Wednesday, April 7, 2021

A word on Warner Archive

There is a lot of ambiguity about the status of Warner Archive. Oh, it's cranking out Blu-Rays in 2021 and probably into 2022, but as for its viability as a long-term concern, no one is really sure in the wake of the WB shop website (which was run by a third party for years) and the layoff/reassignment of key employees like George Feltenstein.  There are reports that Feltenstein, the heart of the division, is a consultant with the company, but when answering listener mail on the recent final podcast, he couldn't give an emphatic reassurance that WA would continue to thrive.

Why am I bringing all this up? Well, the fact that it was the final podcast is concerning. I will miss the guys and their insight into not only new releases from the WA, but also home video in general and film restoration.

Unfortunately, for quite some time now, Warner Archive has concentrated on Blu-Ray upgrades, apparently in conjunction with an ongoing restoration and preservation effort for the vast Warner Library and the need for product for HBO Max. That is spawning a lot of great discs, but the "unfortunate" part is a good deal of  the original mission of the WA was to put stuff out on DVD with an MOD model that put all kinds of obscurities into the hands of consumers.

The television-on-dvd efforts led to a lot of long-buried shows from the BOTNS era seeing a little daylight. I admit I found the Archive prices a little much for many of the shows which would have been blind buys for me, but I was an enthusiastic (albeit ultimately disappointed as the company abandoned it) supporter of Warner Archive Instant, a wildly idiosyncratic streaming on demand service scrapped when Warner gained a corporate parent that didn't want to deal with it.  That led to Filmstruck, which scraped away most of the rarer movies and TV shows, and then that was killed off.

One of the shows that the guys at WA championed early was Search, one of our favorite shows of the era and partial inspiration for our podcast. I watched that on Warner Archive Instant along with programs like Flo, Beyond Westworld, The Man from AtlantisThe Jimmy Stewart Show, The Practice (1976), Harry O, Bronk... Good luck finding any of those on HBO Max.  That's not even including the TV movies on there (and on DVD through the archive) and the pre-1970 series like Dr. Kildare, Cain's Hundred, The Man from Shenandoah, and Maya

Where is all this stuff now? Still in the Warner vaults. Mr. Novak season 1 came out several years ago, and season 2 doesn't seem to be on the horizon as WA concentrates on animation and more recent fare. It's good that something like Head of the Class is remastered for disc and for HBO Max, but I miss the days when you could get something like McLain's Law out of nowhere. There are so many BIG WB shows not on streaming right now that I don't think we'll ever get the smaller ones. The final Warner Archive podcast is another reminder of all the stuff we won't get to see anymore, but at least most of these shows I mentioned here are still available on good, old DVD...for now.

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