While Hollywood production remains at a virtual halt, more and more viewers are bingeing TV classics. But the library has some missing shelves.
For a variety of different reasons, most of which have to do with licensing rights, some of the greatest shows ever made can’t be found in syndication or on any streaming services. In many cases, the best you can hope for is shelling out big bucks for DVD sets or searching for illegal copies on the internet.
Executives should take advantage of this downtime to slice through the red tape and free up these 10 must-see series:
‘The Paper Chase’
The 1973 movie that won John Houseman a best-supporting-actor Oscar can easily be purchased on several streaming services. The equally strong TV version is much more elusive, despite the fact that Houseman reprised his role as a no-nonsense law professor.
‘Late Night With David Letterman’
The most influential comedy show of its generation may have reveled in bits like Stupid Pet Tricks, but there was something supersmart about the way the host was able to both honor and skewer the late-night talkers that came before it.
The jokes flew fast and furious in this short-lived gem that set the stage for the “Naked Gun” films. Minnesotan Pat Proft provided some of the sitcom’s most memorable one-liners.
Bruce Willis put his smirk to good use in this dramedy about private investigators engaged in a never-ending battle of witty lines. The series fell apart when the partners finally jumped into bed together; the foreplay remains irresistible.
At its best, this was the lawyerly version of “Hill Street Blues.” At its worst, it was a prime-time soap opera. Still, there’s plenty of appeal here, both in and out of the courtroom.
ABC has given up on its plans to reboot this Emmy-winning series. But that shouldn’t stop the network from helping make the original available, if only to remind us that all yuppies weren’t insufferable.
‘I’ll Fly Away’
Think of this overlooked tear-jerker as the small-screen version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” with Sam Waterston in the Atticus Finch role. Network TV has traditionally been wary of capturing the Deep South during the civil rights movement. This was a rare, glorious exception.
‘Homicide: Life on the Street’
The detectives in this Baltimore precinct rarely fired their weapons, but the suspense remained on high alert thanks to a superb roster of actors and writers, including David Simon, whose book served as the drama’s main inspiration.
‘Once and Again’
Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, the duo behind “thirtysomething,” struck gold again with this drama about single parents stepping back into the dating pool. Future “Westworld” star Evan Rachel Wood is one of the angst-ridden kids.
Before joining the cast of “Modern Family,” Julie Bowen played the seemingly unattainable love interest in this adorable romcom for grown-ups. Fans of “How I Met Your Mother” will be entranced.