Would you buy them?

Pricey nostalgia
It’s fair to say that no defunct television show commands the kind of craving for DVDs like “The Wonder Years.”
Among shows that have yet to release full seasons, “The Wonder Years” – a nostalgic coming-of-age series set in suburbia circa 1970 – is one of the most sought-after. The website lists the 10 most requested DVDs still unreleased by studios, and “The Wonder Years” sits at No. 2, right behind “Beverly Hills 90210.” offers the only two “Wonder Years” DVDs, and the cheapest one – “The Christmas Wonder Years: The Holiday Episodes” – costs $74.99. For the more affluent, a used 70-minute DVD of “The Best of The Wonder Years” starts at $97.84 and runs up to $186.99 for a new one.
But full seasons of the show remain locked up, as costly music licensing has postponed their release.
“We’re not that far along,” said Jyoti Sarda from 20th Century Fox Marketing, of releasing full seasons of the show. “We know it’s something we’d like to put out. We know that people want it out. Consumers are waiting. Fans are waiting. We talk about needing to tackle it, but we haven’t gotten to a place where it’s being actively worked on.”
“It’s not imminent,” said Steve Feldstein, senior vice president of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, “in that it’s not going to be out in the next couple of months.”
“The Wonder Years” aired on ABC from 1988-93. Set in the late 1960s and early 70s, it followed the adventures of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as he negotiated adolescence.
Actor Daniel Stern provided the voice- over narration of the adult Kevin, and it was this filtering of junior-high angst through an adult’s memories that resonated with viewers. People can identify with Kevin’s experiences growing up, right down to schoolkid crushes, bullying siblings, parental expectations and the general trials of teendom.
The period music on “The Wonder Years” is critical to the show’s emotional resonance, serving as an aural touchstone to viewers of a certain age. In one of the series’ most memorable scenes, Kevin climbs a tree to peer into on-and-off girlfriend Winnie’s window after she’s hurt in an accident. The background music: “We’ve Got Tonight,” by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.
Sarda hopes to begin releasing the DVDs within two years. No matter when they come out, the original music most likely won’t be on them.
“I think that’s the only way really we’re going to see it,” says Gord Lacey, creator of the Web site “I don’t have a list of the songs used in the show, but something tells me they’re not going to be able to release a completely intact series.”
The music-licensing hurdle is substantial. “The Wonder Years” borrowed more than 300 pieces of music for its 115 episodes. Even more daunting is the fact that the music is from what has emerged as a resurgent, nostalgic era.
“I’d love to put it out on DVD, so other people can enjoy it,” Sarda said. “So we just have to work through these issues. It’s not that simple, because music is an integral part of that show. So it’s not like you can just go in and replace it all.”
Rights to broadcast on TV differ from rights to distribute for home entertainment. Most shows now negotiate home-entertainment rights prior to production. Shows produced in the pre-digital days – like “The Wonder Years” – never negotiated those rights.
The only two DVDs of “The Wonder Years” out now – “The Holiday Episodes” and “The Best of The Wonder Years” – both used replacement music.
“You go in and see which songs are expensive that are not as essential,” Sarda says. “And that process of going through each episode and doing that analysis is a more complicated process than putting out a TV show that doesn’t have these issues.”