Nothing against Frederick Douglass and other influential figures, but we're staying in our lane, which is more about Scatman Crothers. We celebrate Black History Month with a list of 10 TV shows from the BOTNS era currently unavailable on major streaming services (episodes in "unofficial" form on YouTube/Dailymotion, etc. do not count) nor on DVD/Blu-Ray.
Soul Train: As much a fixture this show is in the national consciousness even today--witness BET's fictionalized portrayal of Don Cornelius and the show's place in society--it has never been available on streaming as far as I know. There are hundreds of hours of a fantastic time capsule just sitting in CBS Viacom's vaults, part of the vast library of music history MTV Networks' parent company bought to (presumably) keep away from potential competitors.
Unfortunately, if BET, which has a fictional series based on the original series, maintains the Soul Train Music Awards, and has its own streaming service that has plenty of room for archival content, isn't going to do anything with the show, we'll probably never see it except in clips and retrospectives. I guess the best we can hope for is that CBS continues to ignore uploads of the show to free video sharing platforms.
Frank's Place: Hey, speaking of shows CBS Viacom owns but isn't doing anything with, consider Tim Reid's short-lived but critcally beloved 1980s dramedy. BET aired reruns years ago, but it is missing in action right now, with nary a hint of a DVD release. How about popping this one on BET+, especially if doing so avoids the thorny music clearance issues that may preclude a home video effort?
The Flip Wilson Show: it received limited "best of" DVDs that are now long out of print, and the reruns are MIA on cable and GET-TV. It's time to bring it back in some form, preferably original hourlong cuts with music, but even the half-hour Best ofs are welcome.
Julia and Room 222: I pair these two because Aspire had them at launch, and it's easy to understand why. The shows have a certain middlebrow patina of virtue, and if that sounds like a knock, hey, I especially love Room 222, and it irritates me that the network has dropped both shows (Julia turns up every now and then). Julia is known more for being "groundbreaking" in its depiction of Diahann Carroll's titular young professional Black woman, but its gentle nature and charm make it an easy watch. As for Room 222, Shout's season 1 DVD flopped, perhaps because consumers rejected the non-"remastered" prints, but perhaps because quality shows without bug syndication presence just don't always sell.
Paris: This 1979-1980 CBS police drama has an impressive pedigree; created by Steven Bochco, it also gave James Earl Jones his first role as a fictional TV series regular. It's not well regarded, but this description in Brooks and Marsh's The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows makes me want to see it even more:
What Paris lacked, unfortunately, was a little bit of believability. James Earl Jones, a highly respected actor, strutted through this role speaking in booming, stentorian tones as if it were Richard III.
Isn't that exactly what you want from James Earl Jones? This is an MTM show that should be accessible in the vaults somewhere.
The New Odd Couple: I can't make a strong case for this, but, come on, it's Basically I'm just a sucker for anything Odd Couple.
The Gary Coleman Show: We talked about the whole Gary Coleman phenomenon a bit on our Diff'rent Strokes episode, but as big as the child star was, not much apart from the sitcom is still around. There are many TV movies still unavailable, and while Boomerang did show reruns of this cartoon series featuring Coleman as an angel (itself adapted from one of those movies, The Kid with the Broken Halo), it's not currently streaming anywhere.
I Am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali: Speaking of NBC cartoons, this 13-episode show was a flop, but it did feature the voice of Ali himself. In a time when a new book and/or HBO documentary about the boxing legend comes out every other month, to say nothing of the cult popularity of Mike Tyson Mysteries, it's surprising this isn't out there. Maybe the ownership--it was produced by an independent company--are in dispute?
Get Christie Love!: The TV movie that spawned the series is in public domain, or must be because it was a staple of every dollar store's "media" section in the DVD era, but since some scattered cable runs, I have only seen a batch of episodes on Brown Sugar when it launched. The show is a watered-down version of films like Cleopatra Jones, but...so what?
Bonus: The Insiders: I have long been fascinated by this apparent Miami Vice knockoff, though I sure wasn't fascinated enough to actually watch it when it aired. Like Vice, it's a Universal show. It is probably not worth flipping out over, but wouldn't adding something like this to Peacock for Black History Month be cooler than trotting out a handful of overplayed 1990s comedy movies?
Well, it would to me!