03 June 2009

TV Batman’s perpetual DVD delay

I like to provide an occasional update on the ongoing saga of whether we will see a DVD release of the classic 1960s Batman television show any time in the near future.

It looked like there was some hope back in the early months of this year, due to the combat between Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox over the rights to the Watchmen film. Some speculation had bounced around the corridors of cyberspace that Fox was using the Batman rights (the company owns the broadcast rights to the show, but not the character) as part of the bargaining.

Well maybe. And maybe not. In the wake of the Watchmen war—which Fox eventually won—it seems that ‘60s Batman was not an integral part of the package, and we still stand a long way from getting to the digital Batcave.

Even if Fox gains the DVD rights, or gives (I mean, sells) the broadcast rights to Warner Bros., numerous other legal issues trammel a release. There are clearance issues for some of the guest-appearances in the show of other copyrighted characters—such as folks from Hogan’s Heroes and The Green Hornet. The rights to the show’s Batmobile may belong to George Barris, the designer. There also is some sort of three-way disagreement between the show’s original production company, ABC, and Fox—and all this may need resolving before we even get to the Fox/WB fracas.

A similar legal nightmare, this one involving music rights, has held up season releases of another popular show with high DVD demand: The Wonder Years. I care not a fig for that show, but it bears watching its legal struggle to get to disc to see how this will reflect on the constant Bat-fight to get what is perhaps the most anticipated TV show DVD release in history…

At the nearest, I think we still have two years before seeing a Bat-DVD collection. At the outside, perhaps we never will… and everybody will lose.

To everyone involved in this situation: Burgess Meredith deserves better from you!