonlighting (ideal for Hulu) and tons of 1970s made-for-TV movies. Most of them would probably be better fits for Hulu, but, hey, while we're digging around, let's not forget all those movies like The President's Plane is Missing and Nightmare in Badham County (definitely a better fit for Hulu).

10) Vic's Vacant Lot: Unearthing this 1980s ESPN kiddie show hosted by tennis guru Vic Braden would give some co-branding opportunities, some sports programming, and--OK, this is an even longer shot than most of the others on this list, but I'd love to see it.

So let's just make one last entry:

11) Just about everything else: Just give us all of it, Disney. Don't worry about "overwhelming us with choice." If you want, make a Disney Plus for the rubes and a Disney Plus Plus with an extra authentication for those of us who want to wade through your archives like Scrooge plowing through the coins in his money bin!

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