IMHO: 2 December 2005
It's great to be on the inside for once.
I finally got to hear about something before nearly everyone else did.
Up until recently the game was this: A&E (Arts and Entertainment cable network, the North American Avengers video distribution license holder) would ready a new product release, usually with minimal advertising: every so often they might update their website with the news. And, every so often they might send out an email to fans who subscribed to updates—an unreliable service at best, since I signed up and never received one message.
As a result, I would most often hear about things via site regulars who kindly forwarded copies of the emails to me. This had always been, to put it mildly, rather annoying, since more than a few times I asked A&E to please keep me in mind when they were announcing new products—after all, I do have the attention of a pretty substantial number of fans, and hence a built-in audience who were almost guaranteed to become customers. It also made me look stupid when visitors would come to my site for the latest news and I was stuck relying on hand-me-downs from a few lucky fans.
A perfect example was back in January of 2004 when A&E stated that all remaining Cathy Gale episodes (and possibly the surviving David Keels) would hit the shelves on July 2004. Well, July 2004 came and went, and nothing happened. Then things went very quiet. Many fans wrote to A&E, whose responses varied from irritatingly neutral to vaguely negative; my own emails went unanswered altogether. The vibe was that A&E had thrown in the towel.
Fast-forward to early October of this year. Out of the blue I received an email from a graphic designer working at New Video in New York City, asking if I could help date some photos he was planning on using for some new A&E DVD packaging. Well, just knowing that A&E was still working on new Avengers products was mind-boggling in itself! I helped him with the photos and then begged him for information on A&E's plans, since A&E was never kind enough to do the same for me.
Uncertain as to what he could or could not reveal, he put me in touch with New Video's marketing manager, and this was the very best thing that could have happened. Not only did she promptly answer all of my questions, she also filled me in on A&E's future plans and even asked for some advice on their products. I was in heaven! After nearly a decade of running The Avengers Forever, someone had finally thought that perhaps I might be a good person with whom to interact.
Of course, with this came the mandate that I was not to divulge anything publicly until permitted. And so for the past month and a half, while fans continued to speculate, complain and dream about what A&E was or was not doing, I actually knew but had to hold my tongue. All too often someone would make a comment and I desperately wanted to correct or reassure them—but couldn't. Very frustrating indeed!
What made this frustration worthwhile was knowing that these new products—particularly the bonus disc, with its long-awaited rarities—would be well-received. Or would it? I must admit to being rather disheartened at some of the responses. It would seem that some people could never be satisfied. Too bad for them; thankfully the majority of us are genuinely thrilled! How can you not get excited at the prospect of having all of the surviving David Keel episodes?
So here are the details as I understand them at present. The Emma Peel megaset is being re-released in a digipack bundled with a bonus disc that contains:
Additionally, the bonus disc will be available separately.
By the way, "Strange Case" very nearly didn't make it to the disc. New Video revealed to me that Canal+ informed them that they did not have a master to provide. Funny, but they had one for Contender! New Video had even tried contacting Contender, but received no replies. I advised them that Contender had lost the distribution license—no one had bothered to inform New Video of this little nugget. I suggested they contact the new license holders, VCI—but alas VCI was still in the planning stages for their future DVD line, and had no masters at all. I then begged Alan Hayes for suggestions, and he kindly provided an alternate contact address for Contender.
This worked, and New Video was then able to obtain a second-hand master of "Strange Case" from Contender. The only wrinkle was that they also needed permission from Canal+ to use it, which apparently proved to be a considerable challenge. New Video and I exchanged emails almost weekly as I pestered them for updates on their progress. Finally, just days ago, they announced success, and allowed me to go public shortly afterward.
As a final note, the last of the Cathy Gale episodes are tentatively scheduled for release in March '06... at which time A&E will have at long, long last fulfilled their promise of releasing everything Avengers. Considering they started in July 1998, it's probably been one of the most protracted video releases in history—contrast it to many other comparably-sized series that have been released in their entirety over periods of months. But, lest I be accused of carping, let me say that I am still genuinely very grateful. To paraphrase a wise man, things of value are worth the wait.
And that's my humble opinion.
David K. Smith, 2 December 2005
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